Which Way do Lean?

Forget Katharine McPhee. This 'American Idol' Finale is all about love-him-or-hate Taylor Hicks

Love Him


Taylor Hicks never had a shot at winning American Idol, and that is exactly why he will win American Idol. First impressions: He was too old, too fat, too gray, too plain. He was a curiosity: Who was this strange man they had let onstage, and how soon could he leave?

But a funny thing happened on the way to the exit. We realized that Taylor Hicks is the best possible version of ourselves.

He makes all the mistakes we fear making in public -- falling down, dancing badly, looking ridiculous -- and he shrugs them off with a smile.

He is without a shred of self-consciousness. He failed to kick over the mike stand during "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." He didn't care. He kept kicking until he got it. He is unaffected. He is completely himself -- a goofy ham from Alabama -- and he never tries to be anyone else.

He doesn't color or hide his gray hair, which, by the way, is the new blond (see: Anderson Cooper, George Clooney). His sense of style is, well, missing. But his spirit is infectious. His voice, a smooth whiskey tenor, may not be the best Idol has seen, but he throws himself into his performances -- he means them like no other contestant has -- and he draws everyone into his ecstatic world.

When the governor and first lady of Alabama declared May 16 Taylor Hicks Day, he took the hand of the governor's wife as she walked down the stairs of the state capitol. It was a small gesture, but it said all you need to know about Taylor Hicks: He is a gentleman. He is all of us on our very best days.


Taylor Hicks


Birmingham, Ala.




singer in his own band

Formal training:


Key performances:

"Taking It to the Streets" (March 8), "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" (April 11), "Play That Funky Music" (May 2), "You Are So Beautiful" (May 16)

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