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Ousted 'Idol' hopeful Luke Menard tuned out Simon Cowell's criticism


By Christopher Rocchio, 03/11/2008 

Simon Cowell described Luke Menard's performances as both "girlie" and "forgettable," criticism that the American Idol seventh-season semifinalist didn't think was too helpful.

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"Simon never gave me one compliment on camera, so I learned to really tune out his criticism.  He really didn't give me much constructive criticism.  It was pretty much degrading stuff, so I just took that with a grain of salt, and I just tuned him out," Menard told reporters during a Friday conference call. 

"I learned that you can't listen to what people say about you and you can't take things personally and you have to have tough skin and you really just have to be persistent in what you're trying to accomplish."

The 29-year-old from Crawfordsville, IN saw his Idol experience come to an end during last Thursday night's live results show broadcast, which revealed the Top 12 finalists.

"Absolutely I'm disappointed, but I think I'm more excited for making the Top 16 than anything," he said.  "Right now, that's overshadowing any disappointment I have in not going on any further."

Cowell wasn't the only critic that Menard said he tuned out during his Idol journey -- focusing only on the task at hand.

"I was advised to not even listen to what anyone had to say online -- whether it's good or bad -- and I did that," explained Menard.  "I did have some family members that would try to leak to me what people were saying online about me, and I would stop them right away and say, 'I don't want to hear it.  I'm here to work and to try to be the best performer that I can.'  Listening to all of that stuff would just mess up my stuff, so I just made a conscious effort to just not pay attention to that."

Menard said his tactic also came into play with Top 12 finalist David Hernandez, who worked for three years as a male stripper at Dick's Cabaret where he appeared fully nude and performed lap dances for the establishment's "mostly male" patrons.  

"It's something that the news makes a big deal out of, and we're so busy and concentrated and focused on the inside of American Idol that personally, I wasn't even thinking about it," he said.  "I was thinking about my performance and what I can do to keep myself on the show.  So personally, it really didn't have an impact on myself."

Menard was one of the oldest seventh-season semifinalists and formed what came to be known as the "Four Horseman" with previously eliminated semifinalist Jason Yeager and current Top 12 finalists Michael Johns and David Cook.

"The four of us, ever since Day 1 in Hollywood, we really clicked and we hung out just about every day.  We called ourselves the Four Horsemen, just a fun little club name that we came up with," explained Menard.  "We were super excited when all four of us made it to the Top 24, because out of 103,000, and then you narrow it down to 164 the first weekend in Hollywood, and the four of us clicked since Day 1 in Hollywood.  For the four of us to make it to the Top 24, we were just super stoked about that."

Menard auditioned for Idol's sixth season but failed to make it to the Hollywood Round, and it was at the behest of his wife that he tryout for the competition's seventh season.

"My wife was the one who really talked me into auditioning for American Idol and she was just as supportive last night as she was when I made it through each round in the beginning," he said.  "She's been a trooper.  When I'm down, she always seems to pick me up, and she really did that big time last night."

His wife also offered support when Cowell pointed his sharp tongue Menard's way following the first semifinal round.

"He told me I was forgettable the first week.  She was just very supportive and told me, she said, 'You know, you're not forgettable, Luke.  I remember you.  Everyone's going to remember you,' and she said, 'Don't worry, you're going to make it past this first round,' and I did," recalled Menard.  "She was right, so I'm going to start believing her a lot more now."

Karma apparently rewarded Menard's wife for being so supportive of her husband.

"I was at a taping of American Idol.  It was when the girls were singing, so she wasn't able to come to the show," said Menard.  "So she and my sister decided to go to Price is Right downstairs at CBS, and she got on.  They called her up.  She was the last contestant to come up, and she won the bid to come up on the show.  She played a game and she won three big prizes."

Prior to participating in Idol's seventh season, Menard toured the country with an a cappella group called Chapter 6.

"A cappella music is such a wide variety of music, and the group that I've been singing in, we've always strived for taking any style of music and turning it into a cappella," explained Menard.  "We've always been up for that challenge, and I was certainly up for that challenge here on American Idol."

Had he lasted longer in the competition, Menard said he thinks "a little bit more modern music" -- such as Maroon 5 -- might have suited his a cappella singing style more.  Unfortunately for him, he never got the chance to prove it.

"It's a tough career.  I've made big sacrifices also.  I toured in the a cappella group for the last six years, and I made a big decision to leave that  group to pursue American Idol," he said.  "It's a huge risk, but the way I've always looked at it is you can't further your career unless you're willing to take those risks.  So, it's a risk I've taken and it brought me to the Top 16, so I'm hoping that this will spur a big career for myself."

In addition to spending some time with his wife, Menard said he's also excited to further his career despite being unsure what direction Idol will take him.

"I'm planning on -- hopefully -- maybe getting into some television with some acting... or maybe pursuing some kind of Broadway career.  I would just to really see all the stuff that I potentially might be able to do after this," he said.  "I'm looking forward to getting my career going, kick starting my career and getting out there and seeing what I can accomplish."


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