Just a week after her shocking exit from "American Idol," 23-year-old Tamyra Gray has signed a management deal with one of the show's producers, her first step on the path to a music career.
19 Entertainment has picked up an option to manage the Atlanta singer, who was considered by fans and the judges to be a shoo-in for one of the final slots, if not the potential winner.
Finalists on the show are barred from releasing any music until three months after the winner has put out his/her CD. With an expected September release for the single from the "Idol" champion, Gray said her debut won't likely hit shelves until next year. She has not yet started recording an album, she said.
19 was founded by "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller, the British talent manager who formed and managed the Spice Girls and S Club 7 and helped steer former Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox's solo career.
The ouster of Gray last Wednesday seemed to catch everyone by surprise, with judge Paula Abdul on the verge of tears at the announcement. Judge Randy Jackson vowed to do anything he possibly could to help Gray's career, as did resident British meanie, Simon Cowell, vowing that America has not seen the last of the singer. "Watch this space," he said mysteriously.
Gray, however, said she wasn't surprised. "I was prepared for it," the perpetually chipper singer said. "I knew my performance on Tuesday night was not as strong as it could have been. Out of all three, I was the weakest." During the commercial break before Wednesday's cut was announced, Gray said she told fellow low-vote getter Nikki McKibbin that "she had nothing to worry about and that I would be the one to go."
The show's producers have three months after the September 4 finale to pick up options on the contracts on any of the 10 finalists, who will all appear on the show's finale. The top 10 will also mount a U.S. tour in October and sing tunes from the show on a compilation album due later this year, Gray said (see " 'American Idol' Finalists Could Become Movie Stars").
In the meantime, the final three — perpetual bottom runger Nikki McKibbin, Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini — were back in their hometowns over the weekend making appearances as they await this week's date with elimination.
Fans of elegant singer Gray had been weighing in with thousands of votes of confidence on her "Idols" bulletin board all week. "Tamyra please don't give up," wrote "Mystery Girl." "You deserved more than this competition. You were truly the best in the whole thing. I wish you all the best and that you become the world's next best-selling singer. I bet in a couple of months you can get a record contract and become like Ashanti or Brandy, except way better."
Although, as Cowell said, her career is just beginning, Gray said leaving "Idol" was almost as wild as being on the show. "It's like walking in a new direction," she said. "All I've known the past couple of months is 'American Idol' and this is like stepping out of a bubble and not knowing what to do with yourself."
If the British progenitor of "American Idol," called "Pop Idol," is any indication, we'll definitely be hearing from Gray and her fellow quarter finalists.
"Pop Idol" has already spawned two huge stars in its finalists. The show's runner-up, Gareth Gates, recorded a version of "Unchained Melody" which shot straight to #1 on the U.K. singles chart, unseating his rival, "Pop Idol" winner Will Young.