Chris Daughtry wishes we would forget his shocking elimination from last year's American Idol, a contest he was widely favored to win. It's kind of a touchy subject.
"You hear one of two things: 'You were robbed' or 'you shoulda won,'" he says about attention from sympathetic fans, who continue to offer unsolicited condolences and pep talks about his controversial departure.
"I'm just gonna be real: I hate hearing it," he says. "It makes you feel like they're stuck in that moment from where you were on the show. You want them to kinda break out of that and follow you where you're at now, and see that things are fantastic and there's nothing to be upset about. Get over it, you know, because I'm doing alright."
His band, called Daughtry, saw their self-titled debut album, released in November on Sony BMG's RCA label, jump to No. 1 last week. The disc has sold nearly 1.3 million copies on the shoulders of its single, It's Not Over.
The 27-year-old father of two was a musician based in McLeansville, N.C., when he decided to heed his wife's advice and audition for Idol, which has turned out hitmakers like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. He needed the exposure to "get to that next level," he says.
Along came Idol, overnight celebrity and a "massive amount of rabid fans." He made Paula Abdul blush - OK, all you need is to be young and male to do that - and won over viewers with impassioned, rock-infused covers of songs ranging from Elvis numbers to pop ballads.
Unlike stars like Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera, who signed record deals before they were boldfaced names, Daughtry was discovered first by American Idol judges and then by voting viewers. They "feel responsible" for his success, he says.
That's why they stop him on the street to say "You were robbed!!"
"It's the power of TV," he says. "They feel like they know you. ... And then once you REALLY get to know me, you probably wouldn't like me," he jokes, laughing heartily.
He wouldn't trade places with the gray-haired Taylor Hicks, who is a tougher sell to younger listeners. His album, released in December, has sold less than half of Daughtry's CD.
"I don't feel like I would have been able to do what I wanted to do with my career. ... I would have been a solo artist. It would have been an album that I probably would have regretted," says Daughtry, who longed to front his own band.
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