2021’s X Factor runner-up Carly Rose Sonenclar is a far cry from the 13-year-old who wowed Simon Cowell and Britney Spears on the reality TV singing competition ten years ago.
The X Factor creator called her ‘the best alien I’ve ever heard sing in my life’ while the queen of pop, who was also her mentor, ‘the little girl with the big voice,’ but it’s just now that the 23-year-old singer feels she’s at the point where she’s ready to have a music career.
At the time, Demi Lovato said they wanted to ‘buy her music,’ and now they can. Even though that was ten years ago, a YouTube video of her audition for The X Factor has almost 50 million views and that number continues to go up.
Carly Rose Sonenclar first appeared on The X Factor in 2012 when she was just 13 years old, pictured left. 10 years later, Carly Rose is ready to revamp her singing career, pictured right
Carly blew the judges away when she sang her rendition of Feelin’ Good for her audition on The X Factor in 2012
Carly Rose won second place on The X Factor Season 2 in 2012
Britney Spears was Carly’s mentor on The X Factor and called her ‘the little girl with the big voice,’ pictured while watching Carly’s audition in 2012
Demi Lovato said they wanted to ‘buy her music’ while Simon Cowell called her a ‘star’ during her audition in 2012
Carly has now found herself in her sense of style and music. The singer, who now goes strictly by Carly Rose, rocks cat-eye eyeliner, bold prints and heeled boots these days as she promotes her upcoming music.
Since her X Factor days, the songstress has moved from Westchester to Los Angeles, studied music at USC and released her first album titled WILD plus her next single Suburbia, all while stepping away from the the confident and expressive, 13-year-old who was afraid to make waves off the stage.
‘That’s not who I am anymore,’ she explains. ‘It’s definitely part of my life and no way do I want to ignore that or avoid it, but my goal is to have a long career not based on that.’
She has made strides from the style choices she made as a teenager on The X Factor. While she often made some campy style choices with her frilly dresses, eccentric vests and statement necklaces, she has still kept a bold look in her 20’s but this time making it sexy and stylish.
Since her X Factor days, the songstress has moved from Westchester to Los Angeles, studied music at USC and released her first album titled WILD plus her next single Suburbia
Carly Rose was mentored by Britney Spears while she was on The X Factor, who called the teenager ‘the little girl with the big voice,’ pictured in December 2012
Carly Rose at 13 years old, pictured left, wowed the judges with her The X Factor audition in 2012. Now, Carly sings her own songs, as pictured right
‘I’m definitely at the point in my life where I’m very ready to go for it. And really take the big steps,’ she told American Songwriter in 2021. ‘I have room to be free and do what I want to do. And that’s a really exciting thing.’
After her success on The X Factor, she found herself gearing up to record her first album. She signed a record deal with Simon’s label Syco and started working on recording her first album at 14.
‘I’ve been writing a lot. Simon Cowell’s company picked up my recording option,’ she told USA Today at the time. That’s something that has been very exciting for me.’
However, she has since opened up about how recording her first studio album wasn’t the dream come true she had thought it would be.
‘I had all these big managers telling me, “We’re gonna make you a star” — really the most cliche A Star Is Born-type scenario,’ Carly when speaking to the LA Times in 2019.
She was seemingly on the fast track to fame with her first album underway and an appearance on Law & Order SVU under her belt.
Carly was offered a record deal with Simon Cowell’s label, Syco after she placed second on The X Factor, pictured singing among the Top 4 on X Factor in December 2012
By the time she was 14, she was working on her first studio album and had appeared on Law & Order SVU, on the red carpet in 2011
Carly was renowned for her expressive and soulful singing, pictured singing in the Top 10 on The X Factor in 2012
However the singer ultimately made the decision to scrap the album after she struggled with asserting her ideas in the studio or even knowing what those ideas are.
‘These writers and producers were all so talented, but I had no idea who I wanted to be or what I wanted to make at this point so I let them tell me what I should be making,’ she told Rain Mag in 2020.
While she did ‘learn so much about songwriting and pop structure from some of the best pop writers and producers in the game,’ she ultimately decided to scrap the album before releasing it.
‘For me, it was exactly what I needed to do,’ she told J-14 in 2021. ‘And I look back on it was very no regrets. … I didn’t barely know how to speak up for myself in sessions or feel like I really should talk about what I actually wanted to do.’
She added: ‘As a 13-year-old girl who can sing, it was just this kind of direction that was pretty predictable in my opinion.’
She went back to Westchester and resumed the average life of a seventh grader, or as close to average as it could be.
Carly (seen in 2012) struggled with asserting her ideas or even knowing what they were while in the recording booth for her first album
She claimed that since she didn’t know who she was yet that she let producers ‘tell me what I should be making,’ pictured singing in the X Factor Top 8
The singer has no regrets about leaving the biz, saying ‘it was exactly what I needed to do,’ pictured in the 16 12 elimination show in November 2012
‘I always hear my name once or twice as I walk by — “That’s Carly Rose Sonenclar!”‘ she said of returning to school to USA Today at the time. ‘It’s something I have to get used to, people staring at me as I walk through the halls.’
She continued: ‘Stuff like that is a little weird, but it’s nice. I guess.’
After graduating high school and entering her adulthood, Carly decided she was ready to step back into the limelight. She took a big leap an enrolled in USC to study music and moved to LA, all while writing her own music.
In 2019, as she was attending USC, she released her single Birds & The Bees.
In fact, the song was inspired by her early college days. ‘I wrote “birds & bees” soon after getting to college,’ she told Rain Mag in 2020.
She added: ‘Everything about the experience was so new to me and it was one of the most exciting periods of my life. I wanted to write a song about that feeling.’
‘I’m definitely at the point in my life where I’m very ready to go for it. And really take the big steps,’ Carly says of revamping her music career in her 20’s, pictured in 2022
In 2019, as she was attending USC, she released her single Birds & The Bees, pictured at her USC graduation in 2021
Birds & The Bees is about her early college days which she describes as ‘one of the most exciting periods of my life,’ pictured in 2020
She released her single twentyone a year later in 2020.
‘I wrote “Twentyone” in homage to artists like Lil Peep and Juice WRLD who rose to superstardom. Then didn’t live to see their 21st birthdays,’ she explained to Rain Magazine.
‘The song explores the lifestyle of excess and immense power that can be intoxicating, yet incredibly destructive,’ she continued.
The 7-year wait has been worth it for Carly.
‘Making the art that I want to make — it’s just been such a long time coming. And now it’s actually coming out?’ she told LA Times at the time. ‘I’m having some feelings.’
She released her single twentyone in 2020, a year after her single Birds & The Bees, pictured at Billboard Women in Music in 2022
She wrote the song twentyone in honor of artists who died too young like Lil Peep and Juice WRLD
The singer was excited to release music after a 7-year hiatus, saying, ‘it’s just been such a long time coming,’ pictured in 2020
Most recently, she has released her single Suburbia in March 2022, a song that she considers an ode to her ‘past life.’
She tweeted that the song is ‘a love letter to growing up in the suburbs’ and how ‘it’s easy to succumb to the nostalgia and see it all with rose colored glasses.’
‘Feels like a past life,’ she wrote. ‘I am so incredibly grateful for where I came from as it had made me who I am, but this song is me deciding to move forward. Writing this song was cathartic and painful at times.’
In this song, she appears to let go of the past pain of her Suburban life, including how she had to hunker back down in Westchester after her 15 minutes of fame on The X Factor.
She sings: ‘I guess the good old days do you no good/When you’ve been holding on longer than you should.’
Ultimately, those days no longer ‘satisfy’ her and she’s ready to move on to her new life in Los Angeles.
Speaking of nostalgia, the singer recently took a trip down memory lane, reflecting on her days on The X Factor.
Most recently, she has released her single Suburbia, a song that she considers an ode to her ‘past life’
Carly moved from Westchester, New York to Los Angeles to attend college and revamp her music career, pictured in 2019
She uploaded a video of her from X Factor in 2012 singing a ballad version of Karmin’s Brokenhearted and paired it with a video of her in 2022 singing the same song.
’10 years later,’ she simply captioned the post.
She also has uploaded videos of her commenting on some footage of herself on the show, pointing out some of her her quirky teenage mannerisms and fashion choices.
This isn’t the first time that the pop singer has compared her old life in New York to the current rush of her life in LA.
‘They are such different places and I really do feel like I have learned a lot of different stuff in the two different phases of my life. I lived in New York until I graduated high school and went off to college,’ she told Rain Mag.
She continued: ‘So, for the first three years or so of my recording career, I was primarily working with the scene of pop producers and writers in New York City, which is a way smaller community than in L.A.’