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The Hard Luck of an ‘American Idol’ Reject

August 21, 2014

Another entry in our series on musicians who just couldn’t get the fair shake they deserved.

Joanna PacittiIn 1996, Joanna Pacitti was a 12-year-old girl with a tremendous singing voice and landed the title role in a touring production of Annie. The show did so well that producers decided to mount it on Broadway. Just before opening, however, the role of Little Orphan Annie was recast—Pacitti was replaced by her understudy. She and her family sue the producers for breach of contract, but were unsuccessful.

By 2000, Pacitti was 16, and it was when the most popular musical genre was bubblegum pop performed by teenage singers, such as Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. Geffen Records signed Pacitti, and branding her as just “Joanna,” used her to perform songs for countless movie soundtracks, including Legally Blonde, First Daughter, and Bratz: The Motion Picture. It was a gambit to raise awareness of Pacitti, which Geffen capitalized on by releasing her debut album…six years after singing her. The teen pop fad now distant and stale, This Crazy Life sold just 16,000 copies. Geffen dropped her in 2007.

In 2009, Pacitti auditioned for and made it to the round of the top 36 singers on American Idol. However, fans on American Idol online forums traded rumors that Pacitti was a “ringer,” or a planted professional who has no business performing on a show meant for amateur singers. But Idol isn’t really a show for amateurs—it’s for any singer who at the time of their appearance is not signed to a recording contract. Still, Idol is produced in part by a talent agency called 19 Entertainment. Pacitti’s former manager and best friend: Michelle Young, a high-level employee at 19 Entertainment. (The company also employed Pacitti’s former publicist.) To save face and silence charges that the talent show was somehow rigged, Idol producers kicked Pacitti off the show.

Shortly thereafter, Pacitti joined a pop-rock band called City (Comma) State. Their sole album sold just 10,000 copies…and then they broke up. Pacitti is still singing.

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