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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Top 4 "American Idol" contestants said on Friday they felt they were all winners in the TV singing show, whichever one of them is crowned with the coveted title in three weeks time.
Dreadlocked mom Crystal Bowersox, personal trainer Michael "Big Mike" Lynche, Texan guitarist Casey James and Lee DeWyze, who worked in a paint shop before auditioning for the show, told reporters at a rare "Idol" news conference they were all hoping to clinch record contracts, come what may.
"No matter what happens, we are all winners at this point," said Bowersox, seen as a favorite for the finale. "It is surreal. I never expected to come this far."
"Our ultimate goal is to be able to make our own music albums. We are all really psyched to get to that point," she said.
Bowersox, 24, said that Internet reports last month that she had contemplated quitting the top-rated TV show had been blown out of proportion. But she admitted that she had missed her young son.
Lynche, who was "saved" by "Idol" judges from elimination a month ago, said he hoped to make an album of music "that makes you feel good, that inspires you and does something to your heart."
Only the winner of "American Idol" is guaranteed a record contract but in past years several of the other contestants have also been signed by record labels.
The Top 4 said there was little rivalry between them -- except for occasional conflicts over choices from the weekly theme song list.
"We are all friends, but we all want to win," said DeWyze, whose fan base has built steadily over the past month. "But that doesn't change the way we feel about each other."
"Idol" contestants are generally shielded from the media in the final stages of the competition. But after nine years on the air, audiences for the Fox show have slipped in the past three weeks to below 20 million viewers.
Next week's show sees the remaining contestants singing songs from movies, with actor and singer Jamie Foxx as their mentor. The two-part finale will be broadcast from Los Angeles on May 25 and 26.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte