NEW YORK - "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell usually has big bad words to describe the reality show's wannabe pop stars. But the biting Brit sums up his relationships with past "AI" winners with one little one: "tiny."
As for first "Idol" winner, recent Grammy winner Kelly Clarkson, "She would be like a stranger to me now," Cowell told The Associated Press Thursday.
In January, Cowell criticized Clarkson for not allowing the use of her songs by contestants on the fifth season of the high-rated show. She later changed her mind. Then, during Clarkson's Grammy acceptance speeches for best pop vocal album and female pop vocal performance, she never uttered the word "Idol."
"Look, she doesn't need to thank me and she doesn't need to thank 'American Idol,'" said Cowell. "She does need to thank the fans who voted for her on 'American Idol.' That's all."
On Wednesday's "Idol" episode, Cowell and fellow judges, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul, chose the 24 semifinalists. Next week, the contestants will be divided by sex and the viewer-selected elimination process will begin.
Of the semifinalists, Cowell said only three "have got a chance in the music industry." When asked to comment on each semifinalist by name, Cowell couldn't recall most of them. However, he could remember what he thought of every "Idol" season except the first: "predictable."
"To me, it was absolutely crystal clear at this stage last year that Carrie Underwood would win the competition," said Cowell. "So it all felt a bit obvious. Whereas this year, I could argue the case for seven or eight of the contestants. I genuinely don't know who's gonna win. I've got a feeling who are gonna make the finals. But once you're in the finals, I think you're gonna have the most open competition you've ever seen, which for us and the viewers at home, that's a good thing."
In response to his much-ballyhooed below-the-belt barbs this season concerning auditioners' weight and sexuality. Cowell said: "If we censored the show and took out everything that's controversial, it would be quite a dull show, I think."