HOLLYWOOD — If there were ever an "American Idol: All-Stars," Fantasia Barrino might have to be considered the underdog.
While Simon Cowell and others called her the best singer ever to compete on the show, first-week sales of the third-season winner's debut single failed to reach even half the number Clay Aiken's did a year ago.
While Fantasia's "I Believe"/"Chain of Fools"/"Summertime" easily topped the singles chart with 142,000 copies sold, she falls below Ruben Studdard, whose "Superstar"/"Flying Without Wings" 286,000 copies, and and Kelly Clarkson, whose "Before Your Love"/"A Moment Like This" moved 236,000 copies in 2002. Aiken's "Bridge Over Troubled Water"/"This Is the Night" sold 393,000, the second-best one-week total in history (see "Has America Changed Its Mind? Clay Beats Ruben On Singles Chart").
Fantasia's figures are surprising considering her season of "American Idol" scored the highest ratings of the three, but Billboard's director of charts, Geoff Mayfield, said her popularity may have nothing to do with it.
"One reason Fantasia's not going to sell as much is there's another year where the consumer's been trained not to look for singles," Mayfield said. "There's so many stores that don't even have singles sections anymore, because there's so few available. The money game is going to be with [Fantasia and Diana DeGarmo's] albums."
For her part, Fantasia is not as interested in the numbers as in making an impact on listeners with a song that touches her, "I Believe."
"There are a lot of people out there who have dreams and they seem to not believe in themselves anymore, and I was one of those," she said at Tuesday's BET Awards (see "Usher, Outkast, Jay-Z, Beyonce Clean Up At BET Awards"). "I felt like it ain't gonna happen, so just forget it. But you have to believe in yourself. Whatever you want to be — a singer, doctor, lawyer, teacher, if you want to be in sports — believe in yourself and you can do it."
As for the single's B-sides, Fantasia had a lot of covers to choose from but selected two she felt best represented her.
" 'Chain of Fools' was an honor for me to do because Aretha [Franklin] is my girl and I don't feel like nobody can touch her," she said. "I can't touch her either, but just to do it and put like an up-tempo beat to it was kinda hot. 'Summertime' is my favorite song. It's a song that touched a lot of people. It was an old song from 'Porgy and Bess.' I never seen the movie, so when I sung it, people were like, 'You seen the movie?' And I was like, 'I'm gonna go ahead and have to get that one.' "
Fantasia is rehearsing for the "American Idol" tour (see "Don't Expect To Hear 'She Bangs' On This Year's 'Idol' Tour") and has yet to start recording her full-length album, but has studio times booked in between tour stops.
On the tour, the High Point, North Carolina, native will sing both "I Believe" and "Summertime," as well as some up-tempo numbers. "I'm dancing more, too," she added. "We remixed the Bobo."
Billboard's Mayfield predicts Fantasia will have a big year regardless of how "I Believe" does on the charts.
"It almost doesn't matter, because the 'American Idol' songs can be hits without being big on radio," he said. "So far Fantasia's only found an audience on adult R&B stations. It hasn't been big on R&B. Hip-hop's not playing it. It'll be interesting to see how it does on adult contemporary and top 40, but even if it doesn't [do well], Clay's already proven you can sell an awful lot of singles without necessarily having a big home at radio."
Fantasia will have some competition from a familiar foe on next week's chart, which will likely be topped by DeGarmo. However, it's no competition to Barrino.
"I'm going to buy her CD when it comes out," she said. "I'm gonna support her."