Time flies and all of that: American Idol auditions are over and version 4 returns to Fox in January, a mere hop, skip and calendarial jump away. But there is a flurry of activity going on right now with various Idol personages as the machine begins to crank itself up once again.
First, in some very happy news, AI3 finalist, the lovely, charming and talented Latoya London, 25, who should have duked it out with Fantasia for the crown, signed her first record deal with independent label Peak Records (Regina Belle, Glenn Jones, Phil Perry, David Benoit, The Rippingtons) today.
Peak Records President Andi Howard has grand plans for her newest artist. “Latoya will follow in the footsteps of Whitney Houston and the other great female R&B singers that shaped the genre. She’s smart, beautiful, witty and incredibly talented. When I saw her perform on American Idol, I was simply blown away. I am absolutely delighted that she has now joined our family.”
Peak is partnered with Concord Records , which recently scored a multi-platinum hit with Genius Loves Company, the final recording from Ray Charles.
Oakland-native London is currently working on material for her debut release, which will primarily feature R&B originals, and is due out in the summer of ’05. In the meantime, she will serve as the Grand Marshal of the Amazing Kids Parade in Orlando, FL (11/26), the Oakland Holiday Parade (12/4) and the San Jose Holiday Parade (12/5). Also on December 5th, the singer performs for the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation in San Francisco, and on December 11, she appears at the “100 Black Men of the Bay Area” gala which raises funds for youth mentoring and education.
Glad to see it, she rocks.
Next week on the tube, the winners of the first three Idol seasons, Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard and Fantasia Barrino, will star in a new Fox Christmas special, called Kelly, Ruben and Fantasia: Home For Christmas, singing songs from their new solo album releases as well as holiday classics.
Fantasia’s debut album, Free Yourself, will be — what a stunning coincidence — out November 23, with guest appearances by Missy Elliott (who is producing three tracks) and a host of hitmakers including Jermaine Dupri, Rodney Jerkins, Soulshock & Carlin, The Underdogs, and Jazze Pha.
Fantasia is off to a mighty start: she became the first artist in the history of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart to debut at Number 1 with her very first single, “I Believe,” currently the best selling single this year. Says her ancient Svengali Clive Davis, “”Fantasia is the real deal, an artist who is instantly identifiable and very much her own person. She will have a long and illustrious career.”
Rave on, Clive, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least – she is an astonishing performer, vivid personality, and has a very appealing, unique look. In fact, M.A.C Cosmetics “celebrates the high energy and soulful beauty” of Fantasia with two new “Lipglasses, Fantabulous 1, a smoldering copper and Fantabulous 2, a full-on reddened bronze.” Well, damn. She will also make a personal appearance at the M.A.C Harlem store to meet and greet fans on November 22nd from 3 to 4 PM, doubtless resplendent in either Fantabulous 1 or 2, though probably not both.
And speaking of new solo album releases, no less than six Idol finalists are releasing records over the next few weeks: Barrino, Clarkson, Studdard, Diana DeGarmo with studio albums; and Clay Aiken and George Huff with holiday collections. Will Idols from the increasingly remote seasons 1 and 2 (Clarkson, Studdard, Aiken) fare as well this time out?
“We’re venturing into brand-new territory here,” said Tom Ennis, a senior executive at 19 Entertainment, the creator and a producer of American Idol, and the manager of Clarkson and Barrino.
Ennis told the NY Times he worries that there could be a logjam of Idol stars trying to land, for example, spots on the same late-night talk shows, but he insisted that the artists should still play up their ties to the show – of course he WOULD say that.
But while Clarkson, Studdard and Barrino are scheduled to appear on the Fox holiday special next week, Aiken, runner-up to Studdard the second season, has sold more albums (2.6 million) than Clarkson (2 mil) or Studdard (1.7 mil) and is not taking part. He will have his OWN holiday television special, Dec. 8 on NBC. Representatives for Aiken, who has broken from 19’s management, said he was interested in standing apart from the show.
Very interesting. I guess this means Clay is the biggest star to emerge from the show thus far, or at least he is the first to feel confident enough to actively step away from it. Aiken was also just named National Ambassador for the US Fund for UNICEF, where he will help “save, protect and improve the lives of children around the globe, specifically through better education.” Sayeth Clay, “Everyone deserves the best start in life, which is what UNICEF is working to provide the world’s most vulnerable children.” Do-gooder.
Now, let’s contrast Clay, runner-up from season 2, with Justin Guarini, runner-up from season 1. While Clay may have won by losing, Justin has just plain lost: he was in the disastrous Idol-produced film From Justin To Kelly with Clarkson, but while she has shrugged it off, he has continued to sink.
Guarini’s debut album sold only 140k copies and he was dumped by RCA, he has had legal problems, gone through at least four managers, and now has “parted company” with Broadway-bound, Good Vibrations, a fictional, fun-in-the-sun tale set to the music of the Beach Boys, scheduled to begin previews at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on Dec. 20.
He wasn’t even one of the leads – dude is sinking fast. Other Idols currently performing on Broadway include Frenchie Davis in Rent and Tamyra Gray in Bombay Dreams.