David Cook America's Accidental Idol


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David Cook didn't even plan to try out for American Idol - and then he won

Less than a week after winning American Idol, David Cook is sitting in a glitzy restaurant on the south tip of Manhattan's Central Park. The chef, who proudly says he was among the 55 million who phoned in a vote for Cook during Idol's finals, presents the singer with an off- the-menu treat -- foie gras on toast -- that leaves Cook unnerved. “That looks dangerous," he says. “I'm a little scared." Tossing the bite-size morsel in his mouth, he chews slowly and quickly lunges for his Sprite to drown out the taste. Later, when the chef returns with a delicate flan of pured peas, Cook looks at the plate, picks it up and sets it aside to be cleared.

Weird food isn't the only thing to have appeared in the 25-year-old's life in the week since Idol wrapped. After his upset win over teen crooner David Archuleta on May 21st, Cook jetted to New York for his first-ever visit -- during which he hit Regis and Kelly and signed a record deal with 19 Recordings/RCA. Whisked around the city in a limousine, he was constantly assaulted by fans. “Sorry to bother you," said one middle-aged woman, interrupting Cook's dinner to plead with him to sign anything. “But the rest of your life is going to be like this."

Like Chris Daughtry before him, Cook has struck a (power) chord with rock fans across the country. The Idol finale brought in nearly 100 million votes, and by the next week, 11 of Cook's songs had entered Billboard's Hot 100 -- more than any other artist since the Beatles in 1964. Leading the pack is his first single, “The Time of My Life," followed by many of his Idol covers, including takes on U2's “I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," Collective Soul's “The World I Know" and Lionel Richie's “Hello."

Dressed in dark jeans and a black sport jacket with the sleeves rolled up, displaying gnawed fingernails and a left forearm festooned with rubber bracelets and a single silver band engraved AC, Cook brushes off criticism about Idol's starmaking machinery. “The overnight thing is nice and romantic," he says. “But in this particular instance, it's not the case." For a decade, in bands like Axium and the Midwest Kings, Cook has busted his ass to achieve a modest goal: the ability to support himself through music. “I never got into music for the celebrity aspect," he says. “That sounds like a clich, but it's true."

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