Ex-MCA Records flop advances on "American Idol"

Fri Feb 15, 2008 8:01pm EST
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The integrity of "American Idol" as a contest for raw, undiscovered talent was called into question again after an Irish singer who once had a major-label deal, and solo album that flopped, advanced to the top rung of the competition this week.

Dublin native Carly Smithson, who formerly recorded for MCA Records under her maiden name, Carly Hennessy, was one of the 24 "Idol" contestants who made it on Wednesday to the semifinal rounds voted on each week by the show's home TV audience.

Online critics immediately seized on her initial success, and her professional recording background, as further evidence that "the fix" might be in for the top-rated show on U.S. television.

"'American Idol' is supposed to be all about giving undiscovered talent a chance," wrote Lyndsey Parker in an entry posted on Thursday on her Reality Rocks blog site. "It makes me wonder if Carly is a prearranged plant."

A spokeswoman for the News Corp-owned Fox network, which broadcasts "American Idol," declined to comment.

Smithson is hardly the first "Idol" wannabe to have toiled professionally as a performer before appearing on the show.

"Idol" bars anyone with a current talent-management deal or recording contract from competing, but contestants are permitted to have signed professionally in the past.

Still, critics suggest that "Idol" producers appear to be deliberately obscuring Smithson's background.   Continued...

<p>This season's American Idol top 24 contestants pose for photographers at an event in Los Angeles February 14, 2008. REUTERS/Phil McCarten</p>