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'Idol' Talent Not as Amateur as Fans Thought; Carley Hennessy had 2 singles in 2002
Topic Started: Jan 24 2008, 01:27 AM (686 Views)
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'Idol' Talent Not as Amateur as Fans Thought
Is Show Being Seeded With Pros to Boost Ratings and Create More Recording Stars?

Is TV's "American Idol" becoming a slick way to promote wannabe stars with previous experience in the music industry rather than a showcase for raw, undiscovered talent?

This question is being asked after it was revealed that prior to appearing on the show, some contestants have been signed to million-dollar deals by record companies. As first reported by New York Magazine, several of this season's "Idol" hopefuls are less amateur than the show would lead viewers to believe -- and may actually be some of the most seasoned contestants the competition has ever seen.

One in particular, Irish singer Carly Hennessy, has an impressive music resume. Her album can be bought online or at record stores.

Hennessy, now 24 and set to appear on upcoming "Idol" shows, released "Ultimate High" in 2001, and despite a more than $2 million budget from MCA Records, the label that signed her at the time, managed to sell only a few hundred copies of her CD, according to Phil Gallo, a music critic at Variety.

"[Hennessy] was certainly someone who went through the process," said Gallo, who defined a professional to ABCNEWS.com as someone who has been signed to a recording deal in the past, and not necessarily someone who has been paid to perform music. "She made the album, she was signed, she was groomed."

And Kristy Lee Cook, who introduced herself on the show as a horse lover who lives in a log cabin in Oregon, may not be as green as the show's producers would like viewers to believe. Cook signed a songwriter-affiliation deal with record company BMI in 2001, according to the label's Web site.

While Fox declined to comment directly regarding the rules about contestants who have professional experience appearing on the show, a representative from the network pointed ABCNEWS.com to a section on "Idol's" Web site.

"I've noticed that several contestants have professional music experience, including TV appearances and on Broadway, I thought you were only looking for amateur performers?" asked a question in the FAQs section of "Idol's" site.

The answer reads, "In order to be eligible, the contestants are not permitted to have any CURRENT recording or talent management agreements."

But whether die-hard fans of the show -- many of whom blog their opinions on each "Idol" wannabe and exchange thoughts on the contestants' prospects -- will steer clear of the program is unclear.

Several "Idol" idolizers told ABCNEWS.com that they were turned off by the show's secretiveness about contestants' previous experience.

"I think it ruins the show," said Maura Johnston, editor of the music-centric blog Idolator. "I think ["Idol"] should be more honest about their professional backgrounds. I think it's treading too closely to the line that they're trying to fool the viewer into thinking these people have real back stories and are totally new to the business."

Johnston did understand the motivation for putting more seasoned performers on the show, especially after several seasons that produced only semi-successful stars.

Are 'Idol's' Stars for Real, or Just for Reality TV?"I think the producers have had some failures in the past -- like Taylor Hicks and Ruben Studdard -- and some other "Idol" albums that haven't done well," said Johnston. "They're trying to go for the kind of people who have experience in the business and who have been seen as having star potential by other executives. It's not a sure thing, but it's a little bit more of a sure thing."

This new season, which debuted on Tuesday, is down 10 percent as compared to the same time last season, according to Nielsen Media Research, but industry experts told ABCNEWS.com that in years past viewership has increased once the "real" competition starts and the auditions are over.

"I think if they made it clear that these people had professional opportunities, but it didn't work out for them," viewers wouldn't be so angry, said Johnston, who said she considered anyone who has been signed to a label a "professional." "I mean it's America. People like second chances, they don't like being lied to."

Idol fan and Chicagoan Becca Leftwich, 22, said that she's watched almost all the "Idol' seasons and was unhappy to hear that some of the talent this season isn't as "real" as the show makes it seem.
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Here's Carly Hennessy's music video from 2002:

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I guess the show got desperate. I don't mind them sprinkling in people who actually have professional musical experience, as long as they don't try to pretend as if they're completely amateur and that it's just a total coincidence that they all have past albums, LoL.

America's amateur talent must be all tapped out.
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Always the Panic Spreader

WHAT???? I totally remember that song!
And, heh.....it is unbelieveable, let alone crazy!

Makes me wonder if Big Brother told the houseguests what to do instead of really having pissant fights w/ the other guests...can we say Jerry Springer?
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I cannot believe I didn't realize who she was last night. I totally loved that song when it came out. I remember it being on the radio station I listened too's pick it or flick it. and it got picked, and was put into heavy rotation.

I think we all knew AI was fixed though LOL

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Royal Reporter

She shouldn't be on AI. That takes away from the whole idea of the show!
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Whatever, they let Blake Lewis on, and he had a music career. Jordin Sparks had sung at a super bowl before.

All the Idols have careers in one way or another.

This girl is AMAZING! I am in love with her! AI can still launch her career. She's still an unknown. 99.9% of America still won't/didn't know who she was.
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Go to votefortheworst.com.

They have an entire section devoted to this year's crop of "raw" talent on idol.

One male singer did a freaking duet with Alicia Keys, and he was nominated for a Grammy for it! Kristi Lee Cook, the girl on the farm who does kickboxing, was signed to a a major record label and had Britney Spears slated to appear in her music video when Brit was already Brit! This same "raw" Idol talent has a video on Youtube where she's singing behind a confederate flag! She lost my vote!

Many of the singers have past idol affiliations and major connections within the music biz.

I think Idol shouldn't portray this crop of singers as being green and new to the music biz. Then again this is typical Idol MO: controvery, controvery, controversy!

I don't mind that many of them have previous experience in the music biz. But Idol should say that and not make them appear like neophytes.

Here are excerpts from votefortheworst.com:

Michael Johns is another notable contestant. An Australian import, he was formerly the lead singer of a band called The Rising and a band called Film. He also changed his name from Michael Lee. Michael was signed to Maverick Records with Film, and they were supposed to release a debut album in 2003.

Kristy Lee Cook was signed to Arista Nashville, had Britney Spears lined up to appear in her debut video in 2001, and is managed by Marty Rendleman, who previously managed Leann Rimes. She also apparently loves to alienate most of America by singing in front of a Confederate flag in a video.

Lorena Pinot was in a post-Gloria-Estefan version of the Miami Sound Machine and toured internationally. She has recorded a solo CD and was planning on releasing it this year. How convenient.

Jason Castro was on the television show Cheyenne and played the love interest of the main character.

Robbie Carrico is a failed singer from the pop group Boyz N Girlz United (check out their terrible music video). The band opened for Britney Spears and LFO before disbanding, and he was even one of Britney's first boyfriends.

Shaun Barrowes is an established songwriter and producer for artists on Sony and Universal Records. His website states that he has "recorded, collaborated, and trained with some of the best musicians and music producers in the country; musicians with artist credits such as Madonna, Michelle Branch, Destiny's Child, Stacie Orrico, Joe Cocker, ZZ Top, No Doubt, and many more."

Joanne Borgella is a plus sized model and won the televised beauty pageant Mo’Nique’s Fat Chance in 2005. She previously sang with Patti Labelle, Mary Mary, and American Idol's own Bo Bice for a Christmas special.

Samantha Sidley: But no, in August of 2002 she performed “The YaYa Sisters – An Evening With and Katharine McPhee”

Amy Davis sang in a band with 2 members of Survivor and was a round 2 qualifier for 2007’s Nashville Star.

David Archuleta won Star Search at age 12. During Idol's first season, he met all of the finalists and even sang for Kelly Clarkson and the gang. A few days later, David met with a host of record labels and producers with connections to the show.

Brooke White opened for Phil Vassar on tour.

And last but not least, Jermaine Paul made the top 50, but according to JoesPlace, he smartly dropped out. The biggest plant of all, Jermaine was already signed to J Records (home of Clive Davis, he who signs most of the winning Idols) and was nominated for a Grammy for a duet with Alicia Keys on her second album. Alicia Keys is known as Clive Davis’s most recent pet project. Jermaine also appeared on a remix to Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” as a part of the group Focus.

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I don't see anything wrong with people who are making a career with their singing in bar bands, background singing, studio singing and even musical theater. The ones I have a problem are the ones that have cut their own record or with a band. Those people who have signed with a record label.

But then again if AI didn't promo it as the best raw talent and stuff like that maybe it wouldn't be such a big deal. The music business is a very picky business lately and is all about image. There are those that have musical talent and could sell millions of records yet because they don't fit the "image" of the time they will get nowhere. So I think AI is good for that. Example, I am a huge Daughtry fan, but I don't know if that band showed up at a record label would they get the type of promotion and opportunities they get since Chris had the AI experience (and actually the fact that he didn't win I think he had even more opportunities than would of otherwise).

It is almost a double edge sword. If they elminate anyone who had some type of prior musical/performing/singing experience, eventually I think we would run out of raw talent and end up with a year of Sanjayas. I for one last year thought the talent was the weakest ever. Other years there have been 2-3 contestants that I would look forward to seeing every week. I never hit that point last year. So bring on the best singers that we don't know.
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I find this so ironic as a couple of years ago, they cut the guy who played Joey Lupo (Justin Klosky) on GL for under a year, because he was on a television show. And yet this year they bring in people who were also on shows and had record deals. How crazy...

When Constantine was on AI, at least they were honest enough about his time in RENT and didn't hide it from the audience. This kind of bugs if they don't play it straight. On the radio today they talked about how one of the contestants has a criminal record. I think AI just wants press.

BL (who is kind of surprised so many of the hopefuls fall into this category this year. And I agree that people who are wedding singers, sing on cruises and the like should be able to perform.)
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I don't really care that much. They clearly had very little success.
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