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HOME > American Idol > American Idol 8

'American Idol' discloses eighth-season hopeful Joanna Pacitti's past


By Christopher Rocchio, 01/22/2009 

American Idol's producers apparently learned at least a partial lesson from last year's Carly Smithson controversy.

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After taking heat for not disclosing Smithson's prior major label recording deal during American Idol's seventh-season audition and Hollywood Week broadcasts, the show decided to be more upfront about the previous recording industry experience of 24-year-old eighth-season hopeful Joanna Pacitti during last night's broadcast of Idol's eighth-season auditions in Louisville, KY.

"I'm from Philadelphia and I moved to L.A. on my own when I was 16.  I wanted to do my thing and I wanted to write music and really give it my all," Pacitti, a singer who has been featured on several movie soundtracks and released a 2006 album with Geffen Records, was shown saying before she auditioned.

"I learned a lot and I think I grew up really fast and I actually really got a chance to see what singers and what artists do and how they struggle," Pacitti added.  "It's much harder than anybody could ever imagine."

Pacitti was initially tapped by Broadway producers to star in an Annie revival at the age of 12, however she was fired weeks before her first performance.  Her family subsequently sued the show for $50 million, and the case was eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Four years later Pacitti was signed to a contract by A&M Records president Ron Fair, who landed her a spot on a few movie soundtracks, including 2001's Legally Blonde soundtrack.  Pacitti's quest to become a singing star was also chronicled in a 2003 episode of MTV's True Life.

Pacitti later signed a recording deal with Geffen Records and "Let It Slide," her debut single, was released in May 2006 and peaked at No. 31 on Billboard's Hot 100 single sales chart.  Pacitti's debut album -- "This Crazy Life" -- was then released three months later, however it failed to launch her into stardom.

"I've lost a lot of confidence in the past year, but I'm got trying to calm myself down and focus and go in there and just show them what I've got," Pacitti said before she entered the room to audition for Idol's eighth season and was immediately recognized by new judge Kara DioGuardi.

"Wait a minute, weren't you on A&M Records?" DioGuardi asked Pacitti.

"Yes, a while ago, yes," answered Pacitti.

"You were signed right?" wondered DioGuardi.

"Yes, I was," replied the Idol hopeful.

"This is Joanna Pacitti.  I know this girl!" exclaimed the new Idol judge, which prompted an obvious follow-up from Simon Cowell.

"So hang on -- what didn't go right?" asked Cowell about Pacitti's previous recording contract.

"It just didn't work out," she answered.

"So it was their fault?" asked Cowell.

"I'd hope to say that, yeah," answered Pacitti, who then sang Pat Benatar's "We Belong" for the judges.

"I like her.  I like you.  There's something about you," DioGuardi said after the performance, prompting tears from Pacitti.

"Aw... it's been rough for you, I know," said DioGuardi.

"I'm definitely going to say yes too, based on the voice.  You definitely got a voice," added Randy Jackson.  "Welcome back to Hollywood - -you got quite a journey going on!"

American Idol's mention of Pacitti's previous professional experience during the broadcast of her initial audition is a far cry from the way Smithson's background was introduced to viewers during the show's seventh season.

Despite the fact that a major record label once reportedly spent more than $2 million producing a 2001 debut album for a then teenage Smithson, none of Idol's early seventh-season broadcasts mentioned her previous experience, and even after Smithson was revealed to be a Top 24 semifinalist, her past still wasn't noted in the biographical information Fox released.

"We're not ignoring anything -- we never do," now former Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe insisted to reporters after Idol's Top 24 semifinalists were revealed last February.

"We have never not shown their past when we can.  There is nothing wrong with saying she had a deal and she didn't get anywhere in that deal and now here she is.  I've got no problems with that whatsoever."

American Idol only requires contestants to not have any current recording or talent management agreements when they audition -- a fact that was obviously not lost on Lythgoe when he defended the handling of Smithson's professional past.

"The rules of the competition state it's if you do not have a contract now," he told reporters at the time.  "Nobody said this is an amateur competition.  This is something that people are making up for themselves.  It doesn't matter if you've had a professional contract."

American Idol finally acknowledged Smithson's past during a brief interview clip that aired before her first semifinals performance and a subsequent Top 20 results show exchange in which Ryan Seacrest and a barely-coherent Paula Abdul attempted to do additional spin control for the show.

While Smithson eventually made Idol's seventh-season Top 12, she was the seventh finalist eliminated from the competition.

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