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American Idol: Mario Vazquez, Palace Intrigue, and The Clive Davis Clone Army

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Oh, this is rich in palace intrigue. Very rich.

The Fox News story goes like this:

You may recall the story about Mario Vazquez, the kid who bolted mid-season from “American Idol” last winter. He’d been convinced by his lawyer — the same lawyer who represented Clay Aiken — to leave the show rather than stay and sign a management contract with the “Idol” producers.

And this is what I said shortly after Mr. Vazquez gave American Idol the boot and upon the occasion of Constantine Maroulis’ premature departure from the show:

Perhaps we will soon be seeing Mr. Maroulis taking a number, behind Mario “Who?” Vazquez, at the law offices of Atlanta entertainment lawyer Jess L. Rosen, the freedom fighter who famously extricated Clay Aiken from the AI management machine.

Yes, Mr. Jess L. Rosen, Freedom Fighter.

It is now reported (by Fox News here) that Mr. Rosen, Freedom Fighter, was the man behind the curtain in the melodrama of “The Kid Who Bolted.”

Now, previously, as those who have been along for the idolhabit ride since the beginning know, I have already expressed, in my usual unequivocal terms, my sense of The Kid’s future in the music industry.

To wit, I said, with my usual candor:

“I don’t believe Mario is distinctive enough to break through without the type of exposure, personal and musical, he could have gotten on AI.”

Of course, I could be wrong.

(But after listening to Mario’s vocals on Worlds of Change, what I called a “Latin-flavored boy-bandesque lollipop,” I somehow doubt it.)

Mario’s future career prospects, however, are not what I’m here to discuss.

Think about the intrigue, people, the intrigue! This puts the two-bit toga-toting hacks in I, Claudius all to shame!

While the Fox News story lays the blame/credit (depending on how much you love Mario) for this bodacious plan fully on Mr. Jess Rosen, Freedom Fighter, one has to wonder if said Rosen was not part of a nefarious palace—i.e., insider—cabal.

Look at it this way:

Would a big, fancy lawyer such as Mr. Rosen, Freedom Fighter, advise The Kid to actually LEAVE THE SHOW (that show being American Idol) without said big, fancy lawyer actually having some assurances that he could indeed deliver a big-time record contract to said Kid on a silver platter.

Garcon!

What this deal accomplished was the complete and utter cutting out of Mr. Fuller and 19 Entertainment.

And, if the rumors are true that Fuller is shopping for an alternate label for American Idol winners, this deal also accomplished a pre-emptive strike.

This was shock and awe designed to rain fear onto the hearts of all those connected with 19 Entertainment.

The message: Your juicy deals-in-the-making are not safe. We can come at any time and raid your farm teams and raid your bench.

Unless one believes that Mr. Rosen worked completely on his own (and Freedom Fighters never do), J. Records, in some way, shape or form, likely helped the cause of snatching Mario Vazquez from the claws of Simon Fuller and 19 Entertainment. (This assumes Mario Vazquez would have won or been runner-up, which I don’t think at all is a sure bet.)

If Simon Fuller indeed is looking to take the American Idol golden goose away from J. Records (a/k/a Clive Davis—the “J” in J. Records is for Clive’s middle initial), Clive Davis just gave him the air kiss and said “Go ahead and make my day.”

In other words: Mr. Fuller, sir, you be punk’d..

The take-home point?

If it happened once, it can happen again. If a label succeeded in interjecting itself into the Idol process—in effect, in pre-empting the label that has the legal right to sign artists who complete the Idol process—a label, any label, can do that again in the future.

American Idol becomes the NFL Draft.

Yep, you heard it on idolhabit first.

After American Idol goes through the laborious process of finding a couple dozen singing diamonds in the rough, it puts them on the tube where they are then evaluated by scouts for all the major record labels.

If a label thinks it really needs a particular kid at quarterback, so to speak, just like in college sports, there are ways to convey “interest.”

Heck, I remember Heather Locklear telling the story that she had a friend ring up Richie Sambora and tell him that she was “interested.” According to Heather, Richie showed up at her hotel room door that night in order to inquire about her interest. The rest is married bliss history.

But I digress.

In this brave new world of American Idol Meets the NFL Draft, once a label decides it wants to go after an American Idol finalist, it can work a covert deal and just let the contestant ride the AI wave until the label thinks the time is right to pull the plug.

What about this example:

What if, instead of taking the chance that he might win American Idol—an eventuality he was literally praying against—Bo Bice had withdrawn from the competition the night before the finale because he had gone ahead and worked out a deal with Clive Davis that cut out Simon Fuller and 19E?

(That’s not likely to be possible, so far as we know the details of the AI contract, but when it comes to litigation/legal interpretations, I, for one, would never say never.)

Of course, I can gar-ran-tee that the Superhero contingent, disguised as squirrelly little lawyers, is running around the back streets of L.A., trying to dream up ways to—drats! double drats!—foil the plans of the Clive Davis Clone Army to take over the American Idol world.

Beyond that, however, there’s a more commercial way for Mr. Fuller and 19E to defeat the Clive Davis Clone Army.

Such as, oh, doing an exceptionally fantastic job promoting the American Idol artists 19E does sign. You know, doing your job so well that everyone actually wants to hold out for the chance to be on your team.

It’s supremely interesting that Mr. Rosen’s Freedom Fighting credentials include springing the one and only Mr. Clay Aiken from 19E.

Out here in the bleachers, we’ll never know the full story on what motivated Mr. Aiken to take extraordinary steps to extricate himself from Fuller’s management services.

But I do know this: the Superhero contingent disguised as lawyers can never write a contract that another Superhero disguised as a lawyer cannot find a way out of.

So there are only so many “party of the first part” and “party of the second part” and “is this the party to whom I am speaking?” clauses that Fuller and 19E can deploy in an effort to stop American Idol finalists from pulling a Mario.

On the other hand, no one, save themselves, can stop Fuller and 19E from becoming known as a company that, through hard work, skill and good judgment, takes every American Idol finalist it signs straight up to the stars.

Establish a winning record, and the players will come.

However, in the new American Idol Fantasy League, allowing major talents such as Clay Aiken—and, oh yeah, Kelly Clarkson, who said buh-bye this year—to slip away doesn’t bode well for Fuller and 19’s team.

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  • linda moore

    I can see your theory of a pre-emptive strike by Clive and BMG, but the scenario of people leaving after they are selected as top 12 is incorrect. To make it to the top 12, you have to sign the restrictive contract. Mario pulled out just before he was required to sign this contract.

    Clay, and probably Kelly, is still restricted by parts of his contract that are still in force with 19R – the record portion of the 19. What he was freed from was 19M – management and 19 merchandising and will not be required to sign with 19P, the publishing wing, if he ever writes a song. The reason he was released from his contract, as rumor has it, is because 19M turned down profitable opportunities because they did not want the runner up to out shine the winner. So, chances to appear on prestigeous shows were turned down, as well as major endorsement requests.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Hi, Linda Moore—

    As far as we know the details of the AI contract and when it kicks in, you are correct that it applies to the actual finalists.

    However, my point is that there really is no contract that is ironclad and, under no circumstances, could be gotten around.

    In fact, many artists (N*SYNC comes to mind) got out of their contracts precisely because the contracts were *too* restrictive.

    Is it likely that, as in my example, Bo Bice could have quit the night before the finale and get out from under 19E? well, no. It’s not *likely.* (But literary license, please!)

    Nevertheless, when litigation/legal interpretations are involved, I for one will never say never.

    Also, the new format on AI—having the audience choose the Top 12 through a series of sing-offs—effectively blurs the distinction between the Top 32 (or whatever the # was) and the eventual Top 12.

    IOW, by the time the group that is competing for the finalist spots is chosen and begins competing, they are already finalists in the public’s mind. People are beginning to form opinions and buzz is beginning about who might go all the way.

    That’s a great situation for a raider to come into, whisper in a kid’s ear, and encourage them to quit the competition.

    Of course, both label and kid are taking a chance, a big one.

    But unless AI establishes that it is going to take better care of its artists than anyone else could even dream of—that if you want your best chance of making it, you need to win AI, or at least be the runner-up—there will be more and more creative talent raids.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Okay, my bad.

    I wrote: no contract that is ironclad and, under no circumstances, could be gotten around, which obviously should have read:

    could not be gotten around

    My mother told me this would happen if I used double negatives.

  • http://constantinemaroulis.co.uk Jenny

    Good luck to Mario in all of this .. he reminded me of another Justin Timberlake … whether the world is ready for another JT or if he has had enough exposure remains to be seen.

    But the shopping around for another label by Fuller etc; instead of conspiracy theories it could be something perfectly simple and straightforward like business … as another company with a similar type show to AI is at this very moment in negotiations with Fox to sell it .. name of company Syco,owner Simon Cowell … the show the X-Factor, the second series of which will begin this Saturday in the U.K.
    Jenny

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Jenny,

    Of course, the allusion to palace intrigue was not so much to the conspiracy aspect but to the fact that this looks like an inside job

    IOW, it’s like someone on the inside saying, hey, let’s grab this kid before Fuller can get him . . .

    And that, yes, is just business. Hardball business, but nevertheless just business.

    On your other point, I’m not convinced that the world is demanding another JT.

    I think the success of AI demonstrates that there’s a whole market segment out there that actually wants something quite different from the JTs the industry tries to serve up daily.

  • Dax

    But didn’t Mario sign with Clay’s lawyer several weeks AFTER he left AI??? What’s your take on how that came about?

  • Regina

    I just bought “worlds of change” by this amazing guitarist/songwriter named Cesar. Mario Vazquez sings on it and I tell you Cesar’s music is amazing! lyrics, guitar work and the style that suits Mario very well. I truly think Mario will be a Pop Star after listening his vocals on this album.
    go to http://www.cesarmusic.com and check it out. I also belive Cesar is the next “Santana” as the media portrait him. Good luck to both of them.
    Regina.

  • Janet

    Loved the post, certainly brought up valid points, and possibilities I had not thought of.

    I personally had hoped tht Bo would depart AI earlier, rather than be saddled to such a restrictive contract, I thought he could be successful without it.

    As far as Clay Aiken, I too had “heard” that an endorsement was turned down for him without his ok. It does seem that he was underestimated all the way around. Not only did he himself have the intelligence to initiate getting out of the contract… but seemingly influenced another to do the same. As soon as she could after touring with Clay, Kelly also got out of the contract. Sounds like some of their late nights on the bus consisted of more than playing scrabble.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Dax —

    There were reports even at the time that when Mario left AI, he was already being repped by the same lawyer that repped Clay Aiken.

    That, plus this new information, does make it look like a couple of people on the inside decided they’d like to grab Mario before Fuller got hold of him (assuming Mario would have made it into the finale in AI).

    I don’t think a big-time lawyer would be stupid enough to advise a client in Mario’s position to leave the show unless the lawyer had already “heard” enough to know that he was pretty sure he could deliver a big-time contract to the client.

    Now, everyone involved has to hope that Mario hits it big. There is even more at stake, reputation-wise, than usual.

    If Mario hits it big, it will feed the notion that people ought to “use” AI (not that there’s anything wrong with that, unless you’re a producer who needs a certain level of committment from your finalists in order to maintain the audience’s “belief” in the show).

    If Mario hits it bigger than some of the actual AI winners, that also will make people think that it’s better to lose than to win AI. Again, not that there’s anything wrong with that, unless you’re a producer who needs to maintain some semblance of your shows integrity.

    If J. Records does more to promote Mario than 19E does to promote AI winners and popular runners-up, that’s yet another strike against finalists coming into the competition with the idea that it would be really great to win.

    If the finalists eventually approach the competition with a who-cares attitude, it won’t be long before the audience also will not care.

    The show doesn’t work (at least not for long) unless the stakes are quite high and the prize is very real.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Janet—

    I probably should have included this in the body of my post (and may go back and ETA it later), but the Clay Aiken situation says this:

    Certainly I am not in the know about the legal bases that allowed Mr. Aiken to bust his contract.

    However, what if those bases existed at some point during the competition, not just afterward?

    Then Mr. Aiken would have had the same legal right to withdraw from the competition/contract as he did after the competition was completed.

    Think about it!

    In that case, if the right legal conditions came to exist, any finalist—even down to the last two—could possibly be lured away (Mario-ed) at the last minute.

    Let’s say this rumor about 19E turning down an endorsement on Clay Aiken’s behalf without consulting him is true.

    Let’s say 19E did that dirty deed two nights before the finale.

    Let’s say Mr. Aiken is steamed and his lawyer (since lawyers never like to have decisions made for their clients without consultation) was livid.

    So lawyer figures out a way to convince the appropriate authorities that, legally, the contract is busted or will not hold up in court.

    Lawyer gets Mr. Davis on line 2 and advises of the situation. Lawyer says we know you wanted to sign Mr. Aiken and we still want to sign with you. But, as for 19E, we’re outta there.

    So between them they work out a deal for Mr. Aiken to walk off the show the night before the finale and into the arms of J. Records (on a contract unrelated to the “prize” on AI)— leaving Mr. Fuller at waiting at the bus stop.

    Why not?

    As I said in my post, 19E can try to plug this hole with legal mumbo-jumbo, but the best way to plug it is to be so good at promoting AI artists that most people think eh, I want to hold out to see if I can get signed by 19E.

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks Sticker, great as always – so the comment issue is resolved?

  • Eric Olsen

    yes, it appears to be – was some kind of coding issue

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Eric—

    The comment issue appears to be still with us.

    Don’t know what other people are seeing, but when I click on the post, say, through google, I only see 3 comments.

    If there is a new comment appearing in the right sidebar, I can click on that and (I presume) all the comments come up with the post. Otherwise, there appears to be no other way to see all the comments.

    I only saw your comments because the last one happened to appear in the right sidebar.

  • Eric Olsen

    I am seeing all 13 comments on the page now

  • dan

    Mario Vazquez vocals on Cesar’s CD “Worlds of Change” are amazing!!!
    check it out http://www.cesarmusic.com
    Mario is gonna be a Big Star and I think Cesar is being taken by Clive Davis too to became the next Santana.
    Thanks .

    Daniel

  • http://Nada Susan

    I like Mario Vasquez. Maybe he quit american idol because he wanted to, you cant force him to want to sing for you. Mario is on his own now and has started a CD, therefore he can live his life and make CD’s. like his song “Gallery” and I do enjoy all of his music. I dont watch american idol so he doesn’t need to be in american idol if he doesn’t want to. I like Mario making CD’s better, then being in american idol.

  • deborah

    Some of you said Mario Vazquez is a hot pop “star” (!!#?)but reality is he hasn’t sell much Cds, his career is a big failure (less than 60,000 albums sold). he is definetly not popular and this lawsuit ain’t gonna make him a mainstream music product.Besides if you filed a lawsuit you must have some kind of proof to make your case and remember Mario is not the only one involved in the suit, there are two big companies involved as well so Magdaleno and his lawyer have something to show in court. Those companies (American Idol, etc) have top dollars lawyers to protect them so something was going on in the show for this to re-surface.
    Mario recorded with guitarist Cesar a few years ago on a cd called worlds of change. The album was great(sold 200,000 copies as an independent cd) but Mario distanced himself from that type of songwriting and follow Clive Davis advice. The result was a mediocre album with lots of big names writer/producers that did not reach mass appeal and sounded poor. Whoever thought Mario was going to be the next latin sensation really made the biggest mistake in his music career as an executive (and lost tons of money as well).
    Ironically, Clive Davis doors are closed for any talented artist (latin or not) to submit his/her music. He isn’t listening to anything unless is coming from his “buddies” (a la Ne-yo, R. Kelly, Stargate, Fernando Garibay, scott storch, a very few lawyers, etc). Hopefully Mr. Davis learned this lesson and open his mind a bit to make a good change in the must needed music business.