Tuned In: Mario Vasquez Ready for Spotlight
March 21, 2006

Last year, Mario Vasquez was "American Idol's" sexy frontrunner before he abruptly took himself out of the competition.

When Mario left the show, he left the judges and America scratching their heads, and then the rumors began to fly. "The most outrageous rumor, I think, was that I was subpoenaed to the Michael Jackson jury," Mario admitted.

Now, only "Extra" has the answer everyone's been waiting for: what was the real reason for leaving? "The real reason," Mario said, "Was I wanted to do it on my own terms; just take hold of my career."

Mario told "Extra" he kept quiet until now out of respect for "American Idol," and he only auditioned for a record deal after Carrie was crowned the winner.

So what is his opinion of Carrie Underwood? "I thought she was a very talented girl," Vasquez said. "A very sweet girl, and I just wish her the best."

Mario now has his own record deal, and his debut album is due out this spring. Only our cameras were allowed inside the album's cover photo shoot, in which Mario attempted to portray all aspects of his music, including R&B, pop, soul and a touch of Latin flair.

So who does Mario think will be crowned this year's "American Idol"? Ace, Taylor and Paris, whom he calls "spunky," are among his picks.

However, Vasquez says he's leaving the judging to the judges. "They know what they are talking about," Mario said. "I respect them highly."

Mario's new album drops in June.

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