While the rest of the world has been finding out more than it ever wanted to know about Corey Clark's alleged liaison with "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul, the booted "Idol" contestant has been putting the finishing touches on his debut solo album.
The 15-track self-titled effort (due June 21), which mixes pop, funk and R&B, has been taking shape over the past six months and was already "hot to death" before the scandal broke, according to Clark. But now he thinks a last-minute addition could help erase the memories of Paula-gate (see "Corey Clark Says Paula Abdul 'Told Me She Loved Me' ") and give him a shot at shining on his own merits.
"It's called 'Out of Control' and people will be dancing to it when they go out this summer," said Clark, 24, of the club banger he recorded last week with producer Scott Storch (Beyoncé, Gwen Stefani, Terror Squad).
"We sat down and he vibed on me and dug my style," Clark said of his first meeting with Storch, which came after the singer thought he'd already finished the album, but just before the Abdul scandal broke. "He normally costs a grip to get a track from him and he knew I wasn't coming from a place with a lot of dough. But he worked with me because he believed in my talent, and when we were done he said, 'I'm a hit picker, and this is a hit.' "
The song is about a guy who is ignored by a beautiful girl in a club but senses through her body language that she's interested, according to Clark. It features the hook "Baby, out of control/ You know you're out of control/ Hips shakin', you're out of control/ Your head to your toe, you're out of control," which Clark sang over the phone in his signature Michael Jackson-like falsetto.
The rest of the album is spiced with production from a number of little-known or new knob twiddlers and cameos from Taboo and Apl of the Black Eyed Peas ("Wiggle and Shake") and "Making the Band 2" cast member Sara Stokes ("That's My Girl"). Clark describes the Stokes song as "a dope love ballad like Peaches & Herb" and said he also co-wrote some songs for her upcoming debut album.
Also making an unlikely appearance is '80s rap star Kid of Kid 'N Play, on the sexed-up "Follow That Back." After everyone from Snoop to Fat Joe turned down requests to guest on the track, one of Clark's producers suggested Kid, who is working on his own solo debut.
The songs, all co-written by Clark, range from the "ladykiller" ballad "Cherry on Top," which Clark described as "reminiscent of all those dope love songs that people will make some new babies to" to "Look What You've Done to Me," an answer song to Destiny's Child's "Lose My Breath."
Clark and the album's main producers, DAM Productions, called in a number of other favors to land cameos and production help on the album. The sing-along ballad "So Many Questions" was produced by Trae Pierce of the legendary soul group the Ohio Players, and "Bed of Roses" features bass from Michael Landau,
guitarist for soft rock group Chicago.
Other songs include the Abdul-centric "Paulatics," "Feenin," "Yes I Can," "Lights Out," "All This Love," "Chance to Dance" and "Truthfully."
Before he knew about all the controversy, Bungalo Records owner Paul Ring said he hopped on board the Clark express because he was fascinated by how much the curly-headed singer sounded like '80s R&B star El DeBarge. "He could
definitely sing and he's a good songwriter, but he reminded me of a sound that hasn't been out there in a while and I thought it definitely filled a void," Ring said of the most high-profile release to date on his 5-year-old label, home to Mack 10, Bizzy Bone, Rodney Jerkins' Darkchild imprint and LaToya Jackson.
Ring said he and his daughters were big fans of "American Idol," especially season two, which featured Clark, but the label honcho didn't know until midway through the album's recording how much baggage his new signing came with. Once he did, he was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement before hearing the entire saga.
"It did concern me, but once we got him in the studio and he cut a couple of tracks we liked what we heard," Ring said. Despite Clark's repeated claims that his career has been hampered by "Idol" producers' attempts to blackball him, Ring said he's felt no such pressure from the show since signing the
Now that the record is a month from hitting stores, Ring said it's time to see how much the Abdul scandal will help or hurt Clark's cause. "We've got the Scott Storch single and we'll see if radio embraces it," he said. "At least there's some interest now, but if radio doesn't support him as an artist, this will be his 15 seconds of fame."
Clark said he's already used to false starts in music. In addition to his notorious ejection from "Idol," the singer — who once crooned backup for Barry Manilow alongside his folks — slogged away for nearly eight years in the vocal group Envy, opening for everyone from Mya to Destiny's Child and suffering a number of failed management and label deals.
Tom Keane (Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand), half of DAM Productions, said that Clark's history of hard work is what matters and he "didn't give a sh--" about the recent drama. "If it ain't dope, it isn't going to fly anyway," said Keane, who co-wrote the classic Chaka Khan song "Through the Fire."
"We wanted to create the new timeless cat instead of someone singing about the same old stuff," Keane said. "I hope people realize he's a talented guy and he's not messing with the public."
Clark knows it will be hard to get out from under the shadow he's cast for himself with the Abdul revelations, but he's confident the album will speak for itself. "If not," he said, "either way people will talk about it, and at least they're talking about me."