Sunday, May 7, 2006

Another Thing I Find More Interesting Than Neil Young's New Record (I)
I keep waiting for the dream to end, but Taylor Hicks, the 48-year-old American Idol contestant, now has a one in four chance of becoming the most unlikely American Idol in the show's history. That he's even gotten this far is an impressive achievement. Primarily because it's difficult to explain how he did it.

He is talented. And sort of compelling. But who exactly is voting for this guy? Who is this guy's target audience? To the average 13-year-old girl he must seem a father figure. And no 13-year-old girl would ever vote for her dad for anything, except perhaps Grossest Thing Ever. Even to the average 13-year-old girl's mother, looking perhaps for an object of boy toy lust, he must seem a little old. I suppose there could be a previously discounted number of Randy Newman fans jamming the telephone lines. And there is the requisite Internet tribute. But otherwise he is truly improbable.

In fact, if he pulls this off, he might be one of the most unlikely success stories in modern American history - right up there with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hugh Hefner, Ed McMahon, Lil Jon and, of course, everyone associated with professional bowling. A grey-haired male singer with almost no ties to anything that's been popular for twenty years, he is basically the opposite of contemporary pop music. The Goo Goo Dolls are more relevant.

Simon Cowell says the silver fox is going to make the final two. Which is encouraging. But ultimately meaningless. Because here's the thing, if Taylor does anything other than win this, he's nothing - a curious footnote at best. To date, the only contestants from American Idol who have left any impression on Western society (no Ruben Studdard fat jokes here) are, in order: 1) Kelly Clarkson, 2) Clay Aiken and 3) William Hung. Of the three, Clarkson is the only one with any claim to legitimate success. Aiken and Hung existed momentarily as oddities and largely creepy oddities at that.

Taylor isn't quite creepy enough to rival the last two. So his only real hope is to win and use the resulting push to find the sort of success Clarkson eventually found.

This is still rather unlikely. In fact, I don't think he has much hope of winning. To be honest, I'd probably vote for the hot girl too.

But the possibilities are so tantalizing. Taylor could be the sort of singular star who changes the rules. An individual who could heal America. Bridge the gap between young and old, parent and child, baby boomer and tween - perhaps bringing the two sides together to formulate a long-term solution to the emerging Social Security crisis.

In short, the sort of icon Neil Young can now only dream of being.

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