Taylor Hicks may have snagged the top prize, but why isn't his newest CD selling like an Idol?

By Shirley Halperin
Updated March 09, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST
Jim Wright/Montage

Does selling 650,000 copies of a debut album qualify as a flop? Season 5 American Idol winner Taylor Hicks has taken a beating in recent weeks because his self-titled major-label debut hasn’t performed as well as first outings from Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, or even Ruben Studdard. So what happened?

For starters, adult contemporary discs often take longer to catch fire. The first single from Hicks’ album, ”Just to Feel That Way,” has yet to crack Billboard‘s Hot 100. ”We have it tougher than any other Idol because of Taylor’s physical appearance and taste in music,” says Hicks’ manager, Jon Leshay, who adds that Taylor Hicks is a big departure from the type of pop numbers he performed on Idol. ”His songs will have to earn their way onto Top 40 radio,” admits J Records executive vice president Tom Corson. ”[The] single only got started a few weeks ago [and] it’s slower than we anticipated. But we’re patient. Taylor is willing to slug it out.”

Apparently so: Industry buzz suggests that Hicks may have done just that when J Records execs gave their creative input as he recorded his album last year. ”Word got around that he pissed people off,” says one insider. ”He would harp on this notion that he’d been doing music for 10 years, but if he were any good, he would’ve had a deal nine and a half years ago!” (To be fair, Hicks did record two self-released efforts.) Resistance to the label’s ideas may have hurt his support internally. While Hicks could not be reached for comment, Leshay says the charges are blown out of proportion: ”This is a guy learning how to cope with attention and still trying to be himself. Maybe that hasn’t been manifested by [previous winners].”