A year and a half after causing a stir when he abruptly quit "American Idol," Mario Vazquez released an album Tuesday that he feels should clear any doubts his fans may have had about his decision to walk out on the hit show.
"I hope the CD is an answer for all the questions of why I left", the 28-year-old singer said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "I'm proud of this album. I'm proud that it sounds great and that it sounds exactly how I wanted".
Vazquez said that he joined "American Idol" to see "how far I could go," and left — the only Hispanic among the final 12 contestants — for the same reason, among others.
While in the competition, he said several record labels approached his managers and that he didn't want to rule out any opportunities. He was concerned about what might happen if he won or didn't win, worrying that the limitations of his contract with the program would prevent him from showing himself to the world as he is.
"I wanted something edgier, grittier," he said.
The new album, he stressed, shows off that side of him. "This is a fun album with everything I've been introduced to musically: R&B, hip-hop, reggaeton, boleros."
The 14-song CD from Arista Records, produced by a team led by Clive Davis, includes a collaboration with hip-hop star Fat Joe (on "Cohiba") and the musician Akon (on "She Got Me"), as well as two versions of his first single "Gallery," in Spanish and Spanglish.
Although many believe he rushed into the decision to quit "Idol," Vazquez, a New Yorker with Puerto Rican parents, said that his agents advised him that the longer he waited the worse it would be.
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"It took me maybe a week," he said. "I told the executive producers and they weren't too happy with the decision, but I left the show with nothing laid in stone and they had to respect the fact that I wanted to work my way".
For his family, who found out from press reports, the news had no logical explanation.
"They were devastated," Vazquez said, who had to guard his reasons for three months because of a confidentiality agreement with "American Idol."
However, he said he feels grateful to the program for "putting me on the map."
Vazquez, who speaks English much better than Spanish, said he's working to better his fluency in his parent's native language through books, videos and movies.
The fact that he is Hispanic, he believes, has helped him reach his goals.
"There's a lack of Latino artists in the pop world ... (and) it's important for me to show I'm proud of my Latin background", he said.