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‘Idol’ Winner Lee DeWyze Officially Dropped By RCA Records

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

While it may have been expected given the lackluster (168,000) sales of his post-"Idol" album Live It Up, it's now official: Season 9 "American Idol" winner Lee DeWyze has been dropped by RCA Records. He is only the second "Idol" champ to be let go from BMG after releasing just one album for the label; the other one-album Idol was Season 5's Taylor Hicks. Lee is also the lowest-selling winner in "Idol" history.

According to a Hollywood Reporter interview with new RCA Records CEO Peter Edge, Lee--who was the final winner to release music under "Idol's" longtime partnership with BMG, before "Idol" affiliated itself with Jimmy Iovine's Universal Records in Season 10--is no longer signed to the label. However, as of this writing, Lee is still managed by "Idol's" 19 Entertainment.

When asked why he thought Lee's sales weren't as impressive as those of previous Idols, RCA's Edge offered the following explanation: "The best Idol results come from doing great A&R. The TV platform provides amazing coverage, but if you don't have the right songs, it doesn't really mean a whole hell of a lot, because we've seen 'American Idol' winners come and go in a heartbeat. And we've seen them have great records, like Kelly Clarkson, starting with 'Since U Been Gone.' Or on the 'X Factor' side, Leona Lewis, where 'Bleeding Love' gave her a double-platinum debut album; if she didn't have those songs, her notoriety would have probably gone away. Those where the A&R wasn't the best, or they weren't willing to be A&R'd, they didn't last."

The man has a point. Lee's album seemed doomed from the start, and didn't really have any obvious, slam-dunk singles on it. Overall, the album sounded rushed, with much of the music lacking the grit and soul of Lee's previously released, superior indie albums (none of his pre-"Idol" compositions were included on Live It Up, sadly). Lee's first RCA single was also switched at the last minute (literally the day before it was supposed to go to radio), from "Live It Up" to "Sweet Serendipity," which implied that RCA execs were already second-guessing Lee's marketability, or that radio programmers' preliminary response to "Live It Up" had been lukewarm at best. Then, for Lee's barely promoted second single, RCA went with "Beautiful Like You," the one track on Live It Up that Lee didn't co-write, and far from the best song on the album. (I would've gone with "Dear Isabelle" or "Me & My Jealousy," personally.) And no music video was ever shot for "Beautiful Like You."

The writing was perhaps on the wall earlier this year, when Lee became the first "Idol" winner not invited to perform at the subsequent season's "Idol" finale (his only inclusion in the Season 10 finale at all was a couple shots of him sitting uncomfortably in the audience, being ignored by Ryan Seacrest); he later became entangled in a Twitter feud with "American Idol" producer Nigel Lythgoe over this apparent snub. It's possible that Nigel simply felt no allegiance to the winner of a season that he didn't produce (Nigel returned to the show in Season 10 after a two-year hiatus) and who'd been championed by his nemesis Simon Cowell, but more likely, the "Idol" powers-that-be felt it would take away from the finale's overall sense of triumph to draw attention to an "Idol" winner whose sales had been disappointing.

Lee is reportedly recording music and planning his wedding to actress Jonna Walsh, whom he met on the set of his (RCA-funded!) "Sweet Serendipity" video, so he will probably be just fine. (A rep tells The Hollywood Reporter that Lee's "in a good place right now," and Lee tweeted earlier this week that he's in Nashville working with "some amazing artists and writers" on a new album.) Meanwhile, the just-released first album from the latest "American Idol" winner, Scotty McCreery, is expected to debut at number one on the Billboard album chart with one-week sales of 150,000 to 175,000--about as much as Live It Up has sold since its November 2010 release.

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