For some years now, we’ve toned down our “emotional investment” in “American Idol,” because we feel that the singing search’s choice of winners has been unfairly canted in favor of young, white male singers, due to its followers’ predominantly teen, female demographic.
The last female “AI” winner was Jordin Sparks, who won way back in 2007, so why fully support a talent tilt that subjectively favors boy-next-door types over singers who can really sing?
At the start of the 2011 season however, two finalists emerged—Joshua and Jessica —who radically ran counter to the show’s traditional template in choosing its top idols. Both young talents were dark-skinned, but sang like nobody’s business and thus survived from week to week.
In fact, a judge daringly predicted that the final two “AI” bets this season to slug it out for the title could be—Joshua and Jessica!
True enough, as the remaining finalists were voted out from week to agonizing week, “J and J” continued to hang on— until that horrible day, some weeks ago, when Jessica Sanchez experienced the bitter pain of being eliminated from the finals, which was reversed by the surge of ecstasy that came when the show’s judges used their only “save” vote for the season to give her a new lease on life!
And so, the weekly eliminations continued—but from then on, Jessica’s Fil-Mexican supporters, having been given the scare of their lives, realized that they could never let down their guard, and had to vote for their chosen star until she had won the title—or “died” trying to.
That “do or die” attitude worked wonders for Jessica’s “title fight,” as other female contestants were eliminated, including the pert and pretty Carrie Underwood look-alike, Hollie. When she was kicked out, it was big news to “AI” followers, because in many aspects of the tilt’s favored total performing package, Hollie had what it took to go all the way. And yet, more voters had favored Jessica over her! Clearly, something was going on.
Then came the penultimate week, when even the hugely gifted Joshua bit the dust — but Jessica’s bid, contra mundum, stayed alive! Now, she was positioned squarely face to face—and voice-to-voice—against the tilt’s traditional favored bet, Phillip Phillips, who was young, cute, boy-next-door and WASP, like winners, David Cook and Scotty McCreery, before him. How could Jessica win over him?
For her to do so, the entire “American Idol” tradition and ethos would have to be turned upside-down, and shaken to its very foundation. Its millions of viewer-voters would have to reorient their priorities and favor talent over preferred looks and gender. Was that seminal change too deep and too much to wish for? Jessica’s followers voted in the millions, but so did Phillip’s more traditionally-oriented diehards.
Last Thursday, after a record 132 million votes had been counted, Phillip Phillips won the 2011-2012 “American Idol” contest. It was a key lesson in competition, packaging—and demographics.
But the fact that Jessica garnered as many votes as she did (will we ever be told how many?) indicates that the next “AI” season may yet pull a big surprise on everyone concerned.
Something is changing, that’s for sure, only it didn’t change fast enough to affect this year’s results.
Jessica doesn’t have to worry about her career prospects, however. No less than top music starmaker, Tommy Mottola, has a debut record deal already lined up for her.
The first day of her new life as a certified singing star has only just begun!