One of the few "American Idol" finalists from season five who has so far not signed a record deal is partially responsible for the biggest single to come from the crop so far.
Ace Young, the smooth, George Michael-influenced seventh-place finisher, actually co-wrote the chorus to his close friend Chris Daughtry's "It's Not Over," a title fitting for Young's own career. "All these songwriters are taking me seriously now as a songwriter," Young said. "And now I'm writing with the biggest songwriters in the world."
Among those collaborators are Diane Warren and Desmond Child, who have worked with several former "Idols" in the past, including Daughtry. "I've played them the songs I've been writing and they believe in it," Young said. "They wanted to make sure we had control, so [a record deal would be] more about promotion and not someone saying, 'Can we have a cowbell through that song?' I don't want a major [label] touching me until the album is ready."
Young has been recording for a few months and describes his album as pop with a soulful R&B vibe, in the spirit of his biggest "Idol" hit, Michael's "Father Figure." "When you hear it, you're gonna want to get into it," Young said of the LP, adding that he's also working with KC of the Sunshine Band. "Every time you hear any of his songs, people get up. And I want to carry that on to the new generation."
With Young co-writing all the material, fans should also expect a very personal album. "The American public knows a lot about me, but there's a lot they don't know about me," he explained. "Things I've gone through, being the youngest of five, it's been rough. I've lived in 14 different houses, 'cause we were always moving when the mortgage increased after each year. We were struggling, financially."
Young released a single called "Scattered" last fall "to see what I can do without [a major label]," and cracked the top 50 of Billboard's Hot Adult Contemporary chart. Now, he's setting out to make the rest of the album register just the same. "We're making a theme for a whole album," he said. "I've had a lot of albums I listen to from beginning to end: Prince, Men at Work, Jamiroquai. And that's what we're going for."
Ace has formed a band with former members of Dishwalla, and Jewel and Don Henley's bands, and is playing scattered dates across the country. He also talks with Daughtry almost daily and the two are planning to record a duet for charity when their schedules work out. "I've always been family- and friend-oriented, and we're best friends forever," Young said.
Along with his music, Young has focused his efforts on charity. With help from his fan club he has raised almost $80,000 for a children's hospital in Denver. "A lot of people fly there for heart surgery and the treatment they have there. They're building a family area where families can stay right next to their kids," he explained. "I wanted something that anybody could donate to in the U.S. and it would make sense, but would also hit my hometown."
Before "Idol," Young appeared on UPN's sitcom "Half & Half" and hopes to act again, but music is his priority. "I really want to show that side of me before I show anything else," he said. "That's how everyone knows me and I want to stay true to myself."