Monday, February 16, 2009

What happens when America's favorite show alters its format to more closely resemble the way they did things four seasons prior? Well, we are about to find out. America has more power than ever to select the top 12 finalist. Idol used to entrust the voters with only the 24 best-undiscovered singers, but now it’s 36. There are of course the requisite random people we've never actually heard sing. Sometimes these people are Bo Bice, but all too often they are Garrett Haley.

One possibly interesting outcome from the modified selection process is the near elimination of the gender equity requirements previously seen in the Top 12. Although the top male and female vote getters advance from the three groups of 12, the third highest vote getter also advance regardless of gender. Assuming the Wild Card round is gender neutral, as in previous seasons, the Top 12 could have as few as 3 females or males. However, the invisible hand of Idol fate will most assuredly ensure a more balanced outcome.

The Best

What will happen during the first week of competition? A simple one-name prediction – DANNY! A Danny video introduction sans the story of his deceased wife is almost inconceivable. Perhaps the only concern for Danny is the over hype factor that plagued former contestants like Melinda Doolittle, Justin Guarini, and the chosen one David Archuleta. After 5 or 6 weeks America finally discovers Idol is trying to lead it in a certain direction and rebels. Sure Danny is likeable and his back-story is inspiring, but how much until the voters say enough already. Will loveable but eliminated Jamar Rogers (I’m predicting he will return Carmen Rasmusen style for the Wild Card) be sitting in the audience with the “Danny’s family and friends” written under his pierced face? Just once I’d like the camera to show a group in the audience that looks apoplectic with a caption under them reading, “Danny’s mortal enemies.” Since Danny is already in the Top 12, who else will be joining America’s favorite widower?

The Guys

Unfortunately for the other guys, they must come in no lower than third to keep their dreams alive. Such a lofty position automatically eliminates Brent Keith and Michael Sarver. Both are likeable and talented, but they should cancel each other out. Brent is the more polished performer, Michael has the better back-story, and either could be this season’s Phil Stacey in the old format. At least one of them will be back for the Wild Card. For many Idol fans, Stephen Fowler is the cocky guy that butchered the David Cook song; probably not the memory you want going into the first voting round. Based on his limited exposure, he has a good voice and playing the piano should earn him some bonus points, but he just doesn’t have the ‘it’ factor (not unlike previous contestant Brandon Rogers). Ricky Braddy is a wild card, literally. Perhaps his solo songs came with too high a licensing fee, but why not show a moment of his group performance? Paula is telling everyone who will listen how much she loves Ricky, but remember, she does not have the best track record with her early favorites (see Corey Clark). Even if Ricky is the next Elvis, the chances of him overcoming his anonymity in one performance to rise into the top three is unlikely. However, based on the Paula love, he is guaranteed a Wild Card spot. The last guy is also the most likely recipient of the coveted third place trophy – Anoop. He sings like he is the 5th member of Boyz II Men and has a goofy loveable charm to his presentation. America loves extremely talented, yet humble contestants, he has been featured numerous times in the early rounds, and he wrote a thesis on barbeque; combined these equal Top 12.

The Girls

By implementing its own version of Title IX, Idol guarantees Danny a female companion. All six female contestants have received both Audition and Hollywood airtime. In fact, these are some of the most well known females. Because Idol is taking the top vote getter, it makes the predicting a little easier. Someone like Casey or TaTianic (I’ve incorporated Titanic into Tatiana because she is also disaster) would survive if the bottom person was eliminated, but neither can amass the most votes. Tatitanic and Casey both fit into established Idol stereotypes: the annoying diva and the hot girl. People vote for the annoying diva in large part to annoy the judges, especially Simon (the annoying diva can also be a guy – Scott Savol) and they vote for the hot girl, well, because she is hot. However, these two stereotypes can advance only so far. Casey further hurt her chances when her bikini pictures were discovered on the Internet. There is nothing that annoys some girls more than when a good-looking girl embraces her inner hotness (insert meows here). Unlike the original ‘bikini-girl’, Casey has not flaunted her hotness on the show, but that will not stop some girls from holding a text-inhibiting grudge. TaTitanic could parlay a brilliant singing performance with the ‘keep her around because she is good entertainment votes’ and shock the world, but this is unlikely.

The other four girls could all reasonably end up in the Top 12. Ann Marie and Stevie are so far the same girl; attractive, talented, and maybe a little bit boring while they sing. The same voter that likes one should also like the other, which splits the vote and prevents either from advancing. Alexis is a little more complicated. She is this season’s Jennifer Hudson, if Jennifer was a foot shorter, white, and had pink hair. When Jennifer graced the Idol stage she had a massive voice, but no idea who she was as an artist and no ability to control her gift. She was like a rookie pitcher with a 98mph fastball and little accuracy. During every two-minute performance (the Circle of Life notwithstanding) Jennifer had moments of greatness juxtaposed with a few ‘oh geez’ notes. Alexis also has a big voice, but seemingly no idea how to harness it’s potential. I think she will pick a song that is too big for her and scream her way right out of this round; like Jennifer Hudson, she might return during the Wild Card. Therefore, your top female vote getter is Jackie Tohn. She is talented, likeable, attractive, and most importantly, knows who she is as an artist. She should be the most comfortable female on stage and leave the voters with the biggest smile on their collective face. The judges have been fans and should give her positive comments, unless of course she comes out singing a Whitney Houston song.

Advancing to the Top 12
Danny Gokey
Anoop Desai
Jackie Tohn


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