Holy Cowell, that sounds familiar!
Fans were ready to make American Idol frontrunner Chris Daughtry walk the plank after hearing him sing an oddly familiar-sounding rendition of Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" Tuesday night.
Daughtry, 26, who has risen quickly through the Idol ranks with his gravelly alt-rock voice and emotive performances, sang a slow, brooding version of the Cash classic during the '50s-themed episode, reaping his usual accolades from judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell. The impressed trio praised Daughtry for his originality and taking the song and making it his own. Cowell, who has come up surprisingly short with nah-sty remarks regarding Daughtry, told him that he was the only contestant on the show, ever, who "refused to compromise."
But Idol fans quickly took to their chat rooms after the episode aired, saying that they could swear they knew that "original" arrangement of "I Walk the Line" from somewhere--and not from the Joaquin Phoenix-starring biopic.
As it turns out, Daughtry was doing a spot-on rendition of Live's 2001 cover of "I Walk the Line," featured on the album Good Rockin' Tonight: The Legacy of Sun Records and included on the band's 2004 greatest hits compilation, Awake: The Best of Live.
Angry messages posted in Idol message boards ranged from, "This guy is a rip off," to "Live singer Ed Kowalczyk called and said that he would like his vocal style" back.
As it turns out, however, Kowalczyk was happy to lend a hand--or some vocal style, in this case.
"We wish Chris the best of luck in the competition!" the Live frontman said in a gracious statement. "I thought he did a great job with the song. There's no doubt he's a talented performer and I hope he goes far." Live's seventh album, Songs from Black Mountain, is set for a May 9 release.
So, Jackson, Abdul and Cowell got part of it right--Daughtry sounded great--but the song was far from his own. And although critics have been chastising the Idol contestant for not attributing his performance to Live during the telecast, perhaps the "my bad" this time around belongs to the judges for not being up on their rock music. There has also been speculation among fans, according to MTV News, that Daughtry may have given a shout-out to the band during his preshow interview but that the mention got edited out.
"I think it's more a sign of the judges being out of touch or the show's producers deliberately trying to fool the public," Jacob Clifton, who covers Idol for TelevisionWithoutPity.com, told MTV News. "The fact is, Chris should not be blamed for using the arrangements that he does."
Kimberly Caldwell, a second-season finalist and host of TV Guide Channel's Idol Tonight sided with Daughtry, as well. "We're doing cover songs, so leave it alone," she said.
Considering how difficult it would be for Daughtry--or anyone--to slip one over like that past the 30 million-strong audience that tunes into American Idol each week, our money is on the misunderstanding. On the Mar. 14 episode that had each contestant offering up a Stevie Wonder tune, Daughtry sang "Higher Ground," which has also been covered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And Daughtry didn't hide the fact that he was leaning more toward the Chili Peppers' version, prominently crediting the band during his pre-performance montage.
But others feel that Daughtry should be quicker on the draw the next time someone compliments his unique style. "He definitely should not have taken credit for the arrangement or allowed people to praise his originality," David Bloomberg, editor of RealityNewsOnline.com, told MTV. "He stood onstage and let the judges talk about how he made it his own when he really did nothing of the sort."
Maybe the customer service rep turned burgeoning superstar has been stunned into silence each week by the niceties pouring forth from Simon.
Whether this flash of negativity will hurt Daughtry's future success (it probably can only be good for ratings) remains to be seen. You can bet that whichever song the North Carolina native chooses next week when Idol's theme shifts to songs from the 21st century, he'll be sure to give credit where credit's due.
Daughtry is currently one of three North Carolinians left, along with Kelly Pickler and Bucky Covington, who barely escaped elimination Wednesday after singing a so-so version of Buddy Holly's "Oh Boy." The final 10 take the stage Tuesday night, with the winner to be announced May 24.