It didn’t take a musical genius or a set of tarot cards to work out that Jacob Lusk was destined to go home after Wednesday’s American Idol performance show. His rendition of the Jordin Sparks/Chris Brown duet No Air was arguably the most painful of the entire season, and threw the door wide open for his exit.
My key thoughts following the results show centre on Haley Reinhart, both in terms of her unusual selection of an as yet unreleased track, and then her leap-frogging of long-time top girl Lauren Alaina to occupy a place in the top three in this week’s national vote. Was the song choice entirely her own, and how has she gone from being in the bottom three four times to suddenly being in the top three?
I have a theory on each of those, but first let’s quickly recap the results show itself.
Captain Camp™ comes a cropper
As usual, we open with more filler than you can shake a stick at. The final five perform The Turtles‘ Happy Together, proving yet again that a group of good voices does not necessarily equate to pleasant harmonies. A comedy interlude where the quintet cook in Gordon Ramsay‘s Hell’s Kitchen. A performance by Lady
Cerebellum Antebellum. A short and yet far-too-long skit about how the contestants choose their songs every week. (For my thoughts on the matter, see below.)
Finally, halfway into the hour-long programme, we get started on the results. For starters, Ryan Seacrest sends James to one side of the stage and then Lauren to the other.
And then it’s back to more Ramsay and a free advert for J-Lo as she
sings mimes her current single and then treats – I use the word advisedly – us to a snippet of her new one. What with that and S-Ty‘s book, it’s all one big orgy of self-publicity, really.
Seventeen hours later (possibly longer), Ryan sends Jacob to join Lauren and then Haley to James’s side of the stage. And then he makes the whole painful ordeal (almost) worthwhile by springing a George Huff on Scotty. He tells him he is safe and asks him to join the pair he thinks are the top two. Scotty, naturally, refuses to choose and has to be dragged over to James and Haley. So there you have it. To no one’s surprise, Jacob is in the bottom two, joined by Lauren, who immediately causes Hurricane Katrina-level flooding as she bursts into tears.
The rest, as they say, is history. Before the entire audience drowns in Lauren’s tears, the Master of the Overly-Dramatic Pause™ hastily informs Captain Camp™ that his time has come. Farewell, Jacob. You promised so much and gave us some wonderful moments, but ultimately never quite hit the heights of Hollywood Week.
And now, a couple of theories.
The Jimmy Iovine conspiracy theory
It’s commonly believed that contestants have never had a completely free choice over what songs they choose. But I suspect it is even more the case this year, particularly with Interscope’s Jimmy Iovine acting as a mentor and guiding hand to steer contestants. Remember the boys’ semi-final round, when Jordan Dorsey stated he had been ‘given’ Usher‘s OMG to perform, rather than it being his choice?
From relatively early on, Iovine has made it fairly transparent who his favourite contestants are and which ones he doesn’t like. He is clearly a fan of both Lauren and Scotty, both of whom could carve out lucrative careers in the enormous country music market. Equally, there was evidently a personality clash with the strong-willed Casey Abrams, who was determined to maintain his musical identity in a niche which offers limited commercial opportunity.
But what about Haley – and in particular her ‘choice’ of the unreleased Lady Gaga track You and I this week? Was this, as Haley herself stated, merely an attempt by her to boost her standing by taking a risk? Or was she ‘steered’ into it by the head of Interscope – coincidentally, Gaga’s record label?
If you’re Iovine, it could have been seen as a no-lose situation. Haley effectively gives a free plug for Gaga’s new album, and if the risky choice falls flat he loses the one female contestant he has made it perfectly clear he doesn’t think that much of anyway.
An innocent song selection by a contestant, or a cynical piece of guidance by Iovine? Who knows? It’s just a theory.
How has Haley progressed from bottom three to top three? The alternative vote theory
If the public vote had determined this season’s winner after the first week of the finals run, based on online buzz, level of support from the live audience, Twitter followers and that week’s horoscopes, there is little doubt in my mind that Scotty would have been the runaway champion. It’s easy to see why. He’s a ‘nice young man’ in the manner of recent winners Lee DeWyze and Kris Allen, has one of the best and most distinctive voices, and is a performer in a genre – country music – with a huge natural fan base.
Conversely Haley, who was in the bottom three in each of the first two weeks – and has been twice more since – should by rights have disappeared long ago. However, this week’s vote placed her in the top three, ahead of at least Lauren and, I suspect, also Scotty.
As contestants have been eliminated, I suspect Scotty has probably not picked up many votes from non-country fans of Ashthon Jones, Karen Rodriguez and Naima Adedapo as a result of sticking so firmly to his country ‘lane’. Similarly Casey, who is widely rumoured to have become involved with Haley, has probably seen many of his fans transfer directly to her. (Relationship aside, Haley is also the closest in terms of musical style to Casey.)
All this means that the person with the most votes after the first round may not necessarily win depending on how preferences are allocated in subsequent rounds. And Haley is likely to have been one of the biggest beneficiaries – in part because her performances have improved, but also because she has maintained a broad enough appeal to attract alternative votes from a wide range of eliminated contestants’ fans. Over the course of a season, being someone’s second or third favourite contestant – or at least not alienating them completely – can pay off down the line.
Of course, there are also many floating voters, whose opinions change depending on weekly performances. But this would not explain weeks where Haley has survived the cut having been relatively poor. Ultimately, that has to be driven by the fact she is picking up more than her fair share of die-hard fans by being the next-best preference of the fans of eliminated contestants, in a way that Scotty and Lauren are not.
So, although Scotty was almost certainly the initial favourite I wouldn’t be that surprised if Haley has now overtaken him. As has been demonstrated in virtually every season of Idol, it’s not so much about where you start as where you finish. Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Hicks, Allen and DeWyze were all outsiders at the start of their respective seasons, but each came on strong as the finals progressed, picking up heavy support along the way.
I’m not saying Haley will win or even deserves to win. But I am saying that it shouldn’t be such a big surprise that she is still in the competition, and may even outlast Scotty. Who knows? It’s just a theory.
After J-Lo‘s second showcase of the season, the Idol love-in continues next week with Interscope’s golden goose and current queen of pop, Lady Gaga, serving as a guest mentor for the four remaining contestants.
The theme for the week will be the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, a duo who have been responsible for a wide range of hit songs over the years, from Elvis Presley‘s Hound Dog and Jailhouse Rock to Ben E King‘s Stand By Me and Stealers Wheel‘s Stuck in the Middle With You. So that’s another week tailored specifically for Scotty, then.
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Link: American Idol website