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NEW YORK (Billboard) - Connie Talbot's first release, "Over the Rainbow," has already gone gold in the United Kingdom (100,000 copies) and platinum in Korea (15,000 copies) and has logged more than 46 million hits on YouTube. Not bad for a 7-year-old.
It was Talbot's cherubic, pitch-perfect performance of "Over the Rainbow" on "Britain's Got Talent," spread virally via YouTube, that won the hearts of the world in June 2007. But after she finished second to opera-singing everyman Paul Potts on the U.K. TV show, major labels weren't interested in signing her.
"Most people thought that she had a great chance to win," co-manager John Arnison says. "I thoroughly expected that would then mean that she would be signed to Sony BMG and Simon Cowell's management team. Then a couple of weeks after the show, I got a call from (Talbot's father,) Gavin, and he was rather shocked to say that having been promised a deal by Simon, the Sony BMG team didn't really know what to do with Connie, quite frankly. They decided that they'd rather let her go."
Arnison and his partner Marc Marot -- former managing director of Island Records -- stepped up to the challenge and told the Talbots to "write down a list of the songs that Connie would sing at her birthday party," Arnison says. The result is "Over the Rainbow" (AAO Music/Reality), an instant international sales success.
"What we find on the blogs all the time, it really is people going, 'Oh, bless you, child.' It's very Christian," AAO Music head Peter Kuys says. "It almost has that purity undertone; in a world which at the moment is such a mess, it's quite refreshing to a lot of people to hear a little girl sing."
In addition to its title song, "Over the Rainbow" (due October 14 stateside) contains standard kid fare like "My Favorite Things" as well as more grown-up pieces like "Imagine," "Wonderful World" and even "I Will Always Love You" are also included.
"The thing with Connie is that she'd learned to sing with her grandmother, and Whitney Houston tracks were all her grandmother's favorite songs," Arnison says. "She hadn't sung nursery rhymes; she'd always sung classic tracks. So it was actually quite an easy task to make the record."
Arnison says that the young singer's management team "thought long and hard" about whether to include a mature song like "I Will Always Love You" on the final album, but Talbot herself insisted.
"My nana used to sing it with me and we used to watch the film that it was in for like hours and hours and hours," she says. "It's my favorite song." Talbot's grandmother died in 2006.
Talbot is in the midst of a U.S. promotional tour, which included a taping of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" (whom she calls "a really nice lady"). And she'll be the subject of a Nintendo Wii "Sing Along" karaoke game, set for release in first-quarter 2009.