Mario Vazquez: Idol That Could Have Been

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With all the American Idols, past and present, in the news these days, we've taken it upon ourselves to spotlight the one who got away.

Mario Vazquez.

Super Mario

That's right. You may remember the Bronx, N.Y., native as the one who sent the Idol universe into shock when he voluntarily left the show's fourth season, citing personal reasons. This came right as it looked like Vazquez was a lock to make the finals and maybe even make a run at the title. His prompt exit enabled Nikko Smith to return for Top 12.

While the personal reasons have yet to be explained, Vazquez has moved on and landed a record deal with BMG chairman Clive Davis, according to Newsday. Some have theorized that he simply didn't want to get tangled into a super-restrictive record contract that success on the show carries. One current example of this is the inability of Chris Daughtry's former band's to display a picture of him on their website.

But regardless of his reasons were, Vazquez is making his move now.

His first single, "Gallery," a sweet soul ballad written by Ne-Yo, is already climbing the charts in both English and Spanish, having debuted on the Hot 100 at #99, as well as hitting #50 on the Pop 100 and #34 on the Pop 100 Airplay. His debut album is set for release August 29, according to Vazquez's official site, and is packed with producer firepower from the likes of Scott Storch, Soulshock and Luny Tunes.

"[Vazquez] has a voice and charisma that we've been trying to find for a long time," Davis says of the 28-year-old Vazquez.

But his fans already knew that. If Mario is able to build success without jumping through all the show's procedural hoops, he may have pioneered a new path to lasting Idol brilliance.

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.