'American Idol' #2 Justin Guarini Inks Recording Deal

Mop-topped singer joins Kelly Clarkson on RCA Records.

Who says second place is second-best? Not Justin Guarini.

Guarini, the "American Idol" runner-up with the 1,000-watt grin, has signed with RCA Records, home to "Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson (see " 'American Idol' Kelly Clarkson Crushes Singles Chart Competition").

The 23-year-old is technically signed to "Idol" creator Simon Fuller's 19 Recordings Limited, which will license Justin's solo effort to RCA in America.

"We look forward to working with Justin to nurture his talent and help him build a recording career at RCA," said Bob Jamieson, chairman of the RCA Music Group. "Justin already captured the imaginations of millions of 'American Idol' viewers. We're confident he'll do the same with his music."

If the success of the original incarnation of "Idol," Britain's 2001 series "Pop Idol," is any indication, Guarini could become as much of a household word as Clarkson (see "Kelly Clarkson Crowned 'American Idol' "). Both winner Will Young and runner-up Gareth Gates have had startling success on the U.K. singles chart, with each reaching the #1 spot. Both are also signed to 19 and managed by Fuller, the man behind the Spice Girls and S Club 7.

RCA hopes to release an as-yet-untitled original single by Guarini before year's end, according to a spokesperson.

Even though — like all of the finalists on the runaway Fox reality hit — Guarini will have to wait until Clarkson's LP drops to release his debut, the former bar mitzvah crooner will no doubt keep a high profile thanks to the just-released American Idol: Greatest Moments album. The compilation will enter next week's Billboard 200 at #4 on sales of 146,000, according to SoundScan (see "Elvis, Stones Top Billboard Albums Chart: What Year Is This?"). It features two songs from Guarini, second only to Clarkson's four.

Clarkson's debut is scheduled for an early 2003 release. The "Idol" final 10 launched their national tour Tuesday night at the Cox Arena in San Diego, California (see " 'American Idol' Finalists Plan Arena Tour, Compilation Album").