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Is Joanna Pacitti The Next Carly Smithson?

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

Hey,remember all the controversy caused when Carly Hennessy--an Irish pop singer who'd been signed to MCA and whose one album had been sucha colossal multimillion-dollar failure, she'dmade #15 on Blender magazine's "20 Biggest Record Company Screw-Ups Of AllTime" list--resurfaced as Carly Smithson on season 7 of American Idol?

Viewers (myself amongthem) were understandably outraged that this show, a show presumably focused on giving undiscovered talent a chance, was beingused as a relaunching pad to revive the fizzled career of this has-been (or never-was). Sure, there was minor public outrage surrounding Idol finalists like former MaverickRecords rocker Michael Johns and ex-Arista Nashville signing Kristy Lee Cook,too, but since those singers' albumsnever actually came out, Carly caught most of the flak. And rightfully so.

Click HERE for more details on the Carly Smithson American Idol scandal.

Anyway, I honestly can NOT believe the AmIdol producers are upto their old sneaky tricks in season 8. You'dthink after all that Carly hullaballoo, they would steer clear of such blatant favoritismand the inclusion of what are known in the Idolblogosphere as "plants." But...no. Along with an actual (Archuleta-associated!)Osmond and Jason Castro's littlebrother, this season features a particularly poisonous plant: Joanna Pacitti.

Joanna, whoauditioned on Wednesday night's Louisville episode, isbasically Carly 2.0.

Like Carly,Joanna is a former child entertainer--a moderately talented, moderately prettygirl aggressively groomed from an early age to be a big pop star. And likeCarly, who ended up getting dropped from MCA and becoming a waitress, things also didn't work out for Joanna quite as she or her Svengalis(among them Geffen Records honcho and frequent reality-TV figure Ron Fair) hadplanned. Despite appearances on the movie soundtracks for Legally Blonde, Nancy Drew,and Bratz, and having one of her songscovered by Britney Spears, Joanna'sone album for Geffen/A&M, This CrazyLife, was a flop. Just like Carly'sUltimate High. Joanna (as she used to be singularly named) was droppedfrom A&M in 2007.

I can't say I'mat all surprised that Joanna'scareer did not take off. This Crazy Life,while capably sung, was a very generic album, hardly a vehicle for the nextsupposed superstar. I actually remember, surprisingly vividly, when some peoplefrom her label came by the Yahoo! Music office a few years ago to play Joanna'smusic video for the staff, in hopes of getting us all pumped up. They talked Joanna up excitedly for about20 minutes, like she was Madonna, Janet, and Mariah all rolled into one, before they finally played us....this:

The silencein the Yahoo! conference room was deafening. I was not impressed, and judging by my co-workers' lack of feedback, I assumed they agreed with me. And I was equally unimpressed with Joanna'saudition on American Idol this week.

Itturns out that Joanna's short-livedtenure with A&M/Geffen wasn'ther first career setback: Her firing from the touring company of Annie, when she was just 12 years old, wasapparently such a psyche-destroying blow, it became the subject of an in-depth Barbara Walters report. Justcheck out this 1996 clip and try not to retch:

 

Seriously,now. "The sun will come out tomorrow"?  Puh-leeze. Cue the violins. Yes, I'm sure getting axed at such a tender age must'vebeen a truly awful experience for little Joanna, but the way Babs goes on andon about this supposed great tragedy here, it'slike all of Joanna's family died ina fiery plane crash or something. There are people auditioning for American Idol this season who are blind,who have ailing mothers to care for, who became unexpectedly widowed whilestill in their twenties. Joanna'sstory is not that heartbreaking. It'snot such a hard-knock life for her,really.

But ofcourse, that's how the Idol producers are trying to spin it. Justlike they made Carly Hennessy-Smithson'svisa troubles on season 7 seem like some horrific tale of injustice and woe, this weekthey ran constant-loop closeups of Joanna'stear-streaked face as she whimpered about her showbiz struggles and then finallytriumphed at her obviously staged audition. Sheesh.

To the Idol producers'and Joanna's credit, however, atleast this time they didn't try todeny the (easily-Wikipedia'd) facts. When Carly was on last year, she gushed that she'd "never been in a studio before!!"(this despite recording her million-dollar major-label album with seasonedproducer Gregg Alexander of the New Radicals) and had "never sung in frontof so many people!!" (this despite performing with Bryan Adams at Dublin Castle).And the show never mentioned Carly'sMCA past until the public uproar grew too loud to totally ignore. At least Fox learned from that mistake, so withJoanna this week, the show came clean from the start. "You'reJoanna Pacitti! I know you! You were on A&M," judge Kara DioGuardiblurted out the moment Joanna entered the audition room.

Well, fair enough. But thatstill doesn't make it OK, as far as I'm concerned. Because Joanna'shad her shot already. She's had arecord deal--unlike most, less fortunate Idolhopefuls--so why should she be allowed to compete for a new record contract? Joannahas already tried and failed at the major-label level. Few people bought her music inthe past, so why should she be able to use the Idol platform to try to change that? And what makes the bigwigs at 19/BMG/Fox even think that American Idolwill change that?

The bottom line is, it's just notfair for Joanna to take away a spot from some unknown, unconnected talent who'snever had the opportunity to make a music video, get on a film soundtrack, bementored by Ron Fair, etc. And you can bet she didn't have to stand in line for hours in Louisville with all the plebes to get her spot, either.

It's just not right.

Plus, amusingly,in an interview once, Pacitti was asked if it bothered her that TV shows likeAmerican Idol so rapidlychurn out instant pop stars these days. She answered: "It's handed to peopleway too easily. I'd rather have my experience than overnight success."

Well, I guess Joanna got desperate and changed her mind. But she'sgoing to have to really bring it during Hollywood Week for me to change my mind about her.

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