Season 10 closing thoughts

We’re winding down the site for this year, as we head into a final whose result is basically beyond question. Scotty McCreery looks to dominate Lauren Alaina in the Finale of Season 10. We may be back next year, as it will depend on whether I get a post doc position and how much of my time is absorbed by that very stressful time of life.

Although the model has not done worse than other bloggers or forecast services, it’s worth asking why it was able to guess only 4 eliminations from the Top 11 to the Top 3.

People were voted out slightly out of order

It’s worth pointing out that the model assigned the person being eliminated as the second most likely choice 3 times (Top 4, Top 6, Top 11 redux), so in addition to its 4 correct calls (Stefano, Jacob, Paul, and Naima) it got 7/9 almost right. If you had laid cash on both the projected and the second-to-be projected, you’d have made money.

The thing that strikes me isn’t that a lot of people were voted out who should have made the Top 3. It’s really more that people were voted slightly out of order.  Thia Megia probably went 1-2 rounds before she should have, Stefano Langone probably should have gone 1 round earlier than Paul MacDonald instead of 1 round after, and Casey Abrams and Jacob Lusk should have swapped positions. These are little differences that make a big difference in assessing the accuracy of the model. 7 out of 9 is pretty good.

What it has not been is an outrageous year full of wrong results

This is a dense graph, so I’ll break it down. The points represent outcomes from all seasons, excluding the Finale and Top 3. The horizontal axis is the WNTS approval rating. The points at the bottom resulted in the contestant being Safe, points at the top were Eliminated. Red points are Season 10 outcomes, and black are all the other seasons. Also shown are two regression lines, with pink being the trend for women and blue being the trend for men. You can see that for a score of 1/100 you have a 42% chance of going home if you’re a man and a 50% chance of going home if you’re a woman.

The first observation I would make is that most of this year’s scores (red dots) are higher than average. I think that this has to do with the talent being better, the production being much better, and due to the lack of critiquing from the judges. The second observation I would make is that it wasn’t overall a terribly unfair year. Yes, there are performances like when Pia Toscano was eliminated (the red circle in the upper right), but that happens from time to time, and it’s not even the highest score that a person was eliminated with.

Likely the main mechanism that made sure that the order was more correct was judges critiquing the performance. Had they applied the normal amount of criticism, probably Paul would have been praised and Stefano trashed, and Stefano would have gone home first. Without this rudder to slightly correct the results, the show was just a bit out of whack. More than the voting process, the producers need to think about the talent they’ve hired to be judges.

We have both kinds of music, country and western

Never before has there been a contestant who did only one type of song until this year. This year the theme weeks were extremely flexible, and the producers and band were placating, so that a contestant such as Scotty or Lauren was able to exclusively perform songs from one genre: country. Carrie Underwood is thought of as a country star, which she surely is, but on Idol she did many crossover tunes, and is still remembered for her performance of Heart’s Alone. Kellie Pickler had to show her stuff in Queen week and Stevie Wonder week, as did Bucky Covington (who was eliminated for his trouble).

But that didn’t happen this year, and the two people going into the Finale this week have been afforded a major advantage. Would Scotty have made it through Disco night? What if Lauren was made to do a song by Andrew Lloyd Webber?

As such, Scotty has gotten by purely on demographics. Regardless of whom he’s paired with during group songs, he consistently shows that all the other contestants have him outclassed by a mile. But he’s male and he does country, so he’s going to win. As a result, he is the lowest rated winner in Idol history:

Contestant Avg. WNTS Rating
Kelly Clarkson 76.76
Fantasia Barrino 65.44
David Cook 64.7
Ruben Studdard 63.55
Taylor Hicks 61.3
Kris Allen 61.06
Jordin Sparks 59.57
Lee DeWyze 57.83
Carrie Underwood 57.3
Scotty McCreery 54.11

Scotty is missing one nearly uniform hallmark of winners past: he has no score over 80. Check out his best performance approval versus all the other Idol winners:

Contestant Max Of WNTS Rating
Kelly Clarkson 97
Fantasia Barrino 95
David Cook 93
Ruben Studdard 91
Carrie Underwood 90
Kris Allen 88
Jordin Sparks 88
Lee DeWyze 88
Taylor Hicks 82
Scotty McCreery 76

And furthermore many of the others did. Casey, Jacob, Pia, and Haley all recorded scores solidly in the range of other winners past.

More thoughts may come as I think of them.

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