There is only one reason why Jessica Sanchez was almost booted out of American Idol. She got the lowest number of votes. There are judges in the show but all they do is critique the contestants. The voters from all over America get the final say. And last week, they said that they did not like what Jessica did or should I say, sang.
Viewers out here and perhaps around the US have been reading racial bias on what nearly happened. Maybe. Take a look at the list of previous winners. Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, Kris Allen, David Cook, Lee DeWyze and Scotty McCreery.
After 11 years of nationwide searching by Idol, no contestant of Asian or Latino ancestry has won the contest. So if there is indeed racial bias in the voting then Jessica is in double jeopardy. She is Mexican-Filipino. I believe though that race does not figure prominently in the voting. Only perhaps in the subconscious at the very least. So let us save that card for later.
The hard fact is Jessica got the lowest number because she chose to sing for herself and the judges and not for the viewers who vote. That was why the judges saved her. She was really good. But she chose to do an unknown song Stuttering by a less-known artist, Jasmine Sullivan. Viewers like being familiar with the melodies. They were not with Stuttering. I at least got to bob my head to How Will I Know from the week before last.
This showing off is a common problem among singers who believe that making such choices proves their musicality and sets them apart from the other contestants. It is okay to indulge yourself if you are doing a full set but not when you only have two minutes on stage. In that case you had better get everybody to your side on your very first note.
Now this brings us to what I think is the present Idol dilemma. Is it just the singing or the total package? How big is the role being played by looks or by likeability in choosing the winner? Not much as per the judges who never fail to remind the audience that AI is a singing contest. But if I could vote for contestant, I would vote for the one I like, the one who entertains me. That is not necessarily the best singer.
I guess this was an Idol problem from the start but only came into sharp focus these past few years. There are several reasons why this happened. Declining ratings (need to shake things up in a big way), competition from other talent shows (The Voice has been doing very well concentrating on singers) and most of all, the lackluster results of the careers of bland pop Idol choices like Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze. I guess this was the reason why Idol served up a very good batch of singers in Season 11. Take note, I said, singers.
Idol sometimes gets it right as in David Cook over David Archuleta. Is it true that the TV series that the younger David did here was both a commercial and critical dud? There have also been times when Idol didn’t. Think Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry, Katharine McPhee and Adam Lambert who lost out in the Idol race but bounced back as big stars. In some cases, bigger than the winner.