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Tanner Stransky
May 03, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

It was a risky move for Chris Richardson to perform ”Wanted Dead or Alive” without any extra panache — but now that he’s been booted, does he regret his straight-ahead take on the Bon Jovi signature tune? Nah. ”Somebody had to do it,” he says. The guy who’s been dubbed ”Justin Timberfake” by fans across the Net gave EW 15 minutes to dish on how much he wanted to win, the ”nasally” controversy, and his BFF moment with Blake.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Simon said he didn’t think your ”Wanted Dead or Alive” was good enough to keep you in. Did you feel comfortable singing it?
CHRIS RICHARDSON: Yeah. I planned on doing this song before I even came into the competition, when I found out Bon Jovi was going to be on. Somebody had to do it. And you know what? I’m my worst critic, man, but I thought I did a pretty good job at it. I went and looked at the performance and it suited rock week.

More so than everyone else’s performances?
I think I was the only out there who had the ”rasp” to my voice. I would sing really loud just to hoarse my voice up a little bit, just to have that rock edge. I thought it was odd that Simon said the same thing to both me and Phil — how he didn’t think this would keep us around. Then we both ended up going home. So me and Phil sort of knew. We knew who [Simon’s] favorites were too. We knew who he would try to dwindle out the competition, and who he would try to keep in the competition. I would always go out there preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.

But you wanted to win, right?
Well, even now, there’s a part of me inside that really wanted to win. I wanted to stick around longer. But the fact of the matter is that every Wednesday is a hard day for everybody. I remember calming everyone down before they pulled me and Blake up on stage, you know, when they stood me and him up. I knew. You can just tell — the judges favored Blake over me, and that was fine. And so did the voting. And that’s what ultimately decided everything.

You’re not a hard rocker. Do you think that really hurt you this week?
I always try to show people that I’m versatile and every week that comes around, I just try to show people that I can sing this or that style of music. It’s very hard to show who you are as an artist through cover songs, but I enjoyed doing it. I would have loved to have gone out there and done my own rendition of ”Wanted Dead or Alive.” I would have loved to have switched it around. [But] for Bon Jovi’s fans, it’s a memory to them. I just always thought about it like that, and I didn’t want to mess with the memory. I didn’t want to go out there and do too much to it. I had to keep it straight. I’m sure there could have been better songs to sing with a little bit more soulful lyrics, but as I said before, my album is going to be rock and soul.

Rock and soul, eh? Interesting. Anything like Justin Timberlake, to whom you’ve so frequently been compared?
I just take the comparison as a compliment. Being mentioned in the same sentence as Justin, it’s cool. When I come out with my album, hopefully people will see that and they’ll be like, ”Wow, I didn’t expect that.” Or they’ll be like, ”Well, I know who Chris Richardson is.”

All right, controversy time: What’s the final word on you being ”nasally”?
You know what’s funny about that? That was the only thing during the whole competition that they could say that I did wrong: that I was ”nasally.” And if that’s all they can say about me, then I’ll take it. I would always go up and talk to our voice coaches and say, ”I don’t really know why they keep saying I’m ‘nasally.”’ It’s not like I go out there doing it on purpose — it’s the way that I sing. And even when I made the comment about ”nasally” being a form of singing, I didn’t mean it like that. I meant that a lot of people have made it with that nasally quality — like Justin Timberlake, Adam Levine, and Rascal Flatts.

So let’s talk about the Chris-Blake BFF moment last night: I didn’t realize you two were such buds.
We developed a friendship back in Hollywood and clicked since then. We’ve been roommates forever now. He’s become like a brother to me. It’s just been one of those things. Me and him are both very big on loyalty and friendship, you know. We have a lot in common. We might not sing exactly alike, but our styles of music and our style in general is very similar. You can’t be anything but excited when your boy makes it through to another round.

And finally, about the last four on Idol right now: What’s your assessment?
I think they’re all capable of winning. It all comes down to voting. The four have gotta come out and bring their A-game. There’s some belters out there and some very original material. Blake’s very original, but then again, the girls can sing their butts off.

NEXT PAGE: Phil on going out in a ”Blaze of Glory” — and shipping back to the Navy

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