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American Idol: Why So Surprised?

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It’s down to Jordin and Blake now, and America appears to be collectively aghast about Melinda going home. I’m hardly aghast, but I am a bit surprised so few people saw it coming.

There was no way Melinda Dolittle was going to be the next American Idol. Sure, she can sing, but as much as Simon likes to refer to the show as a “singing competition”, it’s hardly that cut and dried. Video killed the radio star over 25 years ago, and from a visual standpoint, Melinda was… well, mundane. No matter how she belted out the vocals, she was never able to project a visual presence. Had she thrown her shoulders back a bit and ditched that “I’m not worthy” facial expression, she might have had a chance. But I doubt it. AI is all about the youth factor, and at 29, she was, sadly, too old for the 18-24 demographic.

It’s that demographic, coupled with my sneaking suspicion that the voting audience is largely female, that made it obvious to me that Melinda would be leaving. Chicks dig Blake. His beatbox style resonates with teenyboppers. He has that bad boy aura, but he’s a guy they could take home to mom. The problem is, a ‘hood ‘tude quickly wears thin without something to back it up. Suburban white boys rarely have it. On the other hand, Sir Mix-A-Lot has given Blake his blessing. And when a one hit wonder from the early nineties endorses you, that has to be a good sign, right?

Not necessarily. Seventeen-year-old Jordin has a certain post-adolescent gawkiness that’s endearing to the audience, and especially endearing to that teenage voting block I mentioned earlier. Plus, she can actually sing. Despite Simon’s occasional admonitions that she’s choosing songs “too old” for her age, the fact remains she pulls them off by virtue of her phrasings and the sheer power of her voice. More importantly, she knows how to emanate a presence. Add to that equation the fact that she’s young enough to be molded into whatever persona the labels desire at any given whim, and she has to be the odds on favorite.

That said, it’s still anybody’s guess. No matter how it goes down, nobody really loses on American Idol — except perhaps the viewers who thought they held the future course of pop culture in their hands by virtue of their vote. It will all be forgotten by the time next season rolls around. Ask Taylor Hicks.

The truth is, American Idol has always been a sleight of hand con game. Melinda, Jordin, and Blake will all have their moment in the sun. So will the almost-rans. They’ll all have a nice little run on VH1 (aka the American Idols Rejects channel), but they’ll add nothing of substance to the fabric of pop culture.

It doesn’t matter. We’ll be back next season for another round of bread and circuses. So will Simon, Randy, and Paula, all looking even more disinterested than they did this season. And once more, the viewing audience will choose yet another American Idol.

God help us all.

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About Ray Ellis

  • justs another commentator

    yes, “too old for the 18-24 demographic…”.. now we know what america is made of.. hands down, a britney look-alike could make it easily to the finals :(

  • gil

    Sour grapes, anyone?

  • Eddie Yak

    I cannot understand why there are many of you out there who are only interested in claiming ‘AI’ is
    pop culture and only for the young. What is visually wrong with Melinda Doolittle, is her eyes missing or her mouth lopsided or she is so fat and ugly ? Many may praise the two finalists
    but nothing can escape the fact that Melinda was
    robbed. Blake, can he really sing ? No because he lack the basic, his voice is so thin and squeal
    some incomprehensible notes, which you people call talented ? His dance moves resemble some injured animal. Jordain, well isn’t she as plump as Melinda, they have similar size upper arm, so what is difference between 18 or 29. She certainly is not even half a Britney Spear or Carrie Underwood. It is certainly a ‘Singing’ competition not a TV show because both pretenders
    to the AI6 didn’t make the grade as TV entertainers.


    Plenty of sour grapes here. LOL. I was rooting for Melinda. I reject the notion that you have to look like Britney or Christina to win American Idol. Let’s not forget Ruben, Clay, Fantasia, and Taylor (lol, and even Yamin). These aren’t really picture perfect “winners”. It’s not just the looks but the X factor. Would you say Missy Elliot is pretty? She’s not that good looking but she’s awesome. I can name plenty of stars who don’t have the ace looks but are bonafide stars none-the-less. Can Jessica Simpson really sing? Or Britney for that matter. Legit fan voters aside. It’s hard to win in a competition where there are people who wage war on the show not for the contestants but for the judges and the show per se. Either Melinda or Jordin wins ‘Idol’ I’m cool with it. I just hope those who do vote for ‘Idol’ will also buy their Idols’ album, case in point, Taylor. Again, the old adage, “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” Melinda should have one. LOL.

  • jessica

    this season of ai has been a joke and a disgrace to the show and they need to take a serious look at it and make some major changes contestants should not be voted off by sex but by lack of talent and yes I am a huge Melinda fan and w/o ? she was the best singer and performer this season but i knew she would be voted off because she did not appeal to the younger audience what a shame maybe one day they will have enough sense and knowledge to recognize real talent not someone who beatboxes to cover his inferior singing abilities

  • alessandro Nicolo

    Jordin clearly out-SANG Blake last night.

    It’s better for Melinda. We already know she can sing. She didn’t need to go through the AI machine anymore. She’ll do fine. The theory is go as far into the competitition so as to get noticed and then hope to not win.

    Someone on BC wrote about where they are not it seems as though the talented ones are carving themselves some careers. Maybe they won’t change the course of pop culture but they are earning a living doing what they love. That’s the positive – among the many negative- side of AI.

    I liked Blake. He tried to be different. Like the rockers who brought some credbility to the show among all those saucy ‘I love you’ singers, Blake made the show hip and watchable. He was a strong enough singer but not enough to beat Jordin.

  • Andrea

    Here is the thing with Blake – yeah, he’s a good entertainer but the fun thing about what he does is to see it, not just hear it. Will his music be popular afterwards when we can’t see him perform? Will we grow tired of his beatboxing (probably on every song)? We will like his music without beatboxing? I think everybody will rapidly lose interest in Blake. Like somebody else said, his beatboxing just covers up his inferior singing. Jordin should win because she’s a great singer. Blake just has the potential to become yet another AI that was washed up before they actually began.

  • Sean Jacks

    Is AI really based on the fact that you can sing or you can just make noises with your mouth? I Think jordan has outshined herself and has beaten blake hands down on last night’s performance. If blake wins then American Idol needs to be banned. Its about singer not beatboxing with your mouth.

  • Carlos Malenkov

    Remember Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts?
    It aired during the 40’s and 50’s on radio,
    then on TV. It had two things that American Idol
    Geritol commercials . . . and

  • diana

    Hey all,
    Why so negative? I think Blake, Jordin and Melinda are all so talented and each does their own thing really well. I do think Blake can sing. In fact, he reminds me of a young Phil Collins/Sting and shows his voice whenever he does a ballad. Jordin and Melinda both can sing amazingly. They have chosen to do showcase songs each and every time up while Blake has varied his choices. That does not take away from any of them. They each led with their strength. I wish all 3 well and hope they all have long successful careers.
    I think this is the toughest final 3 ever on AI. I loved Clay & Kimberly, but those were 2 out of 3. Carrie and Bo were awesome as well. Fantasia had it sewn up from day 1 although Diana, Jennifer & Latoya made her work hard for it. Taylor & Catherine were amazing, but with Chris at only #4, this final 3 is even stronger. Kelly was the easy favorite her year by a mile.
    I hope we hear a lot from all 3 of the finalists and am so glad they made the cut that might not have been possible without AI. The music industry can be superficial, and while they are all nice looking, none is a model in the traditional sense (although I expect to see Jordin as a plus size model or makeup model someday very soon).
    Good luck to Jordin and Blake!

  • Amaka

    As for me, the AI winner for this yr is Melinda. She’s got the voice and she’s definitely going to last after the competition. I think AI producers should go back and watch the videos of the first to last season and check what’s been missing in the past two seasons. That originality and genuine suspense isn’t there again. It seems the show is now about attracting high nos of viewers. This is a singing competition and not beauty competition. I feel Simon is very blunt and that’s good cos u need to separate talents from the rest. Melinda is the best and i’m sure most viewers felt her absence from the finals.I know i did. She deserved to be there. I like Jordin cos she’s beautiful and got talent too and she & Melinda would have given us the best Finals ever on American Idol. Blake is brave and good but he should have been the one to leave last wk. Anyway, If Jordin doesn’t win this American Idol competition, American Idol should go back to the drawing board and tell us what exactly they are looking for in contestants.It’s shouldn’t be about age but talent afterall Bo appealed to a lot of people too at his age. Thank you

  • cobbi

    Talent comes in any age. Its so happened that the majority of American voting public are youth. Melinda, sure, has the best vocals this season but the viewers don’t just listen they also watch and they want to see pleasing to their eyes and not closing their eyes while listening to the singer. The top 3 has all the future in this business but who will lasts longer is up to the fans. Jordin is the clear winner and Blake is good (hope he’ll not end up like Sir (who?) as a one hit wonder).

  • shelley

    Why do we have to trash any of these performers? I am well past the “tennybopper” stage but I still really like Blake and if you payed attention, you would see he does NOT beatbox on EVERY song. I was around when the original “Time Of The Season” came out, and I have gone back to You Tube and listened to Blake’s version more than once. I like it. I hope all of the idol contestants this year have great success. Who are we to claim we are clarivoyant enough to KNOW that one or the other is destined to never be heard from again?

  • Al

    Get a grip folks. AI is nothing more than an entertaining talent show. It doesn’t matter who wins. What matters is that unknown, talented singers get a chance at the big time, a chance to perform before millions of viewers, a chance to be discovered and signed with a recording contract. The rest is up to them.


    AI may have lost something I don’t know, but you have to admit that it gives a number of people a chance that they might not ever have no matter how well they might sing. It is a hard business to get into the entertainment business

  • alessandro Nicolo

    #9 – interesting. #14, #15 – bingo.

  • mark anthony

    hey c’mon guys give melinda a break!! after she was robbed by phone voting and i guess she deserves to be treated nicely. and not by insulting her with words like ugly, shrek, no neck, etc. geez!!!

  • Traci, Atlanta, GA

    This is not only a Singing contest —- this is BIG BUSINESS. The AI show is just the marketing mechanism – to sell more albums and for the corporation that owns AI – to sell commercial time – and product endorsements. Period.
    There are a zillion commericals. (they cost $600,000 per 30 second slot) — Count the commercials – there are more of them than actual tv show. Every year there is more and more commericials.
    Next, this is a show that is geared to 18-24 year olds —-sort of – but it is one that mom, dad, grandma – the whole family can enjoy together. They even have CHURCHS show it on Monday nights. Good clean family fun.
    Lastly, since everyone and anyone can put out a CD these days. (You can make it in your basement and sell it on-line or out of the trunk of your car), what better way to push the sales of an artist??? You have them on TV – and you market them all at the same time —under the American Idol BRAND Name. Save money – the record company saves cash, and has a well known artist that the world knows about within 6 months time. No need to do a bunch of promotional tours…they are household names.

  • SteveS

    If the business of AI is to make records, then the AI business machine isn’t working very well. Taylor Hicks was a flop and now Jordin Sparks new single is the weakest debut of any winner ever.

    Jordin Sparks’ debut single ‘This Is My Now’ enters the billboard singles sales chart at #9 with 74,000 units sold. The previous low-water mark for an idol was Fantasia’s 142,000 unit/#1 debut in 2004.

    On the Billboard hot 100 singles chart, a composite of sales and radio airplay, Jordin enters at #15. Again, this beats the futility record Fantasia set with her #4 debut for ‘I Believe’ in 2004.

    Last year, Taylor Hicks entered at #1 on both charts with 180,000 units sold of ‘Do I Make You Proud’. Hicks would go to release by far and away the weakest selling debut album by an idol, which fell off the billboard charts in only 14 weeks. It has been a huge money losing fiasco for RCA.

    Jordin’s sales are definitely going to make Taylor Hicks proud as he will no longer have the title of weakest selling winner.

  • Jolene

    Taylor’s CD didn’t sell because it was crap. Nobody wants to hear 80’s blue-eyed soul. On the other hand, Jordin Sparks is young and they can mold her. Her sound will be hip-hop, which sells. She’s going to be fine. I have no worries about her.

  • Amye

    Al (#14), you said it all.

  • RultinoZ

    You can all kiss my sour, hairy but otherwise cute ass. Peace.