All eyes and ears on Khaya
So overwhelming is the interest in Idols South Africa winner Khaya Mthethwa's debut album, that some 600 songs were submitted to his record label, Universal Music.
Only five of those were picked for the as-yet-untitled album, slated for a mid-November release, just in time for Christmas.
It's 29 days since Mthethwa was crowned as the reality show's first black winner.
He garnered more than two-thirds of the votes, easily beating out his rival Melissa Alison.
Yesterday, The Times visited the 25-year-old as he put the finishing touches to a song called Lil' Means A Lot, which wasco-written by British star Taio Cruz.
"You know in the first 30 seconds whether a song is what we're looking for," said Universal Music South Africa's artists and repertoire consultant Benjy Mudie, when asked how they could have rattled through so many prospective songs so quickly.
"We knew we didn't want dance or hip-hop, but intelligent and mid-tempo R&B. We've gone for a classic R&B sound. If you read a lot of lyrics these days, they're really puerile, man."
As Mthethwa performed in the sound booth, South African Music Award-winning engineer and producer Crighton Goodwill guided his vocal delivery.
Goodwill has worked with Loyiso Bala, Danny K, Lloyd Cele, Tasha Baxter and Kabelo Mabalane - so it is wise to heed his advice.
Mthethwa sang the lyrics off his iPad. While he started writing his own songs around five years ago, his output has become far more prolific this year.
"I'm spending late nights in studio. Ever since I left Idols, I don't think there's been a day I've slept before midnight."
Gigs have been streaming in endlessly. Just this past weekend he was in Durban singing Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica ahead of the Currie Cup final.
"My in-ear [monitor] wasn't working, and the acoustics in the stadium were bad. A lot of people said I had no expression, and it was [true] because I had to concentrate so much," he said.
His first single Move, written by The Muffinz, has received steady radio play.
One of the songs that will appear on the 13-track album is a cover of Billy Preston's classic That's The Way God Planned It, which Mthethwa says is one of his favourite songs ever. Nicki Minaj's Super Bass , which he made his own on Idols , will also feature .
On exiting the complex where the Good Noise studio is based, he is forced to show his ID to a starstruck security guard who initially couldn't believe she was in the presence of the Idols star.