As American Idol's eighth season hits its home stretch with only seven singers remaining, a former Idol is making some news of his own: While many former Idol contestants have lost their record deals due to slow sales, Season Seven's third runner-up Jason Castro has inked a contract with Atlantic Records. The label will release the dreadlocked crooner's debut album later this year. Castro made AI history last season, becoming the first singer to play an instrument on the show (AI changed its rules to permit instrumentalists to show off their skills). He later topped the iTunes chart with his cover of "Over the Rainbow."
For his new album, Castro is working with writers like current Idol judge Kara DioGuardi — whose credits include Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera and Ashlee Simpson — and producer Jon Fields. Castro has also re-recorded the song that helped put him on the AI map: Jeff Buckley's mournful take on Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Castro's new version will appear on the soundtrack of the upcoming film Amar A Morir, a Mexican drama currently screening in Mexico.
Castro will join Season Seven alums David Cook (RCA), David Archuleta (Jive), who both have major-label record deals, as does semifinalist Josiah Leming, who is signed to Warner Bros. Finalist Amanda Overmyer released Solidify in December on indie Chile Records. Idols who have lost their record deals include Blake Lewis, Ruben Studdard, Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee. Other Idols continue to burn up the charts, like Clarkson, who recently ousted U2 from the top of the charts.