Musings on the Idol Finale

Hmmmm . . . last season the Idol Final Three was a young country guy, a young country girl, and a large male of color with a buttery voice and a soft personality.

This season the Idol Final Three are a young country guy, a young country girl, and a large male of color with a buttery voice and a soft personality.


A friend who thought “We´Ani was robbed” asked for my “thoughts on the (lack of) talent pool remaining on American Idol.” In asking this question, my friend is making the same mistake I periodically allow myself to make. American Idol is not a talent show. First and foremost, it is, using common parlance, a “likes” show. We know this is true because before an Idolist has sung their first note, the Evil Genius Producers (EGPs) tell the Idolists’ stories in the hopes that we will find something in that story that we like about them. Once we like them, we will like how they sing enough to want them to win.

It is also not a talent show because here is who the viewers tend not to like – the Idolist who comes to the show that is already very talented. Idol viewers tend to favor underdog contestants like the unsophisticated Colin who improve throughout the show rather than those that have “it” from the start[1].

The EGPs know what makes good Idolist stories are what has always made good stories: the tortoise beating the hare; the unregarded sister whose foot fits the glass slipper; David defeating Goliath. Viewers have historically preferred Idolists who fit underdog narratives. I would argue this is why the EGPs don’t tell us about the accomplishments of those Idolists who come with credentials like We´Ani and Kaeyra. Perhaps it’s why the EGPs chose not to air the portion of Adam Lambert’s audition where Paula said she recognized him from the L.A. production of the musical Wicked. It’s better to paint a lead dog as a dark horse.

Finally, I and others have noted that Idol’s current viewers prefer country music to pop and hip-hop/R&B, which explains why country singers are always in The Finale and almost always win.

So, friend, it’s not about the talent. It’s about the stories and the demographics.

Add it all up and that’s why I am changing my mind about who is going to win. It won’t be Iam, as I declared in my prior post. It will be Colin. I’m hoping it’s Megan, who is my favorite improvement narrative. I wish it were We´Ani. But it’s not a talent contest.

I won’t be able to watch The Finale live but I will be back with a brief recap at some point. There is also the matter of my musings on the singles released by the three Finalists and We´Ani (No Zachariah? Hmmmm.).

See you sometime soon.

[1] The greatest (worst?) example of this came on Season 4 of The Voice with Judith Hill who had been a backup singer for, hello, Michael Jackson, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder. She was eliminated before the final six. C’mon, people. After the show, Prince – hello, Prince – released her album on his label.

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