February 16, 2008 11:53 AM by Joe Reality
The American Idol 7 top twenty-four semi-finalists have yet to take the stage for the first round of the competition, but already there is a major controversy that is brewing around one of the contestants. By now many American Idol fans are aware that Carly Smithson had a record deal with MCA several years ago under the name Carly Hennessey. American Idol fans also know that despite MCA reportedly spending millions to promote the album that it basically flopped.
In a conference call with reporters, American Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe faced numerous questions about the brewing Carly Smithson controversy. When first asked about Smithson, Lythgoe tried to paint her background in a positive light in regards to how she would do in the competition. Lythgoe said, “Carly has been around and, you know, has come to us. She’s had a recording contract in the past. She came to us a couple years ago. We thought she was terrific then. She did a Prince song and had really sent chills down us. And then we lost her, because of getting a VISA, and she’s overturned that now. I think she stands a very good chance this year. She’s already quite known by the public, which always helps a little bit, and she’s got a lot of talent, so we’ll see how she does.”
However, things quickly turned negative, as Lythgoe faced question after question about the online backlash over Carly Smithson’s professional background and previous contract. Lythgoe responded, “This is a thing that comes up for some reason every year, and this year, ‘oh, they’re all professionals.’ Well, Kelly Clarkson had a contract, you know. From year one, all we say is that you have got to be out of contract now, but every year there’s been somebody that’s got a professional contract or even had an album out. So, no it doesn’t worry us in the slightest.”
Lythgoe’s opinion appeared to be that it was predominately an online backlash and that it wouldn’t affect the competition. Lythgoe explained, “It’s an online backlash, and we talk about getting between thirty-five to sixty-five million calls. I really don’t think online, even when you have a complete online focus like VoteForTheWorst, has any effect on this show. There are too many people who vote and, you know, what are you talking about when you say online, a million?”
Lythgoe continued, “But that’s alright if you are in that online market. You know, with viewers of thirty million people watching, votes of sixty-five to seventy-five million, we’ve had calls, and broken all records. They’re going to have to decide, is she good enough to be on the show? It’s not what’s happened in the past. She’s not breaking any rules in the competition. I don’t see the logic. I don’t see any logic in that. The rules of the competition state you do not have a contract now. I mean goodness me, if Elvis Presley came back and was out of contract and was able to participate through age, then he would be in the competition. Nobody said this is an amateur competition. This is something that people are making up for themselves. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a professional contract. Kelly Clarkson had a professional contract. Bo Bice had a deal.”
As the discussion continued, questions turned from the controversy over Carly Smithson’s background to the controversy over American Idol not disclosing Carly Smithson’s background. Lythgoe denied that the American Idol show was hiding anything. Lythgoe said, “We’re doing everything about who they are and what they are. We’re not ignoring anything. We never do.” Lythgoe later added, “We have never not shown their past, and we can’t. There’s nothing wrong with saying she’s had a deal, and she didn’t get anywhere in that deal, and now, here she is. I’ve got no problems with that whatsoever.”
Lythgoe’s claim that the show revealed Carly Smithson’s background is likely to generate even more heated controversy. The fact that Smithson had a record deal with MCA that didn’t go very well was never revealed in her San Diego audition segment that aired on American Idol 7. It was also not revealed in her official FOX biography blurb. However, it was clearly revealed during Smithson’s audition segment that she had auditioned two years ago. After Smithson received her golden ticket to Hollywood, she also sobbed, “Everything’s been like right there in front of me, and I just haven’t been able to hold onto it, so I’m holding onto this.” Perhaps, Smithson’s comment about having had everything in front of her before was the show’s way of revealing her previous deal.
Will the controversy over Carly Smithson’s previous deal hurt her chances on American Idol? Or is it completely irrelevant because, as Lythgoe pointed, she didn’t break any rules of the competition?
Photo Credit: FOX