Delta Goodrem: Elevation

When Delta Goodrem was cast in Australia's long-running serial "Neighbours" in 2002, the teenager didn't care for the "bad girl" character written for her -- and had the audacity to renege on the pote

When Delta Goodrem was cast in Australia's long-running serial "Neighbours" in 2002, the teenager didn't care for the "bad girl" character written for her -- and had the audacity to renege on the potentially career-making role.

Goodrem had already signed a development deal with Sony Records and felt the part didn't suit the hopeful tone of her music. "It's hard now to believe I had the courage to do that," the 23-year-old says. But as it turns out, show producers wanted to fly with Delta and rewrote the role of shy coffee-shop staffer/budding singer "Nina Tucker" to her liking—and she signed on.

Goodrem has certainly made good on not being bad—but her story has since played out with more real-life melodrama than any soap. When her latest album, "Delta," arrives July 15, it will represent the culmination of five topsy-turvy years.

Her first single "Born to Try" (Columbia)—introduced on "Neighbours" in 2003—rallied to No. 1 at home in Oz, while her debut album "Innocent Eyes" spent 29 weeks as a chart-topper, selling 14-times platinum and winning seven Australian Recording Industry Assn. Awards. The record also made her a star in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece, Sweden and Japan.

And then her career came to a precipitous halt when late that year, at 18, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the immune system. A U.S. launch on Columbia was compromised; single "Lost Without You" reached No. 18 at AC, but too weak to promote it, Goodrem's planned album was scrapped.

After chemotherapy and radiation, her 2004 sophomore CD "Mistaken Identity" was released in established territories and, not surprisingly, displayed a starker lyrical side. Goodrem says, "I was young, but never naïve, and found strength as a woman. I know it was intense, even tiring." Fans stood alongside (even as she retired from "Neighbours"), with another No. 1. Then, "Delta" in 2007 became her third consecutive chart-topping disc. "The title reflects that I'm my own person now, I've learned a lot," she says. "You can only control so much in life."

Now, she returns to the States—all told with a string of eight No. 1s among 13 top 40 Australian singles to date. Signed to Mercury's resurrected imprint Decca in the U.S., Goodrem has a mighty proponent in label president David Massey—a former global A&R exec for Sony who was integral in grooming her in 2002.

It's a slightly reconfigured "Delta" arriving Stateside. The first single, the uptempo, piano-fervent "In This Life"—produced by Grammy Award winner John Shanks and co-written by Goodrem and fiancé Bryan McFadden (formerly of hitmaking Irish boy band Westlife)—is bulleted at No. 35 at adult top 40. She's partnered with ION Television for its fall launch, including on-air imaging and exposure of "In This Life" and "Believe Again" (a No. 2 single in Oz). She'll appear at the American Cancer Society's fall charity Dreamball and the Jorge Posada Foundation's seventh annual Heroes of Hope Gala, hosted by Kelly Ripa, both in New York.

In addition, Goodrem recorded a duet, "Right Here With You," with fellow Aussie and cancer survivor Olivia Newton-John for the July album release "Olivia Newton-John & Friends: A Celebration in Song," with proceeds to benefit her Cancer and Wellness Centre.

"It's even more rewarding that I get to come back and start properly," Goodrem says of her U.S. relaunch. "I'm hungry for this and committed to being a new artist. I feel like I was always meant to do this, like there's a chip in my body that says, 'OK, what's next?'"

Additional reporting by Christie Eliezer in Melbourne and Andre Paine in London.