'American Idol' Top 20 week in review: Teen girl dreams and ethnic cleansing

american-idol-top-16.jpgThe "American Idol" semi-finalists have been whittled down to 16 contestants and so far a few trends appear to be emerging during these first two weeks of eliminations.

Wondering why singers like John Park and Joe Munoz have been booted and singers like Tim Urban and Lacey Brown have stuck around?

Some "Idol" writers around the Web have posited some theories about early Top 24 eliminations.

LA Times music critic Ann Powers tweeted Thursday night (Mar. 5):

"Watching Idol a little late. All people of color eliminated so far. Boo!"
and "What's with the racial purge on Idol tonight?"

Meanwhile, LA Times Idol Tracker Shirley Halperin responded in a piece:

"As much as some would like to draw red and blue lines in the sand, there's no denying that all four contestants gave less than stellar performances this week."


Gawker's Richard Lawson wrote:

"So didja notice anything about those four contestants what went packing last night? ... Three black kids and a Korean. Does this mean anything? Well, it might. ...

I know why someone like Tim Urban is sticking around, and it is a forever flaw of this show, that it is so ruled by the crimson passions of teenage girldom, but it sticks out so much more this year for some reason ... Also, he's not Asian. I guess. I mean, I don't think many among us, this particular readership, would kick John Park outta bed. That's a handsome kid right there. And yet."


We tend to agree with Lawson's summation. Though there's no proof that something consciously or unconsciously racist is happening with "Idol' voting (and FOX doesn't release the demographics of "Idol" voters), it's clearly something to be considered when reviewing the patterns of elimination each season.

"Idol" producers can't control who the American public dials and texts their vote support, but they certainly do control the editing of each contestant in the on-air packages. Frequently, screen time is inequitably distributed which must be incredibly frustrating for the contestants who are largely invisible during pre-semi-finals.

In a very interesting and illuminating article by What Not to Sing, an "American Idol" catch-all site, the author explores the idea of "idealist" voters versus "romantic" voters. Idealists are the people who vote based on who they legitimately think did the best each week. Romantic voters fall in love early on with a contestant and will vote for him or her every week.

If a contestant had little or no footage of them air prior to the Top 24, how can he or she possibly garner any "romantic" voters? Contenders who are "romantically challenged" in the voting department are at a disadvantage because there's even more pressure to deliver an out-of-this-world performance. Whereas a person already established with a fan base of romantic voters has markedly less pressure to knock it out of the park. In fact, a person with a lot of screen time and a sappy back story could probably have several sub-par weeks in a row before being in danger.

According to the theory, Joe Munoz, Michelle Delamor, Jermaine Sellers, John Park and Ashley Rodriguez each lacked "romantic" voting bases because of their minimal screen time. Munoz and Delamor are clearly not the worst singers in the bunch, but they conceivably were disadvantaged in establishing a connection with viewers. So shouldn't the "romantic" viewer connection theory have saved fellow eliminee Haeley Vaughn? Or were Vaugh's two incredibly weak semi-final performances too overpowering for any voter support she may have gained through her more abundant screen time?

What does all this mean going forward for "American Idol" season 9 contenders? Paige Miles and Todrick Hall need huge performances next week or they are going home. Perhaps because they are minorities, but most certainly because they haven't been on-screen as much as a Casey James or a Katie Stevens. Simon did elevate Paige's standings in the race by declaring her the best female voice during the first week of the semi-finals, but that won't save her if she turns in three average performances in a row.

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