Chris Daughtry and Taylor Hicks have been favorites for so long this "American Idol" season, it's easy to forget that for its first three years, the show was a pop and R&B competition.
Everything changed, of course, when a Southern rocker named Bo Bice nearly won the darned thing last season, and for that, "Idol" contestants and fans are thanking him for what is now a diverse and more exciting contest.
"I told Bo that he is the reason that I auditioned," Daughtry said. "I always thought that it was a little cheesy and it was real pop-oriented and I didn't think that I would be able to be myself, but when I saw him, he came out here and did his rock thing and everybody accepted it and he got very far. I thought, 'You know what? There is nothing stopping me from doing it.' "
"Bo opened up a lot of doors for a lot of people," added Bucky Covington, an eliminated rocker finalist. "I think he did the show a lot of good by coming on. He did a heck of a job, and so far with his career he's doing a fine job ... and I thank him very much for it."
Talent certainly carried Bice through the semifinals and finals — as it did for fellow season-four rocker Constantine Maroulis — but Jacob Clifton, who covers "Idol" for TelevisionWithoutPity.com, believes the show had an agenda with them from the start.
"Bo and Constantine were cast in season four to expand the show's appeal," Clifton theorized. "After the all-female revue that was season three, the show needed to do something to prove its performers didn't need to be lightweights, soul singers or cute young ladies to succeed."
Season three wasn't all ladies, though. There was Jon Peter Lewis, who was never deemed a rocker, but his song choices were almost all rock, including "A Little Less Conversation" and "Rocket Man."
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"I was doing what Taylor is doing before Bo and Constantine," Lewis said. "I'm not so sure that Bo or Constantine would have been given a chance in auditions if I hadn't been successful with more rockin' tunes."
What Bo and Constantine did, according to Shirley Halperin, who covers "Idol" for Teen People, was "make it OK for rockers who deem themselves to be 'credible' musicians to appear on 'American Idol,' " she said. "Like it wasn't so uncool that you'd never recover. Quite the opposite, actually. It can kick-start a totally legitimate career that could end with a Grammy in your hand, à la Kelly Clarkson.
"Were it not for Bo and Constantine, we could be looking at an endless line of Justin Guarinis," she added.
Whatever the case, both Bo and Constantine are happy to have blazed the trail for future rockers.
"Can we take a little credit for that? Is that OK?" Maroulis asked. "Just getting in there and doing our thing, no rules, no holds barred. I mean, neither Bo nor I had ever even seen the show."
"I never really thought of it in that light ... but that makes me feel great," Bice added. "If it wasn't for my mom convincing me to come and do this I probably wouldn't have, because I was too rock and roll and whatever else. So that makes me feel good to know that maybe just by taking a chance that I inspired someone else to take a chance."
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