the following will appear this wednesday in the weekender.
A unique and familiar laughter filled the backstage area of Wachovia Arena Monday afternoon. Down the corridor walked American Idol runner-up David Archuleta. The 17 year-old trudged through the hallway with two hands full of gifts in tow. Shopping bags filled with affection, food made with love – fans from all points in between New York, New Jersey, and Delaware showed up by the press gates as early as noon for the 7 p.m. start – just to snag a glimpse of their favorite Idol finalist.
The scene wasn’t unique to Wilkes-Barre. Every afternoon of every show brings a similar occurrence of Idol fanatics dropping off cameras, clothing, and birthday cakes to their favorite performers. Carly Smithson recalled an elaborate cake bearing her resemblance. Idol winner David Cook stood outside for close to an hour, returning gifts and well wishes with autographs and hugs.
Of course, Archuleta appreciated the bags and bags of goodies. However, the generosity does put the artist in a bit of a predicament when it’s time to pack-up and travel to the next city.
“Right now, without those gifts, I can barely fit in my bunk. I have to sleep sideways because there’s no room.” Archuleta said. “I always look through everything I can – it just depends on how busy the day is.”
There are three different fates for the items. Some are packed with Archuleta as he travels the country. Others are shipped back to the singer’s Utah home. And some will be donated to charity. Despite the tour wrapping up this weekend, it seemed that all the Idols I spoke with hadn’t grown weary or tired of the love from supporters.
Of course – for Archuleta – that love transcends gifts.
“It’s always cool to hear that people like it, because you’re always wondering if people are going to like it or not.”
“It” is the singer’s new song, “Crush.” The single made the highest Billboard Hot 100 debut in 18 months, losing out to only Rihanna’s “Disturbia” for the top spot. Archuleta’s forthcoming LP is tentatively self-titled and slated for a November release.
Could Archuleta be the next Clay Aiken – a runner-up, small in stature, large in vocals – outshining the season’s winner? He hasn’t reached out to Aiken for any advice – instead leaning on someone a little more relatable in current career path and age – last year’s winner and Jive label-mate Jordin Sparks.
But, don’t count out Cook yet. A source close to the singer revealed exclusively to me that three tracks were mixed down in studio for the rocker this week – all with the potential to be a radio single heard before the end of the month.
Meanwhile, the other Idols will finish up the remaining dates and disperse to what many hope will be profitable individual careers. Some, such as Australia’s Michael Johns, have already recorded tracks for new projects. Yet others, like Chekeze and Smithson, will be traveling back to the west coast to meet with record execs in search of offers and contracts. A few artists I spoke with will take a little bit of time off after the final show – while some are moving to new locations and working immediately after the last song. Kristy Lee Cook will head right to Nashville – but don’t worry – she’s already requested Thanksgiving off.
Despite the various paths – all of the American Idol contestants I spoke with could agree on one point – no one could’ve fathomed the joys and pains of Idol life and the concurrent career moves.