Archive for July 3rd, 2009


Like millions throughout the world, 2008 American Idol winner David Cook grew up with Michael Jackson.

“Michael Jackson’s important to me in the same way that he’s important to music in general,” the touring Cook said Saturday from Aspen, Colo.

“Michael took pop music and made it more than pop music. He made it pop culture, he made it music history. You don’t earn the nickname ‘king of pop’ on a whim. His contributions to music are incalculable.”

Although Cook was born in 1982, the year that Jackson’s most successful album, Thriller, was released, Jackson’s decades of stardom, which began in 1969 with the Jackson 5’s first hit, lasted long enough for Cook and his peers to be among Jackson’s fans.

“Just like every kid, I would listen to Michael Jackson and scream,” Cook remembered. “And then we’d see the Thriller video all the time around Halloween.”

One of Jackson’s greatest hits, “Billie Jean,” helped Cook win his American Idol crown last year. Cook based his performance not on the Jackson original, but on a ballad-style, 2007 remake by rock musician Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Audioslave and solo fame.

“We were doing songs from the year we were born that week,” Cook said. “I saw ‘Billie Jean’ on the list, so I looked for alternate versions and I found Chris Cornell’s version. It was moody. It had a vibe that fit me. Not that I consider myself Chris Cornell or anything, but I felt like it was something I could have fun with. And it just kind of snowballed. I wasn’t expecting it to be received like it was.”

Cook ultimately won the competition, but even more than a year later, and after his self-titled debut album sold a million-plus copies, the 26-year-old Cook is not one to brag. He credits his success to the years of experience he brought to the American Idol stage.

“That was the one thing that kept me in it,” he said. “I was not the best singer on the show that season. Carly (Smithson) and Syesha (Mercado) and David (Archuleta) and Brooke (White) and Michael (Johns), they have better voices than I do. They did more with their instruments than I did, but I knew what kind of music I could do, what my niche was, so it was just a matter of catering songs to that.”

Cook was working on his second indie album when he accompanied his younger brother, Andrew, to American Idol auditions in Omaha.

“I got talked into auditioning at the last minute,” he said. “I didn’t really see American Idol as my path. I was living in Tulsa and working on records. I was content but then I figured, ‘OK, fine. Nothing’s gonna come out of it, but I’ll do it.’ But I was wrong. I’ll take this kind of wrong.”

Cook’s first priority after his Idol win was making a new album.

“We started writing a few days after the finale and we began recording July 1, the same day that the American Idol tour started,” Cook said. “I had, like, two days off all summer.”

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