The curious case of Elise Testone

Have we ever seen a contestant quite like Elise Testone?

I don’t think so. Jimmy Iovine, who is actually quite good at handicapping the field (why is he not a judge?), stated that Elise is judged week-to-week, which is another way of saying that she has no real reliable fan base. If she has a good week, she’s safe, if she has a bad week, she’s in the bottom 3. Here is a summary of her performances thus far:

Episode Song WNTS
Result Dialidol
Top 25 (Girls) One And Only 84 Safe 0.122 11/12
Final 13 I’m Your Baby Tonight 33 Bottom Group 2.994 8/13
Final 11 Let’s Stay Together 75 Bottom Group 9.35 4/11
Final 10 Vienna 85 Safe 2.961 7/10
Final 09 Whole Lotta Love 91 Safe 7.099 4/9
Final 08 I Want To Know What Love Is 41 Bottom Group 5.148 6/8
Final 07 (i) You And I 69 Bottom Group 3.966 7/7
Final 07 (ii) No One 56 Bottom Group 10.004 5/7
Final 07 (ii) Let’s Get It On 47 Bottom Group 10.004 5/7

Elise has found herself in the bottom group 6 times in 8 episodes, which is almost a record. Here are the people who have spent the most time in the bottom group stools without being eliminated:

Contestant Times in
bottom group
Elliott Yamin 4
Phil Stacey 4
Jasmine Trias 4
Haley Reinhart 4
Hollie Cavanagh 4
Vonzell Solomon 4
Kimberley Locke 5
Anthony Fedorov 5
Nikki McKibbin 6
Elise Testone 6
Syesha Mercado 9

In terms of raw number, counting all rounds in the 11 year history, only one contestant has more appearances: Syesha Mercado, season 8’s second runner up. Let’s take a look at Syesha:

Episode Song WNTS Rating Result Dialidol score DIRank
Top 24 (Girls) Tobacco Road 64 Safe 3.8 4
Top 20 (Girls) Me And Mrs. Jones 42 Safe 2.55 8
Top 16 (Girls) Saving All My Love For You 50 Safe 4.9 7
Final 12 Got To Get You Into My Life 38 Bottom Group 0 12
Final 11 Yesterday 62 Safe 6.84 2
Final 10 If I Were Your Woman 70 Bottom Group 4.92 7
Final 09 I Will Always Love You 53 Safe 5.79 4
Final 08 I Believe 34 Bottom Group 5.21 7
Final 07 Vanishing 42 Bottom Group 6.13 7
Final 06 One Rock ‘N’ Roll Too Many 78 Bottom Group 4.88 3
Final 05 Hello Again 50 Bottom Group 15.08 1
Final 05 I Thank The Lord For The Night Time 68 Bottom Group 15.08 1
Final 04 A Change Is Gonna Come 57 Bottom Group 18.72 2
Final 04 Proud Mary 52 Bottom Group 18.72 2
Final 03 Fever 59 Eliminated 15.81 3
Final 03 Hit Me Up 34 Eliminated 15.81 3
Final 03 If I Ain’t Got You 56 Eliminated 15.81 3

As you can see, by this stage Syesha had been in the bottom 3 only four times (five if we count the Top 6 as being equivalent to the save round). But that’s not the only thing I want to point out. Syesha’s performance quality (measured by WNTS approval rating) is actually quite consistent. She never registered anything above a 78 in the Top 6, for which she was again in the bottom 3. That’s interesting, because it showed a lack of ability to attract single-time voters: people who weren’t fans, but liked it that one day.

Elise, on the other hand, does appear to be able to attract voters if she has a good night. And she also is far, far more inconsistent than Syesha. She has had some huge week-to-week stumbles, such as following up her highly rated performance of Adele’s One and Only with a fairly terrible I’m Your Baby Tonight on Whitney Houston week, and following up one of the highest rated performances ever, Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love with the ghastly I Want to Know What Love Is, Foreigner’s all-out assault on good taste. Syesha has nothing like that to speak of.

So, yes, Elise is singular. While I certainly wouldn’t put any money down on her to stay this week, neither would I put any on the other side. The thing about being one-of-a-kind is that we don’t have any basis for expectation. Elise might, in fact, perform decently, and I wouldn’t even be too reluctant to say that she could end up a close second to WGWG #5 Phil Phillips. Remember now that all contestants but Phil have been in the bottom 3.

As I’ve noted before, there is a sort of threshold that the finale contestants has to meet to win the season.

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

Ignoring the execrable Scotty McCreery, if we say the threshold is Taylor Hicks’ highest value (82), then Elise, Joshua, Jessica, and Hollie have all met that.

Now, yes, of course it’s not a good sign for Elise to be in the bottom 3 so many times more than Skylar. But I might be a bit careful in a guess that “she’s obviously gone” this week. I think that really depends on how she performs.

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