In a season where the main complaint has been blatant manipulation by the producers and judges, the hyped “twist” to the rules involves… increased influence by those same individuals responsible for causing the Idolsphere sudden bouts of anger and annoyance. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.
For those who missed the results show, here’s how it goes. From now until the top 5, the judges can decide once to “save” who should be going home. All four judges have to agree to “save” someone, however – it cannot be a split verdict.
The official spin is that this is to meant to stop the “shock boots” – examples given were Chris Daughtry, Michael Johns, and Jennifer Hudson. If you actually believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.
Before I go any further, let’s get this out there: the invocation of Chris Daughtry to justify this rule was completely ridiculous. Last I checked, Daughtry went out at… top 4. According to Ryan Seacrest, the judges can only save someone until the top five. Unless they suddenly changed mathematics – and I wouldn’t put it past the Idol producers to try that – four is less than five. Complete and utter fail.
Back to the meat of the issue. If you’ve been reading us or many of the other Idol writers that actually think and don’t swallow what 19E and Fox PR agents say, you should know by know that shock boots… aren’t, if you know what to look for. These aren’t just made-up reasons either; they’re good, logical reasons why someone would leave.
Consider: Michael Johns got held up as another example of someone leaving too soon, but he wasn’t. I’m frankly mystified that he’s being held up as an example of this super-good singer anyway; here’s what I said about him last year:
he had a tendency to turn songs into flavorless, generic songs that weren’t bad, but couldn’t be described as memorable. There was nothing in his performances that could make you point and say “that’s Michael, right there.”
As for the other cited examples, there were good reasons for those departures too. Jennifer Hudson? Vote-splitting – America wants diversity in its contestants, and she wasn’t in the same league as either Fantasia Barrino or LaToya London. Chris Daughtry? Setting aside the fact that this new rule change wouldn’t apply to him, he had little crossover appeal at the time. Success on Idol is a lot about having just that, and at the time he had precious little. (His Top 4 performances weren’t much to write home about, to boot.)
I could go on a lot longer, and point out why all of these shock boots really weren’t. I could also point out why none of them would probably have won either. In the end, though, what matters is this: in the long run, the Idol voting audience gets it right. They’re relatively unbiased, and I trust them more than I ever would the judging panel.
So, in effect, this rule change is “fixing” something that isn’t really broken anyway. Now, I’m not a paranoid conspiracy theorist, but you don’t have to be one to know the Idol PTB didn’t do this out of the blue. So, let’s take a look: who wins under this setup?
The winner here is obvious: the producers. Again. So far, they’re the only ones winning this season. Everyone else – contestants, viewers, voters – has lost. What does this mean? You guessed it – this is another new and improved way to manipulate the results. Great.
It’s a safe bet that this save will not necessarily be used for the best contestants, but who the producers – and judges – like the most. The likely winners of this are contestants who the judges like, but America may eventually tire of. In short, it’s another way to keep the Pimped in the spotlight for one more week – and hopefully more, since the fanbase of a saved contestant is going to vote like there’s no tomorrow the next week.
The best thing that can be said about it is it’s better than the rumors of a Sing For Your Life-style boot. That would have been an utter disaster; it would turn Idol from a competition into a coronation. I doubt the American viewing public would tune in to that.
We really are in strange times: If you needed further proof of the strangeness of the season, guess who the best judge was last night. You can make a decent case it was Paula. She was a bit over the top for both Danny Gokey and Adam Lambert, but otherwise? She was spot on most of the time. The question of will-she-or-won’t-she-stay is always around Paula, but I like this new-and-improved Paula Abdul.
Speaking of the judges… two points about Simon this week. First of all, it’s one thing to go after contestants; going after families is inexcusable. Yet that’s exactly what Simon did with Kris Allen. It’s not really mentioning Allen’s wife herself that annoyed us, it was the throwaway mention of her, with no care, as if she was just a thing. Really, Simon, you know better than that. Poetic justice would have been either Kris or his wife hitting Simon right on the head with the guitar.
Meanwhile, his comment to Scott Macintyre was an Unintended Learning Moment. That comment about not being “artsy” on Idol… really? I’ve seen plenty of good, artistic performances before. If Simon apparently thinks that artistry has no place on Idol and is more powerful backstage with Nigel Lythgoe’s departure… well, I think we can all say who deserves a large chunk of the blame for what’s happened this year.
Cannon fodder defined: Eliminations this early don’t really require a great deal of analysis. There’s a noticable gap between the good singers who deserve to stay, and those who don’t. This week was no different.
The question with Jasmine Murray isn’t so much why she left now, it’s more like how she got this far. The judges have had this entirely irrational love affair with Jasmine as a “package artist”. It’s obvious why: Jasmine is young, good-looking, likable – she has all the intangibles needed to succeed. Unfortunately, she couldn’t really sing that well. At all. At least America had the sense never to advance Murray. She’s the modern-day equivalent of Leah LaBelle.
What about Jorge Nunez? He was an okay to good singer, but he had a charisma deficit. He just couldn’t engage viewers as well as anyone else. It didn’t help that a lot of people thought his performance on Tuesday night was bad, and the judges didn’t mince their comments. Idolmetrics – specifically, song age – weighed in too. He had the highest median song age of the whole top 13, by a pretty wide margin. At 36.5 years, his only “competition” was Alexis Grace (31.5) and Adam Lambert (31). Grace and Lambert, of course, are actually pretty good. Nunez isn’t in that category.
Oh, and aside here. This crop of finalists is, so far, singing very young. After Lambert, the next highest median song age belongs to Matt Giraud – only 26, and an even lower average of 22.33. Some of it can be attributed to the theme – Michael Jackson is pretty recent, as far as Idol picks go. I still maintain that singing young songs is better, all other things being equal, than old ones. It’ll be interesting to see if this crop can continue this going forward.