David deserved to win American Idol. His voice, musicianship, and talent went way beyond the confines of that cheesy reality show. But many viewers somehow didn’t “get him.” Add to that the false competitive dynamics of the show, and down upon David fell an avalanche of criticism—petty, irrelevant, and unfair.
What was strange was that there were millions of people who did not see what the big deal was. Were they watching the same show we were watching? Many of us were blown away by David’s artistry, musical range, talent, and personality, and couldn’t understand why others didn’t see what we saw. We followed him on YouTube and, hoping others would see the light, we yearned for him to have the chance to display all those musical sides of himself on the show. However, the show’s format was constraining.
And then David dispelled all doubts on Finale Night. He was the real champion—possessing not only otherworldly talent, but also passion and grit. All indicators that night pointed toward an Archuleta victory: the roar of the crowd at the Nokia Theatre, the judges’ effusive praise, even the articles of all the media pundits—many of whom had been quick to find fault with David before and since. For 24 hours at least, David was the Champion. Those of us (who didn’t watch DialIdol with clenched teeth) went to bed with pleasant thoughts, picturing David’s face when he was announced the winner, surrounded by pyrotechnics and confetti, singing through tears.
And then he lost.
How did this happen? Theories have abounded, including that of the possible manipulation of a judge who made victory for David seem assured to spur his opponent’s fans to vote, vote, and vote again.
But none of those theories, rumors, or explaining-aways can salve the pain we feel. Is this what he deserved for having bared his soul and left his heart out on the stage? And we still wince when we think of that moment when Ryan Seacrest announces that another had won the crown, and David gracefully steps off of the stage to give his friend his victory moment.
That painful moment defines us as a fanbase. In the back of our minds always sits the memory of that injustice. The American public’s decision to favor someone else (“over 100 million votes!”) makes us feel like we always have something to prove. This has made David’s fans ever more fervent, ever more ardent in defending David’s talent and character. Number Two Syndrome has made us the fans we are, for better or for worse.
Some of us had wanted to adopt him. Some even considered ignoring the legal procedure—now in addition to kidnapping we were willing to commit mass murder against everyone who would harm him. We flood a college student’s “review” of David’s album with biting comments, still suffering from flashbacks of all sorts of inane comments on YouTube and elsewhere, bitter memories still burning in our brains. We narrow our eyes toward certain media outlets who always seemed to have it out for David. Why do they hate him so? What did he ever do to them? To whom can I address this letter? It always seem that David is treated unfairly, or made to surmount impossible odds. David, who has committed to giving his heart and soul through his music, does not seem to deserve so much of this. We pledge blood oaths to shield him against a hostile, unappreciative, cynical, cruel world.
We always feel like the underdogs. Even when criticism comes from the most insignificant quarters, even from some hater hiding behind a screenname, we are stung and feel compelled to respond. Even criticisms of David that are balanced and proportioned make us prick our ears for any hint of blindness or unfairness.
Why do people still put him in a box, we wonder? We hear the same snap judgments made not only by the media, but also by friends and loved ones. They tease us for following an eighteen-year-old pop star. We wish he were less goshdang attractive—and then we don’t. We shove away the embarrassing David memorabilia, learn how to quickly minimize our browser windows at work—anything to avoid the sighs and ironic smiles of others. Even when they mean well and are good-humored—we want to bite their head off. Our siege state of mind has even gotten in the way of how we relate to people, some of whom have learned through experience to watch their words when they talk about The Archuleta.
We gather at fansites like TDC not only to spaz and squee, but also to collectively mope with others who share our Number Two Blues. We compare notes and trade news articles and report the latest on how David is being perceived today. We share frustrations about a music industry that seems to favor glitz and image over musicianship. We wonder how it is that other artists with not nearly as much as talent as David’s somehow become megasuperstars. And why do so many people listen to that stuff? Goshdarnit, can’t they see what we see?
And what other fanbase fashions itself to be an army of angels? An army waging a war against a world of meanness and selfishness? We are not only fans, but a crusade. Or a maligned few who are charged with a mission of spreading the Good Word, much like the Christians of olden times—only without the lions.
We yearn for that bright moment of clarity, of vindication, when David gets the return on his investment of hard work and commitment. We don’t care in what form it comes: whether it be receiving his first Grammy, doing a duet with Barbra Streisand, or inspiring the legion of imitators that every great artist deserves. We want Archuleta to be a noun, an adjective, and a verb. We want to blurt out to the unbelievers who do not see the light now: “Just you watch! You’ll see!” And we cannot wait for that moment when family and friends turn to us, lower their heads in shame, and admit, “O doofus was me—you were right all along.”
It doesn’t help our condition that the curse seems to stick with David:
• David’s debut single, “Crush,” places Number Two behind Rihanna’s “Disturbia.”
• David’s self-titled debut album places Number Two behind Taylor Swift’s “Fearless.”
• Jordin Sparks serves as an opening act for Alicia Keys and Britney Spears, but David hasn’t yet paired up with anyone that mega-famous.
• David wows the world with “Contigo en la Distancia,” but even his brilliant performance is dwarfed by a silly stunt by Kanye West.
• David’s album “Christmas from the Heart” debuts as the Number Two Christmas album behind Bob Dylan’s “Christmas in the Heart.”
We even see David being Number Two to another Number Two, as Adam Lambert now pioneers alien invasion rock and attracts huge media attention.
O when will come, David’s place in the sun?
But it’s time to gain some perspective. David’s accomplishments have already been tremendous, by any measure. What other eighteen-year-old goes double-platinum? Or has top stars in the music industry and Latino entertainment industry in awe? Or has the chance to release three studio albums in eighteen months?
It’s almost comical how we as fans can lose sight of how much we have to be thankful for. And to add to the comedy is the fact that David, while singing in front of a crowd of thousands of adoring, screaming fans who wonder why “not enough” people love and adore him, himself often wonders what on earth these thousands of people see in him. David’s sure got it rough.
Our sense that something’s amiss, that the planet’s off its axis, that there’s something in the water—all goes back to that one fateful night. Post-Traumatic David Disorder, contracted in a single moment, promises a long and slow recovery.
Of course, David never saw any of this as a contest. He has said that he just wants to make music, and that it is a blessing that he has come this far. And in the end, did he actually lose??
But as much as we might accept what we says, and even convince ourselves that this is right, we can’t help but wanting to feel vindicated for all the time and money we have spent, all the slights and skepticism we have endured. And we want many, many more people to “get” him, so he can connect with many more people through his music. That is, after all, what he himself hopes to accomplish. If we are insane, then let the whole world be insane with us.
Until that day comes, we’ll have to make do with what we’ve got: Number Two. Which isn’t a bad place to be. And at the end of the day, we all know who’s really Number One.