TAYLOR HICKS, AMERICAN IDOL 2006: HOW IN THE HICKS DID THIS HAPPEN?


BY: ROSANNE SIMUNOVIC

It’s been said that it takes five years for any business to become firmly established and for the consumers and executives to develop an awareness and strategy that determines the ultimate rise or demise of an enterprise. Accordingly, this year, American Idol celebrated its fifth season and the ultimate result of the 2006 season signifies that the five- year plan does indeed succeed.

This season highlighted an eclectic array of talent that attracted a record number of viewers. All the singers, in varying degrees – from the Top 24 to the Top 12 – were extremely talented and, additionally, had authentic personalities that were extremely identifiable to the viewers. However, one singer, I feel, changed the face of Idol in such a monumental way that it left me with a strong sense of confidence for the ongoing success of this show.

I remember the instant when I instinctively knew Taylor was born to win this competition. I happened to come across his picture on the Internet, highlighting a pre-idol Taylor lost in the soul of the music and bearing an eerie resemblance to a young Elvis. As they saying goes: “A pictures speaks a thousand words” and this picture screamed artistry and soulful intelligence.

A few days later, one of my students walked into my voice studio and asked: “So, who do you think is going to win American Idol this season, Rosanne?” I shrugged my shoulders and said: “Hmm – I like the looks of this Taylor Hicks guy!” She scrunched up her nose and responded: “Taylor who?” And I corrected myself by saying: “Oh, we haven’t heard him yet. Just had a look at this neat pre-Idol picture of him. His audition will possibly be aired during the Las Vegas segment tonight. But, you watch! He will win the top prize this year.”

As my student looked at me in disbelief, wondering how I could predict a winner without ever having heard or seen him perform, I explained that I felt that his picture just exuded star quality and, if his voice was as good as the essence of what was captured in his photograph, Taylor would win this competition. He just seemed different from the norm, yet in a very significant and noteworthy way.

Then as the competition began to unfold, I realized that Taylor indeed possessed those special non-teachable qualities that separated him from the rest of the pack. Call it ingenious talent, the x factor, the star factor – give it whatever name suits you, but it still comes down to one thing. True performers are born and not made and Taylor was born to be on a stage, to be one of the brightest stars of this new millennium.

Yet, would the Idol franchise be able to appreciate and embrace a new artist that was offering something totally new and unique to the mainstream music industry? As time went on, I was having my doubts, as both judges and producers seemed to be scripting the show toward what they felt the audience wanted in this year’s Idol instead of the other way around.

However, as Taylor’s loyal legion of Soul Patrol fans blossomed throughout the world, even the Idol franchise had to acknowledge that this guy was going to be more than a passing fad in the world of music. For, Taylor, is first and foremost a consummate musician. I agree that he needs to take better care of his soulful voice, yet, as an artist, few performers can touch and motivate an audience as Taylor so obviously does.

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to hear Taylor’s 7- minute version of “Georgia”. It was recorded live and, as I listened, I was thinking how passionate and sincere Taylor sounded –as he emoted his wonderfully soulful version of this great Ray Charles classic. His audience was eerily quiet –obviously enraptured by his vocal performance.

But then, there came the applause –by an enthusiastic but obviously small gathering of people. I was inspired and saddened at the same time. Inspired that Taylor could sing with so much focus and sentiment, so generous with his talent and so appreciative of his small but obviously devoted audience. And saddened, that Taylor’s enormous talent had not as yet been discovered or lauded by the music industry.

For me, this is what separates Taylor from the majority of musicians in the world. Taylor always sings for the love of and passion for the art, not for the attention of the masses or the thundering applause. Although he loves his audience, his music is first and foremost at the core of his being and he always makes certain that excellence and authenticity is never compromised. This is why his fan base is so extensive. These fans – the Soul Patrol – have adopted a real, true and appreciative artist in Taylor Hicks.

Therefore, even the Idol franchise had to come to terms with the fact that indeed a superstar was emerging from the shadows and he was truly an unstoppable force. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during the Top 4’s trip to Graceland. Something tells me whatever transpired there was monumental for Taylor, for the following week, Taylor’s friendly nemesis, Chris Daughtry, was eliminated from the competition. And, on the Top 4 results show, Taylor was asked to encore his outstanding version of Jailhouse Rock. This has never happened – ever – on American Idol.

Coincidence? Perhaps, but my gut says no. American Idol, with the assistance of the voters, made a judgment call and decided to take a risk on something different, knowing that the public embraced and supported a much needed change in their Idol winners to date. In doing so, they catapulted this little ole reality/talent show to a credible and revered status and, thanks to Taylor and his Soul Patrol, the face of Idol has been positively altered and revamped.

How in the Hicks did this happen? Well, you take a ton of phenomenal soul and blues talent, mix in equal amounts of determined fan support, make sure the stars are aligned just right, and add some prayerful devotion and, voila, you have a recipe for success. As Taylor said on Jay Leno, it was fate that secured his win. This and the dedication and sagacity of the Soul Patrol.

Mr. Hicks, you just taylorized American Idol and, in doing so, have opened the Idol doors for America’s truly distinctive, yet undiscovered, artists. If I may paraphrase the great American poet Robert Frost, by taking the road less traveled, you have made all the difference.

About Masterclass Lady

Rosanne (Giallonardo) Simunovic began her musical career in Timmins, Ontario. She studied piano with Anne Pizzale and later, at an advanced level, with Soeur Anita Vaugeois (Sister Cecile of Les Soeurs De L’Assomption in Timmins). Her vocal and accompaniment skills were nurtured by her aunt, the late Dorothea Mascioli. When Rosanne graduated from O’Gorman High School, she moved on to the University of Toronto where she continued her piano and vocal studies while attaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree. She was hired as a piano accompanist for several musical companies, most notably, the National Ballet Of Canada. She presently holds an A.R.C.T. Teacher’s Diploma in Voice from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Rosanne has studied choral conducting with numerous well known Canadian Conductors, including Wayne Riddell of Montreal, Quebec and the internationally renowned Dr. Elmer Iseler. She has been a founding member of numerous community-based arts organizations: the Timmins Arts Council, later known as Arts & Culture Timmins, the Timmins Symphony Orchestra, and, the Timmins Youth Singers…as well as the TYS Alumnus choir, the Timmins Concert Singers. In 1987, she was also selected to be the conductor of the Timmins Board Of Education Choir, comprised of talented students from Grades 5 to 8. In 1988, she was elected to the Board Of Directors of the Ontario Choral Federation (now known as Choirs Ontario), where she served as Chair of the Festivals Committee for six consecutive seasons. In 1996, in honour of the Ontario Choral Federation’s 25th Anniversary, Rosanne was selected as one of 25 recipients of the OCF’s Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contribution to the choral art. The ceremony was presided by Lieutenant Governor, Hal Jackman. In November 1997, Rosanne Simunovic was selected by the Rotary Club Of Timmins to receive the prestigious Paul Harris Award for her years of dedication to the artistic development of young musical talent in Timmins. In August of 2002, Rosanne Simunovic was selected by the Board Of Directors of Choirs Ontario to serve as Conductor of both the Provincial Junior and Teen Choir Camps, now renamed in honour of the Camp Benefactors, Don and Lillian Wright. In November 2002, Rosanne was the one of the recipients of the Commemorative Medal for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, honouring her work in the development of the arts in Timmins. Under Rosanne Simunovic’s direction, the Timmins Youth Singers and the Timmins Concert Singers have been featured in numerous choral festivals and performing opportunities outside of Timmins. In 1985, they were selected to partici

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: