Was Kelly Clarkson already making a record before she appeared as an ingenue on ''American Idol'' and won the contest? Did she already have a record contract before she won one as a purported amateur in the televised competition? A current tabloid story suggests that she already did have a record deal and had already recorded five songs for an album with three veteran pop songwriters before she appeared on ''Idol'' this summer. But the show's producers issued a statement Thursday saying Clarkson did not break the contest's rules, and a lawyer representing the songwriters who recorded with Clarkson told EW.com that the tracks were just demos, and that no record contract was in place.
The story, as printed in the Star and updated in the New York Post, said that Clarkson had already started recording an album with pop songwriters Gerry Goffin (best known for his '60s hits written with then-wife Carole King), Michael Blum, and Barry Goldberg. ''She signed a production agreement with us in early March to record a full slate of 12 songs for an album, but after doing five wonderful songs, she walked out,'' Goldberg told the Star. ''Idol'''s rules, as posted on the show's website, stipulate, ''You are ineligible if you already have any type of talent representation or a recording contract.''
Jay Cooper, who represents Goffin, Blum, and Goldberg, told EW.com that the Star story was ''completely wrong,'' and that Clarkson's agreement with the songwriters did not constitute a talent representation pact or a recording contract. ''The whole purpose of it was for them to help her get a record deal,'' Cooper said. ''It didn't come to pass before the time she went on that show.'' He said that the recording project, which had already been made public on an episode of VH1's ''Driven,'' was merely demo tracks, not an album. ''I don't think that makes you a professional singer,'' Cooper said, using an analogy that one doesn't qualify as a professional actor merely by making an audition tape. ''No record was ever released here,'' he said.
On Thursday night, the producers of the show issued a statement in Clarkson's defense, saying, ''Kelly Clarkson ... did not breach any rules of the competition. She won the 'American Idol' competition fairly and was rightfully chosen by the American public as their American Idol. We at 19 Entertainment, Fremantle Media and Fox are proud of our winner.''
Will fans ever get to hear the pre-''Idol'' tracks? Cooper says that his clients want to sell three of them to Clarkson's label and notes that they have not tried to undercut Clarkson's burgeoning career by selling them to a rival label. ''We're hoping to make a deal with her record company to put out these records,'' he told EW.com. ''People have come to us to acquire these, and we've turned them down.''
Meanwhile, USA Today reports that the release of Clarkson's debut album will be delayed a second time, to sometime in late spring. Having just finished the ''Idol'' tour, she's about to start shooting the ''Idol'' movie, ''From Justin to Kelly,'' with runner-up Justin Guarini in Miami.