photo: Ray Mickshaw/FoxThis week, 40-year-old former "X Factor" frontrunner Vino Alan, the oldest contestant and only rock singer in the competition, surprisingly plummeted from the top three all the way down to seventh place--and he was eventually sent home by the judges after a sing-off against 13-year-old Diamond White. Considering that Vino's unexpected fall from grace followed a dramatic incident this week in which his song was switched at the last minute (a similar situation led to Lyric 145's elimination just two weeks ago), his fans quickly cried foul and swapped conspiracy theories, arguing that he'd been deliberately sabotaged by the show.
When Vino spoke to Yahoo!'s Reality Rocks the day after his exit, he refused to seriously entertain the possibility that he'd been set up. But he was still surprisingly candid, talking about butting heads with the show's powers-that-be over his song this week; about not getting the chance to represent himself properly; about the harsh critiques he received from judges Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato; about the support he got from everyone from Josh Krajcik to Kanye West; and about his disappointment over the show's emphasis on pop music and extreme youth. But he also made it clear that he is grateful for the opportunity, and that with label offers already coming in, he's excited about his future and has definitely not lost his loving feeling for music--or for "The X Factor."
This week, you had a last-minute song switch, and a lot of your fans think that was the cause of your downfall. Do you think the song chosen for you, or the songs you did in general--which were more old soul than modern rock--represented you well?
"I realize, looking back, that I didn't get to show the diversity of my range. I play a lot of instruments--the original plan was to play piano on my song this week--and I've written for years and won awards. But I ended up leaving the show after doing songs from the '60s and '70s--nothing that showed my relevance since my version of 'Sober' by Pink [at the Judges' Houses]. I didn't even do anything from this decade, something modern, something that showed where I would be relevant today in the music industry. I realize I could have fought more, after talking to [Season 1 runner-up] Josh Krajcik last night."
Oh? What did Josh tell you?
"He said he had to fight a lot for his songs last year. He told my mother and me he was a fan of mine, and that I should fight for song choices. But I'll be damned if it wasn't too late."
You actually seemed pretty upset during your rehearsal footage Wednesday, and you said you wanted to do Alex Clare's "Too Close" this week. It didn't seem like you didn't put up a fight at all....
"Well, I didn't test the waters to see, what if I buck up? What if I rear up and go, 'Dude, don't put me in this position'? It's actually funny that you guys saw me punch a wall in Boot Camp, because I'm usually so Zen; I don't go there a lot. I'm pretty even-keel. So I didn't go that far this week."
Several contestants on this show besides you--Arin Ray and Lyric 145 especially--have said that they got song choices that didn't accurately represent who they are as artists. It seems to be a common complaint on this show. Do you agree?
"What I will say is I think everybody you just mentioned, it was their first ride on this train too, so there was some part of them that was like, 'These people know better, and they're trying to do the best for us. These people know what TV viewers want and what will get votes.' So there was a level of trust, and there was a matter of, how much are you gonna fight the system? I wouldn't say the show was doing that on purpose, or that there was some conspiracy theory, nothing like that. But yeah, if somebody is telling you, 'You do this and you'll get more votes, and then you can do what you really want later,' you listen to them. But L.A. would never throw me under the bus. Still...here I am."
Many of your fans out there are sharing conspiracy theories, and do think you were thrown under the bus. It does seem weird that you went from being in the top three to going home within the course of just one week--especially after that last-minute song switch...
"Wow. You're pushing me to cross my 'Mr. Cool' line, because that makes a lot of sense when you lay it out like that. I mean, I wouldn't know where to point at that. I know that inside the 'X Factor' camp, they knew what I could bring. To drop me down that far and send my a** home is kind of strange. But I am not one to say whether it was on purpose. But that talk does get my spine tingling..."
Why did the show want you to do "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" instead of the song you were originally supposed to do, "If You Don't Know Me By Now"--or another rock song of your choice by Alex Clare or Kings Of Leon? And did you doubt that decision at all?
"I wasn't fake and I didn't just suck it up, but it's L.A. Reid, and it's a TV show. So I had to trust that there was something to what they were saying. They kept telling me it was the most-played song of all time. And it wasn't just L.A.; by no means can I put this just on L.A. So many people were in his dressing room with me saying, 'This is the song to do. Do you want to just sing and show what you can do, or do you want to win?' When they put it that way, I was like, 'Well, I want to win, I guess.' I still like the version I did. I think Simon was being a bit extreme to say that it was time to go home because of it."
Simon actually cast the deciding vote against you this week, and you seemed taken aback by that. Did you get a chance to speak with him about it?
"Yes. I even asked him, like, 'Dude, I just want to make sure I didn't do something to upset you.' I wanted to know if I was being let go for a different reason. He said, 'No, and you're gonna be a star either way.' But he did say, 'If it helps anything, I don't think you would have won anyway.'"
Seriously? What else he did say?
"That's it. I did ask his assistant, or one of his assistants, the day before my elimination, 'How high do I have to get up in the rankings to have a five-minute meeting with Simon?' I'd wanted to see how he felt about me. But he said this to me in passing, just, 'I'm sorry, da da da da da,' maybe 30 seconds, and then he bounced."
Demi Lovato was pretty hard on you too. Did that surprise you?
"Yes, especially from Demi, who comes with different styles and doesn't go out of her way to be a toothpick or sell sex--it was odd coming from her. That was the opposite of what I felt was going to happen."
What do you mean?
"Well, I did find it odd that I kept hearing 'pop star, pop star, pop star.' I was like, I could have sworn this wasn't 'American Idol.' I thought it was called 'The X Factor' and that they were trying to just find someone that has that special thing you can't put your finger on."
So you thought "The X Factor" was going to be less of a pop-centric show?
"Yeah, I thought it would have been cool for Simon and the show to make a statement that for older artists, who might have gotten lost in the industry, there's still an open door for them. So to me it was so keeping it in the machine, and people are tired of that. That's nothing against the music that's being put out by the machine, but I thought this show was different. It definitely was not set up to be an inspiring atmosphere, and I've told them that they have to work on that in the future, if they want it to be more artist-friendly. It did seem to lean more towards every other show that's been out there that's tried to create something that's packaged and marketed, but maybe doesn't move the soul. I mean, if Jimi Hendrix came out today, what show would he be able to go on? What the hell, what would they do? Is he not pretty enough? Now I think these true great artists out there will be gun-shy [about auditioning for 'The X Factor'], because they'll see maybe what happened to me or how people treated me. I think Simon had a chance to create a different monster of a show, and that is really the only thing I find disappointing."
What positive things do you take away from this experience?
"Millions of fans, over a 100,000 of who are actively promoting me and ready for me to put out music. That's a cheesy answer, but it's true. I'm not faking the funk: I'm feeling positive. No one knew me on a worldwide level before, and now they have open ears. I did enough that I touched people, so that they want to hear what I have to do. Even Kanye West liked me; he said I killed it [when he attended last week's show]. There were so many people who told me I was their favorite that weren't even supposed to tell me--the Kardashian family, Mario Lopez and his family--who were supposed to stay unbiased. So I know that I touched folks, and that's all I was trying to do. I wasn't trying to get the money and run. And the price of being more under somebody's thumb and being more of a tortured artist? I would take seventh place over that any day!"
So now that you're not under anybody's thumb, what's next for you? Will you work with L.A. Reid anyway, like his Season 1 contestants Astro, Marcus Canty, and Chris Rene did? Or with some other label?
"I'm being hit up by people I can't even tell you about yet. It's been the craziest past 12 hours. I would love for L.A. to see that other people want to snatch me up, and then we can go to work together. There's a ton of things poppin', so I'm grateful I'm not under a thumb now. It's the best of both worlds--let's put it that way."
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