Sizing up the competition

By and large, I would say that a general rule of American Idol is that the eventual winner comes out early with a very good performance. By “a very good performance”, I would qualify that as something that scores 85 or better on the approval ratings. Only one winner ever, Taylor Hicks, has managed to win the title without a score of 85 or better in the first few weeks. Kelly Clarkson had one in the second week of the finals, as did Ruben Studdard, Carrie Underwood, and Jordin Sparks. Fantasia didn’t have one until week 5. David Cook and Lee DeWyze had theirs in the 3rd week, and Kris Allen in the 4th.

We are now past week 4, and we have three performances over this threshold:

Contestant Song WNTS Rating
Pia Toscano I’ll Stand By You 91
Jacob Lusk A House Is Not A Home 88
Casey Abrams I Put A Spell On You 85

In fact, the people who got scores over 85 in the finals reads like a who’s-who of Idol finalists. Of those 40 contestants, only 6, George Huff, Trenyce, Siobahn Magnus, Amy Adams, Mandisa, and Constantine Maroulis, failed to make the Top 4. Huff missed by only one, Magnus and Maroulis by two, each in a huge upset.

If one of the other contestants wants to make a showing, the time to do so is rapidly passing. Lauren Alaina, for instance, generally scores well. But without a huge memorable performance to insulate her, one false step could send her packing.

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

Clear gender bias in American Idol voting

If it seems like American Idol always turns into a sausage fest, it’s probably because it really does. If you’re a female singer, you have only slightly more than a 30% chance of reaching the top 2 under the current rules.

I compiled data from Wikipedia on the gender makeup of remaining finalists on all seasons excluding season 3 (more on that later). My feeling has been that women get hosed, but I didn’t really think it was this bad: Continue reading