In back-to-back weeks, the “American Idol” voters have kicked off the two people who might actually have a shot at a musical career. First came Paris Bennett, and on Wednesday, Chris Daughtry, widely considered to be one of the favorites to win the competition, instead became the ninth of the original 12 finalists to be shown the door.
While Bennett’s exit last week was no great shock — she was just 17 and too young to compete with the musical veterans — Daughtry’s fate was unexpected. He’d done well enough to impress a core group of fans and guest musical coaches, and didn’t do anything this past week to make Elvis roll over in his grave or throw things at the television — depending on whether he’s still alive or not).
Daughtry consistently has been the best musical act, week in and week out, since the competition began. In fact, after he covered Fuel’s “Hemorrhage” early in the competition, the band reportedly floated the idea of him taking over as their lead singer. It should be noted that Priscilla Presley did not respond to this week’s “Elvis” theme by offering him a similar chance to revitalize the Presley portfolio, but maybe she’s already decided to wait until eliminated “Idol” finalist Kevin Covais gets a little older.
Daughtry instead may have the opportunity to take over as the lead vocalist for Fuel, Creed, or any of the other one-syllable rock bands out there that are missing a singer, since he won’t be locked into the contract given to the “Idol” winner. That wasn’t much comfort when Ryan Seacrest was somberly giving him the bad news, and Daughtry looked shocked when told that he, and not fellow bottom-two finisher Katharine McPhee, was going home.
He wasn’t the only one shocked. Even Simon Cowell looked surprised, probably because it’s finally hitting him that he’ll have to help market the album of the eventual winner. It’s not going to be as easy as it was last season when all he had to do was point Carrie Underwood in the direction of Nashville and start counting the cash.
Can Graymates put Taylor over the top?Will this year’s champion be Taylor Hicks, who owes much of his success to a manic stage presence that may not translate to the audio-only CD? Will it be McPhee, who copes so well under pressure that she’s had two mediocre weeks in a row? Or will it be feisty underdog Elliott Yamin, who lacks anything resembling star quality?
None of the remaining three have the presence of Underwood or Kelly Clarkson, or the powerful voice of Fantasia Barrino. Hicks may have the winning stage personality of Season 2 winner Ruben Studdard, but it isn’t like Studdard’s career is the roadmap any of the remaining finalists want to follow.
Daughtry alone among the remaining finalists had a musical style that suited both his personality and his voice. There was no doubt who he was when he grabbed the microphone, and unfortunately for him, that wasn’t a recipe for success. He was this year’s designated rocker, and rockers don’t ever win “American Idol.” Maybe he can join former “Idol” also-rans Bo Bice and Constantine Maroulis and form an Idolpalooza tour instead.
Of the remaining three finalists, Hicks appears to be in the best shape. He’s never been one of the lowest finishers in the competition, and he impresses everyone each week despite looking like an out-of-control marionette onstage. And let’s be honest — women dig the .
At least, one woman does — and no, it’s not Paula Abdul. Well, at least not only Paula Abdul. Rebecca Romijn was in the audience, solely because she’s a huge fan of the show and not at all because she’s in the new “X-Men” movie coming out in a couple of weeks or anything. She requested that Hicks give an encore performance of one of his Tuesday songs, “Jailhouse Rock.” He complied. Turning down a former supermodel is never a smart thing to do, even with her fiancé in the audience. After all, it’s not like she was actually wearing the engagement ring.
Sounds like Romijn would actually buy a Taylor Hicks album, at least. Simon Cowell, for one, has to be starting to hope that a lot of other people will join her.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.