American Idol is into its tenth season as the talent-search powerhouse for which it has become known. The show this year ushered in the end of the Simon Cowell Era and welcomed Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler to the judges’ table. So far, both new judges have breathed life into a show that appeared to be reaching the end of its reign over primetime television. Add to that the fact that they found some of the best talent the show has displayed to date, and American Idol appears to be on its way to returning to the lofty position it held in previous years—or is it?
One thing that has not changed about the show is the voting process and the “shocking” eliminations. I put “shocking” in quotes because is any elimination ever really that shocking? A show that allows people to vote as many times as they want sets up for these types of eliminations. When you couple that with the fact that the vast majority of voting viewers are young females, it is little wonder that the women are being knocked down like metal ducks at the fair. Even the guys who aren’t that good (Paul McDonald comes to mind) last longer than women who exhibit talent (Pia Toscano). Don’t get me wrong: I’m no fan of Pia. She has a nice voice, but that’s about it. She has no stage presence, and all of her songs end up sounding alike. Major labels don’t care about that, however, as they will make her into whom they want her to be. I understand they’re already courting her. Good for Pia. At least she has a future, even though she didn’t “connect” with the Idol viewing audience. As the manager of an indie band, I’m no stranger to that. Everyone isn’t going to like everything. We’re all different in more ways than one, and our taste in music is but one of those differences. Therein lies the problem with the voting procedure on American Idol. Is it right for a few people to make the decision for many?
Think about it: American Idol operates on the premise that the contestant who receives the most votes will sell the most records. After all, this entire contest is about money in the end—money for the record label that signs the winner, money for the promoters who will spearhead the winner’s tours, and ultimately, money for the winner. Money, money, money. It makes the world go ‘round, oh yes it does. If you think about it, though, you must ask yourself whether a few power voters can really predict who will be a star in real life. Let’s look back at Season 5 of American Idol, when Taylor Hicks won and third runner-up Chris Daughtry became the star. The idea behind allowing people to vote as much as they desire is flawed. If 20,000 people are power-voting for Paul McDonald, are they are going to be able or willing to buy his CD enough to make it a hit? I doubt it. Poor Taylor couldn’t even make platinum after winning this show while Chris Daughtry went multiple-platinum. If The Powers That Be on Idol want this show to really reflect who will take off in the real world, they would allow a more realistic amount of votes like Dancing With the Stars, where viewers are allowed as many votes as there are contestants—period—though you can get three times that by voting online, on your cell, and on a land line. Either way you look it at, viewers are still getting only a maximum of 36 votes each at the beginning of the show, and that number dwindles as contestants are eliminated.
While I don’t have a problem with contestants being popular for various reasons (though I will never get the popularity of Paul McDonald), power voting is no indicator of just what that “popularity” means in the real world. Do all the 15-year-old girls have a crush on Scotty McCreery, or is he really that good? Okay, Scotty’s not a good example—he really is just that good. But, hopefully, you get my point. Adding to the problem of the unlimited voting is the “save.” This season, the save was used early on to save Casey Abrams. Casey is good. He’s eclectic, he’s a musician, and he has good stage presence, all of which make him extremely entertaining. However, was it really fair to save Casey only to see two other contestants (Thia Megia and Naima Adedapo) eliminated the following week? I don’t think so, and I’ll tell you why. When the judges endorse a contestant as they do with the save, much of the lemming-like voting public jumps off the cliff with them. The show is supposed to be based on votes, and the votes should let the contestants fall where they may. To make matters worse, the judges’ display of shock, anger, and heartbreak was so very inappropriate last week. Poor Stefano. Watching the elimination, it was quite obvious that Stefano thought he was leaving (as did I). The shock on his face was also obvious. Then, when the judges begin berating America’s vote, singing the praises of Pia, and displaying their anger, I’m sure Stefano thought, “Damn. What about me? Do I suck that badly?” What a nice thought to leave with a contestant who has to perform again tonight, in front of the very judges who disregarded him the week before. Will they be out for blood and unfairly rate his next performance because he took out their favorite? But, did Stefano really take her out? It is my understanding that the one left with the eliminated contestant is not always the second lowest vote getter. For all we know, Jacob might have had the second lowest number of votes, but leaving Pia with Stefano was more dramatic. The American Idol producers are into drama, and that is another negative thing about the show that will likely never change.
Looking at who’s left in the competition, was Pia really “unfairly” eliminated? This entire group is one of the best I’ve ever seen on Idol as a group. Sure, there have been contestants who were better than some of these, but as an overall group, this year’s contestants take top honors. Of course, there are a couple of contestants whose popularity I don’t get—Paul McDonald and Haley Reinhart—but no one can say they’re completely untalented. It will be interesting to see who makes it to the end. My money is certainly on James Durbin and Scotty McCreery, but we know my money isn’t worth a whole lot when it comes to American Idol. It is rare indeed that the choice of the masses is also my choice. You’re talking about a woman who refuses to listen to Top 40 radio and abhors what is called “popular music” these days, but I digress. I do think there’s room in the industry for each of these contestants, so in end, each of them wins. Who wins this show, however, remains to be seen. I’m so sure there will be plenty of other “shocking eliminations” along the way, but that had better not involve Scotty McCreery. An artist who can make ME like country music must have something special to offer indeed.
We’ll all see how this thing plays out soon enough. Tonight is another competition. Remember to vote for your favorite, and be on the lookout for my normal recap.