David Archuleta on 15 years of ‘Crush’ and coming out: ‘I am the happiest I’ve been'

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The Billboard Hot 100 was particularly sizzling in the summer of 2008. Hits like Katy Perry’s daring “I Kissed A Girl” and Coldplay’s operatic “Viva La Vida” dominated the chart.

In August of that year, something decidedly sweeter joined the chart's ranks — an earworm about the rush of feelings that comes with new love. “Crush” by David Archuleta soared to #2, trailing behind only Rihanna’s “Disturbia.”

4th Annual
4th Annual

Archuleta, then 17, had just finished his near-winning run on “American Idol,” a reality show at the height of its cultural impact, launching live cast tours and record deals.

“Crush” was the song meant to launch his post-“Idol” career, which began the moment he signed his record deal backstage after the “Idol” finale.

“'Crush' is the song that I feel is the signature for my career,” Archuleta shares in an interview with TODAY.com. “It made me realize I’d really become a solo artist, and not just a ‘cover song person.’ I didn’t really have a vision of what I was supposed to sound like on my own. ‘Crush’ gave me more of that vision.”

The song was innocent, about a love yet to be fulfilled, which seemed like a perfect fit for his age and reputation at the time. He recalls the moment he first heard a demo of the track: “I think my jaw dropped.”

Archuleta says his love for the song was more about the music than connecting to the lyrics.

“It was very much from an appreciation of the song writing, the melody, the pop song structure of the song that made me so excited to sing it rather than, 'This is what I go through’. Because I didn’t go through it,” he says.

When he sang “Crush,” it was always from a distance. Until recently, Archuleta says he wasn’t free to be himself — not free to have crushes, let alone sing about them.

In the 15 years since its release, “Crush” has gone double platinum and remained a fan favorite. But the David Archuleta who performs it now has evolved significantly. He’s 32 years old, singing from a different point of view — his own.

In June 2021, at the age of 30, Archuleta publicly shared that he’s part of the LGBTQ community. He revealed in an Instagram post that he’d come out as gay to his family in 2014, but then considered himself on a spectrum of bisexual. He has also since revealed that he’d previously been engaged to three women before breaking off each engagement.

Opening Night Of
Opening Night Of

“I sang ('Crush') at the time as a 17-year-old, from a perspective of ‘this is what someone feels when they go through a crush.’ And it wasn’t an experience I had ever had, or at least I’d never allowed myself to have,” he explains. “It was like singing any other person’s song, and their story, that I hadn’t gone through. Now that I’m in my 30s, I have had that experience.”

Getting to a place of self-acceptance, all while growing older in the public eye, wasn’t easy.

“I was praying and saying, ‘Please take this away from me. Please make me straight.’ And I finally had a moment and was like ‘No, you’re how you’re supposed to be. And as you can see, you’ve tried for 15 years to change this. It’s not going to change,’” Archuleta recounts. “I had a shift in beliefs and values all of a sudden. And it was freeing.”

Those beliefs and values trace back to his roots in Utah, growing up as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As for where Archuleta stands with his Mormon faith now?

“It’s hard to say I identify myself as Christian or another religion,” he says. “I don’t really consider myself religious currently. I’ve had to distance myself. I do plan to write a book about it, because having conversations with the leadership of my church, and seeing the conflict within their own way of doing things, I felt was quite alarming.”

He says distancing himself from his religious upbringing has been necessary in his journey of self-exploration. “I think it’s OK to take time to step away from your beliefs religiously to explore yourself for who you are, regardless of any belief that you may hold onto. No belief will really change what goes on in your head … your chemistry, your brain, who you’re attracted to.”

Archuleta has a message about the next chapter of his life.

“I think a lot of people, especially from my religion, said, ‘Look at the darkness in his eyes. He’s so depressed and sad because he has accepted a part of him that he’s not supposed to accept.’ Actually, I am the happiest I’ve been. I’m no longer feeling like ending my life is better an option than existing,” he says.

Archuleta’s new music, including his newest single “Afraid to Love,” is about “what it feels like to love someone, whoever that may be, even if you’re queer. It’s just a wholesome, innocent, lovely, beautiful, colorful, vibrant experience.”

Earlier this summer, Archuleta hit the stage at San Diego Pride Festival, marking a milestone as his first official Pride. His performance of “Crush” at that event was unlike any prior. This time, he swapped the lyrics from “girl” to “boy” for the first time officially, updating the gender of his elusive “crush” and drawing a roar of support from the crowd.

In the song, Archuleta repeats the lyric “why do I keep running from the truth?”

That question — one he’s been singing for 15 years — would prove to be much a deeper theme in his life.

Finally, it seems, there’s no more running.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com