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Idol Winners Vie for Holiday Shoppers

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No fewer than five CDs from American Idol winners and runners-up – Clay Aiken, Diana DeGarmo, Ruben Studdard, Kelly Clarkson and Fantasia Barrino – will hit store shelves over the coming weeks in anticipation of holiday gift-giving, but will there be safety in numbers?

At issue, The New York Times reports, is whether the young stars should remain linked to the show that made them famous, or attempt to break out on their own – and face direct competition from other, established stars set to release new CDs this time of year: Eminem, Destiny’s Child, U2 and Gwen Stefani.

Pitching the Idol artists without the steam of the FOX talent show immediately behind them anymore is another hurdle to consider, says Tom Ennis of 19 Entertainment, which created and produces American Idol. Ennis, who also manages Clarkson and Barrino (who now goes by the single name Fantasia), says: “We’re venturing into brand new territory here.”

With five Idol favorites hitting store shelves, booking them all on to coveted spots with David Letterman, Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno may be a problem, though Clarkson, Studdard and Fantasia will have a Nov. 24 FOX special to do, allowing them major exposure.

Aiken, 25, whose his debut album, Measure of a Man, outsold Studdard’s and Clarkson’s (2.6 million for his, compared to 1.7 million for Ruben’s and 2 million for Kelly’s), will have his own NBC special, set to air Dec. 8. He is no longer associated with 19 Entertainment and, though he says he wishes to distance himself from his fellow Idol veterans, he declined comment to the newspaper.

Veteran record producer Clive Davis, who supervised the release of all five upcoming Idol albums, tells The Times, however, that the top contenders on American Idol can only count on sales of 500,000 from the fan base, and a second album relies strong on crossover appeal.

As for cutting herself from the Idol apron springs, Clarkson, 22, says, “It doesn’t matter how you got in the business. It matters how you stay.”