Tuned In

American Idol Fails to Tinker with Taylor

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There have been several insinuations over the years that the voting on American Idol is rigged. If it is, we learned last night that it is not rigged nearly well enough, as America chose to vote leather-lunged rocker Chris Daughtry–long pegged as a favorite to win–off the show.

I’m not crying for Daughtry, who (1) got spectacular exposure and (2) despite his heavy-metal pipes, was not much fun. At his best with hyperearnest Creed-style rock numbers, he couldn’t deliver a song that required the least bit of funk or humor, as he proved on Tuesday’s Elvis night with a couple of plodding numbers including a dirgelike rendition of A Little Less Conversation.

I do cry, however, for the producers, who have probably lost the only remaining contestant who could deliver them a saleable album. Elliott Yamin can sing, all right, but while he had a good Tuesday and he always impresses the judges, his technical ability is probably lost on the 99% of Americans who are not professional vocal coaches. Katharine McPhee also has the pipes and beauty-queen looks, but she doesn’t have the personality or physical coordination to put over a performance, the charisma to win over a big pop audience, or the willingness to dress slutty enough to compensate for either from an album-sales standpoint.

And then there’s Taylor Hicks. Oh, God, Taylor Hicks, who now appears to have the win sewn up barring the discovery of a previous heroin-dealing conviction. Look, I’ll admit the guy is a hoot to watch. And who won’t root, on a relentlessly youth-themed talent search, for a guy we all suspect is secretly 47 years old? But once the season’s over and the speed-dialers turn off their cellies, where is the CD market for a Michael McDonald cum Wayne Newton throwback whose specialty is cornball story songs like "Levon" and "In the Ghetto"? Do they just permanently book him in Vegas? Or do they just release his first single–I’m guessing a cover of "Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast"–and cross their fingers?

At this point it seems to be out of the producers’ hands, if you believe dialidol.com. The website, which has predicted or near-predicted most of this seasons’ ejectees, based on phone-calling patterns across the country, has rated Hicks number one week after week.

Why? Let’s see. He’s defiantly unhip. He’s couldn’t care less about impressing the country’s tastemakers. And he evidently has a massive, silent-majority corps of supporters out there who come out of the woodwork to vote for him, uncritically, time after time, whether he’s had a great week or an absolutely lousy week.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Taylor Hicks: the George W. Bush of reality television.