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May 1, 2010 at 11:29 AM

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'American Idol' Top 5 need to beware the curse of Bo Bice

Posted by Sharon Abraham

A lot of message-board time is spent on the issue of whether the "American Idol" machine will or will not benefit a particular contestant. Usually it is the fans of the original artists who stomp their feet and insist, over and over, that the Idol powers that be will try to "change" a contestant's style. They basically argue that it is better to lose than to win.

Where did this come from? It started when Clay Aiken was successful in spite of coming in second in Season 2. I think that had more to do with Aiken having a strong fan base after Idol, and not that he came in second. He also recorded songs similar in style to what he'd been singing on the show and did not alienate those same fans. Regardless, the bar was set.

Which leads me to Bo Bice. In Season 4, it was crystal clear that Carrie Underwood would be a country artist. Bice was a strong contrast, a southern rocker with well practiced performance skills. Bice was immensely popular as a rocker on a pop show. It didn't hurt that his voice was amazing. Remember his a capella version of "In A Dream"?

As the finals approached, the message boards were burning up with those who thought Bice would have a better chance of doing his style of music, if he didn't win. It was like rooting for your favorite team to lose to earn the higher draft pick. Those fans cheered when he came in second.

Then came "the after" - as in, After Idol. First up was "Inside Your Heaven" - a hideous coronation song that sold well in spite of itself (and because Bice recorded "Vehicle" as the B-side). His first single off his album of the same title was "The Real Thing" - another pop-sounding song, co-written by none other than current Idol judge, Kara DioGuardi. The album debuted at Nio. 4 on Billboard, and included the work of Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi, with Chad Kroeger (Nickelback) and Ben Moody (Evanescence, We Are the Fallen) producing. But it wasn't southern rock. And therein lies the rub.

The reality is, Bice worked his way to second place as a southern rocker. Then he did not release anything that even remotely resembled that persona. Personal issues and health problems notwithstanding, that decision killed his early career. Five years and two album labels later, Bice is finally due to release a southern rock album. It remains to be seen if the short attention span of the American music buying public will remember him.

The lesson? There is a reason we hear Kara whine, "We don't know who you are." Or Randy saying yet again, "That's the kind of album you should be making." Those who haven't figured it out - cough, cough, Casey James - had better do it quick to take advantage of their quickly diminishing air time. Those who do have it figured out - Aaron Kelly, Crystal Bowersox, maybe Lee DeWyze - need to remember Bo Bice when it comes time to record an album. Otherwise, winning won't matter, and neither will second place.

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