By Anthony Stevens

Say what you will about the overbearing judges, the staged auditions, and the obvious commercial exploitation, but American Idol has got one thing right—it has reinvented the talent show concept and tapped into the seemingly endless singing talent of America. The success of former Idol winners, runners up and even those who didn’t make it past the first round (think William Hung) is undeniable. Take, for example, Kelly Clarkson, winner of season one: eight years later she has sold over 20 million records, is known around the world, and is considered to be one of the top female performers in the United States.

Following prompting from his mother and friends, Elliott Yamin, a small town Virginia DJ with a big voice, decided to make the 450-mile journey to attend the season five Boston auditions. After earning a coveted ‘golden ticket’ and surviving the grueling first week of eliminations, he went on to become a viewer favorite and finished in third place, eclipsed only by Taylor Hicks and Katherine McPhee (neither of whom have enjoyed Yamin’s post-Idol commercial success).

After participating in the contractual American Idol tour, Yamin cleverly negotiated a deal with Sony in which the entertainment company invested in him as a partner—both parties share risk and profits 50/50. Yamin released his debut album in March 2007, and it sold more than 90,000 copies in its first week.

Yamin draws inspiration from many R&B greats and pays tribute to the legendary Donny Hathaway with a truly inspired rendition of A Song For You on his self-titled debut album. Yamin has said that this is his favorite song to perform live, and he often sings it as the encore to his concerts. Yamin’s original repertoire is also well-suited to a live setting, with the majority of songs being up-tempo grooves.

Following the release of his second album, Fight for Love, in Japan on May 20, Yamin will make a stop in Tokyo to perform at the intimate Billboard Live in Tokyo Midtown from June 17-20.

Tickets: ¥7,000–¥9,000 at