With Candice Glover's long-anticipated debut album "Music Speaks" set to drop Feb. 18, all eyes will once again be on the season 12 "American Idol" winner. Critics and fans will be watching to see how well she will do in the next phase of her musical career.
So far, the St. Helena Island native's foray into the music industry as a recording artist has been riddled with setbacks and leaks. Glover has handled each wrinkle with a level of poise that suggests she can handle her new profession, which comes with exponentially more stress than her previous job booking excursions on Fripp Island.
Unlike past American Idols, Glover's post-competition scramble to make an album was wisely delayed until she was ready to release it. The decision didn't bother her, Glover said, because she is not concerned about sales or remaining relevant. She has already accomplished more than she ever thought possible. She is making a difference in the lives of her fans and, more than anything, she is living her dream.
"Everyone asks if sales matter to me. I don't think it matters. It doesn't matter if I sell one album or a million as long as I'm helping someone," Glover said.
Throughout her "American Idol" season, Glover's increasing confidence in herself was mirrored by fans, especially teenage girls, who also suffered from low self-esteem.
"I've gotten a lot of fans say they were close to suicide and my music helped them," Glover said. "On tour, I remember a woman came up to me and said that her daughter would never go anywhere without a jacket on, and after hearing 'I Am Beautiful,' she began to transform into the confident person that she used to be. That makes me want to keep doing what I'm doing. It makes everything I'm doing worth it."
At the start of "American Idol," Glover was a small-town girl with a big voice who stepped shyly into the spotlight. Part what made her America's favorite was that she was blossoming into a more self-assured singer before everyone's eyes. Now, she looks much more like a star, having gained confidence on the show, lost weight and learned how to glamorously apply makeup.
Whether the newfound confidence will give her career a boost is difficult to say.
With more than 100 "Idol" albums in the marketplace, it has become increasingly difficult for current winners to remain in the limelight for long. America's attention span is short. There are now more and more music-competition shows on TV. The biggest challenges for Glover will be continuing to cultivate her celebrity and not getting pigeon-holed into one music niche.
Glover was able to create a large fan base on the show, and is adored by her hometown fans. She lets criticism roll off her back. And she has responded to album leaks and delays good-naturedly.
First, there was the aggressive move to get a CD on shelves in July, just two months after her "Idol" victory. It would have given Glover material to release on the road during the "American Idols Live!" summer tour, but the album was pushed back to Oct. 8.
"Yeah, I don't know whose idea that was. I didn't really have a choice because that's what 'American Idol' wanted to do," Glover said of the earlier release date.
As October neared, it was announced that the album would not come out until February 2014.
Apparently, someone forgot to tell iTunes about the date change, and the album was accidentally released, albeit without any tracks. Speaking to Glover's credit and popularity, "Music Speaks," rose to the No. 4 spot on iTunes as a nonexistent album.
Then in January, the song "Damn" from Glover's album was leaked online. Glover handled both snafus well, commenting nonchalantly on Twitter.
Glover will be the first "Idol" champ to not release an album in the same year of their win since the first season, according to Billboard. Kelly Clarkson was the first and only previous winner to release an album in the year after winning.
Getting extra time was necessary, though, Glover said. "If we put it out in July, it wouldn't have been as good as it is now and I wouldn't be as proud," she said.
Finally, the wait is over.
"Music Speaks" is a polished record production with machine-backed rhythms of contemporary R&B and simple arrangements that showcase Glover's powerhouse vocals.
Glover worked on the album with an A-list lineup of producers, including The Jackie Boyz (Madonna, Sean Kingston) and The Underdogs (Jennifer Hudson).
"It's a very love-driven album. It's about all aspects of love, good or bad," Glover said. "All of the songs can be put in a different genre. I just wanted to continue that versatility that I showed on ('American Idol')."
The songs range from the power ballad "Cried" that Glover released as a single, to the gospel grit of "Passenger" to the reggae-flavored "In the Middle" to the pop-synthesized "Coulda Been Me." They all have an R&B backbone, but Glover said she added variety so as not to be pigeon-holed as an R&B singer.
"I don't think I'm going to call myself an R&B artist, just because I don't want to be in that box," she said. "I want to be considered more of a soulful singer. Soul can go anywhere."
The best thing about the album, however, is that the songs were Glover's choice.
"It's actually coming from me now. It's not a lot of covers," she said. "I was creative on the show, but now I'm going from an 'American Idol' contestant to an actual recording artist. It took a while to make that transition but now that I have, I want people to look at me as that, not as somebody who just won a talent show."
But like her performances on the show, every song features Glover's signature vocal runs. The technique of turning a single syllable into a multisyllabic vocal run has been a point of criticism for artists on shows like "American Idol" for its overuse, but Glover seems to know when to hold back and when to push forward. Besides, Candice Glover songs will have runs. Period. It's what she likes.
The album also includes Glover's "Idol" coronation single "I Am Beautiful," which reached the top 40 of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart after her win.
"Cried," is No. 22 on Billboard's Adult R&B chart and No. 23 on Urban AC radio. It is being played on 26 radio stations across the country, including WBLS in New York City and KJLH in Los Angeles, two of the biggest urban adult contemporary stations, according to Christine Wolff, Glover's public relations agent.
Comparatively, "I Am Beautiful" sold 54,000 downloads in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan, a far cry from 2012 winner Phillip Phillips' 278,000 first-week downloads for "Home."
Another hurdle for Glover is how the show's dip in popularity might affect her. Glover's season was the lowest-rated one in "American Idol's" 12-year history. The show's success in creating superstars has been less and less frequent. However, the moderate success of Phillips and season 10 winner Scottie McCreery bodes well for Glover.
McCreery has found a niche in country music and has earned $3 million since his Idol win, according to Forbes' 2013 list of the highest-paid "Idol" albums.
Phillips had a huge hit with "Home," and is tied for third on Forbes' list with 2009 runner-up Adam Lambert, with $5 million apiece.
Topping the list as the most successful "Idol" ever is Carrie Underwood, who has earned $83 million since her season three "Idol" win.
Not to say that Glover was ever looking for superstardom. Or even stardom. For a long time, she just wanted to get on the show.
Glover wanted to be on "American Idol" so badly, she auditioned three times. No other "Idol" winner has done that.
"When I first auditioned, my goal was to get on tour. That goal seemed so far away since I kept getting cut. Even going into season 12, my goal was to make it on tour, because then somebody would see me and pick me up."
Once Glover secured a spot on the "American Idols Live!" tour, her goal was to last as long as possible.
Then she won and had to make a whole new set goals.
The first step was letting the heady, "pinch-me" moment sink in. The girl who was paid $25 to sing the national athem at local events, who used to sing at Gilligans Seafood Restaurant in Beaufort every Thursday, was about to be famous.
Since her "Idol" win, Glover has made numerous TV appearances, singing on "The View," "Live with Kelly and Michael," several BET shows, and at the Superbowl Gospel Celebration, among others, with many more to come as she promotes "Music Speaks."
Hopefully, there will be a tour and a big show in Beaufort in the near future, Glover said, although no concrete plans have been made yet. And while she loves coming back to her hometown, it was necessary to leave it.
"I just knew there was better out there for me," she said.
What's out there next is to be determined.