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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Experts size up finalists' chances for fame

By Bill Keveney
USA Today

"American Idol" fans have gotten it right so far: The two finalists, Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard, are considered the best bets for

A study in contrasting styles, "American Idol" finalists Clay Aiken, left, and Ruben Studdard compete for the grand prize tonight.


future recording success. So say producers and other behind-the-scenes pros in the music industry when asked to assess their chances.

No matter who survives tonight's singing competition, Aiken and Studdard already have invaluable exposure for fledgling careers.

The outlook for each:

• Studdard: His career track is the easiest call, with experts saying he most likely would enjoy success as an R&B singer.

He told USA Today recently he also has an interest in spiritual music.

"Ruben, with no gimmicks and no marketing, just flat out has the best chance to actually have a career," says Jimmy Jam, who has produced hits for Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and Usher with partner Terry Lewis.

"Ruben obviously could sing R&B. That's his style," Jam says.

"If he has an inkling toward gospel music, someone like him could break the genre open bigger."

And with his engaging "big-boy image," Studdard's girth shouldn't hold him back, says music industry consultant Tom Vickers, despite the music industry's heavy focus on appearance.

• Aiken: Experts praise Clay's voice as well, but are less certain about a musical direction for him. Jam thinks it would be interesting if he worked with David Foster, a producer known for timeless songs, who has worked with Celine Dion, Whitney Houston and pop sensation Josh Groban.

Jam doesn't see Aiken, 24, following Groban's track, but he does envision "a showier-type style married to the pop sensibilities he has."

Bruce Haring, producer of the DIY Convention for Film, Music and Books, sees a parallel between Aiken and big-voiced "Star Search" winner Sam Harris, who has sung on Broadway.

Vickers says Aiken is a pleasant, comforting singer, with potential as a new Barry Manilow. "Clay's got charisma, confidence, warmth, and he's able to laugh at himself," he says.

• • •

When to watch

• Part 1 of the season ender airs at 7 tonight on Fox. The finalists each will be assigned a toll-free number, and Hawai'i voters can call in to raise the tally for their favorite.

• Results of nationwide voting will be announced during the two-hour season finale at 7 p.m. tomorrow.

• • •

The belter and the crooner

Clay Aiken

Age: 24

Home: Raleigh, N.C.

Occupation: Works with children suffering from mental retardation and developmental disabilities.

Favorite song: No favorite, but loves James Taylor's "Hourglass" album.

Most surprising artist in his album collection: He says not much would be surprising, but he does have an odd talent of turning both feet around backwards.

Idol: His mom

Ruben Studdard

Age: 25

Home: from Birmingham, Ala.

Occupation: None. He was a voice major for 3 1/2 years at Alabama A&M University.

Favorite song: "For All We Know," by Donnie Hathaway

Most surprising artist in his album collection: Tori Amos

Idol: Donnie Hathaway

Source: www.idolonfox.com