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Idol Worship: Joanna Pacitti Disqualified!

We didn't think it would happen, seeing as Carly Smithson, another major label refugee, was allowed to continue on through the top 12 of American Idol last season, but Joanna Pacitti, the 24-year-old stunner who made it to the Top 36 on this week's episode, has been disqualified from competing on season 8.

The show's website,, posted the official Top 36 late last night, noting that Pacitti was deemed "ineligible" and would be replaced by Felicia Barton. FOX did not respond to our request for comment on Wednesday evening, but we hear a statement is forthcoming.

In the meantime, let us bring you up to speed: there's been a decent amount of hub-bub surrounding Pacitti's professional past, including not only her former record deal (with A&M/Geffen, which released her debut album, This Crazy Life, in 2006), but also an opening slot on the last Nick Lachey tour (Lachey is signed to Jive Records, which is owned by SonyBMG, the company that awards a recording contract to the Idol winner), dubious connections to staffers at 19 Entertainment, including Pacitti's former manager, songs of hers that made it to soundtracks that sold well (like Legally Blonde) and later onto albums by major pop stars, like Britney Spears, not to mention a long, sad battle with the producers of a national tour of Annie, who released Pacitti from a starring role after she contracted bronchitis — a scandal covered by major news outlets at the time. And there are the numbers: unlike Smithson, whose ill-fated Carly Hennessy debut sold only a few hundred copies out the gate, Pacitti's moved more than 16,000, which, by today's standards, is a decent sales tally for any indie-rock band of note. Plus, as a protegé of power player Ron Fair, current head of Interscope/Geffen/A&M Records and the man credited for discovering Christina Aguilera (another SonyBMG artist) and Fergie, she has a lot of contacts in the industry, as we learned this past Grammy weekend when we constantly ran into people who either knew her or worked with her in some capacity.

And just as damning, at least as far as the haters are concerned (there have been lots, and they have been vocal), are her own words. Back in 2006, Pacitti did "a ton of press," says a former Geffen staffer, and some of those stories are now being discovered by the Idol curious. Just a couple weeks ago, the blogosphere was buzzing about an interview published in Philadelphia Magazine in July 2006 where Pacitti poo-poohs the overnight success machine that is American Idol.

What we don't know, however, is which rule American Idol is citing for her disqualification. Was it because of ties to 19, which may present a conflict of interest, or are the producers changing the rules  regarding contestants with previous major label releases?

This past weekend, we asked two of the Idol judges about where they stand on Pacitti's past and whether she has an unfair advantage. "I think in Joanna's case, and in the case of artists that have been dropped, they actually have a disadvantage," said Kara Dioguardi. "Because they've been told, 'You're not good enough, so they have a psychological awareness of that." In speaking to Dioguardi about the controversy, it was obvious she feels for Pacitti. "The girl's crying every time she comes on television because she thinks she's not good enough, and that's the worst thing you can have on your head. Every time she steps on that stage, not only does she have to deal with the judges, but she has to deal with her own issues."

The always succinct Randy Jackson had this to say: "Who cares?! The record didn't happen, she didn't happen, so she's a new artist to me. As for what she's sold, it's not like she was breaking the bank. You couldn't even pay for one Interscope assistant's salary with 16,000 copies." Along the same lines, one high level music industry executive who had some dealings with Pacitti thinks that she's better Idol material because of her experience. "Joanna has been through it, so she knows what to expect in terms of the demands put on you as a pop star," offered the insider. "She has learned how be charismatic, to have stage presence, to truly entertain. Some of these people who audition for Idol, they have good voices, but they're not necessarily star material. Joanna is."

Once the news spreads, no doubt there will be plenty of Pacitti pity to go around, which could work in her favor. We hope she takes her own advice, doled out in a radio interview in 2006: "Be really, really patient. Most people think success happens overnight and it definitely doesn't. There's so many ups and downs, and you have to just roll with the punches." — Shirley Halperin

February 12, 2009 in American Idol | Permalink


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Lost in all the hubbub about her dismissal is the fact that producers showed her forgetting the words to her songs throughout Hollywood week.

Posted by: EJXD2 | Feb 12, 2009 10:39:09 AM

Whoever you people are that are diqualifiying Joanna are just plain UGLY!!! I hope she goes really far, I do not care to watch Am idol anymore! Sounds to me like A & M records was scared she'd do really well and they'd look bad!! Guess what.... you look bad now!!!!

Posted by: Linda | Feb 12, 2009 11:40:55 AM

The failed record deal in the past may be old hat after the Carly Smithson revelation last season, but yeah, personally I do think Joanna Pacitti's connections to 19 Management executives Michelle Young and Roger Widynowski (who apparently represent AI7 winner David Cook) does give her an unfair advantage at the very least and it was right that she was DQ'ed.

Posted by: mshepnj | Feb 12, 2009 12:32:32 PM

1)randy, WE the voters care about the nonsense that goes on this show cause we vote
2)who pressured this poor kid into trying out, her stage parents?
3)if she knew what she was in for, why was she so unprepared?

Posted by: prettybetty | Feb 12, 2009 1:27:00 PM

the judges seemed to be keen on keeping Pacitti around, so why not keep her on the show? the show seems to thrive on scandal anyway...

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