David Archuleta may have been the “one to beat” when season seven of American Idol premiered last January, but he’s facing some stiff competition in David Cook. Both contestants haven’t ever been in the bottom two or three, and while Archuleta is holding steady, Cook has been gaining momentum each week.
He certainly didn’t come out of the gate as a front runner. His rock performance of The Turtles' “Happy Together” showed a lot of potential, but it was good, not great. The next week he did a solid performance of Free’s “All Right Now,” but Simon criticized him for being boring because he said he liked word puzzles in the “getting to know the contestants” video shown right before the performance. Simon believed Cook showing his intellectual side would hurt his not yet established rock credibility. That was a misjudgment on Simon’s part. The word puzzles made him more endearing to viewers, especially those not already inclined to like his more modern rock sound.
The next week he proved he was anything but boring by doing a hard rock version of Lionel Richie’s pop ballad “Hello.” They song drew attention from Lionel Richie himself, who said he wanted to record the song with Cook. The arrangement was vaguely similar to a version the band Incubus had done a few years before, but the similarities were hardly enough to compare the two.
Even so, he seemed to be treading closely to Chris Daughtry’s tactic of doing a “cover of a cover” — that is, taking his song choice and finding a modern rock cover that would fit his style. This landed Daughtry in some hot water when the judges praised him for being “original,” when he was really just doing an already established arrangement. While the onus is more on the judges for making uninformed remarks, Daughtry was never able to fully recover from the controversy. Daughtry backed away from the rock covers and at times he found himself struggling to fit with some of the themes. This may have been one of the factors that ultimately led to his premature departure from American Idol at number four.