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More than 14 months after winning a $5 million recording contract with Epic Records, and as The X Factor prepares for season-three auditions, the show’s inaugural winner, Melanie Amaro, is still album-less.
Truly, the 20-year-old singer’s anticipated debut, once was due to be out within months of her December 2011 X Factor win, then was pushed back to late 2012, then March 2013, and now, the label tells The Hollywood Reporter, the album has “no release date scheduled as of yet.”
Meanwhile, season-two victor Tate Stevens has been hard at work writing and recording his self-titled debut, which Syco Music and RCA Nashville have already slated for an April 23 street date, just four months after his big win. Having already been featured in a Pepsi commercial during the Grammy Awards broadcast — part of the winner’s package deal — Stevens has his first single, “Power of a Love Song,” scheduled for release March 11.
The future is just as bright for third-place finishers Fifth Harmony and the California-based surfer trio Emblem3, who are working on their first albums for Epic and Columbia Records, respectively. Sources tell THR that during Fifth Harmony’s two-week stay in Los Angeles, the girls recorded a whopping 10 songs (and released a cover of Frank Ocean’s “Thinking About You,” with more covers expected in the coming month).
For their part, Emblem3’s Drew Chadwick, Wesley Stromberg and Keaton Stromberg, who worked with hitmakers Ryan Tedder and Savan Kotecha, are expected to release an original single within the month and are inching toward completion of a full-length. On Wednesday, they unveiled three new tracks during a live performance at the Roxy, and they will be hitting the road for a slew of tour dates in the coming weeks.
Even femme trio Sister C, who didn’t make it past the first round of live performances, has released a four-song EP, while Lyric 145, Cece Frey, Paige Thomas, Willie Jones and Jennel Garcia all have hit the studio, according to social-media updates.
And what of season-one’s crop of contenders? Chris Rene, Rachel Crow, Josh Krajcik and now, Marcus Canty — who will release his EP, This Is … Marcus Canty, through Epic Records/Syco Music on March 5 — all have product on the market. In fact, fans can listen to Canty’s album ahead of its release exclusively on THR’s sister site Billboard.com.
Rene’s first studio album, released Oct. 2, debuted at No. 55 on the Billboard 200, and while his singles have gained only modest traction in the U.S., the 30-year-old has a slew of bona fide hits in New Zealand, including “Young Homie,” “Trouble” and “Rockin’ With You.”
Crow, meanwhile, had big news to break last week. The cherub-faced 15-year-old announced that she’ll voice a featured character in the forthcoming animated film Rio 2, playing the daughter of Oscar winner Anne Hathaway.
As for Krajcik, the season-one runner-up told THR on Feb. 20 that his full-length is due out via BMG in April.
This all begs the question (yet again): Where in the world is Amaro?
Her journey to the top was promising at first, with a high-profile Pepsi ad co-starring Elton John and Flava Flav debuting during the 2012 Super Bowl. Simultaneously, Epic released Amaro’s cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” which never made it onto the Billboard Hot 100, though it did reach No. 3 on the Dance Club/Airplay radio chart.
Amaro’s subsequent singles “Don’t Fail Me Now,” “Love Me Now” and “Long Distance” didn’t register with fans either, as even a performance on season two of X Factor failed to boost sales of any track.
Adding insult to injury, there was not even a whisper of Amaro’s name during season two’s X Factor finale, which lauded the success of U.K. competitors One Direction, Leona Lewis, Cher Lloyd and more — a fact that an embarrassed Simon Cowell himself couldn’t deny hours later. When THR asked the show’s executive producer and creator why Amaro was not mentioned, his answer was short and confounding: “It wasn’t deliberate.”
Still, it seems Truly is languishing in major-label limbo. Asked about the lengthy delay in a recent interview with The Sun Sentinel, Amaro admitted that she hadn’t found a “set sound” yet for her music.
“I am definitely keeping my fingers crossed that I continue to grow when it comes to my singles and that they continue to progress and get higher and hopefully make Billboard charts and get nominations and all that good stuff,” she said.
Is there a chance Amaro’s album could be indefinitely shelved, as a major label is wont to do when it feels that an artist’s songs aren’t up to snuff? It’s a distinct possibility, even with a $5 million write-off charged to Cowell’s ever-revolving credit line. And she wouldn’t be alone: Over X Factor U.K.‘s nine seasons on the air, five winners have been dropped by their respective record companies, including Shane Ward, Steve Brookstein, Leon Jackson, Joe McElderry and Matt Cardle, who won in 2010, when One Direction came in third.
And while the future of Amaro’s debut album is murky at best, the debacle appears to have been a teachable moment for Cowell. At the X Factor season-two finale, the salty Brit told THR that winner Stevens’ album would “happen much, much quicker.” And on that front, X Factor‘s music brass seem to be delivering.
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