While most fans recognize 16-year-old Miranda Cosgrove as the star of the hit Nickelodeon show "iCarly," the teen idol is branching out and discovering her own voice musically. "Sparks Fly," her breezy pop album debut on Columbia Records, bowed at No. 8 this week on the Billboard 200 with 36,000 units sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"I'm playing a character on 'iCarly,' but this shows more of myself," Cosgrove says of the album, released April 27. Songs like lead single "Kissin' U," which vaults 41 spots to No. 54 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week, were co-written by Cosgrove and reveal a serious commitment to exploring pop music. "Some people might think I'm just another actress putting out an album," she adds. "But I wanted to prove that I'm more than that."
Although Cosgrove started singing at age 5 and playing guitar at 8, the Los Angeles native was first discovered for her acting skills. Following a supporting role in the 2003 Jack Black comedy "School of Rock," she was cast as the mischievous sister on Nickelodeon sitcom "Drake & Josh."
In 2007 Cosgrove signed on to star in "iCarly," a show that follows a teenage girl and the popular webcast she creates with friends. Since its premiere, "iCarly" has become a hit for Nickelodeon, ranking as the No. 1 live-action series on broadcast and basic cable with kids 2-11 in first-quarter 2010, according to Nielsen.
Cosgrove started thinking seriously about a music career in 2007 after recording "Leave It All to Me," the "iCarly" theme song, with "Drake & Josh" co-star Drake Bell. "Before that, I didn't see myself making an album," she says. "But when I spent time in the studio doing the theme song and saw how much fun it was, I wanted to go back."
An "iCarly" soundtrack, featuring "Leave It All to Me" and three other songs by Cosgrove, debuted at No. 28 on the Billboard 200 in June 2008. Because of her filming schedule for "iCarly," Cosgrove decided she "didn't want to do anything halfway" and worked on her full-length debut during a two-year period.
Recorded with producers like Dr. Luke, the Matrix and Antonina Armato, "Sparks Fly" is filled with dancefloor jams like "BAM" and reflective pop-rock cuts like "Shakespeare." The disc also reveals a more mature Cosgrove, which Columbia marketing manager Chris Poppe chalks up to the album's long gestation period.
"Miranda started working on [the album] at 14, and she's 16 now," Poppe says. "The difference between those two ages is huge, and the songs have had to grow along with her."
Nickelodeon has been a key partner in the promotional campaign for "Sparks Fly." In addition to advertising banners on its website, a behind-the-scenes TV special, "7 Secrets With Miranda Cosgrove," aired April 24 on the network. Cosgrove also premiered "Kissin' U" March 27 on Nick's 2010 Kids' Choice Awards preshow before "iCarly" won the award for favorite TV show.
Aside from targeting "iCarly" fans, Cosgrove stopped by "The View" April 26 and appeared in a video with YouTube shopping tipster Blair Fowler, also known as Juicystar07, in an effort to reach a post-adolescent audience. Following a radio promotional tour for "Sparks Fly," Cosgrove will spend the summer filming season four of "iCarly" and making appearances at radio concerts.
"Nickelodeon is our biggest partner, but we're also trying to appeal to different demographics like older teenage fans," Poppe says.