Saturday, November 26, 2011

#80 Carly Smithson

 Next on my American Idol finalist countdown is my number 80 American Idol finalist Carly Smithson. She got sixth place on American Idol season 6. She hails from Dublin, Ireland. She was born Carly Sarah Hennessy. Before her stint on American Idol, she released her debut album called Ultimate High for MCA Records, but she was dropped from the label in 2002. She is a member of the gothic metal band called We Are the Fallen. Her father lives in the United States while her mother lives in Ireland. She resided in San Diego, California, at the time of her stint on American Idol. Her music genre is pop rock. Her musical influences are Heart, Celine, Skynyrd, Ray Charles, Whitney, Rolling Stones, U2, Janis, Johnny Cash, and Annie Lennox.
Smithson was born to Marie Murray and Luke Hennessy on September 12, 1983, in Dublin, Ireland. After residing Dublin for six months, Smithson and her parents relocated to Johannesburg, South Africa. They lived there for three and a half years, and then they returned to Dublin. Smithson has an older half-brother named Nik, and a younger sister named Shannon. She began singing around the age of four and has also had some experience with acting. She was featured in advertisements for Denny's Sausage for four years, starting at the age of five. Two years later, in 1992, she joined the cast of Les Misérables and starred as Little Cosette in Ireland. At the age of 10, she released an independent CD titled Carly's Christmas Album which was released in Great Britain. At the age of 14, she witnessed her parents' divorce. A year later, she and her father Luke Hennessy relocated to the United States in order for her to pursue a career in the music industry. She dropped out of high school and moved out of her father's home.

Before the marriage to her husband Todd Smithson, Smithson (as Carly Hennessy) released an album for MCA Records called Ultimate High in 2001. Despite having MCA Records spent over US$2 million on the production and promotion of Smithson's debut album, it sold only 300 copies in its first three months. Smithson said that the album did not have a chance to attract an audience, due to the record company's merger with a parent company. Though some established artists like Sheryl Crow survived the merger, yet-to-be-released artists, including Smithson, fell victim to the merger. In the album, Smithson covered "Just Missed the Train" which was originally recorded by Danielle Brisebois for her 1994 debut album Arrive All over You and later covered by Kelly Clarkson on her 2003 debut album Thankful. After American Idol season 7, copies of Ultimate High appeared on shelves of Borders Bookstores and Virgin Records stores. The album and the music video for "I'm Gonna Blow Your Mind" are also available as a download on iTunes. Briefly after Smithson's elimination from American Idol, Top 10 of Amazon's Top Selling Digital Albums, as well as being featured on the MP3 homepage.

After her time with MCA Records, Smithson's music career went on hiatus. She met her husband Todd Smithson, a tattoo artist, in San Diego, California. They resided in Marietta, Georgia, for a few years, where Smithson worked at an Irish bar called Fado. Coincidentally, Smithson saw fellow American Idol season 7 finalist Michael Johns performing weekly at Fado under his real name Michael Lee. In 2005, Smithson and her husband relocated to San Diego, where they currently reside. Smithson also works at Nothing Sacred, a tattoo shop in San Diego owned by her husband. Smithson has nine tattoos. During her time on American Idol, reports claimed that her unfinished sleeve tattoo on her right arm seemed to be a drawing of British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, who was two days Smithson's junior and died on July 23, 2011. However, in her exit interview, Smithson clarified that it is a drawing of a geisha, based on a painting that she owns.

Smithson originally auditioned for American Idol season 5 in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the judges unanimously advanced her to the Hollywood Round. However, she was disqualified because her paperwork for her work visa came too late.

Two years later, Smithson auditioned for American Idol season 7, but this time with the proper paperwork. The judges once again unanimously advanced her to the Hollywood Round, after singing "I'm Every Woman" by Chaka Khan. Simon Cowell remembered her season 5 audition. In the Hollywood Round, she sang "Alone" by Heart for her audition and once again received a unanimous praise from the judges and then she sang "When I Need You", which originally recorded by Leo Sayer and later covered by Luther Vandross for his 1998 album I Know. Smithson was one of the first foreign contestants to make the show's Top 12 with the other one being Michael Johns who hails from Australia.

After it was announced that Smithson claimed a seat on American Idol season 7's top 24, articles appeared in the mainstream press questioning her selection because of her previous record deal. Randy Jackson also worked for MCA during the same time that Smithson was signed. Despite this, she still remained on the show. After her elimination, Smithson briefly acknowledged the situation in interviews. In her exit interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, she stated that she felt that she was "kind of singled out" and she added that "The media kind of does what they do and I got a lot of weird and negative press very early on but, you know, I just kind of held my head high and it kind of got forgotten about as the show went on." She adds "You know, a lot of the people had professional careers that were involved and I actually hadn't really had lots of stage experience and a lot of the other people had and I think that's more of the experience that you really need on that show." Smithson's elimination came as a surprise to American Idol viewers as she was considered one of the frontrunners on the show. This prompted an unprecedented reaction, with bloggers questioning American Idol's credibility amidst reports from fans of busy signals throughout the voting period. One writer for Entertainment Weekly called the show "America's Embarrassing Lapses In Judgement", saying "Carly Smithson was sent packing, despite a rendition of "Jesus Christ Superstar" that Jesus himself would have been hard-pressed to top". There were renewed claims of "fixing" and calls for the show to publish precise voting totals, resulting in a press release credited to Fox and show producers: "The network and producers will not disclose voting tallies for the competition, as the release of such information would only serve to create additional rumor and speculation", conflicting with executive producer Ken Warwick's claim that they were open to scrutiny, quoted "No one is saying you can't look at them."

During top 24 week, Smithson performed "The Shadow of Your Smile" by Tony Bennett. During top 20 week, she performed "Crazy on You" by Heart. During top 16 week, she performed "I Drove All Night" by Cyndi Lauper. During top 12 week, she performed "Come Together" by The Beatles, which was later covered by the late Michael Jackson. During top 11 week, she performed "Blackbird" by The Beatles, and she was in the bottom 3, but she was saved from elimination before Kristy Lee Cook, and it was Amanda Overmyer who was eliminated that week. During top 10 week, Smithson performed "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler. During top 9 week, she performed "Here You Come Again" by Dolly Parton. During top 8 week, she performed "The Show Must Go On" by Queen. She was in the bottom 3 with Michael Johns and Syesha Mercado. When announcing the results, Ryan Seacrest simultaneously announced that Smithson and Mercado were safe, and that Johns would be eliminated. During top 7 week, she performed "Without You" which was originally recorded by the British rock group Badfinger and later covered by Mariah Carey on her third album Music Box. After her performance of "Superstar" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar on top 6 week, Smithson was eliminated from American Idol on April 23, 2008, landing in sixth place. The day before she was eliminated Cowell stated, "I thought that was the best performance of the night so far.", prompting Smithson to pull out a T-shirt saying "Simon Loves Me (this week)". After it was announced that she was eliminated, Cowell said: "I apologize for giving you a compliment last night—kiss of death, but let me tell you, Carly, you can leave with your head held high."

After her stint on American Idol, Smithson appeared on talk shows, including Live with Regis and Kelly, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Access Hollywood, the Today show, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. She participated in the American Idols LIVE! Tour 2008 along with the rest of season 7's top 10. On the tour, she performed "Bring Me to Life" by Evanescence, "Crazy on You" by Heart, and "I Drove All Night" by Cyndi Lauper. Smithson appeared on American Idol season 8 as a mentor to contestants taking part in Boot Camp Training during "Hollywood Week".  This footage ended on the cutting room floor. Later, during the February 18, 2009 live semifinals results show, Smithson and fellow American Idol season 7 contestant Michael Johns performed "The Letter", a song they had also performed for the American Idol in season 7. She also appeared in the season 8 Grand Finale, where she served as a correspondent covering the events of the celebration in San Diego, California, the hometown of American Idol iseason 8 runner-up Adam Lambert.

Two of Smithson's own original songs, called "Lie With Me" and "Let Me Fall", have been recorded and are also in a Los Angeles Times Interview video of Carly recording songs for her album. In the interview, Smithson reveals that pop rock is her music genre, but does not want to go too hard rock or too pop.  Smithson was putting the finishing touches on her post-Idol album when it was announced on June 18, 2009, that she would be joining forces with Evanescence co-founder Ben Moody forming a new band called We Are the Fallen, presumably named after Evanescence's debut album Fallen. The solo album Smithson had been recording was reportedly scrapped. On October 28, 2009, it was announced that We Are the Fallen, including Smithson, was signed to Universal Republic Records. The band has finished recording their debut album and it was released on May 11, 2010.

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