The wait is over; let the real competition begin. Today, three of the last four American Idol finalists released CDs. Idol 2 winner Ruben Studdard and runner-up Clay Aiken released CD singles, which were discussed here, and Idol 1 runner-up Justin Guarini released his first full-length album, cleverly entitled Justin Guarini.



If the sales charts are any indication, Clay looks to be the winner of this competition. His single of This Is The Night b/w Bridge Over Troubled Water has been #1 on Amazon for weeks. Ruben's Flying Without Wings b/w Superstar has slid to #7, and Justin clocks in at #32.

However, the Akron Beacon Journal quotes the charts editor from Billboard, the record inducstry trade journal, who denigrates the charts as being unrepresentative of overall record buyers. He may well be right, but his comments are unsurprising ... since, if he praised the charts, he'd be admitting that his own job doing after-the-fact charts for Billboard was superfluous. Nevertheless, the real battle is now joined. May the best singer win.

For those of you interested in how opinion sneaks into news stories, note that the Beacon Journal writer clearly prefers Ruben to Clay, and he shows it in the terms he uses to discuss their performances. Ruben's Superstar is a "sexy take," and Flying Without Wings is "gospel-tinged." Meanwhile, Clay's This Is the Night is dismissed as a slice of "Broadway--esque pop," and Bridge Over Troubled Water is ripped as "bombastic." No wonder the writer interviewed a Billboard person to tear down Clay's lead on the charts.

He also makes the point of comparing Ruben's likely success to Kelly Clarkson's ... although at least he doesn't go so far to compare Clay to Justin when he discusses the possibility that Justin's upcoming movie will receive Simon-esque reactions from critics, which we noted previously.

The "flop watch" for From Justin to Kelly is at 9 days and counting.

We did learn something from the Beacon Journal writer, though. He answers the question we raised in this article as to why Ruben would perform Superstar, a song clearly written to be sung by a woman. Apparently Luther Vandross, the singer to whom Ruben is most compared, had a hit with his own cover of the song; it shows up on Luther's Greatest Hits. We guess imitation, even imitation of unusual musical gender-bending, is the sincerest form of flattery.

Discuss this news story on our message boards