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NEW YORK (Billboard) - For former "American Idol" contestant Melinda Doolittle, the tables have turned.
The season-six third-place finalist, who began her career as a backup singer for Aaron Neville, Michael McDonald and BeBe and CeCe Winans, is now drafting backup singers of her own as she readies a band to tour behind "Coming Back to You," due February 3 from Hi-Fi Recordings.
"That's probably the most exciting part right now," Doolittle said. "I can't wait to do live shows to support this CD."
Doolittle brought that love of performing into the studio for "Coming Back," whose songs are a throwback to classic soul and R&B artists like Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle. The arrangements are filled with bright horn bursts, doo-wop choruses and bluesy stylings. Selections include the Tina Turner-esque "Declaration of Love," the sassy blues standard "Dust My Broom," Faith Hill's "If I'm Not in Love" and Johnny Mathis' "The Best of Everything," which showcases Doolittle's powerhouse vocals.
Though it's been a couple of years since Doolittle's run on "Idol," where many felt she met her fate too soon behind Blake Lewis and winner Jordin Sparks, Doolittle said she has maintained a strong following. (A 2007 self-titled digital EP has sold 4,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.)
One of her biggest supporters is a club of fans who dub themselves "Melinda's Backups" and who donate to a charity she actively supports, Malaria No More.
"They're doing things that are close to my heart, which is such an honor for me," she said. "I feel like hopefully this record is just kind of giving back and saying, 'Thank you for making this experience so great.'"