SAM COOKE and Ben E. King are not two singers you'd typically find on the playlist of a 12-year-old seventh-grader. Cam Anthony is not your typical preteen.
This Philly kid, born Camren Anthony Sherman, has become an international singing sensation through the power of YouTube and video shares, with more than 500,000 views and counting.
In the last two months, he has jetted across the country with his parents, Melissa and Lamar, courting record-deal offers from industry legends such as Dr. Dre and Russell Simmons. A couple of weekends ago, after hearing him singing his heart out on the Internet, a concert promoter invited him to open for Kem, Ron Isley and Patti LaBelle at Constitution Hall, in Washington D.C.
"It was awesome that I got to sing there," he said. "I saw Patti LaBelle backstage. She noticed me and came up to me and gave me a hug and said, 'You're a good singer.' "
While Cam stands just an inch short of 5 feet tall, his voice has the kind of power normally reserved for vocalists twice his age. His delivery is captivating - but not in the auto-tuned, over-the-top fashion that has become the norm for many of today's artists.
Camren's voice is beautifully raw and real. And mature, bringing to mind Jackson 5-era Michael Jackson. He also has a mature attitude - confident, yet humble - about what the Internet is doing to nurture his career. "This experience has been amazing for me, because I never thought that I would blow up this fast," he said. "I am really excited about this blessing."
Although his parents had posted other YouTube videos of their boy singing, the serious buzz for Cam Anthony began after he covered Bruno Mars' "When I Was Your Man" in June.
"When we put the Bruno Mars video up, I asked everyone to share it and they did," Melissa Sherman recalled. It has gotten more than 20,000 hits, including one that set some wheels in motion.
"Someone sent me the link on a Saturday and on that following Monday, we flew up to Philly to sit down with his parents," said Ramone Cowert, of The Koncept Administration, a Florida-based music-management company. "We came to an agreement, and by the following Thursday, he was in Miami recording. Within 10 days of that he was singing for L.A. Reid, at Epic Records."
Last month, his take on the Grammy-nominated Lorde hit "Royals" was uploaded and the phone started ringing. Since then, Cam Anthony, his parents and Cowert have attended more meetings regarding his future as a recording artist.
While pursuing his dream to become "as big as Michael Jackson," the seventh-grader has still kept up straight A's at Tacony Academy Charter School, in Northeast Philadelphia.
"I really love school because of the socialization and togetherness with my friends," he said. "My favorite subject is math, because it just comes naturally to me."
So, between the homework, travel and time just being a kid, how does this young man learn and process the lyrics and emotions of material that was written decades before he was born?
"Usually it takes a day or two for me to learn a new song," he said. "But if I really like it, and I really put my mind to it, I can learn it in as little as four hours. I like the soul behind 'Stand By Me,' and I really enjoy singing it."
Another classic that he tackles head-on in his YouTube collection is the G.C. Cameron classic "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday," from the 1975 film "Cooley High."
"I really don't know much about 'Cooley High,' but I love the harmonies of Boyz II Men," Cam said. "They put so much soul into their songs."
Aja Graydon Dantzler, of Kindred the Family Soul, first saw Cam Anthony's performance when someone forwarded her his "Royals" video.
"He certainly has a chance in this business," Dantzler said. "He has a very mature voice, and he reminds me a lot of [Philly singer] Jazmine Sullivan in that regard. He is very polished and marketable, and certainly has all the potential in the world to me."
Only time will tell if this Philadelphia youngster will join the ranks of such male vocalists as Teddy Pendergrass, Musiq Soulchild and Boyz II Men, who have achieved great success out of this city. In the meantime, he is enjoying the moment and the connections he's making around the world online.
"One lady told me on Facebook that her baby can't go to sleep without listening to my music, and that warmed my heart," Cam Anthony said. "I'm thankful to my fans who are men, women and children. I would just like for them to know that everything is possible and to keep striving toward their dreams."