Winning “American Idol” or coming in second (which, let’s face it, is not that different) is just the beginning of a long fight for a career. It’s a fight Kelly Clarkson’s pretty much won by now, Clay Aiken and Fantasia have got a strong handle on, Ruben Studdard is struggling with a bit, and Justin Guarini and Diana DeGarmo have all but lost.
It’s a fight that should be easier for Carrie Underwood (see “Carrie Underwood Wins ‘American Idol’ “ ), given that she’s entering the less competitive world of country pop. And it’s a fight that has never been as difficult as it will be for Bo Bice, who will attempt to cross over from a cred-less show to a genre where credibility means so much.
Bo’s already defied the odds by becoming the first rock singer to compete in the “American Idol” finale; can he do it again and become the first rock star with a Randy Jackson endorsement on his resume? (see “Rocking Runner-Up Bo Bice Wants To Show What He’s Really About” )?
MTV News took that question to those who would know: real rockers.
“That’s a tricky one,” Switchfoot singer Jon Foreman said. “It depends on what you call ‘rock’ music. If you include Avril Lavigne and Ashlee Simpson, it becomes easier to survive in the rock world. But if you’re talking Cursive, he’ll never achieve that kind of credibility.”
“It’s gonna be really hard to be taken seriously,” Tom Wisniewski, guitarist for punk band MxPx, added. “He’s gonna have to fight.”
“My feeling about Bo Bice is he’s really good, I thought he was really good eons ago,” countered former Soul Coughing singer Mike Doughty. “To me, credibility is bunk. I don’t know what the hell credibility is. To me, music is music. People who are obsessed with credibility aren’t people who buy music, they’re rock critics, and to hell with them.”
My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way suggested that Bo stick to Southern rock. “Maybe in a Skynyrd tribute band, maybe as a Ted Nugent backup singer, any one of those redneck bands,” he said.
Or maybe Bo could actually join Skynyrd. “He’s welcome to sing with us any time,” Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Rickey Medlocke said. “But he’s got his own thing going on.”
In reporting this story, MTV News showed footage of Bo performing to more than a dozen rockers. About half knew who he was (including Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl and Transplants singer Rob Aston) and half of them had positive things to say.
“If it promotes guitar music, as opposed to like, bottom-of-the-barrel, average R&B that sounds like nothing, then yeah, that’s great,” Hot Hot Heat singer Steve Bays said. “More power to him.”
“At first glance, you think, ‘OK, this guy’s cheesy,’ but now that I think about it, he’s way better than everybody else,” MxPx singer Mike Herrera said. “He’s like the antithesis of what you would think America’s next whatever model singer would be.”
“I’m very surprised to see a guy looking like that,” Interpol bassist Carlos D. added. “All the guys that have been on ‘American Idol’ have had that sort of clean-cut look … and lack substance.”
RCA Records, which will release Bo’s debut, has yet to say whether he will be marketed as a solo artist — like a rock version of Clay — or as the frontman of a rock band, à la the Dave Matthews Band or even Sugar Money, Bice’s pre-”Idol” band. That decision could be vital.
The other question is, after the American Idols Live tour this summer, who will Bo tour with? A rock-oriented pop artist or a genuine rock band? Kelly Clarkson or the Foo Fighters?
“I’d never let him open for us, but good luck, buddy,” Grohl said.
What about other rock bands? If the music’s good, does Bo’s history matter?
“Everything matters, that’s the thing,” Switchfoot’s Foreman said. “We’ve been selective in taking out a lot of indie bands because that’s who we feel we connect with. It comes down to music. Do we feel like we can believe in it? That’s what’s tricky about ‘American Idol,’ is the believability.”
“He’s welcome on our stage any day,” Alkaline Trio’s Derek Grant said, as bandmate Dan Adriano praised Bice’s a cappella version of Badlands’ “In a Dream” from the second-to-final week of “Idol.”
“I think I’d probably be opening for Bo Bice,” Mike Doughty joked.
As for advice for Bo, rockers offered these, ahem, valuable tips:
Don’t shave. “Beards are back!” Grohl declared. “Beard rock.”
“The first thing he has to do is lose his name and change it to Bob Ice,” Jimmy Eat World singer Jim Adkins added. “That’s much hipper with the kids. Or Bobbi Ice with an ‘i.’ ”Get “Idol”-ized on MTV News’ “American Idol” page, where you’ll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.