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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Taylor Hicks, Maladroit Musician? Winner? Loser?

The American Idol winner nobody would want to be? Is the name, Taylor Hicks, destined to wind up as the moniker meaning loser even though he won season five of that karaoke reality show? Is that all that "Taylor Hicks" will bring to mind when the time passes and this reality show karaoke contest rolls on, the guy who won yet really lost in the long haul?

Article after article concerning the show reflect a negative view of the guy. The past few days has seen local Dallas entertainment writer, Preston Jones, throwing out Hicks' name adding yet more negative references. Friday, November 14, Jones wrote, as he talked up David Cook's new album, "Most other male contestants — Taylor Hicks, where have you gone? — have slipped almost completely out of the public consciousness.". Then again today, I read that Jones includes Hicks in yet another piece about the new David Cook album - certainly he must be a fan. Jones writes, "...forming an identity while being careful not to, well, end up like season five victor Hicks. It’s not for nothing Cook only name-checks the most visible Idol offspring." David Cook had made references to Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken.

Preston Jones is just one of the many writers in entertainment writing land who utilize Taylor Hicks' name as a scapegoat example of what not to shoot for should you land on Idol. Hicks' name being cited as synonymous with failure at your shot at fame and success. A large part of the articles that come across the internet seem to enjoy mentioning Taylor Hicks' name as the butt of a joke, a reference for being a 'flash in the pan' or plain old 'loser'.

Interesting that sales of a reported 800,000 are seen as being a bad thing. Considering the music industry pitfalls today, the change from plastic purchases in favor of on-line iPod, iTunes buys; include the internet savvy who find their way around actually purchasing any music and download illegally for free, it's not an embarrassing number.

I'm guessing since Taylor won with as much flair as he did, combined with as much support as he had, hell, he made David Hasselhoff cry like a little girl; sales less than double platinum equal failure in the eyes of many including reviewers and especially the show's Money Men. Too the CD Hicks released after his win did nothing to further the image he came to represent on the show. He came out as a Ray Charles/Joe Cocker kind of performer and issued a riddled with plastic Pop oriented CD. Most of the folks who loved that album were not all in it for the music, instead mainly fans of the show, then became fans of the man. Of course there are some exceptions to that statement.

Finally, after a two year span, Taylor Hicks released his compilation CD of his songs recorded prior to the show, called "Early Works". Since it had been so long since Hicks hit the Idol stage and so many articles have passed hailing him as that 'Winner who wound up Losing', "Early Works" sales were less than notable. Along with the release of that pre-Idol CD, Taylor has issued statements he's finally releasing "Whomp at the Warfield" filmed in the San Francisco theater, previously aired on HDNET and AOL television in October, 2007. Add to this news, he's readying a new CD, promised to be available early February, 2009.

Most artists with new albums due out start spinning a song or two from the offering well in advance of the record coming out, make one of those promotional little music videos. Hicks never made a video for his eponymous Idol release, the folks with the show obviously were just not that into marketing the record or the man. Doubtful he'll make a video for this new body of work either.

That said, it may be unnecessary since Hicks has worked out a marketing plan that loosely resembles a national video campaign; instead of filming the single, he's performing it live. Hicks as his followers know, had a role as the Teen Angel in the Broadway production of "Grease" this past Summer. The guy enjoyed positive press and made a favorable impression on the show's producers. He's been asked to resume that role in a national touring production of the show. Mr. Hicks has planned with the touring production management to perform a single from this upcoming CD following the show. Details on how this will unfold are not public yet, likely won't be known until that first show debuts December 02 in Providence, Rhode Island. Telling point in all of this, how marketing his music may work within this type of environment as well as how reviewers and writer's in the various local markets view and cover him and this novel approach.

Taylor Hicks is obviously not afraid to jump in with both feet as evidenced in 2005 when he first entered the Idol auditions. He broke show molds with his brazen difference from his hair color to his harmonica walk breaking the top 24, Hollywood Week.

The skeptics accused Hicks as purely acting a role, during the show and since - really to a degree, he was. Taylor worked to market himself as set apart from the usual show contestant which ultimately worked in his favor. Now again, Taylor Hicks is working to market himself in a different way, set himself apart. This is the first time a national theater touring production will feature their starring draw in a way not associated with the show itself. What should be noted is the man is still as open to the new, the novel approach, as he was when he went for it on that reality show. What will remain to be seen is if he will generate interest, draw in and affect any critics, reviewers or entertainment writers to see him as more than that Idol Winner who ultimately lost.

I'm not claiming any objective stance regarding Taylor Hicks, I've rooted for him in my way since he first caught my attention in January 2006, continue to do so. Here's hoping that this man, told by Simon Cowell in 2006 he'd never win the show, then did, now being written up by so many critics as that guy who should never have won, finds his way.
"Winning" Santana


  1. dg900012:30 PM

    Sunny, I loved this blog! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with everyone.

    I hope you don't mind I posted it ( and the link to your blog) over at THR.


  2. I enjoyed this too. I've noticed too that journalists enjoy pointing to Taylor as THE example of someone who won the show but didn't achieve stardom. Sometimes they'll throw in Ruben's name, but what about Fantasia?

    Ack. I don't like the whole business of putting people down. If they're making a living doing what they love, they're winners in my eyes. Could that BE any more corny? I don't care, I mean it.

    And another thing!! (You got me all riled up now. Ha!) He DID win the show. He gave em what they asked for. He sailed through and won. Why attack Taylor? (or Ruben? Or Fantasia?) The show is what's flawed. They tell the public to vote for their favorite and that's what people do.

    Don't get me started.

  3. NeverIdle11:02 PM

    Friend, here's a more accurate review of Cook's album, should set aside his gay pals love and tender articles.

    (Not that there is anything wrong with that...)

    You're welcome. ;)

  4. jerseyirush8:05 AM

    Sunny, Noticed the same thing that Taylor always seems to get the loser name in articles. I think Taylor has done a great job in keeping his name out there and in a postive light. He has made a good carreer move with the Grease gig and now with the touring show. I also have never heard of a performer in a show giving a mini concert at the end to promote new material, the man knows how to work it for himself. His post Idol CD was not what I was expecting, but his presentation of all the material won me over. He is just a raw talent and makes it work for him. As far as promotion he will probably do what he has been doing promoting himself. Looking forward to hearing the new single and release of the CD in February 09.


  5. Anonymous12:15 PM

    Wish I could be a "loser" with a 10 story billboard of my face in Times Square. Taylor is and will be fine.

  6. Anonymous6:26 AM

    Come on now. Let's face it. In comparison to other Idols - yes Taylor Hicks is a huge loser. His win on Idol was huge and he managed to do very little with it in terms of success. So as big as his win was - that was how big his failure to succeed was. Frankly, Grease is a loser play. Sure in desperation it might sound nice, but it's not a great gig by any means. It reeks of no other options. That is if you know he's even doing Grease. He made a big splash in Grease? That's still beans compared to his 'peers' which have all surpassed him. His fan base is cougars. He got dropped from his record deal. These are not signs of a big hot shot. Can you blame the media for calling him a loser? Daughtry, Kelly, Carrie, David all of them have had way more success. Anyone hoping he's going to make some crazy comeback should not hold their breath. I don't think anyone will take the guy seriously.

  7. If this "Grease" tour doesn't help things progress in a forward manner, his goose in the entertainment field may be cooked. That said I am hoping it works for him this time out and this new record is good. I haven't ruled him out.

    Regarding fan base being cougars, hell, most of the guys coming off of Idol have that same fan type - check out the Castro/Cook boards. ha.

    Daughtry maybe has come out of this as an exception since he was quick to try and separate himself from that brand name.

    "Grease" may not be the biggest show out on the road, but it's getting good results so far in ticket sales from what I have read. It's something, it's a vehicle, a ride the guy needs to work this new venture of his.

    Thanks for your opinion, always welcome a debate, differing outlooks.

  8. Anonymous1:45 PM

    I agee, I think the only reason he's doing Grease is because he got no other offers. Although it's certainly possible to make a comeback, it does seem like such a longshot. Even Reuben and Fantasia got more critical success in the beginning than Taylor. The way he hangs on to that "Soul Patrol" nonsense feels more like a cry of desperation. Nobody wants to support a loser either. Maybe the rumors are true and he burned too many bridges.

  9. Anonymous1:43 AM

    I believe Taylor knows what he is doing. I think some of the problem is simply that Taylor has a mind of his own. He didn't let Simon or anyone else connected with Idol make decisions for him. He has never received the backing some of the other Idols have gotten from AI. He made a smart move with Grease, and has benefited from it. Taylor is a very talented musician, and has more than his fair share of charisma. No one should count him out. David Cook a big star?? I think not. Read the reviews of his new CD. They say it stinks. I'm backing Taylor, and I'm looking forward to his new CD, and much more success from him in the future.

  10. Anonymous at 1:45, here's a song about those burning bridges.

    NeverIdle, forgot to thank you for that link to the review. Hope our friend here in Dallas gets to read that... ha.

  11. Anonymous4:30 PM

    Hey sunny, well written piece, I enjoyed it.
    Taylor's never going to be finished. He is slow and steady unlike the trendy flash in the pan, here today gone tomorrow, cookie cutter "artists." While other performers become so yesterday as they move in and out of the entertainment musician mill, Taylor continues to make segway into arenas others cannot even concieve. He has vision, creativity, and stamina. When everyone else has indeed been seen coming and going, and you can't tell the difference between the Cooks and Daughtry's, Hicks will be there, standing out, being different and moving on. There is no better way to stay alive in this business than to reinvent. Taylor continues to change his approach, make himself seen at the right places, and when all is sadi and done...Taylor will still be standing, and the other Idols will be wondering how he managed to do that. Taylor is the only winner ever to come from that show. Since I don't measure winners and losers by their airplay time and their record sales, and even if industry execs do, I can honestly say that from what I have seen in that arena, he did the right thing by burning those bridges.
    He isn't scared of the future, he knows where he is heading and he knows that he is going to be around. The other winners, they are always scared, scared of becoming obsolete and scared of becoming a nobody again. They feel that way becasue they know in their heart of hearts that there success is only due to the whims of the EXECS, and if the EXECS want to cut you, they will and then where are you? Taylor is his own man, makes his own way, and no EXECS are going to determine his path, his future, or his paycheck. Everything he does is his own doing, and he isn't scared that it will be gone, he BUILT what he has, and he OWNS it. That is the true test of a winner. They own what they have, they don't rent their success.
    Make way for Taylor to continue into 2009, and beyond each and every year. he has his destiny planned, and he won't ever be turned away.