If you believe what Ryan Seacrest announced on May 24, Taylor Hicks is the new “American Idol.” Question is — will he sell CDs? There is no doubt that Taylor’s vocal stylings-a bit of Joe Cocker mixed in with Michael McDonald-are unique in today’s musical landscape. But the challenge is how do you market him? Kelly Clarkson — inarguably the franchise’s most successful graduate — was a lot easier. Her first album was pop-oriented with songs that fit neatly on the very tightly structured Top 40 formats. Likewise, last year’s winner, Carrie Underwood, was instantly embraced by country radio. But Taylor’s place is a bit more nebulous. He’s a rocker who won a talent contest. That could hurt the street cred that rock ‘n roll is built on — and shut him out of the ever-dwindling and narrowly focused rock radio formats. He definitely could find a home on Hot AC (adult formats) but that audience is older and less likely to buy CDs. MTV skews towards hip hop and teeny-bopper pop at this point. There’s always VH1-where he could exist comfortably-but that channel rarely plays videos anymore. Of course, it’s possible to sell millions without the support of radio or music television as second season runner up Clay Aiken did a couple of years ago and as last year’s runner up Bo Bice is doing now-though to a lesser extent. But it sure does help. And Taylor — who signed to Arista Records — does have the benefit of working with legendary Clive Davis who has built a career on crafting hits. Bottom line — it’ll depend on what producers he is paired with and what material he chooses. The right combination-and this is where Clive is key-could produce a career artist with a long road ahead. Think Rob Thomas or Nickelback. Both are rockers that have found places in mainstream pop. Taylor’s voice is certainly as goo — if not better — than either. And he certainly has a very appealing stage presence. All he needs is the right song at the right time.
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