Whatever Happened To Taylor Hicks From American Idol?

"American Idol" fans will likely recall the thrilling moment Taylor Hicks won Season 5 of the iconic reality singing competition (via EW). That was back in 2006 — and would you believe the Alabama native beat Katharine McPhee to take home the win (via Popsugar)? His signature single "Do I Make You Proud?" led the 29-year-old to victory. In the process of securing the title and joining the likes of Kelly Clarkson in the winner's circle, he sang past the now more well-known Kellie Pickler and Chris Daughtry, who competed against Hicks during the season and finished in sixth and fourth place respectively, according to Reality TV World.

AOL credits Hicks' distinctive voice for his win and noted that he went on to sign a record deal after the finale. His single debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 in the top spot, so he made quite the entry into the competitive world of professional singing. Even the infamously tough to please "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell predicted Hicks would run away with the victory so, clearly, scores of fans loved him (via Today). With that successful start, you might be wondering how the grey-haired soul singer disappeared into basic oblivion.

Unfortunately, Taylor Hicks' star didn't shine for long. His record label dropped him just two years after winning the nationwide singing contest (via Fox News). However, he wasn't finished yet.

Taylor Hicks created his own record label and released music independently

Following Taylor Hicks' win, he was immediately signed to J Records — a label owned by Sony-BMG that managed artists from the competition (via Fox News). On January 4, 2008, the label's publicist Liz Morentin announced that Hicks was "going to record on his own for the next album," leading to speculation that he had been dropped. However, the musician didn't acknowledge the rumors when he spoke to Birmingham News (via Reality Blurred). But Hicks did say he thought he'd have "a lot more freedom creatively" with his next record, adding that he'll "also have the time now to create an album without the post-winning-'Idol' constrictions."

Two days later, Hicks confirmed the news on his MySpace page. "The important thing for all of you to remember is that I've been a working musician my whole life," he wrote (via AL.com) "This is turning the page on a new chapter in my career. Artistic freedom and control is an exciting prospect."

In 2009, Hicks independently released his second album "The Distance" through his label Modern Whomp Records (via Today). "I had traditional label offers but I just thought to myself, you know, I think this is a pretty good comeback story," he told Today.

Taylor Hicks starred as Teen Angel in a Broadway production of Grease

Around the same time as his second album's release, Taylor Hicks took his talents to Broadway where he played Teen Angel in a production of "Grease." "I am incredibly excited to be a part of one of my favorite musicals," the musician said in a statement (via Playbill). "The Soul Patrol's gonna invade Broadway!" Following the show's success, he reprised his role as Teen Angel for the national tour of "Grease" in the summer of 2008 (via Playbill).

It was a busy time for Hicks. A year previously, he published a memoir — "Heart of Soul: An Inspirational Memoir About Finding Your Voice and Finding Your Way" (via TV Fanatic). The book was published by The Crown Publishing Group (via People) and was reportedly ghost-written by David Wild, according to the musician's agent Alan Nevins. Hicks allegedly received around $750,000 in advance of the memoir before publishing, according to the New York Post.

Taylor Hicks was the first American Idol contestant to have a Las Vegas residency

In June 2012, Taylor Hicks had a "full-circle moment" when it was announced he would be performing a three-month Vegas residency at The Indigo in Bally's Las Vegas Hotel and Casino (via The Hollywood Reporter). Las Vegas just so happened to be where the star initially auditioned for "American Idol" back in 2005. Hicks was also the first alum of the show to land a residency in Vegas. Since then, winners like Carrie Underwood (via Good Morning America) and "American Idol" judge Luke Bryan (via Rolling Stone) have also taken the plunge.

The popularity of Hicks's initial residency run resulted in the musician moving to a bigger venue over at Napoleon's in Paris Las Vegas in January 2013 (via The Hollywood Reporter). He performed at the venue for five nights a week until November 23 before extending his residency at the venue with another run of performances between March and April 2014 (via Vital Vegas) as a result of receiving "nearly-universal positive reviews" for his act.

The musician made his acting debut on Law & Order: SVU

In a surprising twist of events, Taylor Hicks made his television debut as a judge on an episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" in 2013 (via The Hollywood Reporter). Playing himself, Hicks sat alongside "American Idol" season two runner-up Clay Aiken and R&B musician Ashanti on the judging panel for a fictional singing competition. The episode revolved around a scandal involving a singing coach played by Billy Porter.

Hicks had a blast shooting the episode and reveled in channeling his "inner Simon Cowell." It was also his first opportunity to experience the realm of acting. "Playing yourself is a really great way to get your feet wet in the acting field," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "I was born on TV, meaning that's where I caught my break. So that's where I always have to be smart and revisit that medium as much as I can."

In 2021, Hicks branched out to the film world with the independent movie "Stars Fell On Alabama" (via AL.com). Not only did he star as himself in the film, but he also provided a few songs to the soundtrack. He provided a taste of his next album through the single "Porch Swing." He also put his "musical producer hat" on to help plan which songs would be used in specific scenes (via AL.com).

Taylor Hicks hosted his own food show inspired by United States history

Outside of music, the musician opened a restaurant in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, called Ore Drink and Dine in April 2011 (via AL.com). Before Taylor Hick's ownership, the venue used to be the Open Door Café and was owned by his late friend Robert Hawkins. Hicks regularly performed there so he decided to take it over and transform it into his own place when Hawkins passed away.

A year later, Hicks partnered with another Birmingham restaurateur (via Birmingham Business Journal), and Ore Drink and Dine joined Mike Wilson's Saw Juke Joint as a combined venue. "The opportunity came up to partner with a great restaurant group, and we thought it fit the space perfectly," Hicks told AL.com. "I think the concept first the area perfectly. We all know Saw's has the best barbecue in town, and the juke joint concept is a home run."

In 2016, Hicks took his love of food even further by hosting his food show "State Plate" on the cable network INSP. It ran for three seasons (via IMDb). The series saw Hicks travel across the United States to make the perfect dish that personified each state he visited. "As a touring musician ... I think, like all of us Southerners do, I have been on a food tour," Hicks told Commercial Appeal. "INSP has this wonderful idea for a food and travel concept, and it all just came together."

The paparazzi couldn't get enough of him

It wasn't easy for Taylor Hicks after his "American Idol" days. The fame the singing reality show brought him, as the winner of the fifth season in 2006, meant exaggerated attention from the paps. In fact, the fan frenzy around Hicks got so vigorous at times that he had to hire personal security. Insider reported that the singer was once the target of a stalker-like situation wherein a cameraman allegedly tailed him for months in a helicopter. "I had a bodyguard for six months, it was very intense for me," Hicks said. Despite the frills surrounding his vocation, Hicks knew from a young age that this was the path he wanted to take. "I had a vision as a child about three years old to be an entertainer and to create music," he told Dr. Phil, acknowledging the "sudden fame" he came into with his victory. 

According to data presented by YouGov America, Hicks is the 22nd most popular blues artist on a list that also ranks the likes of music legends Janis Joplin and B.B. King. Yet, for all the fame he enjoyed after American Idol, Hicks apparently managed to keep a cool head, even telling aspirants in the field that if they were using their abilities "to try to become famous, find another job."

He returned to the stage, pulling in large crowds

Though his "American Idol" days are long past, Taylor Hicks can still be found belting out tunes in his powerful, recognizable voice. Following his Season 5 win, Hicks never did stop performing, continuing to pull large crowds at public shows and tours. In June 2022, he set audiences grooving on the last night of the 32nd Annual Jazz Fest, which he headlined (via The Outlook). A month later, he was rocking it up at an Alabama high school, performing for thousands, according to a KTVZ-TV report. Hicks, a frequent performer in his home state, has previously spoken about the pride he takes in Alabama and the vital place it holds in rock n' roll legacy (via Billboard).

The pandemic hasn't been able to dampen his spirits since, as Times Union reported, Hicks began touring in November 2021. "I think that you have to be smart about the directions that you take," he said, elaborating on how he clinched opportunities post his "Idol" win to keep going. "Six Strings and Diamond Rings" was the last single he released in 2017. Hicks fans have more reason to rejoice since the 45-year-old singer is en route to releasing a new album of original soul music after 10 years. "For me, this is a big opportunity for me to put some real career music on tape and let everyone hear it," he said during a 2022 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

He tried his hand at acting with a musical based on the Civil War

Reality television really does open doors. Taylor Hicks, not one to be afraid of diving into varied projects post his "American Idol" win, has acquainted himself well with acting. Besides his notable appearance on an episode of "Law & Order" in 2013, Hicks took the stage in an enthralling new way in 2019 with another significant acting role in the musical titled "Shenandoah." Produced by Serenbe Playhouse, the award-winning American Civil War-based musical was headlined by Hicks, who played the central role of Charlie Anderson (per Fox 5). "Shenandoah" follows the story of Anderson's family and the events that transpire after one of his sons is taken prisoner during the war. 

"This puts me in a pure acting role. And I love the story," Hicks said of the project, which lined up songs like "Meditation" and "It's a Boy" for him to sing (via AL.com). Brian Clowdus, director of the musical, stated categorically that he envisioned "star power" in the lead role of his production. Hicks, meanwhile, hasn't been shy about expressing a desire to land full-blown screen acting roles, saying that opportunities such as "Shenandoah" could help build street cred for him to pave the way into bigger ventures. In the past, Hicks — who also has a food show and a published memoir under his belt — has candidly spoken about being open to "different impressions and reinventions in [his] career" (via Hollywood Soapbox). 

He treated fans to surprise appearances on tours

Taylor Hicks has kept his romance with reality television thriving, long after "American Idol" ended. The Alabama native thoroughly surprised fans, when he appeared as an unexpected surprise guest on the national tour run by "The Masked Singer" in 2022. In the Fox show's own words (via Instagram), Hicks "brought the house down in Memphis" with an enthralling stage performance. He crooned a rendition of Garth Brooks' award-winning country song from 1990, "Friends in Low Places." The reality show, which requires its celebrity performers to conceal their identities but teases the audience by dropping hints about them, reportedly had Hicks in a special tour-specific costume — something he said was "super hot" (more inside than on the outside). "I jumped at the opportunity — a great hit, a fun look, and no strings attached," Hicks told AL.com.

Unlike many who faze out of attention after a major reality show break, the "Idol" winner has managed to remain relevant to his fans years after his 2006 victory. "The key is to still try to work as much as you can, and I'm coming up on 15 years in show business. I'm really happy that I still get to perform shows and be in entertainment," he said (via the Times Union). Hicks, meanwhile, returned to touring once again in 2021. Between his own tours and an upcoming album release, Hicks also keeps busy with the occasional acting gig and private shows (via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution). 

Taylor Hicks is not quite over his American Idol glory days

When Taylor Hicks was crowned the winner of the fifth season of "American Idol," over 36 million people tuned in to watch — among the highest-viewed finales of the reality show (via Billboard). Naturally, that would be a high hard to forget — and Hicks clearly hasn't. The 45-year-old singer often reminisces about his glory days on social media. In May 2022, he shared a clip of his memorable purple-jacketed rendition of "Living for the City" on the "American Idol" stage 16 years ago. "The journey continues," he wrote on Instagram, where he enjoys a following of over 20,000 fans. 

Though the reality show reportedly hasn't peaked lately as it did around 2006, Hicks has been all praises about the platform that shot him to fame. "I think there's a unilateral focus on the show and really trying to create a star in this business," he told Rolling Stone. Calling it one of the "biggest blessings" of his life, he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "I will always be a cheerleader when it comes to that show." One particular statement Hicks made in 2018 about the show left mouths agape, though. He alleged on a radio show that during his "Idol" stint, he had an inside person in production who relayed weekly elimination results to him before they were made public. Per TMZ, the only result he wasn't in the know about was his own finale win. 

He reunited with his American Idol buddies to perform

Nostalgia for the good ol' early millennium days of "American Idol" just doesn't end! Taylor Hicks, who won the finale in 2006, has continued to since perform with his reality show buddies, much to the delight of fans. At the World Games in Alabama in 2022, the "Do I Make Your Proud" singer regrouped with other "Idol" natives from the state — Ruben Studdard who won the second season, and Bo Bice, runner-up in the fourth season — for a special act. As per the event's official website, the grand performance featuring Hicks, Bice, Studdard, and others sought to encapsulate the spirit of the "Hope of Alabama," with the song standing out as the theme song of the 2022 Games.

Famously dubbed "American Idol's" silver fox, Hicks honored his reality show legacy by turning up for a special reunion organized for the alums on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" in 2018. The episode also featured the likes of Studdard, Kevin Covais, and Sanjaya Malakar and had the "Idol" stars tell the audience what their lives looked like post their respective television stints (via The Hollywood Reporter). Hicks, meanwhile, did not make it to the show's 20th-anniversary celebrations in a 2022 episode that lined up several alums. "They've reached out to all of us about coming back on the show. I don't think the reunion stuff is over with," he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.