Well done, America. I hope you’re all proud of yourselves. With the judges’ save already used to rescue Casey Abrams two weeks ago, there was to be no second chance for Pia Toscano as she finished bottom in the public vote and was therefore eliminated from American Idol. If anyone – either contestants or viewers – had forgotten that no one is safe and that anyone can be eliminated at any time, they will surely not need reminding any more. That’s too late for Pia, however, as she became the fifth successive girl to leave the competition.
Here are my thoughts on arguably the most shocking early exit in Idol‘s ten-year history.
The biggest shock ever?
Never one to drop a subtle hint, Ryan Seacrest opens up the show with:
Welcome to what could be a very shocking results night right here on Idol.
First up, he calls Casey, Lauren and Stefano to the centre of the stage and tells them that one of them is in the bottom three. Lauren is despatched to safety, to be followed by Casey. Stefano becomes the first person to be sent over to the Stools of Doom™.
The next trio called forward are Paul, Scotty and Pia. The Master of the Overly-Dramatic Pause™ takes his time before sending first Scotty and then – shockingly – Paul back to the comfort of the sofas. Pia is in the bottom three, and the audience are not happy.
That leaves us with James, Haley and Jacob. James – no surprise – is safe. And then Seacrest tells Haley the same, which banishes Jacob to the stools.
With Jacob, Pia and Stefano shuffling nervously under the spotlights, Seacrest tells Jacob:
You will be leaving us … and going to safety on the couches.
You are a mean, mean man, Ryan. But he isn’t finished yet, as he tells us that the person leaving the show tonight is … Pia. Cue expressions of disbelief from the judges and a chorus of boos from the audience. Even Stefano looks shocked. (Now if only he could actually convey some emotion with his singing.) Haley looks fairly nonplussed.
J-Lo, fighting back tears, says:
I have no idea what just happened here. I’m shocked, I’m angry, I don’t even know what to say.
Maybe if you hadn’t spent so much time hitching your wagon to the Stefano train, Jennifer?
I don’t know, America. A mistake is one thing, but lack of passion is unforgivable. They’re wrong. I don’t know what happened with this.
This has to be the most shocking early exit since Jennifer Hudson departed in seventh place in season three. In fact, it’s even more surprising, as Hudson had already been in the bottom three twice and was not considered among the big favourites that year. WhatNotToSing‘s survey of online opinions – usually an extremely accurate reflection of the public vote – had Pia as the highest-rated performance of the week by a considerable distance, with Stefano and Jacob the clear bottom two.
So what went wrong?
Pia had been consistently up at the top of the rankings throughout the finals series, and it would appear that a significant number of her fans either did not vote or phoned in on behalf of their second-favourite contestant instead. Meanwhile Paul, the surviving member of last week’s bottom three, is likely to have picked up a lot of floating votes after a great performance this week, as well as receiving a boost from his fans mobilising themselves to register their votes to prevent a repeat of last week.
Of course, all this is conjecture. But it seems to be the only reasonable explanation. Based on both this week’s performance and her previous ones, all the data points to Pia consistently being one of the top contestants, not the bottom one.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I expected or wanted Pia to win the competition. I didn’t, on either count. In fact I have been predicting a Scotty/Lauren final for several weeks and see no reason to change that opinion. But it is ridiculous to me – and, if you scout around online, practically everyone else out there – that she should have gone so soon.
The repercussions of Pia’s exit will stretch far beyond this week. She was eliminated in a week in which she took a risk, switching from her customary ballads to an up-tempo number. If you are one of the surviving eight, would you be in a rush to take a similar risk in the coming weeks? Probably not.
Well done, America. You have forfeited the right to criticise the contestants for making conservative song choices and not expanding their repertoires – and probably condemned us to week after week of ‘safe’ ballads as a result. Thanks a lot.
Songs from the movies
Next week we see the return of a familiar theme: songs from the movies. This will be the third year in a row (and fifth time in all) this typically ballad-heavy theme has made an appearance. Last year the top four rolled out an utterly underwhelming set of performances, with eventual winner Lee Dewyze making a complete mess of Seal‘s Kiss From A Rose (from Batman Forever). The year before duelling pianist Matt Giraud‘s rendition of Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman? (Don Juan DeMarco) brought about the first ever use of the judges’ save.
Here are my top-of-mind thoughts as to what we might see from each contestant next week:
Casey: A great opportunity to go old-school, with the upright bass making a potential return. How about As Time Goes By (Casablanca), Everybody Needs Somebody to Love (The Blues Brothers), Mrs Robinson (The Graduate) or It Had To Be You (When Harry Met Sally)? (The last of these was one of season five’s Elliott Yamin‘s finest moments – see below.)
Haley: I would go for something a bit more down-tempo that she can wrap her growl around. Possibilities include We Don’t Need Another Hero (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome), Nobody Does It Better (The Spy Who Loved Me) and Take My Breath Away (Top Gun).
Jacob: He can’t really do I Believe I Can Fly again, but how about Kiss From a Rose (he can’t do it any worse than DeWyze did) or, if he’s feeling adventurous, the glorious Purple Rain?
James: Would probably be best advised to avoid any comparisons to Adam Lambert, who rocked Born To Be Wild from Easy Rider in season eight. A Kind of Magic (Highlander) might be a bit too up-tempo, but what about Blaze of Glory (Young Guns)?
Lauren: Aerosmith‘s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing (Armageddon) is the obvious choice, but it has made an appearance in each of the last three finals runs (David Cook, Allison Iraheta, Aaron Kelly), and I think she would be better off staying closer to her country roots with Hopelessly Devoted To You (Grease).
Paul: Depends how brave he’s feeling. If he wants to return to the middle of the road, then The Power of Love (Back to the Future) would be a safe, conservative selection. If he wants to continue in the same vein as this week, though, how about Stuck in the Middle With You (Reservoir Dogs) or even Pretty in Pink? I would love him to do the former.
Scotty: If the producers will let him do Elvis songs two weeks running, he need look no further than Jailhouse Rock. But if he wants to slow things down again, he could do worse than take a leaf out of Paul’s book and examine Johnny Cash‘s back catalogue – I Walk the Line or Ring of Fire, say. The former has been performed on Idol previously by Chris Daughtry (see below), the latter by Adam Lambert.
Stefano: As a non-Stefano fan, I would dearly love him to perform Chariots of Fire. (No lyrics, geddit?) But you just know he will select one of a million weepy ballads. Against All Odds has proven popular in the past (five previous performances in the finals series), but When I Fall In Love (Sleepless in Seattle) and Endless Love are also no strangers to the Idol stage. Or how about a first Idol rendition of How Deep Is Your Love from Saturday Night Fever?
Watch next week to see how wrong I was as Scotty gives the McCreery Country Makeover™ to Gangsta’s Paradise. Now that’s something I’d tune in for!
American Idol posts
Top 9: Performances
Link: American Idol website