Friday, April 8, 2011

American Idol Season 10, Top 9 Results Show -- Got that Right!

I'm not going to do a traditional recap.  I really have nothing to say about the song medley or the Ford commercial or any of the "most shocking elimination" buildup.  Okay, maybe just one thing.  If you watch the first ten seconds of the medley you will see just how cosmically unfair life is -- Haley Reinhart opens and barely squeaks out her lines her voice so thin and raspy it can barely carry sound, then Lauren Alaina follows with a stronger vocal, and then Pia Toscano comes in and blows them away.  Also, why must Casey Abrams intentionally do his Cowardly Lion roar every time he sings?  While we're on the medley, let's never put Paul and Scotty together again -- they were to harmony what Charlie Sheen is to mental stability.  And who dressed Jacob Lusk?  All right, I'm done.  Oh, gawd, Scotty two-handing the mic again.  Sheesh, at least buy it dinner first.

No, what I want to talk about is the actual result, and why I predicted it.  But first, did anyone else think that Iggy Pop's performance should have come with a parental advisory because I'm sure the half naked senior citizen gyrating on stage was scaring small children.  I did enjoy Russell Brand's bit with the contestants and thought it was refreshing to hear a little honesty on the show, even though he missed the mark with the "gorgeous hair ball of wonder."  At a later time we can discuss the unfairness of the fact that unattractive guys can get hot girls, but it doesn't usually work in the other direction.

Now for the results.  I'm not above patting myself on the back and I probably tweeted a half dozen times last night how I picked who was going home. No, what I want to discuss why I thought Pia would go home, why she'd be joined by Stefano and why I missed on my third pick. 

I vacillated  on who would take that final spot for some time and was tempted to put Jacob there.  He went first, he didn't sing particularly well, he didn't do any of the over-the-top Broadway big notes that had been his signature (which confuses the public -- they don't like change) and, most importantly, he said one of the most stupid things a contestant could say on American Idol: "
If I end up in the bottom three, it won't be because I sang the song bad and it won't be because I sang the song wrong.  It'll be because everybody in America wasn't ready to look themselves in the mirror." 
That should go down in AI lore as the time a contestant tried to commit career suicide on national TV and was lucky to walk away with just a flesh wound.  You don't ever challenge or attack the people whose votes you need.  I thought they might punish him by withholding their love this week, yet I thought that the weeks of judges' pimping would be enough to keep him out of the cellar.  I was glad to be wrong about this one and now Jacob has been introduced to one of my favorite philosophical concepts -- karma.

 But why did I know Stefano and Pia were in trouble.  First, the biggest change in American Idol this year has been the move from the mean-spirited criticism (except on this blog, zing!) for the new age everyone is special approach.  Because someone realized that what I said last year is true (I'm going to wrench my arm if I keep this self-congratulatory stuff going):  you can't tell the public week after week the contestants stink, then ask them to buy their records or tickets to see them in concert.  This year, they've done a 180.  Best group ever.  Most talented top whatever ever.  That was great, that was off the chart, that gave me goosepimples (really, JLo, goosebumps sound better), best ever, amazing...well, you've heard it for weeks.

The old AI approach was flawed, but having virtually unwaveringly positive things to say about each and every contestant does not give the public much to go on in making their own opinions. And, as much as we don't want to face it, the viewers are influenced to some extent by what the judges say.  So if everyone is always wonderful, how to choose?  Then it comes down to the old standbys -- likability and who can turn out the vote.  And not just one vote, but unlimited voting for two hours.  Who are the contestants most likely to get that kind of support -- usually, guys, which is why we've lost so many of the girls from the competition.

The problem with the new, improved no-criticism approach is that when anything that seems in the least bit negative is said, it is really noticeable.  The smallest fissure in the wall of acceptance can bring the whole thing down.  And that is what happened to Stefano and Pia on Wednesday night.  Randy had a tepid response to Stefano's set and his lack of gushing was a focal point of the judges' post-performance comments.  This highlighted for the fans at home -- he's not getting our unified chorus of praise.   

For Pia, it was worse.  She had, remember, a perfect vocal.  Impeccable.  She can sing like no one else in the competition.  However, after the song, Jennifer Lopez put the focus on what she perceived to be Pia's lack of stage presence.  "I'm going to keep pushing you," she told Pia.  She went on to tell Pia what she needed to do to get to the next level -- all valid points, by the way -- then finished it up with a plea that Pia not take her suggestions the wrong way.  But by saying that, the impression the viewers had was -- wow, she was really hard on Pia.  If JLo -- who loves Haley for crying out loud (and I do when I think of that) -- is not 100% behind Pia, why should we be?

Everything on TV is amplified and heightened by virtue of being on TV.  So the slightest hesitation, a little dip in you voice, a slightly less than effusive expression comes across as a big "NO!"  Even JLo's apology to Pia made it look like she was being more critical than she was. 

Perception is reality.

So the combination of Pia being a woman and not getting the unqualified praise was what I thought was going to spell big time trouble for her.  With unlimted voting, the female contestants should each be placed on the endangered species list.  As I said in my last post, "girls are dropping like -- well -- girl contestants on American Idol."  Haley is still in it because, while her voice is subpar, she is not boring.  And boring is the deathknell on this show.  Lauren is still in because the country fans are getting out the vote and she's not as threatening to women as the stunningly gorgeous Pia.

I'm sad to see Pia go, especially as Jacob going after his comments would have given this otherwise lackluster season a highlight I'd remember longer than I remember who was voted off in 13th place.  Anyone?  I didn't think so.


  1. yes , you are right on all counts, Shari. especially the being nice all the time makes any , even the tiniest, negative implication stand out. people get lulled by the drone and the little poke wakes them up and gets their attention. could be a preplanned strategy. btw. did you notice that when James came on for comments. Randy was lukewarm, J-lo was lukewarm and Steven was looking the other comment. hmm. wonder whats going on there. and you are sooo right about the girls. my daughter says the average idol voter is young girls. and feels thats why a girl hasn't won in a long time. . and the word for Jennifers comments to Pia is 'condescendign'. condescending is NOT supportive.. wonder if she is 'jealous'. as Steven said the girls are jealous and the guys aren't voting.. oh well on to the next elimination. will be waiting to see if you have a prediction. i sure thought it would be Paul or Jacob or even possibly Haley but they are still hanging.. i give up guessing about the popular vote. have a blessed week!

  2. I think all the 'nice' comments from the judges make the contestants complacement to a certain extent. We all remember the delighted look on Casey James' face and the fist pump in the air when he had 'earned' praise from Simon. 'Best of the night' I think Simon said. There is another seven weeks to go and I feel because of the judges comments all the idols must be fantastic and no room for improvement. I think Hasyley has benefited the most from the judges critique. You are braver than me though - I still haven't managed to listen to a Jacob song all they way through. I'm from the UK and watch on Youtube. Paul is still my favourite though so I hope you don't predict him going home next week.

  3. so sorry to see Pia go.I just knew she would be the winner.I'm sure she will go far in her career.I saw Adrenne beasely on the new reality show cmt next superstar.she was the african american girl adopted by an older white couple
    and lives on a farm.I remember her she was really good.I hope she makes it far on this show.

  4. Gonna miss Pia..awesome voice and person! Love Lauren, Scotty, and Jacob!! James is good! Everyone else...just okay. For me, Haley and Paul are same ol' same ol' every week. Casey and Stephano can be good, depending on song. Just one person's opinion. Thanks shari for letting me share it!!

  5. There was only one person who was the same every week and that was Pia!!

  6. No one can argue that Pia is talented. She is the ideal of pretty but people want to see singers this elimation is not shocking at all. If she were a huge star like Jlo or Celine or Christina she could just stand there and sing her heart out and we would be mesmerized by this BUT she is not. People (esp females) want to see something that they can relate to. Could we relate to Pia?? Probably not most of us. The little quirks and blemishes in looks and in personality are how we relate or get to know these contestants. We don't want to watch the 'hey look at me I look perfect when I sing' contestant. We like the faces and sometimes goofy movements. This makes a person real to us. I think of a model who has a team to make her look good. Then the pics go to a team with a computer to make her look perfect. Who's buying this?? It's a ideal of beauty but not real. No one likes perfect really do they?? The barbie syndrome. No one likes Barbie but Ken. She has her looks to help her in her career, whatever that may be,'cause looks sell. I'm still trying to decide what her genre is. A singing model? She needs to get out of her head as she was told many times. She was not my favorite but you all have probably figured that out.