* American Idol Top 2 Preview (Or Why Taylor Hicks Is The 2004 Red Sox)

Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee sing for the title tomorrow.

Many people have criticized American Idol (http://www.americanidol.com/) as being an artificial way for an artist to start his/her career. Bunk. Any way that an artist can start (or jump-start) his/her career is legitimate. There are many ways to get a record recorded and played on the airways. American Idol is one of those ways. One of those insanely successful ways. I do not believe that it matters how you find your success in life. What matters is how you play the hand that you’re dealt.

And so, tomorrow night, Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee will sing for the title of “Idol” on the fifth season of American Idol. There has been lots of speculation and rumors about what they will sing. All we know is this. Each singer will sing three songs. One will be the future American Idol single (which will likely stink). The two others will either be repeats of the best performances of the season and/or a new song. Check the rumor mill at the blogs of MJ (http://mjsbigblog.com/categories/americanIdol/2006/05/22.html) (286 comments), Slim (http://www.slimtainment.com/idol/archives/2006/05/top_2_theme.html) (127 comments), and Ken (http://blogs.usatoday.com/idolchatter/2006/05/next_week_beaut.html) (96 comments) for more info.

Which, for some reason, reminds me of another Steve Martin quote, this time from “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” where he said, “You know when you’re telling these little stories? Here’s a good idea: have a point.” OK, so here’s my point.

Taylor Hicks is the 2004 Boston Red Sox. Bo Bice is the 2003 Boston Red Sox. In 2003, everybody with a pulse who lives outside of New York was rooting for the Red Sox to win it all. The Sox were the Cinderella story, but they fell just short of their goal in the end. The 2004 Red Sox learned from the mistakes of the 2003 Red Sox and did win it all. Similarly, Bo Bice (from Alabama) was the Cinderella story of the fourth season of American Idol, but he fell just short of winning it all. Taylor Hicks (also from Alabama) learned from the mistakes of the previous season and will likely come back to win it all.

Make no doubt about it. I want Taylor Hicks to win. I will be happy if he finishes second, but I want him to win, for all the reasons that I wanted the Red Sox to win it all in 2004. Taylor, like the 2004 Red Sox, is very clever. Do you remember how he danced with Katharine and Elliott in the round of three? That was a smart move, one that endears Taylor to the fans of whichever contestant was eliminated.

Taylor may not come across as the brightest bulb in the circuit, but I think he is clever as a fox. He reminds me of my boss at Verio, James “Buddy” Cunningham, who is also an Alabaman. At first glance, Buddy did not appear to be the typical telecommunications executive. But he was the smartest, most clever, most fair person I have ever worked for. When he got promoted to Verio’s VP of Marketing, I told him that I would pick up my life and move from Boston to Denver to work for him. I said, “Say the word, and I’ll move to Denver.” He did, and I did. When Buddy introduced me in Denver several months later, he joked that I was one of the only people dumb enough to work for him twice. Heck, if Buddy called me today, I might still pick up and move. I learned more from working for Buddy than I worked in all previous technology jobs combined. Buddy was clever as a fox. Taylor is clever as a fox. It must be something in the Alabama water.

So what will Taylor and Katharine sing? I have no idea. I personally think that Taylor would be wise to pick a funky fast song (like “Living For The City”) and follow it up with a ballad (like “Something”). Frankly, I’d enjoy anything that Taylor sings. It would be totally cool if he did one of his original songs from his “Under The Radar” CD. As for Katharine, I can only remember two of her songs: “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” and “Over The Rainbow.” Katharine has always sung (more or less) well but not memorably. Taylor has always sung – and performed – well and memorably. So I give the edge to Taylor. Plus Elliott’s fans, who are mostly from the South, will likely gravitate to the other remaining candidate from the South. Unless, of course, the entire thing is rigged, in which case all bets are off.

In terms of my punditry, the best I can finish is tied for second. Wonder if I’ll get a record deal out of it.

Erik’s Chart of American Idol Pundits
Pundit Bottom 2-3 Accuracy Bottom One Accuracy Weighted Total Accuracy
Power Dialers @ DialIdol.com 87% (13 for 15) 71% (5 for 7) 82% (18 for 22)
Augie De Blieck Jr. @ Various and Sundry American Idol 73% (11 for 15) 57% (4 for 7) 68% (15 for 22)
Erik @ Erik J. Heels 80% (12 for 15) 43% (3 for 7) 68% (15 for 22)
Joe Reality @ Reality TV Magazine 80% (12 for 15) 43% (3 for 7) 68% (15 for 22)
Jennifer @ The Woes and the Prose of an American Idol Junkie 87% (13 for 15) 29% (2 for 7) 68% (15 for 22)
Dave @ High Lord Dave’s Blog 67% (10 for 15) 57% (4 for 7) 64% (14 for 22)
Ken Barnes @ USATODAY 67% (10 for 15) 57% (4 for 7) 64% (14 for 22)
DJSlim (Brent Natzle) @ American Idol Season 5 Blog 60% (9 for 15) 29% (2 for 7) 50% (11 for 22)
Flipping A Coin 50% 50% 50%
Simon Cowell @ American Idol NA 29% (2 for 7) 29% (2 for 7)
Web Searchers @ Zabasearch.com – Most Searched American Idol Contestants no historical data no historical data no historical data
Web Searchers @ Google Trends no historical data no historical data no historical data

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