Taylor Hicks, Winner or Loser? Refer to the Press

November 18, 2008

The American Idol winner nobody would want to be? Is the name, Taylor Hicks, destined to wind up as the moniker meaning loser even though he won season five of that karaoke reality show? Is that all that “Taylor Hicks” will bring to mind when the time passes and this reality show karaoke contest rolls on, the guy who won yet really lost in the long haul?

Article after article concerning the show reflect a negative view of the guy. The past few days has seen local Dallas entertainment writer, Preston Jones, throwing out Hicks’ name adding yet more negative references. Friday, November 14, Jones wrote, as he talked up David Cook’s new album, “Most other male contestants — Taylor Hicks, where have you gone? — have slipped almost completely out of the public consciousness.”. Then again today I read that Jones includes Hicks in yet another piece about the new David Cook album – certainly he must be a fan. Jones writes,  “…forming an identity while being careful not to, well, end up like season five victor Hicks. It’s not for nothing Cook only name-checks the most visible Idol offspring.”. David Cook had made references to Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken.

Preston Jones is just one of the many writers in entertainment writing land who utilize Taylor Hicks’ name as a scapegoat example of what not to shoot for should you land on Idol. Hicks’ name is often cited synonymous with failure at your shot at fame and success. A large part of the articles that come across the internet seem to enjoy mentioning Taylor Hicks’ name as the butt of a joke, a reference for being a ‘flash in the pan’ or plain old ‘loser’.

Interesting that sales of a reported 800,000 are seen as being a bad thing. Considering the music industry pitfalls today, the change from plastic purchases in favor of on-line iPod, iTunes buys; include the internet savvy who find their way around actually purchasing any music and download illegally for free, it’s not an embarrassing number.

I’m guessing since Taylor won with as much flair as he did, combined with as much support as he had, hell, he made David Hasselhoff cry like a little girl; sales less than double platinum equal failure in the eyes of many including reviewers and especially the show’s Money Men. Too the CD Hicks released after his win did nothing to further the image he came to represent on the show. He came out as a Ray Charles/Joe Cocker kind of performer and issued a riddled with plastic Pop oriented CD. Most of the folks who loved that album were not all in it for the music, instead mainly fans of the show, then became fans of the man. Of course there are some exceptions to that statement.

Finally, after a two year span, Taylor Hicks released his compilation CD of his songs recorded prior to the show, called “Early Works”. Since it had been so long since Hicks hit the Idol stage and so many articles have passed hailing him as that ‘Winner who wound up Losing’, “Early Works” sales were less than notable. Along with the release of that pre-Idol CD, Taylor has issued statements he’s finally releasing “Whomp at the Warfield” filmed in the San Francisco theater, previously aired on HDNET and AOL television in October, 2007. Add to this news, he’s readying a new CD, promised to be available early February, 2009.

Most artists with new albums due out start spinning a song or two from the offering well in advance of the record coming out, make one of those promotional little music videos. Hicks never made a video for his eponymous Idol release, the folks with the show obviously were just not that into marketing the record or the man. Doubtful he’ll make a video for this new body of work either.

That said, it may be unnecessary since Hicks has worked out a marketing plan that loosely resembles a national video campaign; instead of filming the single, he’s performing it live. Hicks as his followers know, had a role as the Teen Angel in the Broadway production of “Grease” this past Summer.  The guy enjoyed positive press and made a favorable impression on the show’s producers. He’s been asked to resume that role in a national touring production of the show. Mr. Hicks has planned with the touring production management to perform a single from this upcoming CD following the show. Details on how this will unfold are not public yet, likely won’t be known until that first show debuts December 02 in Providence, Rhode Island. Telling point in all of this, how marketing his music may work within this type of environment as well as how reviewers and writer’s in the various local markets view and cover him and this novel approach.

Taylor Hicks is obviously not afraid to jump in with both feet as evidenced in 2005 when he first entered the Idol auditions. He broke show molds with his brazen difference from his hair color to his harmonica walk breaking the top 24, Hollywood Week.

The skeptics accused Hicks as purely acting a role, during the show and since – really to a degree, he was. Taylor worked to market himself apart from the usual show contestant which ultimately worked in his favor. Now again, Taylor Hicks is working to market himself in a different way, set himself apart from the norm once again. This is the first time a national theater touring production will feature their starring draw in a way not associated with the show itself. What should be noted is the man is still as open to the new, the novel approach, as he was when he went for it on that reality show. What will remain to be seen is if he will generate interest, draw in and affect any critics, reviewers or entertainment writers to see him as more than that Idol Winner who ultimately lost.

I’m not claiming any objective stance regarding Taylor Hicks, I’ve rooted for him in my way since he first caught my attention in January 2006, continue to do so. Here’s hoping that this man, told by Simon Cowell in 2006 he’d never win the show, then did, now being written up by so many critics as that guy who should never have won, finds his way.
“Winning” Santana


Taylor Hicks, Lady Compromise vs Opportunity

November 4, 2008

Taylor Hicks’ blogger, Caryl, posted on her Taylor Tuesday blog the subject of Taylor and the payola theory regarding radio play. Caryl brings up the fact that if record execs don’t like you they likely will not promote you. That theory of thought can be put into about any work market or artistic field.

Consider this, you’re working for a Boss you’re not especially fond of and perhaps  that feeling is mutual. How will that parlay for you in the area of raises, promotions, that nice office you’re coveting? Think this will be a fruitful work environment to remain in? Think that no matter how great you do your job you’ll be as successful than if you were placed in a more positive, for you, setting? Chances are, most folks put within that environment would move on, get another job.

In art and in writing, key to getting shows, getting published, is having an agent who believes in you. Importantly they have to ‘dig’ you as a person, and consider you profitable and worthy of their time and energy. Sadly sometimes folks wind up with one of those agents who really should be selling time shares or multi-level marketing schemes; they may blow smoke up your skirt or pant suit but they won’t do you any good. Finding yourself in a position of not getting those great promotional shows or seeing that literary tome sitting on a desk collecting lint – you could point your finger at that salesman posing as an agent – place blame – or you could move on. Continue that search for someone with whom you are more copacetic with, who understands you.

It takes more than that, of course, to succeed, there’s that body of work that is yours, that is a part of you to consider as well. Is it really good? Also to consider, that part within the artist that helps develop that body of work; protects it. That part is named, ‘Ego’.  It’s one of the parts of being human, it can be a huge negative quality, but also a big asset. Some of us carry around more than our share, some earned, some imaginary. (Those pesky voices in our heads.)

You will find it a rare, rare thing to wind up with someone in a position of power who can make or break you (or at least slow you down) with whom you have perfect affinity for and share complete agreement. Compromise is the key we all need learn to succeed. The delicate balancing rod we may find ourselves treading upon is balancing that ego, with your art.

You may say, ‘I’ll do it alone, my way, like ol’ Frank Sinatra’! I say good luck and I hope you have massive pockets to fund your regular life and your art promotion. I had an artist friend who is as gifted as they get. He could paint images on the sides of buildings with such imagination and creative perspective. He was absolutely brilliant with any media, any topic. Great sci-fi work and realism. Sadly, Isaac had a rough road to hoe. He’d give up time after time when things would fall through that would give him that great break, get his talent out there in the public popular eye where he belonged. Isaac repeatedly fell within that negative area of allowing ego and pride outweigh the benefits of that difficult Lady Compromise.

It sounds very romantic, taking a stand for your artistry, it’s noble sounding rhetoric. Problem is, work can suffer for want of a compromise. An artist of any genre needs to come to terms with placing their art above their ego. Not an easy task.

As I wrote on Caryl’s sweet blog, I’m not accusing Taylor Hicks with possibly putting ego over his music, I have no idea what went down behind those closed doors between he and Clive and 19E. That said, obviously something went wrong – two sides to every coin. Blaming old man Clive for the ills that befell Hicks with his CD failing to muster up to the potential – for the lack of airplay – is an easy and satisfying thing. I don’t think it’s that simple to just point the finger at Clive.

Importantly, there is a big difference between Taylor Hicks’ pre-Idol material and what landed on the CD. I’m not saying anything negative here, there are many fans who enjoy all of his work, including that CD, I have no problem with that. I am saying there’s a difference. I’ve regarded that eponymous CD as perhaps some experiment that just did not take off, can’t win them all. I must add, sales of almost 800,000 isn’t anything to feel badly about.

What Mr. Hicks’ has lacked is that critical acclaim, positive music reviews and consideration. That falls back on perhaps that theory of what happens when your Boss doesn’t like you. Regarding Caryl’s discussion of the payola situation and airplay, what this boils down to, that issue of making it work, at work. Realistic compromise for the sake of saving your art, sometimes the sacrifice you need make. (Again, I will stress this is simply my opinion, I naturally have no idea what really went down behind boardroom doors.)

Taylor Hicks is about pull a Sinatra by opening the door to Opportunity that came knocking. Anyone following Taylor Hicks knows I’m writing about his jumping on board with the National tour of “Grease”. It’s not often you’re provided wide exposure with multiple chances to get your voice heard as an artist. This time I’m thinking things might play out quite differently for Mr. Hicks. Taylor’s perhaps learned a lesson about parrying with Lady Compromise; riding that “Grease” vehicle part of the compromise, gaining him yet another Opportunity.

“Opportunity” Pete Murray, John Mayer