Editorial: Good singing does not mean good contestant

Nigel Lythgoe, the producer of American Idol, has said a lot in the past few days about Pia Toscano’s elimination. In particular, he might advocate a system like So You Think You Can Dance? has, where the Bottom 3 is chosen by popular vote, but the decision of who among them should go is left to the judges. Personally, I think this is a fine idea, and it wouldn’t make Idol any less fair, or probably any more fair either. Yes, the judges would have saved Pia, as they saved Casey, and maybe even Karen. Stefano may have gone home already, as would Paul.

But what of Ashthon Jones? The public rejected her in the vote for the Top 10, and the judges chose her as a wild card pick. That entire process was overseen only by the judges. No vote in the entire contest kept Ashton in. Her first week in the hands of the public, they voted her out. Lauren Turner arguably would have been a much stronger contestant, scoring significantly higher in the WNTS scores, and with a more distinct personality, reminiscent of other contestants such as Carly Smithson. The judges whiffed on that one big time.

The other revelation of Lythgoe’s is that Pia was, in fact, an average contestant when it came to vote totals. This wasn’t unforseen: she was frequently the tops according to the judges and critical review, but significantly underperformed on Dialidol. And Dialidol didn’t go far enough. While it often had her in the top 50% of the field, Lythgoe reports she wasn’t even there when the votes were counted. She was middle-of-the-pack.

I find this wholly believable. A good singer, which Pia most certainly was, does not necessarily make for a strong contestant. Continue reading

The pimp spot effect: a definite advantage

How many times has the Idol singing last in the finals ever been eliminated? The somewhat surprising answer is that it has happened only once (and a half). It has never happened before the top 7 in any given season.

First, the exceptions to the rule. Siobahn Magnus was eliminated in the Final 6 of American Idol season 9, with a way-out-of-her-comfort-zone rendition of Shania Twain’s “Any Man Of Mine”. It scored a 43 on WhatNotToSing, an Idol ratings aggregator, the third worst score of that episode; but as a woman she had a built-in disadvantage, and a terrible performance by Lee DeWyze was given a pass by the voting public. In this case, even going last could not save Siobahn from going home. Continue reading