The longevity of Wild Card picks

On Thursday, DeAndre Brackensick, Erika Van Pelt, and Jeremy Rosado were chosen as Wild Card picks after performing for the judges. It’s a fair question to ask how these chosen contestants, in the light of historical evidence, are likely to be able to do in the finals.

Out of 10 previous seasons, half have had a Wild Card round, where the judges choose members of the semifinalists who were not selected by the voting audience to advance to the finals (seasons 1, 2, 3, 8, and 10). Seasons 4-7 and 9 did not include such a round, since those semifinals spanned several weeks, giving the audience plenty of time to warm up to the contestants.

Below is a list of all 16 Wild Card picks sorted by the number of final rounds they participated in

Contestant WNTS Rating
of Wild Card
Season Number of final
rounds participated
Jasmine Murray 54 8 1
Ashthon Jones 44 10 1
Leah LaBelle 26 3 1
Naima Adedapo 71 10 4
Megan Joy 35 8 4
RJ Helton 66 1 5
Jon Peter Lewis 37 3 5
Jennifer Hudson 72 3 6
Kim Caldwell 46 2 6
Stefano Langone 80 10 7
Anoop Desai 61 8 7
Carmen Rasmusen 22 2 7
Trenyce 82 2 8
Matt Giraud 71 8 8
George Huff 70 3 8
Clay Aiken 91 2 11

The average Wild Card sang in 5.5 episodes, compared with 6.4 episodes for those who were voted into the finals by the audience. The first five entries are all women, all of whom were eliminated within the first 4 weeks.

However, not all Wild Cards are made equal. In the above table I have also included approval rating as sampled by WNTS. If we look at how many votes the contestants survived as a function of their performance approval, we see that better contestants do indeed (on average) make it farther:

Though the fit is not excellent, it’s clear that there is a positive dependence on quality, explaining roughly 35% of the trend. Of course, some people are rejected by the voting audience in the finals because that audience already rejected them during the semi-finals. But clearly some of the contestants are able to redeem themselves. This is especially true of Clay Aiken, runner up in season 2, George Huff, and Trenyce. (I don’t include Matt Giraud, since he also had to be saved by the judges.) A better fit can be obtained if one looks at the Wild Card picks average approval rating for all the rounds they participated in:

The fit here is quite decent.

So, we come now to the obvious question: How well are those chosen on Thursday likely to do, based on this (admittedly crude) model?


Contestant WNTS Rating Projected rounds
Deandre Brackensick 43 3.3353
Jeremy Rosado 67 5.2961
Erika Van Pelt 76 6.0314

The contestant with the best shot is Erika Van Pelt, whose performance of The Edge of Glory ranked quite highly on the approval ratings. Erika is one to watch, in my opinion. With the fourth highest ranked Wild Card performance, she could be a serious contender this year.

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