With the second season of "The X Factor" coming to an end Thursday night (December 20), the headlines coming from the show have seemingly been about everything but the contestants.
From its initial cast shakeup and declining ratings in the face of NBC's "The Voice" to Britney Spears' rather lackluster performance as a judge and L.A. Reid's ill-timed departure announcement, all have contributed to the show's sophomore slump. (Even during a Monday press conference, host Mario Lopez had to remind the assembled journalist to direct some of their questions at the top three contestants).
With that in mind, MTV News took an opportunity before the finale to ask each of the top three contestants to reflect on their 'X Factor' journey.
"This experience has been amazing for me, it's been surreal," Carly Rose Sonenclar said. "It started all on that day, when I sang 'Feeling Good' and then just from boot camp to judges houses and now live shows, each step of the way has been more intense."
Tate Stevens also shared similar feelings about his journey thus far. "Boot camp was crazy, they call it boot camp for a reason, it's hard. Long hours, no sleep, it's tough. Making it through that I thought, "Man, I'm doing pretty good."
Even making it past boot camp, the contestants found it difficult when performing at the judges' homes in order to make it to the live shows.
"Going to the judges' homes, that was a pretty intense week, being there, doing that, trying to impress (Reid) enough to put me in the live shows, where American would vote," said Stevens.
Being the first group to make it into the finals, Fifth Harmony had an especially hard trip to the finals.
"Everyone's been through a lot on the show but I feel like, us in particular because we were formed together as a group and we kind of had to learn each other and identify our sound which I think we are still learning," said Camila Cabello about forming a five-member girl group.
"Everyone else has already grown up already knowing their sound, so we're kind of at a disadvantage but now we're in the finals and we worked so hard to get to where we are right now so we're so thankful," she explained about landing a coveted spot in the finale.
"I feel like 'Impossible' captured who we were because we had chosen it and that's why it was such an amazing performance," added Lauren Jauregui, describing their first performance as a group.
"Throughout the live show that's been one of our biggest challenges, finding songs that fit us," she said.
It all finally came together last week with their well-received performance of "Anything Can Happen," a performance that pushed the girls into the finals over Emblem3.
And while the journey to the finals has been long and hard, Sonenclar explained that the true test of success lies outside the show. "Once you get outside of here that's only half the battle now you have to actually make it as a real recording artist in the real industry," she said.
Simon Cowell also agrees, saying during Monday's press conference, "I've done this for 10 years. The one thing that's the most important is the legacy you leave behind each year. The legacy we're going to leave behind is strong, not just with (Tate Stevens, Carly Rose Sonenclar and Fifth Harmony) but also with artists like Emblem3. That's what we're judged on."