The latest showdown between American Idol champ Ruben Studdard and runner-up Clay Aiken has been called off. RCA is reversing an earlier decision to release the duo's debut albums simultaneously on Aug. 19. "They're not going to come out on the same day," an RCA spokesperson tells TV Guide Online. "They're going to be spaced apart."
The about-face represents a change of strategy at the record company, which was attempting to capitalize on the controversy surrounding Idol's photo finish in May by once again pitting the superstar crooners against each other — this time in record stores. As RCA Music Group's Director of Sales Karen Lieberman recently said, "We saw the releases as a way for consumers to vote with their money." (Geez, so much for subtlety.)
The first rematch was held last month on the singles charts, when Aiken's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" outsold Studdard's "Flying Without Wings" by 100,000 units. Aiken loyalists — who believe jammed phone lines led to Studdard's victory — cited the rout as proof that the wrong guy prevailed. No doubt, the former geek's fans were hoping a second Aiken victory would confirm their suspicion once and for all.
Meanwhile, RCA says Studdard and Aiken's highly anticipated discs will not hit stores now until September — at the earliest. Says the rep: "There's still recording that needs to be done." In that case, it's next stop: Celebrity Deathmatch!