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'American Idol' David Cook is one cool, calm singer-songwriter-guitarist

When I first saw David Cook on the seventh season of American Idol — a show he'd wind up winning over Muppet Boy David Archuleta — I thought he looked like a weary door-to-door salesman pushing Hoovers in Boise. I also thought Cook had supremely bad hair, like a reverse mullet or, for that matter, a "skullet."

Let me tell you: I've never been more wrong about a contestant. With a superheroic calm and a growly approach to hits by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, the rocker creamed the competition. The singer-songwriter-guitarist did it with old-school style and grace, never once relying on his brother Adam's brain cancer as a plot point to earn the weepy vote. Ryan Seacrest might have brought it up; Cook never did.

Post-Idol, the 26-year-old has had a smash platinum album (2008's David Cook, produced by Green Day knob-twiddler Rob Cavallo), hot celeb girlfriends (Idol's Kimberly Caldwell) and an even hotter nine-month tour. He has also suffered heartache: On May 3, Adam Cook succumbed to brain cancer. David continues to play with an "AC" on his guitar, which are also the initials of his younger brother, Andrew.

As Cook heads to St. Petersburg to play the Mahaffey Theater Friday — and prepares a new album for release in summer 2010 — we called to compliment him on his unerring composure. We also tried to talk him into trashing a hotel room:

You are one cool dude, Cook. In all my Idol watching, I've never seen a contestant who was so incredibly laid-back. What was your secret?

I think with everything going on in my life — and with Adam being sick — I just didn't care. There were more important things going on, you know? That's no disrespect to the show. I was trying my best, and I enjoyed it, of course. But I just never got too worked up about it.

A.D.D.: As for Ellen DeGeneres' role on Idol, Cook says, "I'm bummed to see Paula go. But Ellen is a knowledgeable fan of the show, plus she's funny, so I'll think she'll do a good job."

Okay, you have the cool part down for a rock star. But I think you should start trashing hotel rooms. No one does that anymore. Why is that?

I think people don't trash hotel rooms because there's a recession going on. (Laughs) The last hotel room I trashed was actually done by my dog.

A.D.D.: Cook's dog is a Scottish terrier. Because Cook obviously wants to give him an identity crisis, he named his pooch Dublin.

If you were going to trash a hotel room in the future, how would you start the mayhem?

I'd probably glue the furniture to the ceiling. You gotta get the Gorilla Glue for that. Then maybe I'd have a good ol'-fashioned food fight.

I had you pegged for tossing a TV off the balcony.

Nah, we're just having some good clean fun, right? We don't want anyone to get hurt.

If you could claim any musician's catalog as your own, whose would it be?

(Immediately) Springsteen. That was easy. I saw him a few weeks ago when he was at Giants Stadium. He did Born to Run in its entirety. He played for three hours. And here I am doing an hour, an hour and a half each night, and I come off the stage and say, "Man, I'm tired!"

Your audiences run the gamut from 14-year-old girls to 44-year-old women, the so-called Cougars for Cook. What's the weirdest gift one of your more mature fans has given you?

An a-- grab.

Excuse me?

An a-- grab. We played in St. Louis the other night, and while I was walking to the stage, I got three a-- grabs in a row.

A.D.D.: Cook said the grabs were pretty forceful, but not enough to bruise his tuchus. "I did have a handprint there though," he chuckles.

I've always wanted to ask you about this. When you were in youth-league baseball, did you really serve up a dinger to future St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols?

It's totally true. Absolutely, I was 16, in Missouri, in an American Legion game. I'm on the mound, I throw him a curveball, and it never comes down.

You should have thrown him your out pitch.

(Laughs) I didn't have one! That's the reason I'm in music today. I didn't have an out pitch.


Album: She Wolf (Epic)

In stores: Monday

Her hips don't lie . . . too bad they don't sing, either: Colombia's 32-year-old Shakira does one thing very, very well — and it's not holding a tune. Or writing a song. Or buying a shirt that fits. Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll has a superheroic ability to move 'n' groove her hips not seen since Jessica Rabbit caused a three-car pileup in Toontown. On her new album, the boom-chica-boom beats and generic synths seemingly lifted from a 1979 episode of Dance Fever are there simply to inspire her hip bones. As for inspiration for the rest of us? Not so much. Shakira is a sexy performer, and an earnest one, too. But she sings as if she has a bottle of syrup lodged in her throat, and her mystic-hottie lyricism is neither shocking nor original enough to make an impact. The title track aims to be both a feminist growl and a promise for a hot night of lycanthropy. Unfortunately, it sounds like a dated Elvira spoof. Dance-floor burners Did It Again, Why Wait and Give It Up to Me (feat. Lil Wayne) are pretty generic, too, but they'll get people sweating, I guess. And maybe that's all you really need from a Shakira album anyway.

Reminds us of: The album's best track is also its oddest: Spy, a duet with old Hips Don't Lie buddy Wyclef Jean, is all about the kinky joys of voyeurism, and its hook is presumably Shakira or someone making a trumpet noise. Weird, but cool.

Download these: Why Wait, Men in This Town and Spy

Grade: C+

The Sweebles Playlist

My grandmother was 98 when she died, in bed, watching her favorite TV show, Desperate Housewives. Gladys Daly was a hoot, a true original. When asked what her secret to longevity was, Grandma usually went with "Don't sweat the small stuff." But once, sitting at the head of the Thanksgiving table, she whispered a different answer: "sweebles." I nodded in understanding. Of course! It all made sense! Based on the German word for onion (Zwiebel), sweebles are a major staple at a Daly Thanksgiving (never mind that we're all Irish). Before sticking the turkey in the oven, you place Vidalia onions, chopped in half, in the bottom of the pan. Add a cup of water or chicken broth. Salt and pepper those suckers good, then cook 'em with the turkey drippings for three to four hours. You know they're done when you gently press on one and the sweet, gooey center rockets out! It's like a toy and a treat! So if you want to live a long life — or at least have a life-affirming holiday — may I suggest the humble sweeble? Plus don't forget these other Turkey Day dishes on our festive playlist:

1 Turkey Dinner,
Green Day

2 Sweet Potato,

3 Know Your Onion!,
the Shins

4 Cornbread, Fish and Collard Greens,
Anthony Hamilton

5 Fruit Salad,
the Wiggles

6 Giblet Gravy,
George Benson

7 Buttermilk Biscuits,
Sir Mix-a-Lot

8 Cherry Pie,

9 Whipped Cream,
Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass

10 Whiskey and Wine, 311


if you go

David Cook

David Cook performs at 8 p.m. Friday at the Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S, St. Petersburg. $30-35. (727) 892-5798.

'American Idol' David Cook is one cool, calm singer-songwriter-guitarist 11/21/09 [Last modified: Sunday, November 22, 2009 12:31pm]
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