LOS ANGELES Haley Reinhart said on Friday she was at peace with missing out on a spot in next week's "American Idol" finale and predicted that teens Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina would captivate the show's younger fans.
Reinhart, 22, was finally voted off the singing contest after landing in the bottom three on four occasions, and receiving some of the harshest comments from the new, more friendly judging panel.
"I believe their intention was simply to push me along further and get me to the top of my game and get me a little fired up inside," Reinhart told reporters of the criticism.
"I got to top 3, so that's quite all right...I don't live in regret. I do nit pick -- I'm a Virgo. But I don't regret anything because each step along this way has gotten me to where I am. And I got to show versatility and I am proud to do that," she said.
Reinhart has been singing since the age of eight, starting out with her parent's rock covers band, and had auditioned unsuccessfully for a place on "American Idol" in 2009.
But she was sanguine about not making it to next week's two-part grand finale and a shot at winning a guaranteed record contract with Universal Music.
"I accepted (my elimination) very quickly, and I thought everything happens for a reason and this is a good thing. It means I am going to start my career as a solo artist even sooner," she said. "I would love to do an album that is sultry, bluesy, rock.
Reinhart's exit leaves McCreery, 17, and Alaina, 16, in the first all-country finale in "American Idol"s 10 year history. The May 24 showdown bodes well for future album sales for the eventual winner given 2005 champion and country singer Carrie Underwood's status as the show's top-earning contestant.
"As far as the viewers go, this is perfect for them. We have a lot of young audience out there and Scotty and Lauren are both so darn cute," Reinhart said
"This is a country year. I definitely can see young America being very captivated by these two.", she added.
"American Idol" is the most-watched TV show in the Unites States with almost 25 million viewers and has reversed a ratings slide this year, thanks mostly to the arrival of new judges Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith rocker Steven Tyler.
(Editing by Christine Kearney)