Idol Update, August 23: George Huff & John Stevens Get Record Deals, Season 4 Auditions Continue
by Donna Reynolds -- 08/23/2004
Even before the summer tour is over, several of last season’s finalists have already signed record deals. This is unprecedented but welcome news to Idol fans. Donna has the details.
As the American Idol tour moves into its final month, there is good news for fans of several of the Idols from season three. George Huff, who finished in fourth place, has signed with Word Records out of Nashville, TN. The label, which was founded in 1952, focuses on gospel music, but represents a diverse group of artists including Billy Ray Cyrus, Sandi Patty, and Amy Grant. Word had been one of the top labels for this genre and is in the process of rebuilding.
In a press release dated August 20, Word Records’ president, Barry Landis stated, "In the past, Word Records represented the greatest names in Gospel music and the signing of George Huff … sends the message that we want that valued position back again." Look for George’s first CD to be released early in 2005.
In another interesting development, John Stevens, the retro redhead who finished sixth, has popped up among the artists on Maverick Records’ roster. This, of course, is the label that Madonna co-founded in 1992, but recently sold to Warner Music Group. What’s interesting is that Warner also owns Word Records.
John’s artist page on the Maverick site, which was added on August 20, indicates that his first album will be released in November 2004. He’s in good company, that’s for sure. Along with Madonna, Maverick represents such heavy hitters as Alanis Morisette, Michelle Branch, and Tantric. They also represent Ben Jelen, a hot new artist who is opening for Clay Aiken at his September concerts.
John returns home to Buffalo with the Idol tour group on September 14.
These signings are a surprise in that, historically, all of the Idol finalists were committed to 19 Entertainment until the end of the tour. No word yet on other favorites, although LaToya London has retained the services of a publicist, and Jennifer Hudson is said to be considering several offers.
Meanwhile, Fantasia will be appearing this fall on NBC’s popular series American Dreams, portraying Aretha Franklin. Her first CD is due out in November and the word on the street is that she has been working with Missy Elliot and P. Diddy (Sean Combs). Diana is also reported to be releasing her first CD in November.
In other Idol-related news, auditions for American Idol 4 are in full swing, with three cities down and five to go. Next stop, Orlando (August 26) and the auditions will continue until October, finishing up in San Francisco, October 5. The turnout appears to be higher than ever, but some Idol hopefuls are complaining that too few good singers are getting through, being sacrificed for those who will make for “good television.” Many are reporting that, although the screeners complimented their singing, they are being told, “You’re not what we are looking for.” No one seems to be able to figure out exactly what they are looking for since people of all ages, races, and genders are being turned away. One 16-year-old from Washington, DC, who made it as far as Paula, Randy, and Simon reported that she was told she was too young. It seems that, although the minimum age was not raised, the judges may have learned from AI3 and are screening out those who are under 18. Wouldn’t it have been simpler (and more fair) to just raise the age to 18?
Hard to believe, but the new season starts in less than five months. As always, we will be on top of any breaking Idol news. Additionally, I will be attending the Idol show in Albany on September 2 and will have a complete report! And you know what? I can’t wait!!Donna Reynolds is a self-proclaimed entertainment junkie and writes That's Entertainment, a daily column for syracuse.com highlighting events of local interest as well as her take on all things reality! She is also doing a weekly spot on a Syracuse radio station, commenting on the latest entertainment buzz. In addition, Donna does technical writing for a medical equipment company and is a part-time aquatic dance instructor. Whether you agree or disagree, Donna welcomes your comments and you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org