The best part about "American Idol" is also the worst: Everyone is paying attention and that spotlight is bright, whether you're ready for it or not.
So now that Garner homeboy Scotty McCreery has won "Idol," he moves on to a higher level of competition - against the likes of Toby Keith, Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts.
McCreery should get a good ride with his opening single "I Love You This Big," which he debuted on the show Tuesday night and which was the No. 1 download on iTunes on the morning after his "Idol" victory.
The "Idol" tour will be a triumphant homecoming for him when it plays Raleigh's RBC Center on July 27. There will also be a great deal of interest in his first album when it debuts this year.
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The goal is a career like Carrie Underwood's, who went on to be one of the biggest stars in country music after winning Season 4 of "Idol"- and avoiding the fate of Season 5 winner Taylor Hicks, who quickly faded and has been upstaged by fourth-place finisher Chris Daughtry from McLeansville.
McCreery's long-term success is by no means assured. This month in the online radio-industry trade publication radio-info.com, a column headlined "'American Idol' Finalists Could Get A Chilly Reception At Country Radio" featured country radio programmers across the nation expressing skepticism about McCreery with surprising bluntness. After getting picked up in USA Today's "Idol Chatter" blog, the column caused a great deal of controversy, with McCreery's fans coming to his defense.
Radio-info.com's executive news editor, Tom Taylor, likens the situation to what happened a decade ago with the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack. The album sold millions and won Grammy Awards, but its rustic folk and bluegrass got little airplay on commercial country stations.
"That was something else that became a popular sensation, but that country radio was ambivalent about," Taylor said.