David Cook: What Happened?

Photo: Courtesy of Fox

Yesterday, many (including us) predicted that David Cook, American Idol's ostensible hard-rocker, would own last night's episode being that, well, it was rock-and-roll night. How'd he do? Not so good; after a middling, pitchy performance of Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf", which the judges, and we, sort of hated, he recovered, kind of, with a half-atrocious nu-metal-y version of the Who's "Baba O'Riley" that seemed to appease Randy and Simon but almost made us wish Jason Castro would come back out and desecrate another Bob Marley song. Later, as we probably should've expected, David Archuleta wiped the floor with him.

So what happened? Why on ROCK-AND-ROLL NIGHT could Idol's resident Axl not pull off a win? Well, obviously it's hardly worth pointing out that David Cook is not a real rock star, and the idea of Duran Duran or Who fans purchasing a copy of his album someday is sort of laughable. But that's okay! Nobody expects to see credible rock performances on American Idol anyway! Still, last night, instead of trying to impress the judges, Idol's in-studio audience, or the people watching at home, Cook was playing to his hypothetical hard-rock fan base that doesn't actually exist yet (and maybe never will). He was letting them know what kind of album he would make, were he to win the show (one that'll get him dropped from Columbia Records, we'd imagine, since the grandmothers and 13-year-olds saving him from elimination week after week probably won't buy it). He was performing for his theoretical niche and attempting to plant the seeds of a career — things that other contestants have been doing for years and wouldn't have seemed nearly so egregious were there not, for the first time, another better finalist who doesn't care about any of that crap.

What kind of songs will David Archuleta record for his album once he's inevitably voted this season's winner? Probably just the cheesy ones he sings on the show, not that he's even thought that far ahead. Like we've said since the beginning, for him, winning Idol isn't a means to a long-lasting singing career, it's pretty much his only goal. Whatever the night's theme, he's happy to sing for everybody — not just for the imaginary fans who might one day buy his CD. He's 17, he's probably never even seen a CD! And for all we know, he's been programmed to self-destruct the second Ryan Seacrest crowns him the victor. Can he be stopped? No. Good luck in the finale, Cook.

Earlier: ‘American Idol’ Preview: Is It David Cook's Night?
Idolbot: Is David Archuleta the Greatest ‘American Idol’ Contestant of All Time?