David Cooks up 'Idol' shocker Grungy rocker is choice of viewers,
despite Simon's kudos for Archuleta
BY JIM FARBER
DAILY NEWS MUSIC CRITIC
Thursday, May 22nd 2008, 7:08 AM
THE YOWLING rocker triumphed over the sensitive balladeer as this year's "American Idol."Grunge-voiced David Cook took the prize over his twinkle-eyed rival David Archuleta by a margin of 12 million votes, according to host Ryan Seacrest. Of the 97.5 million votes Seacrest claimed came rolling in, 56% went to Cook and 44% to Archuleta. In a sense, Cook's victory came as a significant surprise. He walked into last night's show with a major disadvantage since rough judge Simon Cowell had practically anointed Archuleta the winner at Tuesday night's final performances, saying his singing scored a "knockout" against Cook. While bookies were split on which David would triumph, some observers figured the supercute Archuleta had a leg up, since his fan base skews heavily toward screamy teens, a segment especially savvy in the ways of phone voting. Countertheories favored Cook, surmising that he drew from a wider demographic, embracing both young and old. Either way, the battle between Archuleta and Cook represented one of the most stark contrasts in styles and sensibilities in "Idol's" seven-year history. Even that drama did little to tweak ratings. While "Idol" remains the top-rated show on television by several million, average viewership was down from a peak of 26 million to 21 million this year. Cowell himself had called the year's contestants "too safe." But he certainly couldn't call the top candidates too similar. The younger David specialized in soft songs of sentimentality, the elder favored bolder rock flourishes, especially as contained in hand-me-down grunge ballads. Archuleta stressed sincerity - Cook bravado. The former epitomized innocence, the latter, if-not-exactly experience, then at least a suggestion of adult awareness. By contrast, the Mormon-born Archuleta seems almost startlingly free of experience. He's like a human Bambi, immune to cynicism and open to faith. Such a pristine character made Archuleta a perfect vehicle for the kinds of idealized ballads he favored week in and week out. Moreover, Archuleta owns the more individual voice. Cook sounds like any number of mainstream rock singers in bands that wish they were Nirvana - from Nickelback to Daughtry. For his part, Archuleta boasts a subtle rasp that shades his more boyish tones and gives him a hint of soul. Archuleta also connects to his material in a more probing way, taping into the darker well of feeling his doll-like visage obscures. In the end, he's both a better, and a rarer, singer than Cook.
Which means that - at least for this election - American voters got it dead wrong.