Coming into the results show there was only one sure thing: whatever happened, outrage and wails of “he/she wuz ROBBED!” would result. And so it was with Joshua Ledet leaving Idol stage this week.
Joshua had a lot of positives – if you make it to the top three of any Idol season, you’re doing something right. Joshua may well have been the best Idol contestant of this particular type – the big-voiced male contestant with strong R&B leanings. He may well have had the biggest male voice in many, many years of American Idol. He does what he wants to do supremely well, as we saw just last week with his James Brown song.
But for all his talent, there are good reasons why he didn’t reach the top three despite Jessica having an off night. One Joshua couldn’t do anything about. More than Jessica, and maybe even more than Phillip, Joshua’s brand of music is very much an acquired taste. When he brings out all the tools at his disposal, the results can sound off to people who may not be particularly fond of his style. See Imagine this week and You Raise Me Up last week. His voting base may not have been all that strong, certainly not against two strong fanbases in Phillip and Jessica. (His patently retro style did not help, either.)
What definitely did not help was all the constant overpraising that was far, far, far exceeded anything we have seen on Idol before. Joshua was good, but not “best singer in decades” good. All it did was annoy other fanbases (and inspire them to vote hard), cause an oh-god-not-this-again reaction from more casual viewers, and expose the judges for being utter idiots. None of those were good for his chances.
Ultimately, though, none of the things that led to Joshua’s exit were his fault. He sang well, his song choices were not terrible, and he kept to his artistic roots. He made a few missteps, but none of his mistakes were all that threatening to his Idol tenure. I’m not sure anything he did would have changed things. He got caught between two rabid fanbases, and there’s not much someone can do about that.
Boys versus Girls, too?.
From the pure point of view of the season’s “storyline”, this had to be the most appealing scenario. Think about it. (Read this and the next paragraph the way, say, Ryan Seacrest would.) Jessica, torch-bearer of what was argued as a field of women decidedly better than the men. The last female standing, with golden pipes worthy of big-noted divas like Mariah, Celine, and Whitney. Singing since she was a little child, she’s now on the brink of achieving her dreams.
On the other hand, Phillip. Heir to the WGWG mantle, displaying persistence in the face of injury, doing his own thing stylistically – and being praised for it. He has been a juggernaut, not ending up in the bottom two or three at all this season.
It’s as powerful a contrast of two contestants as you could find this year, especially so if one recalls last year’s Country Idol finale. This should be a better finale than that one, and we shouldn’t see a ratings dip from this week to next (like you had for last year’s performance show.)
I’ve been saying for a while that Phillip is the prohibitive favorite to win. I stand by that statement. For top 2 voting, how well they sing is basically irrelevant. The fanbases are locked in and will vote like mad. Can Jessica win? Sure, but it’s a hard path to win. The theme will not help: it’ll be a reprise song, a Simon Fuller pick, and their single (if they win). None of those are likely to produce an all-time performance from Jessica.
If her fans are looking for some reason to believe she will win, here’s this. Nigel Lythgoe basically confirmed something that I’d suspected earlier: the voting this year is very tight.
— Nigel Lythgoe (@dizzyfeet) May 18, 2012
So this year’s vote totals are higher overall, but relatively close together – meaning Jessica has less relative catching up to do. It may be that it’ll end up a case of “too little, too much” for Jessica. Still, it should be interesting to watch and see how the finale turns out. If Jessica can pull out the win, it’ll be the most remarkable run in the history of American Idol.
The Fourth Epoch: What Is It?
Let me shamelessly plug my upcoming end-of-season editorial. Idol history tends to run in three-year epochs. Each epoch tends to have, as you’d expect, a distinct flavor of its own, both good and bad – but a recognizable one. Season 11 represents the midpoint of the Fourth Epoch, so by now we should know what kind of time we’re in – which is what I’ll talk about, and what it means for the future of Idol.