August 18, 2005

‘American Idol’ dropout signs record deal

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - He dropped out of the televised
"American Idol" talent competition before it was halfway over,
but that didn't keep Mario Vazquez from claiming the show's
ultimate prize -- a recording contract.

J Records announced on Thursday it had signed Vazquez to
its roster of performers, making him the first "American Idol"
contestant who was not a winner or a runner-up to land a
coveted record deal at the Sony BMG label.

The Bronx-born singer, widely regarded as a front-runner in
last season's "American Idol" contest, stunned viewers and the
Fox network when he abruptly withdrew from the show days after
being selected as one of the 12 finalists.

At the time, Vazquez offered no explanation other than to
cite "personal reasons" for his departure. There was
speculation at the time that Vazquez had quit because he had a
record deal in the works.

If that were true, his strategy appears to have paid off.

"Mario Vazquez is a multitalented, young American-born
Hispanic singer with the voice and charisma that we've been
trying to find for a long time," said veteran record mogul
Clive Davis, chairman of BMG U.S. "His live audition for us was
truly special."

According to the press release announcing his deal, the
28-year-old Vazquez was inspired as a youngster by listening to
old doo-wop and Motown classics and enrolled in New York City's
La Guardia High School of Performing Arts. He also has
performed as a member of the City Kids Repertoire Company.

All eight winners and runners-up from the first four
editions of "American Idol," the top-rated U.S. TV show last
season, have been signed to either J Records, RCA Records or
Arista Records under Sony BMG's RCA Music Group. Among them
were Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken and Fantasia.

A Fox spokesman said the News Corp.-owned network had
nothing to say about Vazquez landing a deal without going the
distance on the hit show.

"We broadcast the show. Once the talent leaves the show, it
really has nothing to do with the network. There's nothing for
us to say," spokesman Scott Grogin said.

Sony BMG Music Entertainment is a joint venture of Sony
Corp. and Bertelsmann AG