Anyone who has watched American Idol through the years knows the show’s clear winners: Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry. Those are the big four—the performers who have sold the most records, appeared in the most films, garnered the most trophies and earned the highest salaries. Sure, folks like Jordin Sparks and Fantasia Barrino have done well. But when it comes to unambiguous entertainment dominance, there are the haves and the sorta haves.
And the have nots.
In the Lord’s year of 2006, a man named Taylor Reuben Hicks somehow won the fifth season of Idol. He had gray hair and a bubbly personality, and while his voice was just, well, sorta OK, people seemed to fall in love with his exuberance. Hicks didn’t merely shout—he hollered. He didn’t merely celebrate—he jumped up and down, whooped and yelped, blathered on and on and on about the so-called “Soul Patrol.” It was the sort of act that plays well in very small doses—Hicks’ Idol persona was the sports equivalent of Mark Gastineau’s sack dance for the New York Jets in the mid-1980s. Fun and cool for a tad, but inevitably irksome.
I digress—Hicks won, but he was—even at the time—clearly outclassed. Daughtry, easily the most talented of the bunch, was voted out. As was Kellie Pickler, a perky little country singer. And Elliott Yamin, a funny looking kid with great pipes. And Katharine McPhee—tall, beautiful, lark-voiced.
Fast forward to modern times. Yamin scored a radio hit with Wait for You. Pickler’s album, Small Town Girl, has sold almost 1 million copies. Daughtry, of course, is a mainstream monster (admittedly, I sorta wish he’d go away). And now—as if we need be reminded again how little Hicks has done as a pro—McPhee (the Season 5 runner-up) is all over the place. NBC has placed the weight of its heavily hyped series, Smash, upon her shoulders—the commercials run 1,000 times a day, and the debut episode comes after the Super Bowl.
And what of Hicks? His New Year’s message, played above and featured on his website, has been viewed 557 times. Arista released his first album, it bombed, then he was dumped from the label. He’s put out a bunch of other songs, greeted by the sounds of silence. He played “Teen Angel” is the touring production of Grease.
Which is to say, well, he’s done fine. OK. Decently. His career was definitely better served by Idol, by how does it feel, knowing what others have done?
I don’t know.