David’s Peers Series #1: Spotlight on Jordin Sparks

Confession time: I was not all that happy when Jordin Sparks won American Idol during Season 6. I was still smarting over my favorite contestant, Melinda Doolittle, getting the boot during Top 3 week.

That surprise vote-off made me very resentful that there wasn’t a true DIVA sing-off for the finale.  I was certain Melinda would sing circles around Jordin, or at least show up her flaws, but that was not meant to be, so Jordin easily won in a landslide over the lesser vocally talented Blake Lewis.

Because Season 6 showcased the younger, “squeaky clean” 17 year-old Jordin winning over the massively talented Melinda Doolittle and the musically innovative Blake Lewis, Jordin isn’t always heralded as one of the great Idol winners.  She’s not up there with Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.  Nor is she as “urban” as Fantasia or Ruben Studdard.

Her career would be a hard climb, and as things turned out, I’ve come to admire Jordin Sparks’ slow burn and slow growth from Idol winner to pop singer ready to make her film debut.

In many ways, comparing her career to David’s, you can see some striking similarities and differences.

What do they have in common?

1. They were both 17 when they appeared on American Idol.

2. They both had fierce stage dads – the big difference is Jordin’s dad, a former professional football player, didn’t make the headlines.

3.  They became the first two Idol contestants to sign to Jive  records.

And here’s what’s interesting about Jordin’s eventual signing to Jive. Rumor had it back then that Jordin’s dad was being such a stickler about RCA’s record contract (the big award that Idol winners were saddled with) that he refused to sign until way late into the summer season; meanwhile Jordin was still on the Idol tour.  Eventually, Jive – as a sister label to RCA – signed Jordin Sparks since they were more flexible and since they also had more experience working with underage artists – like Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Usher, and Chris Brown.

And believe me, peeps, I firmly believe that Idol producers’ experience with Jordin’s dad is the reason why, when Jeff Archuleta came along the following season, they weren’t having it.  I really believe that their experience with Jordin’s dad was the reason why they were more prepared to try and “neutralize” David’s stage dad, why certain behind-the-scenes info was leaked to the press and why, mid-season, they switched horses and chose to back David Cook for the Idol crown over David Archuleta.

Their experience with Jordin is also why they immediately sent David over to Jive while RCA worked with Cook. Remember when David revealed on Larry King that, after the finale, he was told that he’d be signing with Jive, end of discussion?

Yep, so in some interesting ways, Jordin changed the game for teenaged contestants on Idol.  And out in the real world – where, even radio DJs, who played her Idol coronation song, “This is My Now,” would routinely ask in response: “I wonder how Melinda Doolittle would sound on that?” – Jordin would have to prove her merit.

Her first single, after the coronation song, “Tattoo,” did respectably well.  It was appropriately bubble-gum pop for a young mixed-race black girl, who wasn’t hard enough to rival other young black divas like Kesia Coles, Ciara, Rihanna, or the gals from Destiny’s Child (including Beyonce) out in the game, what with her professed “purity ring” and pledge to wait until marriage.  But her voice was still more mature – as were her looks – to rival her Disney contemporaries.

Jive made a killer decision when she was paired with Chris Brown to do her monster hit, “No Air,” a song for which I still love to hear what she and David did to it:

But if Jive knew how to pick the pop songs that dominate charts – the way they perfectly matched David with “Crush” – they also proved to cave into ridiculous market demands, the way they did in photoshopping Jordin to a slimmer image on her next album, Battlefield.

Needless to say, Jordin got the message quickly and began her weight loss.

Alas, her subsequent album, I Am Woman, which provided a stark contrast of her image and featured lackluster songs that didn’t know how to capture her strong vocals, didn’t do well, hence showcasing Jive’s steady decline in the pop music market.  However, unlike David, Jordin had awesome management, who shrewdly had her opening for major pop artists – first with the Jonas Brothers when they were hot, Britney Spears, and The New Kids on the Block.  She also branched out and appeared on Broadway’s In the Heights, a Latin@ musical, back in 2010.

Now, Jordin is set to have a major breakthrough (remember what happened to Jennifer Hudson after appearing in Dreamgirls back in 2006?) as she co-stars alongside Whitney Houston in the upcoming movie musical Sparkle, which I’m definitely looking forward to.

When I compare Jordin Sparks to David Archuleta, I feel nothing but good vibes for her.  I think she is the poster child for how to keep on keeping on and what it means to have shrewd management, no matter how well or how poorly your own albums sell.  Of course, I don’t know if she’s still dealing with her “stage dad,” but she’s maturing, openly dating the current pop star Jason Derulo, and has also found a way to coyly yet maturely comment on why she’s no longer wearing her “purity ring” anymore.  As she put it: “People grow.”

And I imagine she will continue to grow.

Posted on April 11, 2012, in Soul David Series. Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. I do believe that David will have a career when he returns from his mission. David has too much talent and determination not to, he wiii surive.

  2. Nice post hg. I found it very interesing. I also was not a big Jordin fan on S6 but she has done well. Jordin also has a very involved mom who is very active in her career.—-” mid-season, they switched horses and chose to back David Cook for the Idol crown over David Archuleta.” I agree with you on this hg. AI did switch to Cook for the win for I believe a number of reasons. I think it was a big mistake on their part and not just because I am a David fan. David would have been the better choice to back for the win. Good Points and well written post IMO.

    • I am also very jealous of Jordin’s weight loss. I can’t seem to lose a pound these days and I need to. lol

    • I really liked Chris Mann from the Voice. Glad that you posted this video. There were some others that I also thought were talented from the Voice.

  3. Hello from NZ!

    I was pointed to the parody blog and I found it very interesting. Parody has an important role if it’s done well. I have not been on sites to see the discussion about reading various MTC blogs, but I don’t see what the fuss is about and honestly it doesn’t really matter anyway. Missionaries commonly keep blogs and people are free to read them or not.

    One of the FB fan sites is posting lots of pics from the past four years. It is bittersweet to see them and a reminder of what could (and should have) been. David is easily the best singer of his generation and he could be a legend. I believe it is still possible, but he is going to have to widen his direction more than he has recently. The big question in my mind is what is going to happen after the mission. Is he going to properly get serious about music and retain/get good management to reach a mainstream audience, or are we looking at a career in LDS music and locally-based in Utah?

    • thefreo: That is the big question. What will David do after his mission. You are right about that. I am not so sure what he will do. I am glad he has Kari but she is just one person and he needs an appropriate team for a serious music career. Have fun in NZ.

  4. My favorites of season 6 were Jordin and Melinda. Jordin is also like David in that she is a positive person. I think the duet with Chris Brown is what got her a couple more hits. Her music career has been very quiet the last couple years. She’s done two pop
    albums so David has released more music than Jordin. I wonder if her third pop album will come out soon after the Sparkle movie. She also did a solo tour for her Battlefield album that was poorly attended. David has done better with his solo tours that Jordin. I do think the Sparkle movie will be a big career boost for Jordin, sadly because Whitney Houston died so there will be a lot of publicity for the movie. I really like Jordin and I hope she has a great career.

  5. this captioned picture of david made laugh.

  6. i’m glad to see a post on jordin. i recall the former ai vocal coach, byrd, saying that jordin’s mom and aunt were always with jordin when she was recording songs, etc. in comparison, byrd didn’t understand why such a hoopla was made over #mic’s presence on the set.

    thefreo, hope you’re enjoying NZ.

    cmoi, we may have to bring in sunny to perk you up a bit, lol.

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