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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Taylor Hicks vs Fame Game

Taylor Hicks fans continue to evidence they have a desire and commitment in debating and discussing the guy and his career. It's a serious matter with some, a thing that keeps many defensive even and creates a divide among the remaining parties on-line that still follow his every Google alert. Now in writing that, I'm not separating myself from those who have him on the Google list; of course I read what those 'bots pick up on a daily basis.

Recently I wrote a blog about celebrity. I stuck with Taylor Hicks and my new shiny thing, Robert Pattinson, as two examples. The topic utilized the types of media celebs endure and touched on one subject near and dear to the Soul Patrol faction - whether or not Taylor is alone in his persecution on-line. It's well known by all of us who follow him, Taylor is used as the butt of many jokes in comparisons to being a 'winner' (Job Hunting Taylor Hicks Style) or a 'loser' per perception. It's interesting how many Google alerts come through with Hicks' name use him as a snarky punch-line.

Some fans agonize over whether American Idol and 19 E, a.k.a. 19 Entertainment, is to blame for Taylor Hicks not being more popular in music or achieving the acclaim they feel he deserves. At the other end of that spectrum, the fans who take the different stand and say Taylor was never meant to be 'that kind of star'. 'He's too much his own man - he won't bow down to The Man and so is right where he wants to be, he's meant to be an Indie kind of guy'. My take, Taylor's obviously making some sort of living doing what he wants rather than spend his days suited up selling real estate or hawking loans in a bank, so hell, that's success in my book.

One of the folks I enjoy on-line wrote, "Most of the Taylor’s failure, lies with him. He made a bad post-Idol cd and that was his shot. He should have been paying attention. People who saw him on Idol and voted for him were expecting a soul and blues cd. The next Michael McDonald? Perhaps the next John Mayer? Soul music has an edge to it, but instead we got corny pop ballads, 70’s/80’s music, watered down soul and a couple of Ray Charles rip-offs. Taylor did a poor job of representing himself, so then he came up with Modern Whomp and nobody, to this day, knows what the heck it is. Just not good enough. Granted, the Distance is an improvement over the TH cd, but people are not forgiving."

Harsh to some to read, but this is a knife-edged insightful take by someone unabashedly free in speaking their opinion. Consider too all the critics who blasted Taylor's first CD that came out of Idol. Granted there were a few who liked it enough to not completely kill it off but it was not what was expected from Mr. Hicks after his Idol stint.

What was expected was a compilation of edgy soulful tunes with a new twist, instead what is on the disk is what that poster wrote, largely pop-ballads no different from what's floating around the Adult Contemporary radio heard in any department store near you. Another haunting statement that arose out of that Idol CD, Mr. Hicks came out with press about changing the face of music, (he said exactly that) and he repeatedly praised that Idol CD, claiming it was a complete representation of him as an artist.

In this MSNBC interview dating December, 2006 Taylor Hicks said, "The album sounds like “modern whomp music".

“It’s like funk, soul, jazz, blues, a little bit of hip-hop beats and rhythms,” he said. “It’s Taylor Hicks’ modern take on soul music.”

I have to say that I absolutely hate when artists refer to themselves in third person.

I recall Gray Charles being gracious in his comments about the CD; he described it as 'having many layers'. At the time I read that it set my radar up that perhaps the album we avid voters from AI and new fans of Hicks might not be what we had eagerly anticipated. When the album dropped, fan reaction on Gray Charles blog was very mixed. Tensions grew and it was about then began the fall out that we have evident today within the Taylor fan base.

On the topic of Gray Charles which, for me, an inescapable and important part of my early fan Taylor memories; I was pretty new to the internet at that time and I learned so much from following Gray. Not how to run a mega-blog I will never have that, I'm not geared that way - rather reading his site. He inspired me to learn some of the more technical aspects of blogging and writing on-line that interested me. I figure that's why so many admire and think highly of Gray - he imparted different learning aspects that some of us benefited from in one way or another.

Returning to Taylor Hicks, many fans regurgitate the theory that Hicks was 'forced into' that post Idol CD and those songs - like held hostage in a darkened room without food or drink until he capitulated. For argument's sake why did he then coin the "Modern Whomp" phrase and tag the phrase to that CD, that body of music? Why did he take time to talk up "Runaround" and other songs as incorporating the Modern Whomp sound? (That was on Gray's as well.) I recall that discussion about the swamp beat, yadda yadda. I don't buy for one moment he was held at knife-point to sing those tunes and 'act' like he liked them. Hicks did refuse to put “Do I Make You Proud” on it - but there are some who think that was a big mistake. "The Distance", his new CD, while being somewhat better (no Kara DioGuardi songs for one) it still is very similar in tone to that Idol CD.

Question arose yesterday from someone I consider an on-line friend. She wrote, "I’m confused. Music Maven mentioned Tay had been with 19 management and the other day people on Grey’s said he never signed with 19 and that was why he got no support. What is the story? Did he lawyer up and refuse to sign with 19 management from the getgo? ...As far as fame and celeb I think Taylor could handle it better than most. Carrie Underwood is handling her success well and she seemed such a wallflower on AI."

In one of my earliest fan related push pieces I wrote about Taylor Hicks, 19E and American Idol Owe Taylor Hicks, I basically plead the case that the show owed him, not the other way around, for the ratings, the attention and the frenzy he had kicked up on Idol. Many folks agreed. I had a big response on blogcritics.org about that as well as it being copy-pasted on most if not all the Taylor fan sites and the A.I. Board. Sometimes I wonder if that theory may have been part of the problem concerning what happened with Hicks and the show afterwards. Not implying I had any influence at all, but rather like that poster said, perhaps Hicks did start to believe too heavily in some of his own hype.

Regarding signing with 19E, that company is associated with American Idol but reading the roster of folks signed to them, he's not on the list. I had heard there was a difference of opinion between Taylor and that organization so likely he never did hit that dotted line. I would imagine much of the dispute was over money since that is a huge contract breaker in many situations.

So to the question as to whether or not Taylor Hicks can handle Big Fame better than most who have attained it, debatable. Looking back on Hicks first foray into the potential for Big Fame I can't say he handled those people very well. I can't say that he worked the system to benefit him, but now he's having to work the system in the most feasible way open to him and his talents.

Poster Music Maven said, "It just seems like it’s the same conversation over and over and over again concerning Taylor. When does it end and people start to accept that it is what it is?"

It has to be a heavy cross to bear to be in a position like Taylor Hicks (and my new shiny thing, Pattinson); creating what they want to do and anticipating what fans want from them.


  1. Anonymous12:18 PM

    Very Interesting read Sunny. I'm going to have to re-read it later and let it digest. LOL. Even though some are disappointed with Taylor's CD's IMO they still could be on the radio. Lot's of debate about why they aren't also. Here's a little rant I sent to a survey that asked "How radio could be improved." I think you'll get a kick out of it Sunny.


    How to make radio better? Well, I could write a thesis but to be quick: I would have more variety. I get sick of hearing the same 10 songs over and over. You say there are more than 10? OH , Well it's hard to tell since they all sound like the same computer generated music. Market research has killed radio much the same way computer inventory has killed retail stores. The computer tells them to cut back on size wide shoes and then when that stock is gone the computer never knows how many people keep asking for wide shoes because the store is out and they don't keep track of requests only sales. SO GUESS WHAT now the computer tells them there are no sales for wide shoes so no need to stock them. It takes a human being to figure out that wide shoes aren't selling because they have NO WIDE SHOES to sell. Unfortunately, the only Human Being with a brain was fired so there is no longer anyone at the store who knows what is going on. Only stockholders and the suits are left to scratch their brains wondering what happened to all the people with wide feet.

  2. I don't know what to say. Taylor always gives a smile and puts a postiive spin on everything, so I doubt we'll hear from him what happened. Unless sometime down the road he's legally able to talk about it. Now, there's a book! cha-ching!

    I feel myself backing off a bit on the whole Taylor thing and don't feel able to fully comment here. Not that I'm no longer a fan. I'm just not as interested in reading every new article or watching every new video. I find myself deleting those google alerts lately.

    I'm with the Maven. It is what it is.

  3. I think Caryl that's interesting considering you just opened Taylor Tuesday. I tend to think you're in the increasing majority as I'm noticing other blogs with less and less commentary. A lot of the regulars have seemingly moved on to other interests. This blog just popped into my head after Rosie and Maven's responses.

    I'm not that wild about all the news either just deleted a number of alerts that I knew did not have much to say different. The googled stories so much of the time are entertainment writers just copying each other anyway.

    Dee, it's so true about the radio - especially the Clear channel stations, they constantly are playing the same songs.

  4. Yeah, I know, I just started that Taylor Tuesday thing. I did that mostly because I needed to separate the Taylor stuff from the personal stuff that I blog about. I was actually getting complaints from friends and family about the Taylor stuff. (Ouch!) They said they did'nt want to have to wade through it to get to my personal stories.

    But, that's why I only write something new once a week. I'm a fan of Taylor's and I enjoy writing about him, but I don't have enough to say to do it more than on Tuesdays.

    Sorry that I went way off topic!

  5. jerseyirish2:37 PM

    Sunny, Like you have read alot about what could have gone down between Taylor and Idol. The only thing I hold against Idol is once his CD dropped all promotion and radio play were non exsistent he was on his own. Although his post Idol CD was not what I was expecting I did love it, could hear his soulful growl in most songs. I always felt when he made the statement "it was a complete representation of him as an artists" he was actually saying a representation of what Idol would allow him to produce. I don't think any of the winners have artistic freedom everything they do has to be pre-approved by the forces that be. Taylor just didn't fit the mold of what they wanted "their American Idol" to be. I am sure he bucked them every step of the way.

    I think the "Modern Whomp" is just a reflection through his eyes of what he wants to be seen as. The new TD shows that with all the different genres and styles.

    Did Taylor make some mistakes, yeah I think so, but I believe he has grown in the past three years. My dear old Dad used to say to us "from each experience in life you take something whether it is positive or negative and you grow as a person". I beleive Taylor has grown and gained more knowledge over the past three years, is he in a better place then he was pre-Idol, yes he is, I think it is called sucess.

    Went and read your blog from May 06 you saw what might be coming down the road for Taylor, it was a very well written piece.


  6. Wow, Sunny. DAMN good post.

    I, too, have often thought of when the "Taylor Hicks" CD debuted on Gray's site (remember how we heard just a few seconds or so of a few tracks?!?) Gray was so "diplomatic", and I've often wondered what he REALLY thought of that CD. As for me, I just had such high hopes, and I think I learned to like it, the CD "grew" on me. Honestly, I feel the same way about this latest CD.
    I'm just waiting for his music to inspire me, to make me feel something ... something joyful, something heartbreaking. And I do feel that in IAOK, and Nineteen... but, but... I don't know. I wonder if for me, and others, is it too little, too late? I know my expectations have dropped... or, are they just more realistic?

    Profound statement re: heavy crosses to bear.

    Like I said, my friend... DAMN good post!

  7. littlewing10:08 PM

    Yeah, well put together commentary Sunny with lots to ponder.

    I think Modern Whomp was Taylor trying to put a positive spin on the new music...Lord only knows what pressure he was under. Even tho I feel he tried to inject his influenes of swamp, funk, blues, etc., into TH, sadly these elements were devoid on the cd.

    GC was my first blog too and a great blog it was. Idol Blues was on my fave list too, just chock full of good music and articles, but my 'ol computer was too slow to enjoy it all.

    MM is right, it is what it is, and there's not much more analysis to be done (tho it's not going to stop). Thank goodness that on The Distance, that old style from the early days is back and that's really all I needed. With "Yes We Can", we got finally got the funk that was promised the first time around. Yay! I feel like I can sort of relax a little now..he's gonna be OK I do believe.

  8. rocksoliddlm2:41 AM

    I was in the car today listening to the new cd - I had to ask my sister why he isn't more popular - I don't get it. He is a fine musician, a very nice singer, good little dancer (ha ha), puts on a give it all show and has the looks of movie star .. so what's up? I don't watch american idol anymore - it's just boring.. It's sort of run it's course. I miss that one great season 6(for me anyhow. I think Taylor would have been better off not winning. If he had lost he wouldn't have had the "pressure" of that, the jokes that people such as Justin boyband Timberlake made about him, the obvious dislike and worse that Simon Cowell targeted at him .. Taylor is someone I will always be interested in - will buy his music and see his shows, but he may never get over winning that show .. They really hate to even flash his picture - that has to be difficult for him... Well, he keeps plugging along and his life is probsbly a lot easier - He brings a smile to my face - so that's good.

  9. rocksoliddlm2:43 AM

    oops - above should have read season 5 - sorry!
    probably other typo's - not the best typist!

  10. Thanks for voicing your positive opinion rocksoliddlm.

    Off this new CD I like the IAofK song, Maybe You Should, as well as Hide Nor Hair - two other good ones, Seven Mile Breakdown and I Live on a Battlefield.

    It's really ridiculous how he's treated by the show, but once Simon and co. are unhappy with a contestant that's the way it is I guess forever.

    Hicks was the best contestant the show has ever had, truly was an underdog so to speak and just kept it coming. The on-line campaign also remains unrivaled. He is almost heroic to me how he just keeps on keeping on. Perhaps that is my problem sometimes.

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