Clean sweep.

Despite my long and comfy hibernation, I felt compelled to author a post after the recent spate of Idols parting ways with the Sony/BMG behemoth. Unless you’ve been hibernating right along with me (and if you have, I tend to kick when I’m dreaming, so I’m sorry about that), you know that Ruben Studdard, Taylor Hicks, and Katharine McPhee are no longer footsoldiers in the Dark Lord Clive Davis’s empire.

The Studdard news is hardly new; he and J Records haven’t been working together since May of 2007. The Hicks and McPhee news comes as more of a…well, not necessarily a shock, but at least it’s fresher. To date, Hicks has sold 699,000 copies of his self-titled work, while McPhee has moved 366,000 copies of her also-eponymous debut.

While the media reports regarding Hicks’s and McPhee’s statuses differ in their headlines, billing their departure from J Records as a mutual split, a parting of the ways, or a one-sided kick to the curb, here is what the actual suits have to say. Regarding Studdard:

The exec noted that Studdard put out three albums, “but there comes a time when we have to recognize the market for adult-oriented albums is tough. We allowed him to be a free agent, to make the record he wanted to make.

And with regard to Hicks:

“The same thing with Taylor Hicks (above, left). We didn’t want to shove any songs down his throat. We wanted to make an album in the style he was comfortable with. We mutually agreed that he’d work on an album [on his own], we’d listen, and we’d see where we go from there. There’s no acrimony.”

It sounds like at least Hicks, and possibly Studdard, still has some kind of deal with Sony, wherein Hicks will be recording his next CD on his own (and likely without any financial support from the label), but if J likes what they hear, they’ll have an opportunity (probably the right of first refusal) to distribute the album. Depending on where you fall on the coin of Hicks, this is either good news or terrible news. If all you care about is Taylor putting out a good album (perhaps something more along the lines of his earlier indie releases), then you’re probably raising a glass of champagne and toasting this recent news. If, on the other hand, your dream for Hicks was for him to obtain million-mark sales and the fawning approval of the blogosphere, start rending your garments: Unless a new Hicks album spawns Daughtry-like sales, he’ll likely remain a popular punching bag.

Perhaps more interesting is the exec’s commentary regarding McPhee:

We put millions behind Katharine. Many of us at the label still love her songs. But we’re in the major leagues. We didn’t think she could break into the mainstream. We would rather be honest. (McPhee is talking with another label and is due to star in the movie “I Know What Boys Like.”)

I’m a little confused by this — why would a record label spend millions on an artist that they never thought could have top sales in the first place? — but it’s interesting to note that there is no mention of McPhee having the same right of first refusal deal that it looks like Taylor got. Whether this was simply an oversight in the interview I don’t know, but I will have to say that even though I am not a fan of Ms. McPhee, her record label is extraordinarily stupid if they don’t have a similar arrangement with her. The girl does have a small spate of movies coming out (even if her oft-hyped “starring role” in the abovementioned Anna Faris comedy is reportedly only a small part with minimal speaking and her other “starring role” was handed to her by her boyfriend/fiancee, who also happens to be the film’s producer). On the off-chance (or on-chance, if she really can act) that McPhee becomes a box office darling, why in the world would RCA want to cut its ties with her? Wouldn’t they want to keep her contractually bound? Then again, it’s possible that RCA could always rerelease Katharine McPhee if her movies pick up steam and see if the album gains similar momentum.

It’s also worth noting that some of McPhee’s fans grumble that RCA never invested anything into her album and that she was never truly given a chance to take the market by storm. I don’t know who was pumping the money into McPhee’s coffers, but given that she did have a hit single (“Over It”), two videos (one of which did very well on rotation), a major endorsement deal (Big Sexy Hair), an almost endless stream of obnoxiously open-mouthed magazine covers (including Lucky and Shape), several fashion spreads (including Cosmopolitan, OK!, and In Style magazines), a weeklong hosting gig on TRL, and very in-demand producers like Ryan Leslie and Danjahands (who don’t come cheap) behind her, I’m hard-pressed to say that her album sales (which, really, weren’t all that terrible for a first-timer) were the result of lack of promotion. Again, whether she was financed and pushed by RCA or her management company, I don’t know, but it’s not as though you had to look hard to find her face.

I’m curious to see what the future holds for these three, though. Katharine, who I still maintain makes a better Madelaine Peyroux knockoff than a Fergie knockoff, probably has the best shot to keep her fifteen minutes going just on her looks alone. If she can add a truly good musical or acting performance to her physical appearance, she might have some legs in the industry. Hicks, in my opinion, might want to consider collaborating with the artists who have always supported him (and who still played with him despite him bearing the nasty Idol stigma) — Keb’Mo’, Buddy Guy, Earth Wind & Fire, Warren Haynes, and Widespread Panic, just to name a few. While I’m a fan of Hicks, I think his songwriting needs to be polished, so collaborations can probably only help him. And Studdard seems to be taking different career roads already. Wherever they wind up, whatever levels of commercial success they obtain, and however they are labeled by the Internet, I wish them all — and their fans — good luck.


3 Responses to “Clean sweep.”

  1. 1 pattispage January 11, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Since McPhee’s daddy/fiance has been a failure as an actor an producer, her film with his involvement wont go anywhere.Married to this pervert also curtails her sexy image. Future headlines for McPhee will be she is pregnant.Her non commenting on her being dropped from RCA also shows her lack of respect for her fans. She better get 43 yr old daddy nick alot of viagra as she will have alot of free time on her hands

  2. 2 MaryS-NJ January 11, 2008 at 8:01 pm


    *Hugs Idolicious*

    Welcome back – even if it’s just this one.

    I’ve been taking a semi-hiatus from all things ‘Merkin Idul related, lured back by the happenin’s in the biz. I’m optimistic for Taylor, but I’m more interested in the music than the UNITS(TM), you know.


  3. 3 momo January 12, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Excellent article. I’m a huge lurker, don’t have the time/linguistic ability to post much, but I have to say, you’re great. Keep on doing what you’re doing as we shy folk do so much enjoy it. I loved your recent vftw post refencing the 2 Taylor YouTube performances (especially Somehow!}. Too bad it was wasted on Esmerelda. They weren’t wasted on me, so Thank you. Keep strong and consider posting here more. Momo

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January 2008
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What the kids are sayin’

"I hate them all. The judges, TPTB, the blatant manipulation, the songs, the contestants, everything. I'm a die-hard Cook fan, but for the love of god, at least try to look like you're enjoying yourself up there! Please? Syesha was awesome but she ruined it by being completely shameless and disgusting. Yes, being on American Idol is exactly like the civil rights movement, except for the part where you're fighting to make the world a better place."

"All I can say after the disgusting display tonight of favoritism towards the mediocrity that is David A. - good luck trying to market and make money off of that kid, American Idol. (Not to mention good luck dealing with his father.) All the teeny boppers may buy up his American Idol coronation single, but they will quickly forget about him before the album comes out. And I shudder to think of a David A. album - song after song of unrelenting sameness and heavy breathing. Why they are pimping him for the win is beyond me."

"This show was simply a hot buttered mess tonight. And Jason "needs to be arrested for what he did to I Shot the Sheriff. But I hope he stays. He amuses me. "

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