06/13/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT
No more eye rolls from Simon. No more "dawgs" from Randy. Now new American Idol Carrie Underwood
and runner-up Bo Bice face an even tougher judge: their performance on the charts. While Underwood celebrated her May 25 win with a fête at Skybar in L.A. and a nonstop string of media appearances there and in New York City, it's Bice who's generating the initial sales buzz. Preorders of his upcoming single of the show's original song "Inside Your Heaven," due in stores June 21, have pushed it to No. 1 on the Barnes&Noble.com singles chart, while Underwood's version of the same song—out June 14—is No. 5. Bice's single will include his rendition of "Vehicle," while hers will also feature a cover of Martina McBride's "Independence Day."
Like Clay Aiken
, whose debut album sales nearly doubled those of season 2 winner Ruben Studdard, will second banana Bo—who signed a record deal with RCA less than 24 hours after the Idol
finale—come out on top? Maybe not. "Believe it or not, I think Carrie has the potential to last longer than Bo," says music manager Lou Pearlman, who launched the careers of 'N Sync and Backstreet Boys. "She's more mainstream than he is. He may sell more during the first weeks, but she'll last longer. They're both going to be successful, though." While Top 40 stations haven't been inundated by requests for either's instantly released live version of "Heaven," the pair's popularity has led to stronger ticket sales than last year for the upcoming 43-date American Idols Live! Tour, which begins July 12 in Sunrise, Fla.
Both Underwood, 22, and Bice, 29, are preparing for the upcoming whirlwind. With a little downtime before heading to Hollywood in late June to begin tour rehearsals and record her solo album, Underwood will return briefly to her hometown of Checotah, Okla., to visit family and pick out the new Mustang she won as an Idol
finalist. While she plans to finish her Northeastern State University journalism degree at some point, the country crooner—who had never been outside her native Oklahoma and its surrounding states before auditioning for the show—is excited about the road ahead. "This is my time to see the world," she says. "Home will be there when I get back."
Bice, meanwhile, tattooed a bird on his wrist to commemorate his finale performance with longtime idols Lynyrd Skynyrd, whose "Freebird" he sang earlier in the season. "It was such an incredible experience," he says. "Those guys are legends." He will also soon begin planning his first album. "The one that lasts the longest will be the one who has the better material," says Pearlman. "If they sing the wrong material, they'll fade away. All the marketing in the world can't make up for it." But while the pressure will soon be on, the thrill of stardom is still fresh. Underwood says she "can't wait to hear" her song on the radio. "This is what the rest of my life is going to be like," she says. "I better get used to it."