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'Idol' champ Underwood aims for crossover success


Ryan

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NASHVILLE (Billboard) - Unlike the winners before her, current "American Idol" champ Carrie Underwood is gunning for success in not only the pop format, but the country arena too.

Thus, Arista Nashville, a division of RCA Label Group, is partnering with 19 Recordings and J Records in New York to promote Underwood's November 15 debut, "Some Hearts."

Underwood already has scored with "Inside Your Heaven," this year's best-selling retail single. The song -- which has sold 434,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan -- topped the Billboard Hot 100 in July because of its strong sales. Now she will try to earn fans on country radio.

"It's a dual approach," says RCA Label Group chairman Joe Galante, who says his Nashville office will handle country radio promotion for Underwood's single "Jesus, Take the Wheel," as well as other marketing and promotion efforts in the country community.

The J Records staff is handling the album's title track for top 40 and adult contemporary radio as well as taking the record to retail. "It's a split effort between the two of us," Galante says.

Underwood is depending on both labels to shepherd her efforts. "They know what they're doing," she says. "I'm a country singer, but because of my exposure on 'American Idol,' I might tend to cross over naturally."

In recording the album, the Checotah, Okla., native, who is buying a home in Nashville, says it was important to "keep things as country as possible."

"Everybody seems to have their arms wide open to me, so that's been great," says Underwood, who admits her first Nashville experience was not so positive. At 15, she was turned down by labels on Music Row.

SERVING TWO MUSICAL MASTERS?

Could the two-format push hurt Underwood in the long run, especially with possessive programmers who tend to want an artist to commit solely to their format?

"My experience is that country gets upset when you take a record to top 40 or AC before you take it to them or if you're working a record simultaneously," Galante says, "but we're not. We're working two separate records."

Arista/J Records executive VP and general manager Tom Corson believes the dual approach will pay off.

"Yes, it's been awhile since an artist has been able to straddle the country and pop formats, but this is an opportunity and a time for radio to serve their audiences, and we have the records," he says. "We see it as an opportunity to reach the broadest possible audience, because very few listeners are totally format-centric in any format. We think we can have a win-win."

"Jesus, Take the Wheel" is off to a great start on country radio, debuting at No. 39 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. It is the first time a newcomer has debuted in the top 40 on that chart with a track from a debut album since Billboard adopted Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems' monitored airplay information as the basis for its radio charts in 1990. The song is No. 23 this week.

UNIVERSAL THEME

"I'm not preaching," Underwood says of the tune. "It's just a beautiful song I figured a lot of people could relate to whether they believe in God or not. Everybody has had a time in their life when they needed help with something."

Galante sees Underwood's "Idol" victory as a win for the country format in general. "There are a lot of people in New York and L.A. who don't recognize the power of the format," he says. "It certainly was evident the night she won."

Underwood is not the first contestant to take the power of "Idol" to country. Former Marine Josh Gracin placed fourth overall in the second season of "Idol" and subsequently signed with Lyric Street Records. His self-titled debut disc has been certified gold and has placed three top five singles on Hot Country Songs, including the No. 1 "Nothin' to Lose."

I think they would be smart releasing two versions of her CD to both fans of country and pop. She does have like 4 singles that could crossover easily, I think they'll end up keeping the original the way it is, and making a pop/rock oriented CD.

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No, those aren't the crossover songs. The songs would be:

Some Hearts

Starts With Goodbye (MY FAVORITE)

I Just Can't Live A Lie

Before He Cheats (once they change the music a bit)

That's Where It Is

I'll be writing up a review and posting it later on today.

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B)-->

QUOTE(Chris B @ Nov 14 2005, 01:58 PM)

I really can't stand her. I couldn't during her season and I don't now. I don't think her voice is anything special and she's boring. Not looking forward to her album at all.

I actually agree with you, except I did like her during the season. After it all ended though, I just got really tired of hearing things about her and now I cringe at the sound of her voice. I don't like her songs "Inside Your Heaven" or "Jesus, Take The Wheel" either. Bleh..

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B)--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Chris B @ Nov 14 2005, 01:58 PM) </div><div class='quotemain'><!--quotec-->

I really can't stand her. I couldn't during her season and I don't now. I don't think her voice is anything special and she's boring. Not looking forward to her album at all.

I actually agree with you, except I did like her during the season. After it all ended though, I just got really tired of hearing things about her and now I cringe at the sound of her voice. I don't like her songs "Inside Your Heaven" or "Jesus, Take The Wheel" either. Bleh..

I'm not a country music fan! I wish she'd do something like "Alone" from the last series of Idol. Carrie potentially could be a successful crossover artist, but none of the idols will ever come close to Kelly Clarkson. Kelly rocks!

:D:D

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That's because Kelly rocks! :D It's the same with the UK idols. Will Young, the worldwide original, is still a huge success, but no one else really is. Gareth Gates had some great success at the beginning, but people got sick of him quick.

In America, Kelly and Clay will probably be the only ones with long term staying power. It'll be interesting to see how Ruben, Fantasia and Carrie do over time.

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