Will A Poster Child For The Music Industry’s Screw-Ups Be The Next American Idol?

noah | December 28, 2007 9:15 am
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About five years ago, the Wall Street Journal ran a lengthy profile of Carly Hennessy, an Irish pop singer who was signed to MCA Records and who had roughly $2.2 million poured into the making and marketing of her debut album, Ultimate High. (It went on to sell a whopping 378 copies in the three months following its release, making MCA’s per-sale investment approximately $5,820.11.) The piece detailed all the excesses involved in the album’s run-up–the re-recording of the whole thing to make it sound “more modern,” the Universal-bankrolled apartment where Hennessy lived for two years–and looking back, it seemed to represent something of a dam-break for peoples’ Napster-fueled frustration with the music industry, what with its detailed descriptions of the biz’s penchant for spending money like it was water and the overpriced, filler-packed product it placed on shelves. (The article also contained some bitching from Don Henley and Sheryl Crow, who were upset that their wildly successful records–and locked-in, long-term contracts–were pretty much bankrolling expensive flops like Hennessy’s album. Which was kind of true! Although not anymore, since who’s “wildly successful” these days?)

So where is Hennessy five years after her faceplant was page-one news? Well, if some early American Idol spoilers are to be believed, she’ll be on Fox a lot beginning next month, as she appears to be the producers’ pick to win–or at least go far enough to snag a record contract from–the show’s forthcoming season.

Yes, that’s right, Carly Hennessy has made it to Hollywood Week–and according to Vote For The Worst, this is actually the second time that Hennessy has been big-upped by the Idol powers that be; before season 5, Simon Cowell was giving her props, although when pressed for her identity he claimed that he couldn’t remember her name. And then she got dropped for not having a visa. (Taylor Hicks: You’d better be thankful for the Department of Immigration!) Apparently that’s all sorted now, though, and Nigel Lythgoe even hinted that Hennessy was his pick to win in a New York Post piece last month.

Surely I’m not the only person who thinks that, should this all be true, it is a terrible idea. I understand that Hennessy shouldn’t be blamed for the screwups of her former bankrollers. But in what’s essentially a rebuilding year for Idol–a show that people like, and root for, in large part because it can bring people who were outside of the music-industry apparatus into their homes and into the whole “celebrity” world–is big-upping this girl really the best strategy to boost ratings? She may have talent, but it’s not like a quick “carly hennessy” Google search doesn’t turn up a bunch of reprints of the WSJ article, and I’m sure that the details within–and the fact that her career “highlights” pretty much amount to her having a lot of money spent on an album that went nowhere–will cause serious blowback among Idol‘s dwindling fanbase. Because they still want to believe in something. Simons Cowell and Fuller, Nigel: Please, if you really believe in this chick, just sign her, and don’t treat your public like it’s too stupid to use the Internet.

Happy Holidays… Now Eat a Potato (Introducing Carly Hennessy) [Vote For The Worst, via MJ’s Big Blog]Pop Singer Fails To Strike a Chord Despite the Millions Spent By MCA [mattgoyer.com]