American Idol 3: Meet the Enemy
by Bruce Barker -- 04/26/2004
Bruce Barker wrote an article after last weekís results show in which he concluded that certain American Idol voters are ďthe enemy.Ē Since that article ran, Bruce has received hundreds of emails, many of which offer theories as to why the results of American Idol turned out the way they did last week.
It began with what, in our electronic age, can best be described as an interoffice e-memo. After the incredible American Idol results show this week I wrote my feelings down and sent them to Sting7, Betsy, Gil, and the other good people whose names you see atop the articles on Foxes on Idol and Reality News Online. The editors felt that my comments were an article unto themselves, and the next day my remarks appeared here at Foxes on Idol. This article suggested some reasons to explain how Jennifer, Fantasia, and LaToya could have possible wound up as the bottom three this week and ended with me branding the AI voters as ďthe enemy.Ē Within hours, my mailbox was stuffed and overflowing. I heard from hundreds of readers and the flow hasnít slowed much since then. There were quite a few people who agreed with me and, as could be expected, a number of people who didnít. I received letters from people who had their own theories and letters from people who were too shocked at the voting results to speculate about the reasons. But something else happened as well. The enemy came out of hiding. The bulk of the mail Iíve received has been from people Ė many of them organized Ė that are working to destroy American Idol forever. I wish I were joking.
Let me begin here by thanking those of you who wrote with your comments, whether I agreed with them or not. I also want to thank the enemy for exposing itself. In this article I intend to explore some of the rumors and theories surrounding the AI universe and debunk a few lies that have been batted around for a long time as truths. As a fan of Idol from the very beginning, I feel itís my responsibility to share with the other fans what is happening, and some of what follows may be surprising to many readers. Some of it made me sick to my stomach, and I apologize if some of it is distasteful to you, but these are things I believe need to be dragged into the light before they grow too large to be dealt with. Iím not going to gild the lily or pull any punches about my feelings regarding these things, but I have every intention of throwing a cold bucketful of logic at the more ridiculous aspects of some of what follows.
Theory: American Idol is racist.
Rumor: The voting is rigged.
Did you ever wonder why Clay didnít win? Did you ever stop and speculate as to why there are only two white people in the final 7? Why is it that Ruben and Kimberley Locke got plenty of screen time to sing their new songs, but RJ Helton was barely given a howdy from his seat? Why do they insist on keeping Motown week but tossed out big band week like a used diaper? Did you ever notice that the judges have only praise for the black singers but insult the white singers every single week? Itís because American Idol is prejudiced against white people! This week Iíve heard from readers who call in and vote for John Stevens because heís the ďwhitestĒ of those who remain in the competition. He sings harmless ďwhiteĒ music and doesnít mess around with the edgier ďblackĒ stuff. These people are convinced that AI in general and the judges in particular are determined to shove the ďcoloredĒ singers down our throats and they arenít going to allow a ďbunch of NAACP loving morons to throw all the white people off the radio.Ē Yes, that last was a quote. It wasnít even one of the more hateful ones. In this group of letters, I heard from people who feel that even Diana is suspect because she looks like she might only be ďpartĒ white. As much as Iíd like to laugh at this whole thing, I canít. I take it seriously. If you receive one letter like this you can chalk it up to a lone crackpot, hit the delete button, and move on. But I literally received dozens like it. Many used terms that cannot be reprinted here. Iíve also heard from the other writers in the group who have received similar mail. So letís start out by assuming the theory is correct and see how it holds up under scrutiny.
Last yearís winner was a black male. He narrowly beat out what I think we can all agree is a white guy. Maybe there is something to this after all! But wait a momentÖ Newsweek magazine openly reported in a cover story last season that the producers saw a Clay/Ruben finale and were worried that the vastly improved Kimberley Locke might just slip in and ruin that idea. She didnít. Kimberley placed third. I donít even have to check my CD cover to verify it. The stunning and talented Ms. Locke is every inch a black woman. If the powers that be at Idol want white people gone so badly, why didnít Kim place second? Since the end of Season 2, Clay Aiken has been on the cover of Rolling Stone and umpteen other publications. Heís appeared on Leno, Letterman, and virtually every other talk show that showcases singers. His tour with Kelly Clarkson (who happens to be a stunning and talented white woman) has been frequently mentioned on Idol and virtually everywhere else.
Did you know that Ruben is on tour too? You probably did. It was all over the news. Not because he is a smash sensation and selling out all across America, though. His tour only made the big news when some of his road crew got busted with a baggie of marijuana. If Idol is so prejudiced against white singers, why did Clay get such a strong promotional push? Why did they sponsor the Aiken/Clarkson tour instead of a Studdard/Aiken tour? Why didnít they try to cover up or at least do some spin control on the drug bust so Rubenís reputation would remain squeaky clean? It was left to Ruben himself to come forward and deal with the fallout. Still not convinced that the ďprejudiceĒ theory is a sham? Okay, what do we have this season?
John, JPL, and Diana have been trashed pretty well by the judges, thatís true. The minority singers have been widely praised. Simon told Fantasia, ďThank God you are still in this competition,Ē and said that LaToya was ďthe best singer.Ē Thereís no arguing that. Of course, thereís also no arguing that Simon also told LaToya that she looked like she had a dead cat on her head. Jenniferís fashion sense and her tendency to scream instead of sing have also been heavily commented on at the judgesí table. Simon and Fantasia have traded barbs so many times that people became convinced that Fantasia had an attitude problem. If weíre going to be honest here, Simonís barbed tongue has slashed just about every single singer to walk across the Idol stage. Heís an equal opportunity destroyer. The judges definitely have their favorites, but doesnít every viewer who turns in? Letís not even glance at Season 1 because the Nikki McKibbin phenomenon not only stands in defiance of the whole prejudice issue, it shatters it. Last but not least, the biggest proof that racism isnít an issue at American Idol is the fact that the winners are determined by the voters and not the judges. Thatís the truth, right? Not according to some. Which brings us to:
Theory: Fantasia canít win because sheís a sinner.
Thatís right. The fix is in! Itís all a scam! You heard it here first. A British company counts the votes so the producers can dodge the FCC. The contracts that each of the singers sign contain a clause stating the producers can ignore the voting whenever they want and use whatever results they wish. The results we see each week are as real as Michael Jacksonís nose.
This one is easy. I actually mentioned this rumor in the previous article. If you believe AI is rigged and that the voting doesnít matter, you simply have to explain a few things to prove your case. Why did Jennifer go home this week while John stayed on the show? Itís obvious that the judges donít like him. Itís also pretty obvious that heíll be a hard sell to many record buyers. Heís not exactly going to attract the Beyonce and OutKast fans. Have you looked at Johnís face each week during the results? Heís sickened at watching singer after singer leave the stage while he remains. Iím a huge fan of John and the music he adores, but even I can see heís outmatched at present. For him, the show was a chance to be seen and his mission is accomplished. Heís clearly ready to leave. The judges are more than ready to see him go now that the competition is getting tight. Heíd be a marketing nightmare as the new Idol, so the producers at 19 are ready to see him go. Call me a fool, but if it were my choice Iíd be firing the guy in charge of vote rigging. Heís doing almost as bad a job as the guy who got rid of Trenyce! Letís look at his job record. Amy Adams was home watching Camile Velasco survive. This week Jennifer, one of the judgesí favorites, will be back in Chicago while John Stevens is trying to turn Miami Sound Machine music into a 1940s ballad. Clay Aiken will be smiling to a sold out house while his accountant tries to keep track of the millions pouring in, while last yearís winner is still trying to figure out how his road crew smuggled in the weed. No doubt about it: The man handling the rigging of the results should be flipping patties at the local Burger Palace. But what if it isnít incompetence? What if heís just following orders? If thatís the case then the following needs to be explained:
If itís all rigged, why were the producers sweating Kimberley so much last season? They could have thrown out the votes and set it up the way they wanted to. For that matter, Clay Nation was already a massive force at that time so why create a scandal by forcing Clay into second place behind Ruben? It must have been racism against whitesÖ no wait, weíve already looked at that argument and it holds as much water as a colander. Why force Nikki on us week after week and send Tamyra packing? Clay Aiken was a marketing nightmare unto himself when Season 2 got rolling. All that vocal talent coming out of such a geeky looking young man? They hired makeover specialists and wardrobe experts and they spared no expense to made Clay into the measure of the man he is today. Why bother? If weíre being realistic, a rigged system would have seen Clay tossed out with the bath water early on. Simon himself said it this season as week after week the results have stunned America. ďIf you let America vote you have to live with the results.Ē As I mentioned in the article that started all this, the show goes to great lengths to enhance the performances and chances of the singers they prefer, but thatís a far cry from changing the voting totals. Iíll say this loud and clear. American Idol is not rigged. At least not the way you think it is.
Theory: Clay fans are voting for John Stevens
I heard from a frighteningly large number of people who say that people are against Fantasia because sheís a wanton woman. Sheís the child of a preacher, yet she has the unmitigated gall to trot out her illegitimate child on national television and flaunt her adultery to the entire country. Please allow me to offer you a deal. If you are willing to break into the bedroom at the Idol house and start sewing the letter ďAĒ on all of Fantasiaís outfits, Iíll hand out rocks to the audience next week and we can have a good old fashioned stoning when she comes out onstage. You go ahead, Iím right behind you. Iíll confess I still use the copy of the Bible Iíve had in the house for several years so maybe a few things have changed. Have the verses that state, ďLet him who is without sin cast the first stone,Ē and, ďBefore you remove the mote in someone elseís eye, remove the beam in thine own,Ē been edited out of the Bible? How about that whole, ďJudge not, lest ye be among the judged,Ē line? Is that still in there? It isnít Puritan Idol, people.
Donít like Fantasia as an entertainer? Donít vote for her. But there are organized groups out there deliberately voting for John each week solely to keep the harlot Fantasia from winning. This is the reason why Iím against the suggestion that people be allowed to vote against singers they donít like. Was it really only a season ago that people screamed foul about the ouster of Frenchie Davis? All she did was flash topless on a website. Have we fallen this far America? I havenít spoken to Ms. Barrino about this, but I think itís safe to say that if you are basing your votes solely on her having a child out of wedlock, she doesnít want your votes, your CD dollars, or your attitude.
This one is true, to a point. Over time fanatical movements tend to splinter and fragment. It has been widely reported that some of Clayís fans are extreme in their devotion. In fact, Clay himself even joked about it on Leno. Some of the more extreme fans have organized and vote en masse for John Stevens each week. I heard from a number of them, as have the other writers here. We can tell the moment we start reading our mail. Weíll receive numerous e-mails that say almost the exact same thing in the exact same ways, but they are obviously not from the same person. In this particular case, the group is still enraged that their Clay didnít win last season. As payback for all the nasty things the judges said and did to keep Clay out of the top spot, they have chosen to vote for the person Simon appears to like the least this season. John Stevens has been garnering thousands of votes each week by people who are dedicated to skewing the results. They donít have a speck of interest in seeing John make it as an Idol. All they care about is revenge and they see this as a way to get it. Is it enough to make John the winner? Based on the mail Iíve received and the number of votes each week, not a chance. But when you add this small group to the number of people who vote because they feel sympathy for anyone Simon trashes, and the other various groups out there who are voting for reasons other than, ďI really enjoy this personís singing and want to see them win so I can buy their albums,Ē it does have an impact on the weekly results. Before you flood my mailbox with ďweíre not all like thatĒ letters, I do know that this is a small group of Clay fans. But they are out there, and they are real.
I hope those of you who wrote me bragging about your opinions and plans are having fun. But let me tell you what you are really doing. American Idol offers the record buying public an unheard of chance to finally tell the record industry what we want to hear and buy. We finally have a voice. We can finally say ďNO!Ē to the prepackaged drivel that passes for music and makes it impossible for singers like Clay and Kelly to break through on the radio. We can watch Jon Peter Lewis raise hell on a national stage and remind us that music is fun. By messing around with the voting, you risk shutting down that chance and having our voices silenced completely. Have you seen the look of agony on John Stevensí face each week as the results are announced? You arenít getting revenge on Simon or advancing a religious or hateful agenda. You are hurting very real people who have placed themselves at your mercy every week. You have been given power, albeit on a trite television show. Use it wisely for a change or you will lose it and see precisely why that contract clause allowing the producers to ignore you has to exist.
A lot of people who wrote me and told me that after the results of this week they plan to stop voting or even watching the show. Many of the people I work with at my other job told me the same thing. I can only say that youíre making a huge mistake. Most of us have said it here at one time or another. If you donít pick up that damned phone and vote for the singer you prefer, you are increasing the odds that someone else will win. If the legitimate AI voters give up in disgust, then these splinter groups will have even more power over the results of the show. Last season, every one of my AI articles spoke of a coming revolution in music. What I learned this week may have indeed been revolting, but it isnít what I had in mind. Iím calling on you, the real fan, to pick up the phone and do some voting for your favorite. I donít care if you think John Stevens is the best thing to happen to music since the invention of the guitar. If thatís your opinion then vote for him until the buttons fall off the phone. You think Fantasia has a shilly shounding voice? Vote for someone you enjoy better! If youíve read this article then you have now officially met the enemy that I was speaking of in my last column. If you donít like it, for God sake, do something about it!