The new idols channel the old sound of Motown

By Mike Hughes

For two young
singers – the final finalists from “American Idol” -- an old
record label looms large.

That's Motown. Now
that “Idol” has finished its 15th and last season:

-- La'Porsha Renae,
22, the runner-up, has signed with Motown. “In my household, if you
made it on that label, it was golden,” she said.

-- Trent Harmon, 25,
the winner, plans to take a “blue-eyed soul” sound to Nashville.
It's a sound he heard a lot as a kid. “My grandmother would play
the Temptations and Michael Jackson.”

The soul sound –
from Jackson to Smokey Robinson and Little Anthony – often had
soaring high notes. “I just realized I could do that in my
middle-to-late college years,” Harmon said. “I think I always
heard that sound in my head, but I didn't know I could do it.”

Then he did it A
LOT. In the key “Idol” moments, he grabbed the audience with

For each of the
show's final three, this is still a time to de-pressurize. “I can't
feel my limbs,” joked Dalton Rapattoni, 20, who finished third.

Added Harmon: “I've
got sleep scheduled for next Friday at 2.”

First, there's the
notion of deciding where to live:

-- Rapattoni plans
to record an independent album in Austin, Texas, but figures he'll
always be based at his home-town near Dallas. “I get stressed out
anywere else.”

-- Harmon will
record in Nashville, but figures he might continue shuffling between
Mississippi (where he grew up, working on his family's ranch and
restaurant) and Arkansas (where he went to college).

-- Renae, however,
says she plans “to relocate very, very soon.” Nothing personal
against Mississippi, she said, but “I just want to start over with
me and my daughter.”

She grew up there,
she said, and obsessed on “Idol” from that first season, when she
was 8.”I thought, 'Yes, this is something I could do.” She
auditioned at 16, with semi-success: “I got a standing ovation from
the stadium, (but) the producers said no. They said I was young and
could come back.”

Back then, she
grants, “I didn't have a lot to sing about.” Now she's has a lot
– a failed marriage, a 1-year-old daughter, time in a homeless
shelter. She plans to bring all of that to her Motown sound.

Rapattoni also had
an earlier crack at fame. He auditioned successfully for IM5, a
Disney boy-band from “Idol” creator Simon Fuller, but was the
first to leave the group; two others have followed.

Then his dad bought
him a plane ticket to the “Idol” auditions. “I don't think I
would have made it on 'Idol' if it weren't for what I learned on
MI5,” he said.

The “Idol”
judges were lukewarm on his voice, but loved his choices ... until
they said he did a song in the wrong key. Actually, he said, he'd
planned to switch that. “It was my bad. I forgot to tell the band.”

Harmon also had one
brush with earlier fame, trying out for “The Voice.” No one took

Then it was on to
“Idol,” where he says people thought: “He talks so country, but
he sings (soul).”

He does, indeed,
talk country. His conversaion is full of “ma'm” and “Mr.” and
a laidback approach. His tastes range from Twitty to Elvis, he said;
country “can be whatever you want it to be.”

The best part, he
insisted, was just being in the “Idol” finale. As they waited for
the announcement, he said, he whispered to Renae: “I don't know
which name gets called, but we just won a car.”