Chris Daughtry on his elimination: ''It doesn't make sense logically.'' The ''Idol'' rocker, still stunned, tells Jessica Shaw about the judges' reaction, the letters sent to Fox, and what he would have sung next week

Around 9:28 p.m. last night, you could almost hear the collective shrieks — after the collective gasp — around the country when rocker and far-and-away favorite Chris Daughtry got voted off American Idol. That is, if you weren’t passed out from utter shock. How could this happen to the surest thing in Idol history? Though he’s still reeling from the blow, Chris called EW to share his theory.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Chris, I am honestly flabbergasted. I don’t know what to say.
CHRIS DAUGHTRY: Yeah, I didn’t expect to be doing this interview today. It’s definitely unexpected. It’s one of those things that it makes you stronger. You have to take it and run with it.

You’re already at the ”It will make me stronger” place? I’d still be in devastation mode.
Of course I’m devastated. But I’m trying to look at the bigger picture. I’m looking to see what the bigger picture is.

I thought the way Ryan delivered the news was pretty damn harsh, saying a lot of people thought you would win and then saying you were going home.
It was a little cold. It had nothing to do with him personally. It’s a TV show. That is part of the show. It probably wouldn’t have had the same effect if he’d been like, ”Chris, I’m sorry, buddy.” It definitely got the reaction it deserved. Nobody expected it. I wasn’t the pick to go home. I’ve been the pick to win. I’m not trying to sound overconfident. But everyone had been telling me…even the judges said it was going to be a Chris-and-Taylor finale. You try not to buy into that, but when you hear it so much you think, ”Maybe they’re right. Maybe I do have a good shot.” My hopes were up. I was starting to see there’s an opportunity to win this thing. And then to have that happen was gut-wrenching.

I watched that moment back again and realized Ryan wouldn’t have said the line about people thinking you would win unless you were going home, because it would have been unfair to the other contestants. When he said that, did you start to think maybe something bad was about to go down?
Yeah, when he said that I was like, Oh, boy. But I thought he was about to say, ”Chris, you can sit down.” I was like, Man, I can’t believe he just said that. It did not feel real at all.

Did you watch the episode back from last night? You looked completely stunned.
I haven’t watched, but I’ve heard that all morning.

So what the heck happened?
You know, I had a good night, I felt. I think people may have gotten a little comfortable. People thought, ”This guy is definitely going to win, I don’t need to vote for him tonight. Maybe someone else is going to take care of that.” You can’t expect somebody to do it for you. But you know, life goes on. I can’t say I’m happy about it. It’s definitely a very big disappointment for me. I’m disappointed in the way things turned out. But I’m going to keep on plugging.

On some level, I wonder if this is the best thing that could have happened to you. You’ll never be ”American Idol Chris Daughtry” or ”American Idol runner-up Chris Daughtry.” You got all the publicity without the label.
Maybe. You have to think of it that way. You have to think there’s a reason for everything. When a door closes another door opens. I think there are some big doors that will open.

I have to tell you, I think Tuesday night was one of your best nights. I really loved both of your songs and I was surprised by how lukewarm the reaction was from the judges.
I watched it back expecting to go, Maybe it wasn’t that good. Honestly, it was one of my weeks I was happiest with. I was like, That was good, and I’m really happy with that. At least I went out on a good note. What do you do? Nothing prepares you for this. I’m asking you: What do you do?

I guess you just wait for the offers to pour in.
Yeah, I mean if I had a bad night and the judges bashed me, it would be different.

What didn’t the judges hear?
I honestly feel in my heart Simon just didn’t like the second song. I don’t think it was me. It was the song.

Do you think maybe your voice was still strained from last week?
My voice was fine this week. Last week was definitely hard for me vocally. I was not 100 percent. After dress rehearsal it was perfect, but by the time I got to showtime it was just not 100 percent. This week it was vocally one of the easiest weeks I’ve had. The keys of the songs were perfect for me. The low parts? I loved it. My wife is the first one to criticize me and normally she agrees with Simon 100 percent, and last week she was like, ”You know that wasn’t the right song for you to do.” I was disagreeing with her, like husbands always do. But this week she was like, ”I don’t understand.”

The crowd went crazy when you sang ”Love Me Tender” last night. Simon said in an interview if you’d chosen to sing that on Tuesday night, you’d still be in the competition. Do you have any regrets?
I don’t. I don’t think that’s the case. I think it has everything to do with people being like, ”Well, he’s obviously safe.” What do you do? That’s only speculation. Maybe my fans didn’t want me to win.

Next page: Chris on his boxer-briefs comment, the ”Walk the Line” controversy, and more

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American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

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