The road to post-"American Idol" glory is paved with cautionary tales, perhaps none more cautionary than that of Diana DeGarmo, the runner-up during the show's third season.
One of the youngest — and most talented — "Idol" contestants, she was inked to RCA Records in 2004 and released Blue Skies, a glossy pop album she had little creative control over (in a recent interview, she complained that RCA ignored her suggestions about songwriting partners almost entirely) and one that effectively ended her career. It debuted at #52 on the Billboard 200, then, without the benefit of a hit single, quickly disappeared. Nearly five years later, it has sold fewer than 200,000 copies, and DeGarmo is starring in an off-Broadway production of "The Toxic Avenger."
It was a fate that many "Idol" fans feared would also befall Allison Iraheta, last season's fourth-place finisher. After all, like DeGarmo, she was young, spunky and preternaturally gifted (in ways that could easily be mishandled). And based on early reaction to songs like "Don't Waste the Pretty," it looked like those fears were about to come true. But, as it turned out, everyone has learned a thing or two about artistic freedom since the days of DeGarmo.
"They didn't really send me a list of songs [for this album]. ... What they would do was send me a number of songs, and from that group of songs, I'd be like, 'Well, I like that one, I don't really like that one, why are you sending me that one?' " Iraheta told MTV News on Wednesday (December 2). "It was a lot of that, and we worked around that, and it all worked out perfectly. I am happy with every single song on the album, I can't stress that enough."
The songs on Just Like You (which hit stores Tuesday) play to Iraheta's strengths — namely her big, brassy voice and perky, punky attitude — and, as such, there's an air of authenticity to the whole thing. Add to it contributions by Kara DioGuardi and Pink (on the song "No One Else") and Max Martin (on first single "Friday I'll Be Over U"), and you have an album tailor-made for her. So far, "Idol" fans and critics seem to be onboard, which means Iraheta is well on her way to passing her first obstacle on the path to success: She's stayed true to herself.
"Yeah, when they sent me 'No One Else,' with Pink's vocals on it, I was like, 'How the hell do you want me to top that?!?' It was very intimidating. ... [But] it was inspiring, and I just got into the studio and did my own thing," she said. "I'm having so much fun now, because this is what I want to do, this is what I'm aiming for, so it's even better that I'm young, because I have a longer way to go."