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Finalists say we haven't heard the last of them ...


"There's no shortcut to success." ...



#0C4B81 America Says Goodbye To "Idol" Contestants

#0C4B81 "American Idol" Season Five Top 24 Finalists

#0C4B81 Hollywood Audition Photos Of "American Idol" Season Five

#0C4B81 First Round Photos Of "American Idol" Season Five

#0C4B81 Get your "Idol" fix, where you'll find all the latest news and interviews


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Paul Fischer, an associate professor in the recording industry department at Middle Tennessee State University, has a theory about why labels are reluctant to sign "Idol" runners-up.

"The fact that they tried and failed on 'Idol' could be seen as a negative," he said. "For many, being on the show may truly be their only shot at a music career. For most music-star wannabes, there's no shortcut to success. You've got to hone your craft, play shows, get better, build up a network, maybe write some songs cut by others, and hope for a break."

Still, others warn that finalists shouldn't be counted out just yet. "I could see people surfacing later, just like people who lost 'Star Search' back in the day have popped up," Roy Trakin, senior editor of radio trade magazine Hits, added, referring to Destiny's Child, Christina Aguilera and Alanis Morissette. "It's a long race."

Although they might not be capitalizing fully on their 15 minutes, both Lewis and Maroulis are spending their time wisely, polishing their skills, learning the industry and rebranding themselves.

Constantine has spent a lot of time on the road, but being a rock act, he's one of the few former finalists who has that option. The younger pop and R&B singers don't, "nor do they have the ingenuity to hire musicians, rehearse the musicians, etc.," he said. "It's a huge undertaking."

Lewis is planning a tour for the spring, but his expectations are realistic. "You have to be visible, and to be visible you have to get on the radio," he said.

And radio, for one reason or another, has never been too kind to "American Idol," with the exception of Clarkson. So, as DioGuardi noted, with the winners having to push so hard for airplay, where does that leave the other finalists?

"You have to be like Clay Aiken, who is a very distinct artist," she said. "What happens is the audience has to be so blown away and feel like there's nothing like them out there. All those R&B singers, they're a dime a dozen."

Originality, however, is no guarantee of record sales, as crooner John Stevens proved. The fact is, according to Trakin, "TV is just a different set of circumstances and sometimes it doesn't translate [to success in other areas]. This isn't a loyal, fanatical audience. They're tuned to the moment. Even winners have to have a lot more to really plow through, and anyone below has that much more of a stretch to capture the public's attention."

Trakin's belief is that the show sets up entertainers to go on to careers in musicals, which Jennifer Hudson (the "Dreamgirls" movie), Diana DeGarmo ("Hairspray") and Frenchie Davis ("Rent") have demonstrated. And then there are those who have transitioned into television, such as TV Guide Channel anchors Kimberly Caldwell and Matt Rogers.

So perhaps it really is a blessing to make the final 12. Constantine and JPL think so, and others agree.

"I don't think there's any way anybody could really call 'Idol' a curse," Bloomberg said. "If somebody has the talent to make it in the music business, 'Idol' can only help. If they don't have the talent, then 'Idol' can't save them."


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   Kelly
 Clarkson

 "Since U
 Been Gone"
 Since U Been Gone
 (BMG)


   Ruben
 Studdard

 "What If"
 Soulful
 (J)


   Fantasia
 Barrino

 "Free Yourself" 
 Free Yourself
 (J)


   Carrie
 Underwood

 "Jesus, Take
 the Wheel"
 Some Hearts
 (Arista)

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