After four seasons, American Idol has left scores of heartbroken young pop star wannabes in its wake. Once their TV stints end, most of them simply fade into obscurity without ever delivering those chart-topping albums they tearfully promise us on their way out. A few unforgettable favorites are busily carving out their musical niches, however, proving they still have the fire and the fan base to launch careers.

Take carrot-topped charmer John Stevens, for example. The 17-year-old Frank Sinatra devotee from AI's third season will release a disc of covers on June 28, aptly titled Red. "It's mostly Sinatra standards," he tells, "but there are a few more-modern surprises. I do a cover of the Maroon 5 hit 'This Love.' It's a rocky, poppy song, but we turned it into a jazz ballad. I'm very pleased with the result. That was actually the idea of Guy Oseary, the head of Maverick Records."

Unlike some misguided Idols who've put out CDs, Stevens isn't straying too far from the type of music AI viewers identify him with. "On the show, my style set me apart from everyone else, and the style is what people remember," he says. "I'm more of the jazz-lounge kind of crooner. It's definitely what I love to do. My grandparents baby-sat me a lot, and they often played Frank Sinatra. They always encouraged my love of music."

It so happens that called Stevens on his last official day of high school. Did he take any razzing from the other kids for his good-boy manners and old-fashioned tastes? "I was very fortunate at Williamsville East High School [in Buffalo, N.Y.] because there's a lot of jazz musicians and people who love that type of music there," he says. "Not much changed after Idol; I still know who my friends are and who they aren't. But I always try to be a nice guy. People like me, so I got along with pretty much everyone in my high school even before Idol. Actually, when I came back from doing the show, they had a pep rally for me. The cheerleaders even did a special new cheer for me! I was so blown away.

"Graduation is June 26, two days before the album comes out," he adds. "I'm performing with my seven-piece band from June 21-25 at Feinstein's at the Regency Hotel in Manhattan. Then I'm actually flying home on the day of graduation to walk across the stage!"

And after all that? "College is definitely in the cards for me," Stevens says. "I'm taking a year off from school, but I plan on getting a degree in music performance and maybe a minor in music education, just in case. I got into Baldwin-Wallace College with a scholarship. The one I really want to go to is the Berklee College of Music, and I'm still waiting." Good luck, John.