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'American Idol' hopeful Garrett Haley dishes on criticism, song choice


By Christopher Rocchio, 02/25/2008 

Simon Cowell pointed his sharp tongue at Garrett Haley when he called the American Idol seventh-season Top 24 semifinalist "pale" and "verging on haunted" following his rendition of "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" during last Tuesday night's performance episode broadcast -- but apparently he considered that a good thing.

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"They told us afterwards they'll try to get your appearance if they can't find anything bad about your voice," Haley told reporters during a Friday conference call. 

"When he first said that, I actually found some humor in it because I know that I have fair skin," said Haley.  "I'm really happy with the way I look,and I wouldn't change the way I look just because Simon says I'm too white.  It didn't really bother me."

Still, the 17-year-old from Elida, OH said he's unsure if Cowell's comments played a role in him becoming one of the first four semifinalists eliminated from Idol 7.

"It possibly could have.  I don't know what's going on inside the voters' heads," said Haley. 

In addition, Haley said Cowell's fellow judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson also seemed "pretty upset" about the comment.

"That's not something you should be saying to a contestant.  Maybe he just couldn't find anything bad about my voice or something.  I really wasn't offended by it.  I found humor in it," Haley reiterated.  "I like getting constructive criticism from them -- but when Simon said I have white skin, there's really nothing I could get out of it -- except for, 'Go tanning.'  But I wouldn't do that, so I really didn't get much out of it."

It wasn't just Haley's skin tone that Cowell criticized last Tuesday night, as he also called the teenager's performance of "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" both "boring" and "a bit whiny."  However Haley said he had "never" even heard the Neil Sedaka tune until it was apparently thrust upon him for Idol 7's semifinals.

"I really didn't choose it," he explained.  "We're allowed to choose three songs from a list, and every contestant is for-sure to get one of the songs and I didn't get to get any of my songs because they gave the songs out to all the contestants before that.  So I just ended up with having to choose from the list again and I didn't really get to choose.  They just threw the song at me and said, 'Sing this one.'  I was like, 'Okay.'"

While Haley was unsure why he got the short end of the stick when it came to song selection and was also unable to reveal which three songs he had chosen, he did say he thinks the process of distributing the tunes choices is "random."

"It was a total surprise to me," said Haley on having to sing "Breaking Up is Hard to Do."  "But I took what I got, and then I did what I could do with it.  It's kind of really hard to make a ballad song pop out at the beginning... I did the best that I could and I'm happy with what I did."

Making matters worse for Haley in his attempts to "pop out" was that he wasn't featured much during the Hollywood Round broadcasts.

"I bet that did affect my chance because it didn't really give America a chance to connect with me as a person," he explained.  "It doesn't really bother me.  At the time, it was like, 'You better not blink or you might miss me if I even did show up on the screen.'... I really wish they would have let you guys hear some of my Hollywood [Round] songs because I beasted it up in Hollywood.  I think that would have affected it, because the Top 12 guys, that's the first time everybody's heard me sing.  It wasn't the greatest song either.  I wasn't too happy about that, but it's okay."

Haley described his sound as "alternative pop" and said he tried to add his own style to the 1960s hit he was given.

"You guys didn't really get to see my style, but I switched it up on that song that I did," he said.  "So you guys didn't really get to hear my real voice."

Despite knowing he didn't get much camera time during the Hollywood Round, had his look criticized by Cowell and didn't receive any of the three songs he chose -- Haley said he still wasn't expecting to be booted when he was.

"It was a surprise.  I didn't think I was going to get voted off that early," he said.  "I had pretty high hopes and I was very excited about next week because it was a song I could really do really well.  I was pretty shocked at first when [host Ryan Seacrest] said, 'You're going home.'  I thought he was kidding, but then he didn't smile or anything and the music came on.  I was like, 'Oh man, he's for real!'  So I was sitting there like, 'Oh my God, I hope I remember the words to this song I have to sing!'"

Haley attended Idol 7 auditions last summer in San Diego while on vacation with his immediate family.

"We were [in San Diego] visiting family and stuff, and I saw that they had auditions," he said.  "I'd been watching American Idol since Season 1, so I wanted to audition since then.  I was like nine or 10.  Once I saw it there, I was like, 'Maybe I should just do it now.'  So I tried out and I made it to the Top 12 guys, so I'm pretty proud of myself for doing that." 

With his golden ticket to the Hollywood Round, Haley said his golden locks were receiving just as much attention as his voice.

"Nobody's ever compared me to Peter Frampton or Leif Garrett before this.  So that was new," he said.  "I went back to the house I was staying at, Googled them -- I was hoping they were like decent looking guys.  I was pretty happy when they popped up."

Haley said he's unsure which remaining semifinalist has a shot at winning Idol 7 due to their varying styles.

"Every single person in this competition, they bring something different and unique to the table," he explained.  "You actually have no idea what America's looking for... So I don't know.  Everybody's very talented."

Thanks to Idol, Haley said he feels he's just scraped the surface when it comes to his own talent.

"I've never had a voice lesson in my life," he said.  "All this experience that I got from this competition I can use for future references.  It probably will look pretty cool on a resume too."

However before Haley can put together a resume, he plans on finishing high school first.

"But I'm going to keep in touch with everybody here -- like the staff from American Idol -- and if anything pops up where they'll allow me to do little gigs or something, then I'm definitely going to jump on that," he continued.  "All the experience I can get, then I'm definitely going to do it.  But right after school is when I'm going to hit it hard and do everything I can to become an artist."

While he ended up the dubious distinction of being "Mr. Irrelevant," Haley has no regrets about Idol.

"I'm glad I did this competition," he said.  "I can truly say I gave 100% throughout this whole competition, and I'm happy because I can walk away saying that."


(Photo credit Fox)


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