As "American Idol" mania captures the country for the fifth consecutive year, the only finalist to ever quit the show is closing in on his attempt to break out on his own.
Mario Vazquez, who dropped out after making the final 12 last season (see "Mario Vazquez Quits 'Idol' — 'It Wasn't Right For Me' "), is nearly finished with his debut album for J Records, home to the last three "Idol" winners.
"It's coming out wonderfully," Vazquez said. "We're just finishing up. Should be done probably at the end of March."
After starting the record working with Soulshock and Karlin (Usher), the Underdogs (Fantasia) and Lester Mendez (Shakira) (see " 'Idol' Dropout Mario Vazquez Says 'Everything Is Falling Into Place' "), Mario has recently logged studio time with Ne-Yo, Scott Storch, the Luney Tunes (Don Omar) and Kerry "Krucial" Brothers (see "Alicia Keys Collaborator Kerry 'Krucial' Brothers Preps EP"). With the latter, he's talking about bringing in Alicia Keys for a cameo.
Meanwhile, his first single, "Gallery," features Baby Bash and will be released in English and Spanglish.
"I don't want to give too much away, but lyrically it's just longing love, lost love, wanting love," Vazquez said of the tune. "You can't go wrong with love."
The still-untitled album is tentatively set for a mid-summer release. Mario hopes to tour around that time.
"It's just amazing that I've had the opportunity to work with those guys," Vazquez said. "I'm excited and blessed."