The Taylor Factor…How Hicks Has Changed My American Idol Expectations


So auditions have begun for Season 6 of American Idol and I have one big, fat, juicy question…how in the hell do you top Taylor Hicks?

Now, I know that not everyone loves Taylor’s singing (bite me, Justin Timberlake), but I don’t think anyone can deny the appeal the guy has across the nationworld.

And for those who have frantically tracked the Silver Fox during the past seven months…we know all too well what the rest of the world is learning quickly…Hicks is a dynamo, who knows what he wants to do…and dammit…he’s gonna do it.

Whether he’s playing guitar at the WorkPlay with his original band members or wailing on the harp at an Idols concert…Taylor remains true to himself as an artist and, it seems, as a person. Winning Idol may have opened up avenues for him to perform with Snoop Dogg or, possibly, collaborate with Michael McDonald and others in the studio…but it hasn’t kept him from singing the songs he’s written and put his heart into over the last 10 years…it hasn’t kept him from showing graciousness to his fellow performers on and off stage…and it hasn’t even kept him from making late night runs to the Waffle House or playing football in coliseum parking lots.

Taylor Hicks has given the American Idol title a heartbeat and a validity that, up til now, was lacking. The only other person who comes close to having a soulful sound, in my opinion, is Kelly Clarkson…but though her voice is spot on in pitch and range and inflexion…she lacks the energy and life and zeal that Hicks exudes with just one of his smoldering looks.

From the moment he opened his mouth to sing “I was born by the river…in a little tent”…to his famed harmonica walk at end of Hollywood rounds…to his earnest “Soul Patrooooooool” after being declared the Season 5 Idol…Taylor Hicks remained Taylor Hicks…and it’s that originality that is sorely lacking from today’s pop music…the same pop music that American Idol has groomed contestants for since day one.

Maybe it was being nearly 30 years old…or maybe it was the 10 years of crappy gigs and low pay…or maybe Taylor is the Samson of the millineum and all his power is in his gray hair…that’s why he wouldn’t dye it. But whatever it was that kept Taylor from stepping into the AI mold and then going on to smash that mold into 1,000 pieces…it worked.

From his dance to his song choices to his dress to his quirkiness, Taylor’s charisma just worked…and he’s got America (especially the Soul Patrol) wanting more.

Sure he can sing and he’s a tremendously talented entertainer but Taylor’s also got that aww shucks demeanor that lets him get away with smokin’, cussin’, drinkin’, and lustin’ after tall blondes. We’ve learned that Taylor ain’t a saint…but we’ve also learned that he’s not quite a bad boy either. He’s an enigma…a great guy who’s got just enough of a dark side and oddball nature to make him drive-the-girls-wild intriguing. And I think it’s this enigmatic charisma that has allowed him to get away with so much with the powers that be during the show and since the finale (side gigs with LMBO…denouncing his record release date…doing his own thing in the actual friggin’ America Idol show).

Plus, the American Idol machine isn’t stupid. It knows how to bend like a reed in the wind…especially when it’s making major moola. Already changes have begun. In early August, AI announced that it’s expanding its contest to include a search for song writers (thanks NOLAgirl for the heads up).

And I won’t be surprised if other changes take place this year.

I think Hicks (whether Simon Cowell wants to admit it or not) has upped the ante. I think the judges…but more importantly…the American public…are expecting more from here on out.

They will want someone to believe in…who will entertain…who can write/create music…who can kick ass on a cool instrument…who has done some living…who has experienced heartbreak as well as joy…who is a true artist.

And for me…more than perfect notes and head-spinning vocal runs…I want an American Idol to be able to rip my heart out, tear it to pieces, mend it, and put it back again…cause that’s what Taylor did…and continues to do.

I can’t imagine anyone topping him…best of luck to all the contestants…they’re gonna need it.


25 Responses to “The Taylor Factor…How Hicks Has Changed My American Idol Expectations”

  1. Staci Says:

    Don’t mock me, please, but I have to put Fantasia on the list behind Tay if you’re looking for folks who have lived. [Scary confession alert] I watched her biopic on Lifetime last night (head sinks in self-shame for admitting watching the “chick network”). She may not have the “best” background, but she’s got spunk and, most importantly, she knows where she’s been and she’s thankful for where she is.

    I think I’m seeing a cheesey AI movie in the make… From Taylor to Fantasia… πŸ™‚ Not really, but I think a duet could be interesting. They both have soul.

  2. TALK! Says:

    You know, Staci, I really thought about Fantasia when I wrote this post..but I purposefully didn’t list her because, personally, I just don’t like her sound. Yeah she’s lived (a lot) but I don’t think it translates into her vocals. Now, that opinion is purely based on hearing just a few songs from her…including “Summertime” which really did blow me away…but from all of the other stuff I’ve heard from her…I just don’t get it.

    But you’re right…she is a scrappy! πŸ˜‰

    Maybe there is something to be said about the fact that America chooses polar opposites from one year to the next.

    Kelly – a wailin’ white girl with funk

    Ruben – a gospel-driven crooner

    Fantasia – a spunky woman with history

    Carrie – a whitebread country girl

    Taylor – a wild soulful guy who kicks ass

    Maybe this means that this year we’ll get a gay Hispanic singer who performs only opera.

  3. bamaborntxbred Says:

    I’m verrry curious about what AI dishes up this year. Just like Taylor knew AI wasn’t ready for him until he saw Bo’s success…just think of the gems out there that can see doors opening b/c of what Taylor did. This year may be a transition year…kind of like season 2 was, but I predict the next couple of years are gonna be really good.

    Still, no one will ever come close to the genius that is Taylor Hicks! The charisma, charm, soul, humor, sexy sexiness…he has it all!

  4. TALK! Says:

    Great point, Bama. I didn’t think of it from the angle of the musicians who will come out of the shadows now that they’ve seen that a real musician can make Idol work for them!

    Brilliant…as always.

    (And, yes, no one will be worth a helicopter chase like our Taylor.)

  5. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Well, I am freakishly smart. I didn’t want to have to say it myself…but since you pointed it out. πŸ˜‰

    I hope AI is “open” to new (or old, like soul) styles of musicians. Taylor took them by surprise. They might be more savvy this year.

    Helicopter is for Taylor stalking only.

  6. TALK! Says:

    You’re so smart that I’ll bet you used your wiles (sp?) on me to GET me to say you were brilliant so you wouldn’t have to.

    friggin’ genius.

    From now on I call you…MENSABama.

  7. bamaborntxbred Says:

    I’m so smart that I knew before you said I was a genius, that you were gonna say I was a genius.

    You call me MENSABama, and I’ll call you MiyagiTalk! You are still my teacher.

    Another one of my extraordinary traits is that I am extremely humble…

  8. TALK! Says:

    You’re a humble brilliant genius AND you can fly a helicopter…you ARE a Fembot!

  9. bamaborntxbred Says:

    A Fembot on a mission for my very own Monkbot…and as far as I know, there is only one Monkbot in existence. My powers, combined with my dazzling beauty and my Wonder Woman tin foil bracelets should get me what I want. (Oooh, maybe we should have an invisible helicopter!)

    There will be some kid that wins AI this year that will have two chicks on a blog next year talking nonsense just b/c of him…sigh…

  10. TALK! Says:

    Nonsense? WTF are you talking about?

    And you can’t call Taylor a kid! He’s close enough to our age to be called a friggin’ adult! πŸ˜‰

    And hell yeah on the invisible chopper! Plus we’ll have to use our diabolical genius to devise a human duplification machine so we can each have a Monkbot.

    Viva le Monkbot!

  11. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Umm…the comment on the kid and the nonsense was just a random thought that crossed my mind. Compleeetly unrelated to what we got goin’ on here. Umm, yeah. And I’m just imagining the next AI winner as a young person…not a mature manly, man like our man.

    I’m one step ahead of you on the duplification machine. I’m devising a schematic in my garage that includes a formula for us where we can actually be in two places at once. So we can still show up at work, while we are also cuddling with our Monkbots in the invisible chopper.

  12. TALK! Says:


    Schematic was the secret word of the day.


    MMMmmmmm…now fantasizing about cuddling with my very own Monkbot.

  13. bamaborntxbred Says:

    What do I win for guessing the secret word?

    I was trying to remember what Doc called his “invention” in Back To The Future that made the car a time machine. That movie was rad.

  14. TALK! Says:

    Official Secret Word of the Day Prize


    Flux capacitor

  15. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Best. Prize. Ever.

  16. TALK! Says:


    Well, I’m off in a bit to get my permanent crown put on, finally. This temporary crown (which I got a week before B’ham) has been driving me nuts.

    Wish me luck!

  17. bamaborntxbred Says:


  18. suzi-q Says:

    Hey how about that a crown to the queen of TALK!!! I know they make whisper helicopters (Conspiracy Theory) but I think the only invisible ones would have to be borrowed from Xmen (I think) But for such a worthy cause as cruising with Monkbots, I think they’ll loan it or even give it to y’all:)

  19. TALK! Says:

    Hey Suzi-Q!

    Let’s hope they will give up their invisible helicopter…we need to track Monkbot!

  20. double d Says:

    Shel –

    In response to your big, fat, juicy question….YOU CAN’T TOP TAYLOR HICKS, BABY!

    AI will be a shell of its former self this season. Oh sure, they’ll try to throw some wannabe with a sob story at us, but it will be very anti-climatic after the wild ride that is Taylormania.

    There are few anomolies in show business and Taylor is one of those rare gems.

    queue Carly Simon…”Nobody does it better, Makes me feel sad for the rest. Nobody does it half as good as you. Baby you’re the best….”

  21. TALK! Says:

    Truer words were never spoken, DD.



    Your mention of Carly makes me wanna sing “Mockingbird” with Taylor.

  22. double d Says:


    Everybody have you heard
    He’s gonna buy me a mockingbird
    And if that mockingbird don’t sing
    He’s gonna buy me a diamond ring
    And if that diamond ring won’t shine
    He’s gonna surely break thi>s heart of mine
    And that’s why I keep on tellin’ everybody…..WOAH, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

    No mo’ git toot fo’ shel!

  23. Quossum Says:

    I wonder what sort of changes AI “TPTB” will be making in its policies, too. Fanbase shout-outs–allowed or not? Instruments? I’m going to be watching…not thinking to see another Taylor, of course, but it still ought to be interesting.


  24. Jojo71 Says:

    Hey Shelly,
    Excellent writing on The Taylor Factor. You’ve got it figured out, girl. Love the fact your from Mississippi, me too. Are you a member of TOSP?

  25. TALK! Says:

    Well, Jo,

    I signed up on a bunch of boards months ago…but couldn’t tell you exactly which ones…’cause I rarely visit them (except Gray Charles…I was a pretty steady contributor there).

    However, because I’ve been a fan of Taylor since he first blipped on my t.v. screen the night of his audition (and because I’ve spent about a kazillion dollars on my Taylor obssession)…I definitely consider myself very much an official Soul Patroler! πŸ˜‰

    So glad you came and commented. I really hope you’ll come back…and bring others with ya!

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