Despite narrowly missing a spot in the Top 12 in the fifth season of FOX's hit show "American Idol," eighteen year-old Ayla Brown has surely made a name for herself in her activities following her last day on the "Idol" stage on March 9, 2006. After finishing as a semi-finalist and placing 13th on "Idol," the Wrentham, Massachusetts native - now a sophomore at Boston College, and a starter on the BC womens basketball team - took numerous steps to ensure her talents would still be able to reach a wide audience regardless of her early exit on "Idol."
Over the course of the summer of 2006, Brown made several appearances ranging from political functions to music festivals. Brown sang the National Anthem at the Massachusetts GOP State Convention on April 29 and at a Boston Red Sox game in May. Brown also had the honor of performing the Anthem with the accompaniment of the nationally acclaimed Boston Pops on the Esplanade for Boston's Fourth of July celebration. Brown's biggest break was at Boston's KISS 108 FM's annual KISS Concert in Mansfield, MA, on May 20. Brown performed in front of thousands, singing crowd favorites from "Idol" such as Celine Dion's "I Want You to Need Me," as well as a cover of Mariah Carey's "Hero" In addition, she had the opportunity to introduce Natasha Bedingfield, whose song "Unwritten" was performed by Brown while on "Idol."
Brown also took part in charitable functions, including her performances at the opening ceremonies for the Pan-Mass Challenge in July and her contributions to the "Kickin' Cancer on the Common" event in August.
Upon the expiration of her contract with "Idol" in August, Ayla Brown signed an exclusive record and distribution deal with New York-based Double Deal Brand Records, and began recording her debut album "Forward," which was released on October 17. Prior to the album's release, Brown released a single "Know You Better" / "I Quit." She performed songs from "Forward" in solo concerts at the Eastern States Exposition (or "Big E") from September 15-17. On September 29, Brown sang the title track from her album, "Forward" with a full accompaniment by the Boston Pops Orchestra in front of an audience of 15,000 at the "Pops on the Heights" Scholarship Gala at Boston College.
"Forward" features an array of adult contemporary and pop/rock-tinged tracks, which allows it to appeal to a broad audience. Covers of UK recording artist Ruby Amanfu's songs "Know You Better" (the album's first single) and "Sugah" give "Forward" a teen pop feel, while ballads "Miles Away" and "If I Was a River" (written by Grammy-winning songwriter Diane Warren for Tina Arena) greatly showcase Ayla's vocals. Produced by Jim McGregor and mixed by Peter Moshay, "Forward" is an example of what hard work, perseverence, and talent can produce.
Brown's album has been met with praise from critics. A review from the November/December 2006 issue of American Idol magazine states that "Ayla's voice soars through Diane Warren's ballad "If I was a River" and shows us her chops and range match anything that's on the air today." DJ KennDawg, the manager of the online radio station "Idol Waves" said of the title track, "'Forward,' which is filled with imagery to make it the most video-friendly song on the set, has the best potential to make a serious splash on the mainstream music charts. If she gets the right breaks, 'Forward' could be an adult contemporary chart-topper. There's something about this song that gives it the 'it' factor, as Simon would say."
Since her album's release, Brown has been featured in many publications, including American Idol magazine, the Boston Herald, and Boston magazine. Her first single "Know You Better" peaked at #1 on the Idol Waves Top 20 Countdown, and finished at #12 for the year-end Top 50 countdown. Ayla's music has been featured on countless pod shows on the PodSafe music network, as well as other online radio stations like Radioio Pop, where she was chosen as the station's "featured artist" for one week.
In addition to Brown's budding music career, she is also making waves as a basketball phenomenon at Boston College. A member of the Division I Lady Eagles, Brown made her first start on December 31 against the University of Massachusetts; the Eagles went on to win the game with a score of 70-64. A two-time "Gatorade Player of the Year" award-winner, Brown became the 20th female in Massachusetts state history to score 2,000 points in a high school career, with a total of 2,358 points scored. Ayla is now a starter on the team
as a sophmore, and led the team to it's first victory of the 2007-2008 season, scoring a record high 21 points with 10 rebounds. Ayla will be a force to be reckoned with this year at Boston College.
Both singing and basketball have been longtime passions of Brown's. Though challenging, she has managed to find success in both areas. While her career is just beginning, it is no secret that Ayla Brown's best and brightest days are still ahead of her. At this point, she can only move forward. .