Throughout the course of The X Factor, Tate Stevens and Carly Rose Sonenclar were neck and neck for the coveted top spot in the rankings.
Tate was consistently perched atop the scoreboard for a bit, but then the teenager from Westchester, NY took the lead. When the country singer regained number one positioning, it was the first time "I thought I had a shot at winning this," he gloats. "Up until then it was anyone's game."
It all came down to Wednesday night's votes to determine who would be awarded The X Factor title on Thursday's finale on FOX. The three final acts, Tate, Carly, and girl group Fifth Harmony each performed three songs apiece, one of them being in duet with a well-known recording artist.
Tate's collaboration with Little Big Town went without a hitch and he selected the group because he "thought it was a good fit." Carly's performance with LeAnn Rimes Cibrian appeared to be a bit of a struggle and some chatter around the web has raised speculation that the Grammy winner may have cost the youngster the title. Tate responds to ETonline, "I had no idea what happened with their duet. I believe [Carly] has her fan base. I don't think it would have swayed anyone. If you're a fan of someone, I don't think you're going to change because of one [performance]."
Of the controversy, LeAnn tweeted on Thursday, "In my 18 years of performing, I have never been anything but professional onstage. It is a shame that gossip and lies are overshadowing the performance of Carly, a very talented young girl. And while I have not given any media outlet a quote, if you want one, here it is, 'It was an amazing opportunity to share this experience with Carly and I know I'll be watching for her to win tonight.'"
Carly chose to forgo interviews with the press backstage after placing second, as did her mentor Britney Spears. But, Britney posted the following message on Facebook to comment on the results: "You are a winner in my eyes tonight Carly Rose Sonenclar & I know you're going to have a very long career... Thank u Britney Army for standing behind me & supporting my superstar throughout this competition. Xo"
And, Carly took to Twitter to offer her congratulations and gratitude, posting, "You are amazing @Tatestevensctry! You deserve this! Congrats #Tatenation! I am the luckiest girl in the world to have the most amazing family, friends, and fans! Thank you so much #carlysangels! I love you @britneyspears! Thank you for everything!!!"
After resting at home in Belton, MO for the holidays, Tate will relocate to Nashville, TN on January 2 to record his debut album. He plans to be very hands-on, hoping to "write half the record, at least co-write half the record." At the age of 37, Tate is dreaming big for his bright future. "I would love to be a member of the Grand Old Opry," he proclaims.
Pocketing a $5 million jackpot recording contract, life will certainly never be the same for Tate and his beloved family. "I'm sure I'll make some dumb purchase in the near future. I keep scaring my wife about buying a Harley," he jokes.
Appreciative of the wisdom his mentor L.A Reid shared with him and the opportunities the show has procured for him, "I would love to carry the torch and take The X Factor brand and do well with it," says Tate. "That's my goal."