And fame we all know can be fleeting, especially when it comes to television talent show winners. As noted by The Pitch‘s David Hudnall today when characterizing the success of American Idol season seven winner David Cook of Blue Springs as “brief.”
“What, you never heard of Caleb Johnson?” Hudnall asks. “Next you’re going to tell me you don’t know who Candice Glover is.”
As Cook’s springboard Idol approaches Season 14, tryouts will be held at UMKC next month on July 21st. And at this point, despite flagging ratings its cast of winners includes only two true, bonafide success stories, Kelly Clarkson from Season One and Carrie Underwood from Season Four.
Success has proved far more fleeting for Cook and most of the winners of the other 11 Idol seasons.
For example Birmingham, Alabama’s Ruben Studdard – the winner of Season Two – has but a single concert appearance listed on his website at something called the Wolf Creek Jazz Series in Atlanta. And to borrow from Hudnall, has anybody given much thought (or even remember) Season Three winner Fantasia Barrino (even though Forbes estimates she took down $1.5 million last year)?
Season Five winner Taylor Hicks landed a pretty decent residency gig in Vegas two years ago, but while it may be a decent paycheck ($2.5 million in 2013 earnings), for it hardly makes him a household word. Ditto for Season Six winner, hottie Jordin Sparks, who’s nowhere to be found on the Forbes list and has a goose egg where live appearances are concerned on her website.
Among the more notable Idol also rans, Clay Aiken from Season two, bumped around the pop culture circuit for several years prior to a controversial National Enquirer story in 2006:
“In our new issue hitting newsstands today, The National Enquirer is publishing shocking photos which may finally force Clay Aiken to come out of the closet!” it began. “Standing proudly in front of an internet camera, the former American Idol star apparently sheds his clothes until he is literally butt-naked. The man who supplied us with the images — a 22-year-old homosexual school teacher — says Aiken performed the crude striptease in a bid to solicit him for sex via a gay website.”
In Aiken’s latest quest to capitalize on his Idol fame he’s launched a bid for Congress in North Carolina where he won a closely contested Democratic primary race.
Only Chris Daughtry, a runner up on Season Five seems to have actually attained a halfway consistent financial entertainment after life, following a No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 with more than four million in sales. He’s currently on tour with the Goo Goo Dolls.
Which brings us back to David Cook who has continued to hang on with club dates at venues like Knuckleheads in Kansas city’s East Bottoms, a current tour at a handful of Navy bases in Europe and a smattering of appearances that range from free to high school to a half dozen dates in America’s retirement capital, South Florida.
Cook is touting a third studio album due out in late summer, although it’s unclear who will release it post his getting dropped by RCA Records two years back.
“He’s overcome tough odds before!” Perez Hilton wrote at the time. “After completing his two album commitment with RCA, American Idol star David Cook faces the daunting task of going at it alone. The record company has opted NOT to resign him.
Unfortunately, for the first time since his 2008 win, Cook dropped off of Forbes list of Top Earning American Idols for 2013, after placing 10th in 2012 at $1 million.
Unfortunately, those earnings numbers can be misleading, Forbes explains:
“Older graduates of the show no longer have to worry about handing back most of their earnings to Idol, but more recent winners must turn over about half of their income—before paying any remaining agents, managers and attorneys, not to mention Uncle Sam.”
For 2013 Forbes list was topped by Carrie Underwood at $31 million with an increasingly chubby Kelly Clarkson in 2nd with $7 million.
Jennifer Hudson and Katharine McPhee take Cook’s place at the bottom of Forbes’ list with $1 million in earnings and while Season 13 winner Caleb Johnson – who doesn’t even appear to have a website yet – will release his debut album Testify on August 12th.
So while the days of Idol ruling the television ratings roost are in the rearview mirror – for now at least – one thing remains clear, TV reality show wins can only take you so far.
And with currently Cook basing out of Nashville it will be interesting to see how that influence plays out in his forthcoming new music.
On a personal note, I was reminded the other night by a radio station exec about another win by Cook’s group Axium at the Olathe club Orlando’s a couple years before Idol. That’s where Fox 4 movie critic Shawn Edwards and I picked his former alt rock band Axium as the winner of a local band battle.
At that stage of the game Cook was a million miles from playing “dreamboat” for middle aged women and pre teen girls. And it might be a good move for him to drop the bedroom eyes album cover schtick and return to his grittier roots as a legit musician, rather than a PR-produced hunk.
At this point, what does he have to lose?