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Opinion: How Taylor Hicks Ruined American Idol

It has been ten years since the very first season of American Idol premiered on the Fox network. At the beginning it was a small singing competition with an unproven track record. While the show has had its hits and misses, stars like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jordin Sparks and Chris Daughtry have given legitimacy to a television show aimed at music fans. While sales for the shows largest artists have been massive, there is a glaring scar on the face of the American Idol franchise. His name is Taylor Hicks. This isn’t just personal, there are clear numbers to back it up.

Taylor Hicks won season five of American Idol, beating out Kellie Pickler, Katharine McPhee and one of the most successful Idols ever, Chris Daughtry, who finished that season in fourth place. The very first thing to look at is what happened before season five. Season four featured Carrie Underwood as the winner. Up until that time, this was the highest television rating the show had ever accomplished with over 27 million people tuning in throughout the season. Underwood went on to sell seven million copies of her debut album “Some Hearts,” still the most in American Idol history.

Coming off their best season to date, (Underwood outsold Kelly Clarkson’s debut album by 4.3 million copies) season five was poised for big ratings, driven by the country sensations win in season four. Looking back at the ten year mark, season five (Taylor Hicks winning year) would remain the highest rated year ever achieved by Idol with over 31 million viewers. Unfortunately for American Idol, the millions of people tuning in each week were shocked and disappointed when Hicks, a 29 year old, grey haired singer who catered to the oldest part of Idols audience beat out two country stars and a future rock superstar to win it all.

Aside from being the oldest American Idol winner (a record that still stands), he sold less than 1 million copies of his self titled debut album. To put this in perspective, Daughtry’s debut sold 4.7 million copies and Pickler’s album sold nearly 0.9 million copies. How was it possible that Idol had its largest television audience to date while selling less than previous winners Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino and the aforementioned Underwood? The answer was Hicks. The geriatrics that voted for Hicks were unable to make it out of their retirement homes to purchase the album and let’s face it, after a string of winners in their early 20′s, Idol was no place for a singer pushing 30.

Up until these last two seasons (seasons 8 & 9), Hicks had the lowest selling album in American Idol history. Even these numbers are slightly skewed. The drastic drop in overall record sales during the years Kris Allen and Lee Dewyze won, could be viewed as the major contributor to this drop in sales. All of this math leaves us wondering. What if Chris Daughtry had won? What if the millions of viewers tuning in had seen country sweethearts Kellie Pickler or Katharine McPhee win it all? In the end, Hicks owns a few major Idol milestones.

He won the highest rated season of Idol to date and has become one of the least successful winners ever. With minor stints on Broadway, in non-leading roles, he is currently pushing his second album “The Distance” which has sold a dismal 52,000 copies. For someone who once performed weekly in front of over 31 million people, this is simply unacceptable. Hicks ruined American Idol and will always be remembered for ruining the credibility of one of the best reality television shows in Fox’s history. RIP American Idol.

(some statistics were taken from Billboard Magazine, “The Wild Man of Idol” written by Bill Werde, January 22, 2011)

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104 Legacy Comments

  • Comment by Betty Sheppard posted July 23, 2013 at 16:12

    I totally disagree with you. Taylor is the reason why Season 5 of AI is considered the most popular and entertaining season of AI. I agree that Chris Daughtry, Kellie Pickler, Elliot Yamine and Katherine McPhee are all very talented. Katherine is a beautiful girl and should strive to be another Cindy Crawford or Christie Brinkley. Sadly, for Chris Daughtry was let down by his fans who became too complacent to vote. On the other hand, Taylor’s fans were so excited about this georgous man who could sweep any female off their feet and sing any type of song put in front of him. People who had never been motivated to vote, voted by the millions for this sincere, talented good looking and charming specimen of a man. He had that something adults could relate to and love about him.I went to all his initial concerts that came to my state. Once he got out from AI’s thumb, he has been very successful. He is nearing the end of a two year contract with Caesar’s Palace, appearing at both the Paris Hotel and Bally’s. Most recently he has been appearing at other Caesar’s properties, including Harrah’s in Reno,Atlantic City and many more to come. All of his shows have been sold out. He has been on the cover of “Las Vegas” magazine as the hottest show in Las Vegas, etc. and etc. I live in Texas and I have been to Houston, Ft. Worth, 2 different cities in New York. to Las Vegas twice, Laughlin, Nevada, Austin, Texas, Birmingham, Alabama, Dallas, Texas, etc. You may not be aware of how many true fans he has all over the US, plus Canada and other countries. I know of one fan from North Carolina who has seen him in person over 150 times. No, she is not a stalker. She respects his privacy in every way and simply loves his music and the respect and appreciation he gives to his many fans. He did not cause AI’s ratings to go down. Their problem is not finding the right combination of judges, since Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul left. Also, he is friends with Simon, as well as Randy Jackson. Taylor proudly wears a diamond watch given to him by Randy Jackson, from his personal line of superb fine jewelry. Taylor has shared with us that Simon is the one who advised him to sing “In the Ghetto” on AI during “Elvis” weeksung by the late and great “Elvis”. On AI, it appeared that Simon disliked Taylor’s style and choice of music. That was all an act. He actually liked him very much and they stay in touch to this day. Many celebrities have been to his shows in Vegas and have made very positive comments about his performances. AI managed to blackball him from all radio stations in the US and they would not play his music. Wait and see, that will come to an end very shortly. As you can tell, I am an avid fan and always be. There are many other artists I like very much, such as Toby Keith, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood,Chris Daughtry,Garth Brooks, Ronnie Dunn,Kix Brooks, George Strait,Alan Jackson,etc. As you can tell, I am a fan of country music and Taylor will be releasing a country CD very shortly. He will draw even more true fans who will hear and appreciate his down to earth and true talent. His music comes from his heart and soul. That will be seen in a short time. I will always be a proud member of the Soul Patrol. Thank you for giving me this chance to express some of my feelings. Sincerely and best regards, Betty Sheppard

  • Comment by Brenda Hadsock posted July 23, 2013 at 17:11

    What????? Unsuccessful, I disagree with you! I have followed Mr. Hicks for seven years now attending his concerts, attending Broadway shows, and now his performances for Caesar’s Properties. I have been to Vegas multiple times just to attend his performances and he’s his shows sold out. He has been featured on the cover of “Las Vegas” magizine as the “hottest show in Las Vegas”. In all performances he is rated #1 singer, musician, and actor. He is caring and cares about his fans. I am proud to still be a part of the Soul Patrol after all these years! I could go on and on about Mr. Hicks but your opinion is yours, not mine. AI has failed due to Simon and Paula leaving the show. Thank you for an opportunity to express my opinion.

  • Comment by karen cornelius posted August 03, 2013 at 02:39

    Dear heavens people, that’s giving a lot of credit to one man being able to single handedly destroy American Idol. The last I heard and watched it is still going. If Fantasia Barrino and Reubin Studdard didn’t destroy it (and they were young) don’t blame Taylor. Taylor sang with great passion and was a good entertainer and had a good voice. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Yes and I bought several of his CD’S, and no I’m not in the nursing home.:-)