Think about it. When Taylor Hicks vied for the crown on Season Five of Fox’s American Idol, contestants weren’t allowed to use instruments on stage, nonetheless be a less-than-the-norm “pop” idol. Rules were set in impenetrable stone, and structure was there to bring about a cookie cutter, easy-to-digest Top Ten charting singer. That’s about all that the Powers That Be were looking for.
And when Taylor Hicks continued to go through, round after round after round, and he made it very clear that he wouldn’t bow to the traditional conventions, it appeared that the judging panel became uncomfortable with him. There was a considerable amount of press that began to circulate, stating that Taylor Hicks couldn’t possibly win because his musical style was just too . . . out there. Hicks was unconventional, not quite a rocker and not quite a soul singer, but certainly in no way a vanilla-sounding pop singer. Frankly, he just didn’t fit into any preconceived molds, and that was a real problem.
It was a real problem because mass entertainment is and almost always has been geared towards a very middle-of-the-road audience. A show like American Idol was originally meant to pump out the same sort of artist year after year, with the only major change being either the sex of the winner, or the sex and the race of the winner, or—Heaven forbid—maybe really mess it all up and put an almost-country singer into the mix.
Still Taylor just wouldn’t give up. He wasn’t listening to the naysayers, all those who were certain he was too much of an oddball for the entertainment industry to take notice of him . . . to let him have that amazing chance to stand in the spotlight and—win. It could be just as much that Taylor simply touched a place inside those who continued to support him, that place where so many of us decide we’ve had enough of being herded around, and want to actually make a collective decision that veers in a new and more exciting direction.
Whether it was Taylor’s talent alone, or a large groundswell of supporters that couldn’t get enough of his just-barely-there maverick attitude and scratchy soulful voice, Taylor Hicks did win. Chances are, it was a combination. There are, thankfully, times when the public manages to hoodwink the well-organized and seemingly foolproof plans of those who think they hold the reins of societal response. The plan is to have it all neatly tied up and fit together before those of us who are supposedly making the decisions know our own minds. The thing is, though, that with Taylor, the tables were turned. Not everyone listened, and the “Soul Patrol” took control.
Which brings this full-circle to Adam Lambert. Unless there’s an upset of all upsets, we will find out on Wednesday, May 20, 2009, that Adam has won this year’s American Idol. It’s nearly a given that Adam wouldn’t have had a chance a few years ago. He’s a hard-rocking, off-the-wall-dressing, and outrageously talented performer who simply has no mold. There isn’t even a slight leaning towards center for this young man. That he’s extraordinarily gifted on stage is unquestionable; still, his persona and, more importantly, his type of music would never have cut it prior to Taylor upsetting the oh-so-traditional apple cart. It just wouldn’t have been given a chance.
To this day, there are Taylor Hicks detractors who undermine his style, a style that while it is comparable to some legends of yesteryear, has not yet been copied. Yet Adam has been pegged almost from Day One as this year’s winner, and his “uniqueness” is applauded weekly by those very same judges who derided that quality in Taylor Hicks.
Without Taylor, though, Adam wouldn’t be getting ready to take over the reins for the next, and possibly the last, American Idol year on our TVs. That is something for which he can thank Taylor Hicks. Taylor was the original who braved that, “I’m different than all the rest of you” front—and won in spite of it.