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Originally published May 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 25, 2007 at 8:31 PM

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Blake talks about "Idol" and beyond

If you're thinking that "American Idol" is an over-hyped reality television show-cum-karaoke contest, you have plenty of company. But cut through all...

Seattle Times staff reporter

If you're thinking that "American Idol" is an over-hyped reality television show-cum-karaoke contest, you have plenty of company.

But cut through all the gimmicky glitz — and those hordes of howling teenage girls — and you'll discover a little secret: Blake Lewis, Bothell's quirky first runner-up to the "Idol" title, is actually pretty talented. And best of all, he's a hard guy to hate, even if you don't go for the show that made him famous.

Two days after performing in front of 30.7 million viewers on "Idol's" season-ending extravaganza, 25-year-old Lewis spent a half-hour giggling at fawning reporters' questions during a national press conference call.

"How's my favorite beatboxer?" asked one reporter.

Lewis giggled nervously. "I'm very overwhelmed [by] all this press stuff," he said. "I never thought I'd get to this moment. Ever."

The humble Inglemoor High graduate never thought his "edgier" "underground" sound would strike a chord with the mainstream. Since it has, he's had a hard time keeping up with his own soaring status as a pop icon.

He had no idea he was Rosie O'Donnell's darling on "The View" until one of his best friends, Kenmore's Kristi Redman, filled him in.

"She keeps me informed," he said, giggling some more.

Riding the wave of his newfound fame, Lewis is most interested in spreading his wings as a musician. For the time being, he'll abandon his makeshift music studio outside his parents' Kenmore home in favor of a national label, 19 Entertainment, and the corresponding audience.

"Mostly I just wanted to get to the Top 10 so I could go on tour and show people what I do," he said.

In July, Lewis will begin the national "American Idols Live" concert tour. (The Tacoma Dome date is July 27.) After that, he'll begin work on a new album, which he expects will include elements of beatboxing, electronic music and "good pop, like Duran Duran and Michael Jackson." He hasn't signed on with any collaborators yet.

Lewis doesn't have any regrets about his experience on "Idol," he said.

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Even if that last song he had to perform — "This Is My Now," a sentimental ballad by Seattle songwriters — didn't highlight his skill as a hip-hop performer and may have cost him the "Idol" title.

And even if some of his hard-core fans who knew him as B-Shorty, a struggling artist performing in authentic Seattle dives, think he's "sold out" to cookie-cutter bubble-gum pop.

"I don't think I have [sold out yet]," he said (giggling, of course). "It's not like I had a huge fan base in Seattle, so I don't know if you can 'sell out' without having had something to sell out from? I love that term, 'sell out.' I mean, as soon as you hear me start singing more songs like 'This Is My Now,' you'll know [I've sold out]."

Two weeks ago, Sir Mix-a-Lot, a pioneering Seattle rapper, pronounced Lewis "the new king of Sea-Town" to a screaming crowd of fans. Lewis hopes to return to survey his kingdom — and "spend time with family" — in the beginning of June.

While he plans to move to L.A. to "be near the label" and "all my management" for a year or two, Lewis insists he's not cutting ties with B-Shorty's roots and his Kenmore crew.

"I can't imagine being away from my friends and family," he said. "Seattle's my home."

Haley Edwards: 206-464-2745 or hedwards@seattletimes.com

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