It didn't help that one episode featured a clip of Emblem3 being mobbed by fangirls at the mall before a performance of the Monkees hit "I'm a Believer" (even if it was Smash Mouth's take).
"They aren't like One Direction in the slightest," Cowell said. "They're very West Coast. They represent that surfer kind of vibe. And they do write their own material."
"We want people to respect us because we are musicians … not because we are quote unquote 'cuties,'" said Chadwick.
But being "cuties" has worked. "Sunset Boulevard" soared to No. 16 on iTunes (sandwiched between songs by Green Day and Foster the People) after Emblem3's audition, before the show took the track down.
Still, the boys couldn't hide their growing aggravation over the antics that came with a reality competition.
They huffed when asked by production to skateboard past a fellow competitor for a silly (and staged) gag that took more time than they cared for, and they at one point were admonished for complaining about being interrupted by production for this interview. They were reminded by show personnel that when participating in a national television program, "we don't always get to do the things we want."
Despite their grumblings, band members are grateful they're getting to showcase the group. Even if they feel they've lost some of their essence.
"We were kinda like, 'Where is this going now?' We never wanted to be a boy band and we were looking back at our [performances] like, ... 'Are we starting to turn into one?'," Wesley said. "But we are just playing the game right now."
During a recent taping at CBS Television City, the largely female audience screeched at the mention of Emblem3. Many of them hoisted bright signs in the air or held up three fingers. The screams became deafening when the boys sauntered onstage.
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They offered an energetic take on the Beatles classic "Hey Jude."
Though Cowell was tight-lipped about whether he'd sign a deal with the band, he's made it clear that he wants to continue working with Emblem3 and that he has high hopes for the trio. Two of the acts Cowell's mentored from the U.K. edition of the competition, Leona Lewis and One Direction, have achieved global success, and he sees the same for Emblem3.
"No one has tried to style them. No one has tried to influence them," he said. "If you want to go out and do what people like One Direction have done ... you've gotta make a decision in your career: Do you want to be popular or do you want to play for your mates in the garage?
"Obviously, I want them to be a global success, and the whole point of putting them on the show is to get people to know them to understand them. I don't think they've compromised themselves, and they've become incredibly popular."
The trio hope to have a single out within the next couple of months and say that a number of heavyweights have expressed interest in working with them.
"The experience we've gained from this competition actually surpasses the $5-million prize at the end," Chadwick said. "Everything has paid off — all the highs and lows."