American Idol judge Simon Cowell takes a lot of grief for the criticism he constantly gives contestants -- but you won't hear former fifth season finalist Bucky Covington complaining.

"Because of him being mean, millions of people watch that show," Covington recently told The Associated Press. "So I say 'thank you' for being mean. You turned on a lot of people to this show, and because of that a lot of great things happened to me."

Despite not winning the reality competition series, the 29-year-old Rockingham, NC native still described his Idol experience as positive. "I didn't really think I was going to win it. I wanted to be heard and get noticed," he told The AP. "The most stressful thing for me was after this show is over, what's next? Is it back to painting cars? Is it playing clubs? Or is it a career starter?"

Covington received his answer in early January as he became the eighth contestant from the fifth season of Idol to ink a recording contract -- signing with Nashville's Lyric Street Records -- which will release his self-titled debut country album on April 17. 

As for the judges, Covington said be prepared if you want to be on Idol because you should know what to expect.

"I didn't see them being really nice to me -- no pushovers, you know," he told The AP. "I never knew Simon to be nice. If you said, 'Hey, Simon is being nice this year,' you would have caught my attention. But being mean is just what I expect. It's what he does. It's his job."