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As The CD Turns — New Wave Of Soap Stars Poised To Go Pop

Soap world's freshest faces ready to follow in Kylie, Ricky's footsteps.


What's a soap opera star to do when his amnesia recedes or the true identity of her baby's father is revealed? Sing, of course!

While history hasn't been kind to many actors bitten by the music bug — Eddie Murphy, Bruce Willis, Keanu Reeves ... the list of flops goes on and on — the track record for daytime television thespians is surprisingly impressive.

Ricky Martin was Miguel Morez on "General Hospital" before he was livin' la vida loca on the music scene, following in the footsteps of another famous "General Hospital" Ricky who went on to conquer the pop charts: "Jessie's Girl" singer Rick Springfield (a.k.a. Dr. Noah Drake).

Not many know Lauryn Hill was on "As the World Turns" before she joined the Fugees, and not many remember Michael Damian, who starred in "The Young and the Restless" before hitting the airwaves with a cover of David Essex's "Rock On" in the late '80s.

One soap, Australia's "Neighbours," has cranked out three bona fide music starlets in Kylie Minogue, "Torn" singer Natalie Imbruglia and newcomer Holly Valance, whose "Kiss Kiss" was the #1 single in the U.K. earlier this month. These singers and dozens of others, in genres ranging from country to opera, have inspired a current crop of soap stars to fully embrace the concept of crossing over.

New York City music producer Donald Benjamin spotted the trend a decade ago and launched the popular Soap Sessions compilation series, which features stars of shows such as "Days of Our Lives" and "Passions" singing their own tunes, covers of past hits or holiday standards. (Soap Sessions Vol. 3, his best seller to date, features soap stars doing Beatles favorites.)

These days, though, the soap star-turned-pop star craze is nearly outgrowing Benjamin's business. "When I call around now," he explained, "instead of getting responses like, 'I don't know if he can sing,' I'm getting, 'Well, he's doing his own CD.' Everybody's doing their own thing. I'll be working at McDonald's next week."

Benjamin partially credits the influx of soap stars hitting the studio to new technology, which has made recording an album much cheaper than it was 10 years ago. Mostly though, he said, they do it because they can. A majority of the actors started in theater and learned to sing in musicals.

Once the performers get on a series, they find an audience that is willing to listen to them, according to Jennifer Lenhart, who edits the Sing Along section in Soap Opera Digest. "When you're on a soap opera, there's a built-in fanbase," she said.

More and more soap operas have taken a cue from Ricky Martin and have characters on their shows play singers. "There's a lot of opportunities for them to sing, because there are so many musical montages," Lenhart said. "Every couple has their own song, and it's even better if the person who plays the character sings their own theme song."

Soap stars make good pop stars because they are outgoing and learn to be comfortable in front of audiences, according to Lenhart, who added, "Soap operas are such hard work, which people don't realize, that getting your career off the ground as a pop star seems easy."

The big question surrounding the daytime fixtures — and, for once, it's not about who's sleeping with who — is, who actually has what it takes to be the next Ricky or Kylie? Benjamin believes there are several with enough talent and work ethic, and added that — how can you forget? — "none of these people are particularly hard to look at."

Benjamin and Lenhart offered their expert takes on some of the soap stars with their eyes on the music world. So like sand through the hourglass, these are the potential future pop stars of our lives:

  1. Nadia Bjorlin

    Character: Chloe Lane on "Days of Our Lives"

    Musical achievements: Debut album in the works

    Cool pop world connection: Appeared in Ricky Martin's "Shake Your Bon Bon" video

    Expert opinion: "She has a lovely voice." — Benjamin

  2. Kassie DePaiva

    Character: Blair Cramer on "One Life to Live"

    Musical achievements: Recently released debut, Naked, featuring duet with country star Bryan White

    Cool pop world connection: Covers Patty Smyth's "You Hung the Moon" on album

    Expert opinion: "She was in the Grand Ole Opry last year. She's very passionate about country music." — Lenhart

  3. Bobbie Eakes

    Character: Formerly Macy Alexander on "The Bold and the Beautiful"

    Musical achievements: Released album in Europe, recording debut for Sony Nashville

    Cool pop world connection: Sang backup for Kenny Loggins

    Expert opinion: "She's done really well internationally." — Lenhart

  4. Jonathan Jackson

    Character: Formerly Lucky Spencer on "General Hospital"

    Musical achievements: As singer of Jono & the Rock, released Glory Come Undone earlier this year

    Cool pop world connection: Frequently plays legendary Whisky A Go-Go in Los Angeles

    Expert opinion: "He first comes to mind when I think of soap stars that could make it in music." — Lenhart

  5. Jay Kenneth Johnson

    Character: Philip Kiriakis on "Days of Our Lives"

    Musical achievements: With band Solid Jones, released self-titled CD

    Cool pop world connection: Auditioned for his band singing "Welcome to the Jungle"

    Expert opinion: "He's very pop-oriented." — Benjamin

  6. Lindsay Korman

    Character: Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald on "Passions"

    Musical achievements: Won the Los Angeles Philharmonics Vocal Opera Award

    Cool pop world connection: Sang backup for Beck and Hootie and the Blowfish

    Expert opinion: "She did a Mariah Carey Christmas song. That girl has got a fabulous pop voice. She's every bit as good as Britney Spears." — Benjamin

  7. Jesse McCartney

    Character: Formerly Adam Chandler, Jr. on "All My Children"

    Musical achievements: As one fifth of boy band Dream Street, released self-titled album in 2000

    Cool pop world connection: Toured with Aaron Carter

    Expert opinion: "He wants to do it all at the same time." — Lenhart

  8. Kristina Sisco

    Character: Abigail Williams on "As the World Turns"

    Musical achievements: Recently released debut First Kiss

    Cool pop world connection: Compared to Lisa Loeb in Soap Opera Digest

    Expert opinion: "Kristina's really a great kid. She taught herself how to play the guitar and writes her own music. She likes Michelle Branch a lot, so it's kind of like her." — Lenhart

  9. Jacob Young

    Character: Lucky Spencer on "General Hospital"

    Musical achievements: Debut Devil's in the Details released last fall

    Cool pop world connection: Beck's DJ Swamp cameos on album

    Expert opinion: "A lot of time the soap stars' CDs are only available at their Web sites. Jacob's is actually at record stores and he has a video and everything. I think he's already a step ahead of everyone else." — Lenhart

Online at MTV and VH1 News archives.