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NEW YORK (Billboard) - Christina Aguilera put her clothes back on. Britney Spears bottomed out. The family-friendly "High School Musical" is in more than 4 million earbuds. If the Lolita era is over, then the time is right for Paula DeAnda.
The 17-year-old Mexican-American is in the middle of a fairy-tale shot to success that started with a radio showcase in her native Texas and peaked with a private performance in New York for legendary producer/label exec Clive Davis, who signed her to a seven-album deal with Arista.
"I never thought it would move this quickly," DeAnda said. "I'm trying to take everything in."
The teen has a voice strong enough for a cappella and an ability to write frank, feeling lyrics. But what sets her apart from other R&B-inflected popsters is her relatability, poise and relative wholesomeness -- not unlike the deceased pop star she closely resembles, Selena.
"She's a sweet young girl, not overly stylized," Arista senior VP of marketing/artist development Scott Seviour said. "She's perfect for Nick, Disney and also edgy enough for MTV."
In March 2006, DeAnda pricked up the ears of the majors when her single "Doing Too Much" -- a basic hip-pop track about a girl second-guessing her attempts to get a boy's attention -- hit No. 36 on Radio & Records' Rhythm chart without the benefit of a label.
The record resulted from the stewardship of Ed Ocanas, program director of KZFM-FM Corpus Christi, Texas. After watching the young singer perform a Michelle Branch cover at one of his station's showcases, he sent her into the studio with producer Happy Perez. Ocanas is now her manager.
DeAnda's self-titled debut album has sold more than 100,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
The video for "Doing Too Much" went into rotation on "TRL" a month before the album's release, helping propel the song to top 10 on R&R's Rhythm chart and top 20 on the Top 40 list.
"Doing Too Much" obviously did its job, but DeAnda's follow-up single, "Walk Away," is opening the floodgates. The single hit No. 9 on R&R's Top 40 chart in December, and the video -- an appealing clip with the right balance of teen hormones, street style and girl power -- hit No. 9 on "TRL," buoyed by the loyalty of DeAnda's nearly quarter-million MySpace friends. She was invited to perform live on January 9.
"The crowd was amazing," DeAnda said the next day. "We did a part where we cut off the music, and they actually were singing along."