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Return of 'Idol' Exile Mario Vasquez

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Mario Vasquez

By withdrawing from "American Idol" before the finals even began, Mario Vazquez couldn't lose. And, as it turned out, he won. The smooth singer who departed the star-making series under never quite explained circumstances five months ago has resurfaced with a record deal with the same company that keeps company with 'Idol' standouts Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood and Bo Bice.

Vazquez' signing to J Records was announced August 18 by the label, two days after FoxNews.com first leaked word of the "lucrative deal." "All I've ever wanted to do is sing and I've always dreamed about having a career in music," Vazquez said in a statement. "There's no better label to achieve that goal with than J Records."

J Records is a division of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, the conglomerate that has been locking up 'Idol' champs and runners-up since the Fox show debuted in 2002. Vazquez is the first 'Idol' competitor to get the BMG deal without having won or made it to the final two, J Records said.

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BMG Chairman Clive Davis with Rod Stewart

Music industry giant and BMG U.S. chairman Clive Davis called Vazquez "a multitalented, young American born Hispanic singer with the voice and charisma that we've been trying to find for a long time." It might have been that Davis would have found Vazquez sooner if the crooner had stayed on 'Idol.' Conventional wisdom, and even some fellow 'Idol' competitors, pegged the polished Vazquez as most likely to claim the 2005 title.

But in March, days after being voted into season four's Top 12, Vazquez bolted, citing "personal reasons." Vasquez told E! at the time, "Basically, it comes down to my intuition. It wasn't time for me to do this now. There were certain aspects of my life that I needed to take care of first."

Then as now, buzz was that one of the things Vazquez needed to take care of was the management contracts 'Idol' finalists are compelled to sign with 19 Entertainment, the company behind the hit TV franchise. If Vazquez didn't stay with the show, he didn't have to take the deal that the likes of Clarkson and Aiken only recently freed themselves of.

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Mario Vasquez

As a free agent, Vazquez was free to sign with Arnold Steifel, Rod Stewart's longtime manager, Roger Friedman reported on FoxNews.com. Work on Vazquez' new album has already begun, J Records said. A spring 2006 release is planned. Then comes the hard part: Selling the record.

Justin Guarini and Diana DeGarmo scored BMG deals in the wake of their on-air 'Idol' success--both were runners-up--only to be jettisoned when their debut collections sold poorly. Underwood and Bice, the final two from 'Idol 2005,' will test the waters this fall. Winner Underwood's album is due out November 15; runner-up Bice's on November 22.

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'Idol' Dropout Vazquez Signs Record Deal

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Mario Vasquez

Mario Vazquez didn't need to win "American Idol" to get the record contract the 'Idol' dropout has signed a deal with J Records, home of previous winners Fantasia and Ruben Studdard. "It's just so exciting to see that my dreams are coming to fruition," Vazquez told The Associated Press in an interview August 18.

"Mario Vazquez is a multitalented, young Hispanic singer with the voice and charisma that we've been trying to find for a long time. His live audition for us was truly special," Clive Davis, chairman of U.S. BMG, said in a statement.

Vazquez is best known for his brief stint on the Fox talent competition last season. Though he was considered a huge fan favorite, he dropped out of the show in the early rounds. Rumors swirled about why he left, but Vazquez says he just felt "'Idol' wasn't the right vehicle for him, though it boosted his confidence as a performer.

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Mario Vasquez

"I've been wanting to do this big, since the age of 12, 13. I've been struggling to get myself out there," he said. "I felt like especially with this newfound confidence, why don't I take a risk and see if I can do this on my own?"

Bo Bice and Carrie Underwood were the show's two finalists, and Underwood won the contest. Vazquez said he sometimes thinks about what might have been, but has "no regrets whatsoever." Vasquez explained, "I don't know how far I would have gone (in the competition)."

The 27-year-old Bronx, N.Y., native says his upcoming album should be out in the spring, and will reflect a variety of genres. "It's going to be a fusion of everything I've grown up with in New York City," he said, from R&B to alternative music to pop. Vazquez said he's especially excited to let his 'Idol' fans in on what he's been working on. "I really want to just hit them with a great record and a real representation of what I love."

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Guest ranster627

FROM TV GUIDE: Entertainment News

MARIO WHO?: American Idol dropout Mario Vazquez is coming out... of hiding, announcing that he has inked a record contract with J Records. (What did you think I was gonna say?) "It's just so exciting to see that my dreams are coming to fruition," the 27-year-old singer tells the Associated Press. In a statement, J Records chairman Clive Davis described Vazquez as "a multitalented, young Hispanic singer with the voice and charisma that we've been trying to find for a long time." And by "find" he means "steal."

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