In its early years, American Idol was particularly rough on Rock-oriented vocalists. Of the original judges; Simon Cowell despised the genre, Paula Abdul didn't understand it and Randy Jackson, who once played bass for Journey (if that counts), leaned toward R&B, but he was the most sympathetic ear.
Rock singers could even crack the Top 10 only to be summarily dismissed shortly thereafter, voted off with the eventual winner being a pop darling or a Country (another style Cowell didn't much care for) rooted vocalist (ala Carrie Underwood).
The Rockers just didn't reach the teens, moms and other viewers who saw reflections of themselves on the Idol stage. Besides most people into Rock could not be bothered voting for the singers on such a blatantly superficial show.
Then something strange happened, in season five Chris Daughtry, a singer with Fuel in his blood, made it all the way to #4 before getting tossed. It proved fortuitous because he left with huge name recognition and his credibility intact. Of course, Daughtry went on to an immediately successful career.
Following in Daughtry's footsteps, David Cook actually won season seven (2008). It wasn't that Rock music was now more acceptable or that the pop path to Idol victory was pretty lame (though both probably played a part), it was that Cook nailed some interesting song interpretations. Most notable was Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." Though the arrangement was remarkably similar to Chris Cornell's take on the song, Cowell in particular was generous in his praise of Cook's performance. This caused Cornell to jump off the couch and send out word that he was the innovator not Cook. Cowell stepped into the fray and dismissed any controversy stating the Idol competition was about making good choices not originality. Glad he cleared that up. Cook also took Whitesnake's interpretation of The Beatles "Day Tripper" and scored with it.
How the Houston born/Blue Springs, MO, raised Cook wound up on American Idol was one of those happy accidents. Cook had been the lead singer/guitarist with Axium, a high school band that had gone pro. The group enjoyed slivers of success (named the best band in Kansas City in '04 - for what little that was worth) but nothing to build a career on. When Axium split, Cook headed for Tulsa where he worked as a backing musician before releasing his "Incoherent With Desire To Move On" EP and the '06 full-length solo indie effort "Analog Heart."
Cook accompanied his brother Andrew to the Idol auditions planning only to provide support, not audition himself. But at Andrew's urging David tried-out singing Bon Jovi's "Livin' On A Prayer." In one of those wanton showbiz twists David was given the nod to go to Hollywood while Andrew was not.
During the course of the competition, Cook took a swing at "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" (Bryan Adams), "All Right Now" (Free) and "Baba O' Riley" (The Who). Since contestants were allowed, for the first time, to play musical instruments for accompaniment, Cook opted for his Gibson Les Paul (everyone looks better with a Les Paul). The guitar bore the initials AC after his brothers Andrew and Adam. "So, because of superstition, I put their initials on everything growing up," said Cook. Toward the end of the competition Cook also wore an orange wristband to support a 7-year-old fan, Lindsey Rose, who had leukemia.
Cook's self-titled solo album arrived in November, '08.
For a guy who's reputation was built on employing surprising and often compelling arrangements it's somewhat odd that Cook's self-titled effort is closer to Rock-by-the-numbers. The set opens with "Declaration" which, as the title suggests, is an anthem and one of the best songs here. The ballad "Light On" is good but the other ballads, and there are a number of them, just roll out.
As a Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Kid Rock, My Chemical Romance, Shinedown) produced album it's surprising how little drive or bite there is. Cook (and Cavallo for that matter) can do better. In the end, "David Cook" is mainstream entertainment for the Idol masses.