Get the finalists from this year's "American Idol" together in one room for an interview, and a lot of things come out quickly.
There's a lot of jockeying for attention and a whole lot of inside jokes among the 10 finalists at the press launch of M&M's Pretzel at the Eventi Hotel in Manhattan, where the gang had gathered after playing a set in a giant orange M&M in the middle of Herald Square.
But Lee DeWyze remains pretty quiet. For much of the news conference, he sits in the middle of the room, looking around, kind of taking it all in. Only days after winning this year's "American Idol," the singer-songwriter from Mount Prospect, Ill., doesn't seem like he believes it's all real yet.
It takes Lynche to reveal what a good guy DeWyze is to be around. "L-Boogie here is so fun," Lynche says, pointing to DeWyze. "It's so funny to me that he always seems nervous because he's just the funniest guy ever."
If DeWyze is trying to remain calm in the middle of the "American Idol" media storm, it's because he is trying to stay focused on why he got into the contest in the first place. "I want longevity in this business," he says later. "I'm not interested in just putting out one hit. This is the best opportunity I've ever had and a huge step in my life, and I owe it to the fans. I appreciate them, and I'm not going to disappoint them."
Between interviews, tour rehearsals and work on his major-label debut, DeWyze hasn't had a day off since winning "American Idol" in May, and he won't get one until after the tour - which stops at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater Wednesday - wraps up in September.
"I'm tired, but I'm tired for a reason, so it's OK," DeWyze says. "There's a lot of people out there working, doing things they don't love to do, and they're more tired than I am. It's really hard for me to complain about anything right now."
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Louis Svitek, who founded WuLi Records in Chicago with Ryan McGuire, his bandmate in The Virginia Gentlemen, says DeWyze has felt that way since he's known him. "Lee's got a great voice, and he's a good guy," says Svitek, who signed DeWyze to WuLi Records when he was 17. "He deserves everything. He works hard at it, and now his dream is coming true."
DeWyze released an EP and an album on WuLi, including "Slumberland," which arrived in January as he was starting the "Idol" process. "The vocal range he shows on 'Slumberland' - that's the Lee I know," Svitek says. "His voice is angelic. He can really sing anything."
DeWyze says he's happy with "Slumberland" and is glad more people are getting to hear it. "I'm proud of everything I've done," he says. "But I'm definitely ready for people to hear me on a big scale. I think that will be a different sound and a representation of the type of artist I am now."
DeWyze is aware he's still in an uphill battle to get people to notice him as an artist, but he's up for the challenge.
Part of the issue is the decline of both the "American Idol" franchise and the music industry as a whole, and part of the issue is specific to him.
DeWyze's "coronation" song, a cover of U2's "Beautiful Day," was the lowest-ranking season-ender in "Idol" history, debuting at No. 24. Previously, Jordin Sparks' single "This Is My Now" held the dubious honor, peaking at No. 15.
According to Nielsen SoundScan, DeWyze sold 95,000 copies of "Beautiful Day," about 30 percent fewer than last year's "Idol" Kris Allen's debut single "No Boundaries." DeWyze's 15 "Idol" performances sold 306,000 copies the week of the finale, about 39 percent fewer than Allen's 15 "Idol" performances from the comparable week last year. DeWyze also fell short of last year's runner-up Adam Lambert's totals by 22 percent.
"It's hard to compare originals to cover songs," DeWyze says about the discrepancy between his debut single and Allen's. "But I'm not too worried about sales and things like that. I'm happy with anything, really."
What will the other finalists do for an encore?
More than the slipping ratings or the sliding sales, this year's class of "American Idol" finalists reflects the changing fortunes of the TV juggernaut. On the whole, they're a decent, competent bunch, destined to make decent, competent music. But they also reflect the judges' decision to value work ethic or flash and competence over unpredictability. When the biggest controversy of the finalists is whether Tim Urban should have slid across the stage, you know there's an issue.
Here's a look at this year's finalists and their possible futures:
HOMETOWN Elliston, Ohio
MOST LIKELY TO Record an album. Other than Lee DeWyze, Bowersox is the only other current "Idol" finalist to have a contract. Her album is due out in the late fall.
HOMETOWN Fort Worth, Texas
MOST LIKELY TO Become the next big blues guitar star. Jonny Lang, you have been warned.
HOMETOWN St. Petersburg, Fla.
MOST LIKELY TO Hit Broadway. Big Mike and his Big Personality should be right at home there.
HOMETOWN Sonestown, Pa.
MOST LIKELY TO Join Rascal Flatts. Seriously, wouldn't that be awesome? When Gary LeVox gets tired, Aaron could run onstage and fill in. Barring that, Aaron could very well end up being the biggest star in the bunch by taking over country music.
HOMETOWN Cape Cod, Mass.
MOST LIKELY TO Become an indie-rock sensation. Dropping her last name and hooking up with a rock band that would stand up to her big screams could make her the American answer to Florence and the Machine or Marina and the Diamonds.
HOMETOWN Duncanville, Texas
HOMETOWN Moreno Valley, Calif.
MOST LIKELY TO Become a critics' darling. Though Garcia never really caught on to how the show worked, he had a sweet voice and a knack for arranging that should be developed.
HOMETOWN Middlebury, Conn.
MOST LIKELY TO Join "Glee: The Next Generation." Her hyper-driven nature and precocious personality make her a shoo-in to be Rachel Berry's long-lost little sister.
HOMETOWN Knoxville, Tenn.
MOST LIKELY TO Play the next Lilith Fair. Despite the success of her artistic sisters Colbie Caillat and Ingrid Michaelson on the pop charts, Benami somehow didn't catch on with voters. She has some time to work that out.