Oh my. The Idolsphere has apparently worked itself into a lather over Jessica Sanchez ending up not just in the bottom three. With zero warning, like Pia Toscano last year – she was at the very bottom and would have gone home save for the save. The Idolsphere is outraged – with good reason. However, let’s save the outrage for the right people. And it’s not America.
First, let’s discuss Jessica’s boot. Frankly, what I said right after the top 13 results – when Jessica was receiving fantastic reviews right after I Will Always Love You – still applies:
She can sing, no doubt. There are lots of people giving her great reviews. But how many voters really like her? How many people will essentially say: “she has a nice voice, but that’s not my cup of tea. Somebody else is, and I’ll be voting for them instead.” On Idol, there can be a huge divide between agreeing that somebody is a good singer and liking them enough to vote for them. It’s a subtle, but important, difference.
I wrote that more than a month ago – and Jessica really hasn’t done much to change. She’s no longer stuck in ballad territory, even though that’s still when she’s at her best. But… she hasn’t cracked how to connect to audiences yet. The surprise is that it happened now, and that it was a complete fall to the bottom. I was expecting something more like what happened to Kris Allen – that Jessica would end up in the bottom three – but not that she would end up like Pia in the bottom with zero warning whatsoever.
There’s another factor at work here – vote-splitting. If you want a big voice, you’re exceptionally well covered. There’s no noticable voice-splitting for the other contestants – except maybe for the “screeching fangirl” group. But evidently, there’s plenty of that to go around – I mean, Phillip Phillips was the worst of last night, by far, and he wasn’t even close to being in danger. In the current Idol voting clime, the excess of hormone-driven power-voting fangirls is as reliable as a Swiss watch.
The real outrage here shouldn’t be aimed at America. They just voted the same way they’ve been doing so for years. No, the real outrage should be aimed squarely at two groups of people: the judges, and the Idol PTB. Let’s take the judges first.
Randy, Jennifer, Steven. You say that Jessica Sanchez is one of the best singers. That America got it wrong. Well, you have no one to blame but yourselves. See, you’ve been praising crappy performances left and right. You’ve thoroughly devalued what a “good performance” is, what a standing ovation represents. So how is the lay voter – someone who just watches every now and then, may not even vote all that much – supposed to differentiate what is good or bad? All the contestants “gotta have it”, you said. What you ended up doing was telling all the contestants: you’re a Special Snowflake. You can keep doing what you’re doing.
In the last two seasons of Idol, we have seen remarkably little growth from contestants. Why? Because they lack the one thing you need to improve: feedback. You three have been a complete and utter failure at providing useful feedback for two years running. You need to move beyond “goosies”, useless catchphrases, and “beautiful”. Do your damn jobs.
Next, the Idol PTB. Dear god in heaven, you are bleeping idiots. We’ve been warning you – for years – that the voting system is broken beyond reason. That instead of rewarding contestants who sang well, you had a system that rewarded those who could attract power voters – which tended to be young, hormonally driven teens/tweens. Unfortunately, the ability of those fans to vote has not translated to the ability to sell. That is what an Idol winner should be capable of doing: he/she has to be able to use the three or so months of weekly TV exposure to define themselves as an artist, excite fans all over American (and, hopefully, the rest of the world too), and get them to wait a couple of months to buy their music. Succeed at that, and good TV will follow.
Yet you did nothing. This week, you were saved – literally – by the save, but don’t bet on the effects being permanent. Blatant favoritism doesn’t really help contestants nowadays. Jessica still might be kicked off next week – and if that happens, you might, horror of horrors, end up with a worse winner than Lee DeWyze in Phillip Phillips. Good luck with that; if that happens you just killed all the positive buzz Season 10 created.
Mark this day down in history. The past two years of American Idol has seen Nigel Lythgoe do much to clean up the mess than the departing Simon Cowell left behind. Yet much work still needs to be done, and we just got a dramatic demonstration of what has to be fixed. Much like Jimmy Iovine delivers a hard slap of reality every week, this shocker needs to deliver reality into the highest levels of Idol-related decision making.