Simon Says Melinda Really Deserved to Win

In the full interview, the "Idol" judge advises Britney on saving her career.

ByABC News via logo
February 10, 2009, 7:57 AM

May 24, 2007 — -- Although Jordin Sparks took home the "American Idol" title and a $1 million record deal last night, controversial judge Simon Cowell believed finalist Melinda Doolittle should have taken home the crown.

"I said Melinda should've won," he said. "She tried the hardest, was consistently the best, and had the best voice."

The usually cocky Cowell wondered if for once even he was too outspoken.

"I think about it now, whether I should've endorsed her as much as I should've done," he said. "I think it was the right thing to do."

Still, Cowell wasn't surprised that Sparks won out over runner-up Blake Lewis.

"Jordin was the most improved over the whole season -- didn't start the best, but midway through this was the girl who suddenly got momentum," Cowell said of Wednesday night's winner. "Young girl, likeable, and the singer won over the entertainer [Lewis]."

Of all the seasons' contestants, Cowell said he believed Kelly Clarkson was the best singer.

"We got so lucky with Kelly Clarkson -- season one -- because she's not just a great 'American Idol' winner. She's up there now with some of the great singers in the world," he said. "I mean, I think she's as good as someone like Celine Dion. I think she really is that good."

Cowell threatened to leave if Sanjaya Malikar won.

"Well, I would've asked to leave, yeah. I don't think that they would've let me leave, but I would've wanted to leave," he said.

His reason?

"Because I couldn't have gone into 'American Idol' seven saying, 'Are you as good as the winner of 'American Idol' six, Sanjaya?'" he said. "I mean, the whole thing would've been a joke because he just couldn't sing very well."

One controversy still has Cowell fuming: the night he appeared to roll his eyes when a contestant paid tribute to the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre.

"Just thinking about it now makes me very, very angry," he said.

Bloggers ranted that Cowell's gesture was disrespectful. But the next night, "American Idol" went so far as to broadcast unaired footage showing that Cowell didn't hear the tribute because he was talking to Paula Abdul.