American Idol's Jacob Lusk faced weeks of unending criticism from mentor Jimmy Iovine, but in the days since his elimination, Lusk says he's stronger for it.
"It definitely hurts a lot to have someone who's supposed to be mentoring you...tearing you down. But, what you have to remember is that you're not doing it for him. You're doing it for the people out there in America and they are the people who are voting," the 23-year-old Compton, Calif., singer says in the wake of his April 5 elimination. "It's not about how great I can sing or how many rifts I can do or how good Jimmy thinks I am or how bad he thinks I am. It's about me really putting out great music that America loves."
As for his performance of the Jordin Sparks-Chris Brown hit "No Air" that led to his elimination, Lusk admits his first choice songs weren't cleared to perform on-air, so he settled on the duet, declaring it "beautiful."
"I was really just trying to do different things that I thought that [Jimmy] would like and [thought] America just wanted to see different things," the singer says. "At the end of the day, I definitely went out and said, 'I'm going to give them my all. I'm not going to hold anything back' and that's what I did."
What performances does Lusk think more accurately showed off his R&B/gospel strengths? In addition to his Hollywood Week rendition of Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child," the singer is especially proud of his March 16 cover of "Alone" by Heart.
"One of the biggest decisions I made was doing 'Alone' from my birth year. That was one of my favorite performances," Lusk tells Us Weekly. "Some people didn't like it, but I loved it!"
As the Idols LIVE! summer concert tour nears (the Top 11 contestants preform their first date July 6 in Utah), Lusk already has an ideal setlist in mind.
"We haven't worked [specifics] out yet, but you'll see some of my highlight performances from the show, probably 'God Bless the Child,' 'A House is Not a Home,' 'You're All I Need to Get By' and maybe even some new material.
"I'm really excited to be with everyone and allow America to see us in our natural state," Lusk tells Us. "We don't need to worry about singing a minute and a half [snippet]; we get to sing a whole song. I can go into the crowd, wave surf on top of people -- just kidding! -- and really just feel it."
American Idol airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. (EST) on FOX.