Hey, your Romulan ale is flat.

This is the first line of “Pick and Roll,” a song by the wonderful band The Gourds, whose album Heavy Ornamentals I encourage all of you to sample and purchase. NPR ranked the album as one of the top ten releases of 2006. I also highly recommend the song “Burn the Honeysuckle.”

Lots of Taylor Hicks news making its way from my inbox to your computer screen. Let’s start with an interview in the Knoxville News:

“That show is about the voice and the entertaining ability,” he says. “And if you can put those two together, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a musician or not. I really think that that show allows you to blossom as a vocalist and an entertainer”…The sense of competition was “always there,” he says. Now, however, he isn’t worried about his album sales being measured against his Season Five peers such as Katharine McPhee or Chris Daughtry or earlier “Idol” winners such as Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia Barrino or Carrie Underwood. “It’s there for others to create a storyline with, but not for me,” he says.

That’s a pretty awesome attitude for Taylor to have, not to mention a smart one — the comparisons to other Idols’ albums make for a juicy little soap opera, but have no bearing in the real world. After all, is anyone comparing Diana Krall to Nickelback, or Marc Broussard to Fergie? For those who can only enjoy the success of their favorite non-winning Idol by basking in the supposed “defeat” of the winner, it’s a fabulous storyline. But for the man who won it all, who has the unmititaged gall, being a failure and all, to get out of bed in the morning, much less continue to play his music to fans who adore him — yeah, I doubt it means as much.

The Mobile Press-Register is also carrying a lovely piece about Mr. Hicks. Some excerpts:

Whenever [Hicks] catches himself sounding like an artist who’s begun believing his own hype, he begins gently mocking himself. And nearby observers help him do it: Evidently it’s something the star encourages. An example: Asked if he knows the first three songs of the night’s set, he replies that he doesn’t. “Every night is a potluck.” He talks about mixing it up to make the best possible show for the fans. It starts to sound a little grandiose, and someone nearby — a member of the crew, or maybe a relative or friend — goads him with the words “Taylor Made.” Hicks vamps for a video camera that isn’t there. “Every show is Taylor-made,” he says, parodying the kind cheesy self-promoter he evidently doesn’t want to become.


In his pre-fame days he had a taste for classic soul music, and part of his “Idol” storyline was his emergence as a champion of the genre. He still sees himself that way, and he’s proud he’s gotten people to listen. “That’s kind of what my vision was as a kid, growing up on that stuff,” he says. “Luckily I was able to carry out that vision. “I wanted to just make sure that feeling is still there in music.”

These observations about the audience at Hicks’ shows — and the subsequent analysis — is also very interesting.

On some levels, the audience is more diverse than you’d expect from the stereotype that’s grown up around Hicks. It isn’t all middle-aged women, though they are certainly out in force. There are quite a few elementary and middle-school kids present. And the men don’t all look as if they were dragged here by their spouses or dates. But the almost total absence of African-American listeners is striking. Even heavy-metal crowds are rarely quite this white. That stands out for two reasons: The soul music Hicks favors draws heavily on R&B, blues and gospel, forms dominated by black pioneers. And “American Idol” cuts a vast demographic swath across the landscape. A theory comes to mind: Maybe Hicks isn’t so much the spiritual descendant of Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett as he is the heir of John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd, aka Jake and Elwood Blues. They’re remembered for comedy, and “The Blues Brothers” is indeed a funny movie. But “Briefcase Full of Blues” was also a blockbuster No. 1 album. People forget that, distracted by “Saturday Night Live” reruns. Belushi and Ackroyd may not have had a direct hereditary link to the greats of R&B, but they had a sincere love of the music.

I haven’t been to a heck of a lot of concerts in my day, so I can’t comment on the racial make-ups of various crowds. But it is indeed an interesting observation. I don’t think it’s unique to Taylor as an Idol — for some reason, I picture Daughtry’s audience to be as lily-white as Hicks’ apparently is — but I agree with the reviewer that while Taylor may have been inspired by African-American musical legends, his particular style (from In Your Time on up) is hardly straight-up soul. Soul music is definitely Hicks’ base, but he infuses it with hearty doses of Southern rock, Latin rhythms, the plaintive emotion of prairie-country music, some dashes of Cajun spice, and, of course, blue-eyed soul crooning. He’s never been a screamer (and I mean the term as a complimentary description) like Ray Charles or James Brown. So what the implications for audience demographics are, I don’t know, but I agree that Taylor Hicks isn’t a direct descendant of the classic soul legends. A third cousin, perhaps. And that’s not a bad thing; he’s just different, with his own style (albeit one that was a bit watered-down by Matt friggin’ Serletic).

It looks like Taylor’s tour has also inspired a slew of new reviews of his CD. From BlogCritics.org:

Taylor Hicks is here to entertain you. He’s here to make you feel like you’re at a late-summer barbecue, laughing and singing along to his songs in that Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes “Havin’ a Party” kind of way. He’s here to make you dance around like an idiot, not giving a damn if the music is hokey or if he isn’t the world’s most marketable radio star…The good news is, this album is never bad. When it’s good, it’s really fun to listen to, but at times, it gets bland…if Hicks gets better over time, as he did during the Idol competition, he’s going to be putting out good music for a good long time. (three and a half out of five stars)

And from The Sunday Paper:

The Alabama native is a clear-cut pro, able to project and phrase like the gin-mill vet he is…Hicks has genuine pipes, as he proves on a worthy obscurity (Paul Pena’s “Gonna Move”) and a healthy jab at Marvin Gaye’s “Wherever I Lay My Hat.” If he’s fallen victim to a producer (Matt Serletic of Matchbox Twenty fame) who hears him less as a genuine gritty soul singer and more a lite-FM soft-rock soul man in the tradition of latter-day Joe Cocker, well, it’s a proven formula known to work. But it seems a misuse of his obvious talents. (two and a half stars)

I love when the reviewers praise Taylor’s voice. I think he’s got a gorgeous, emotive, gruff instrument, and it doesn’t get nearly enough love, because it’s too much of a chore to take the time to look beyond the image. It’s a shame.


5 Responses to “Hey, your Romulan ale is flat.”

  1. 1 Sunny March 2, 2007 at 8:38 pm

    Well done and brilliantly woven together. Very nice representation of what has been going on in the Taylor Hicks world of the past few days in media. (I’ve been reading my e.mails now for the past hour.) You are an angel on Hicks’ shoulder indeed. I was going to do a write up about all these too until I got to yours, you said it the best it could be in this summation. That’s why I love to read your blog. I’ll go play with the dog now instead.
    Write on!

  2. 2 Laurel March 3, 2007 at 3:11 am

    I was looking for a Klaxons review on PopMatters, but came across their new-ish Kat review instead, which I think you haven’t posted yet.


    All right, I’m going to go check out the Gourds too.

  3. 3 MaryS-NJ March 3, 2007 at 11:55 am

    I love this! Thank you for taking the time to connect the dots of Taylor’s current situation in a way that critics and “journalists” don’t bother to do.

    p.s.: As an old Star Trek geek, I love the reference to Romulan Ale. hee!

  4. 4 idolicious March 3, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Mary, if you’re really an old Star Trek geek, perhaps you’ll agree that Nick Pedro sounded like Vic Fontaine when singing “Fever.” :-)

  5. 5 MaryS-NJ March 4, 2007 at 10:36 am

    “Mary, if you’re really an old Star Trek geek, perhaps you’ll agree that Nick Pedro sounded like Vic Fontaine when singing “Fever.””

    OMG- LOL! I didn’t watch DS9 too much but I love how the writers wink at us with stuff like that. I’d take a holographic Nick anyday.

Comments are currently closed.

March 2007
« Feb   Jul »

What the kids are sayin’

"I hate them all. The judges, TPTB, the blatant manipulation, the songs, the contestants, everything. I'm a die-hard Cook fan, but for the love of god, at least try to look like you're enjoying yourself up there! Please? Syesha was awesome but she ruined it by being completely shameless and disgusting. Yes, being on American Idol is exactly like the civil rights movement, except for the part where you're fighting to make the world a better place."

"All I can say after the disgusting display tonight of favoritism towards the mediocrity that is David A. - good luck trying to market and make money off of that kid, American Idol. (Not to mention good luck dealing with his father.) All the teeny boppers may buy up his American Idol coronation single, but they will quickly forget about him before the album comes out. And I shudder to think of a David A. album - song after song of unrelenting sameness and heavy breathing. Why they are pimping him for the win is beyond me."

"This show was simply a hot buttered mess tonight. And Jason "needs to be arrested for what he did to I Shot the Sheriff. But I hope he stays. He amuses me. "

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