Emblem3, X-Factor

Ray Mickshaw / FOX

Inside The X Factor studio Thursday night, L.A. Reid certainly seemed like a man at ease with his decision to leave the show after the second season wraps on Dec. 20.

Little more than an hour after the news of his impending exit broke, the record-label exec was in his seat at the judges' table, chatting breezily and sharing laughs during commercial breaks with fellow mentors Britney Spears and Simon Cowell. (It seems all that onscreen bickering with the latter really is just for show.) And, after his final contestant in the competition, country singer Tate Stevens, learned he'd earned a spot in next week's finals, L.A. made sure to share the love with everybody in the X house, pausing for a moment before leaving the studio to make a heart symbol with his hands.

Emblem3 may have been shocked to get the ax during the results show, but they claimed they weren't surprised by L.A.'s announcement. "I think that L.A. is more of a creative behind-the-scenes, production-type of dude, so I don't think he was really into this," said the trio's Drew Chadwick backstage. "Reality TV, it's more about the television show than the music. Me and him have a lot in common in that sense."

In his chats with reporters during the group's X Factor run, Drew had often voiced his frustration in having to perform covers of other artists' songs, rather than Emblem3 originals. With their time on the Fox singing competition now over, "I only feel happy," said the eldest member of Emblem3. "Happy because we get to go and make some bad-ass music now and don't have to be under any restrictions. Bottom line is, we had the dopest experience and we got everything we really wanted out of this competition, which was a solid international fan base, and we learned how to do interviews. It was like the music industry on steroids--we learned a lot. Now it's over, and we're about to go do it for real."

And what might their potential real-world album sound like? Hopefully, nothing like else on the radio. "The stuff you hear now,  there's nothing real and there's no emotion behind it," Drew said, while his bandmates nodded in agreement. "I wanna put a real flavor into [our music]. I wanna bring real positive emotion back into music. Because music without emotion is like sex without emotion—it's pointless." Tell us how you really feel, Drew!

While the group will be back to perform on next week's finale—"if we don't ditch," cracked Drew—the burgeoning heartthrobs have already decided which remaining contestant to back for the $5 million recording contract. "I'm just gonna get real with this," Drew said, breaking down the finalists, starting with Carly Rose Sonenclar. "Carly's 13 years old, she's going to do great things with her talent, whether she wins or not. Tate [Stevens] is a little bit older, and he's amazing. He's been playing music for a long time. He's a family man, he has a great heart, he has pure intentions. I feel like he really deserves this. He needs the break."

(Originally published Dec. 13, 2012, at 9:49 p.m. PT)

Tell us: Do you agree with Drew's pick? Should Emblem3 have gone home tonight? And are you sad to see L.A. go? Sound off in the comments!

X Factor backstage: Who said Carly Rose wasn't at her best last night?

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