The Idol Experience
Archuleta continued to attend school. And when he was 16, auditions for the seventh season of American Idol were announced. An avid fan of the show from the beginning, he was finally old enough to audition. But by that point, Archuleta had lost confidence in his abilities.
“I thought it would be a waste of everyone’s time if I auditioned,” he recalls. “I didn’t think I had a shot, and I didn’t know how my voice would handle it.”
Archuleta’s family and friends consistently encouraged him to audition. The idea nagged at him, so he finally decided to make it a matter of prayer. “Something kept saying, ‘Go audition,’” he says. “I kept trying to ignore it. So I was shocked that I felt such a strong impression [to audition] after praying. But I felt there was something I had to learn from that experience, maybe meet someone who I needed to meet.”
(LDS Living photo shoot, 2011. Photo by Michael Schoenfeld.)
With the help of his father, Archuleta began choosing music for the auditions, and in July 2007 the two of them boarded a plane to San Diego to join thousands of other hopefuls for the chance to impress the American Idol judges. Archuleta made it through several rounds, received unanimous approval from the judges to move forward to the semi-finals during Hollywood Week, and was ultimately chosen as one of the 24 contestants to compete on the show.
“The whole Idol experience was pretty crazy,” Archuleta says of his experience on the show. “For the most part it was a positive experience, but it was extremely challenging to believe in myself while dealing with all the pressure. I had so many eyes on me.”
Archuleta describes the American Idol experience as “boot camp for singers.” “For iTunes we had to record songs each week. There were interviews, photo shoots, and music videos for the Ford commercials. There were fan letters and paparazzi. We were competing in front of millions of people every week. I thought, ‘If I can make it through this, I can handle anything.’”
Despite the overwhelming pressure in the spotlight and a grueling schedule, Archuleta managed to set himself apart. After battling with fellow contestants for 13 weeks, he won a coveted spot in the finale, going head-to-head with the other finalist, David Cook. Archuleta gave spellbinding performances, wowing the audience and the judges with all three of his musical numbers. American Idol judge Simon Cowell even predicted that Archuleta would win the competition. But on May 21, 2008, after the show tallied more than 97 million votes, Cook ultimately walked away with the title of “American Idol”—and Archuleta was perfectly happy with the outcome.
“I knew I wasn’t going to win,” he says. “But it was a life-changing experience. I was able to learn so much—all because I followed a prompting to go audition.”
The Image Dilemma
Following American Idol, Archuleta signed a recording contract with Jive Records, and his self-titled album, David Archuleta, was released in November of 2008. It was certainly a dream come true, but behind the scenes, he was constantly clashing with the record label.
“Record label management wanted to make me into a person that was so different from who I had presented myself to be on Idol. People would say, ‘You don’t know who you are. You don’t know what you want to be. This is who you are.’ But I told them, ‘You know what? That’s not who I am. Regardless if that’s what will get more radio play, that’s not what I’m supposed to do. I don’t want double-meaning lyrics. I don’t want things to be taken the wrong way. Music has an impact, and as an artist I can influence the way people think, the way they feel. No one can tell me what I am and am not. I’m just going to be true to myself.’”
Archuleta’s tenacity paid off. His first single, “Crush,” debuted at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and has sold nearly 2 million copies to date. But he readily admits that romance is not his favorite topic to sing about.
“I’ve never been in a relationship, but that’s what everyone wanted me to sing about—I was so frustrated by that. They would say, ‘That’s what people relate to.’ But I didn’t relate to it.”
In fact, Archuleta does not plan on changing his bachelor status any time soon. “Dating isn’t something I’m taking seriously right now,” he explains. “There are definitely more things musically and personally that I need to accomplish before I get into a relationship.”
But when he does start dating, what qualities will his ideal girl have? “I want someone who has good values, who values family, and who thinks about others a lot,” he says. “I want someone I can learn from, who likes exploring and trying new things, who likes to have fun, who likes to eat—I like food, and I hope she will too,” he laughs. “Just someone who has a good heart.”
David even has a song dedicated to that ideal girl on his third album, The Other Side of Down, called “My Kind of Perfect.” “It’s about who that girl is going to be down the road,” he explains. “I want to be myself, so this is my love song—wondering who that person is going to be.”
To view our David Archuleta photo gallery, click here.
To check out some behind-the-scenes video from our photoshoot with David and for his responses to some of our reader questions, click here.