View Full Version : Wash Post: We Get The 'Idols' We Deserve

May 12th, 2006, 10:31 AM
We Get the Idols We Deserve

Friday, May 12, 2006; C02

The departure of rocker Chris Daughtry from "American Idol" means that the squishy middle has won once again. Daughtry was voted off the show this week, leaving behind three uninspired performers who may appeal to the masses but lack any distinctive personal style.

After weeks of patiently watching, obsessing and praying for Elliott Yamin, Katharine McPhee and Taylor Hicks to reveal some sense of personal aesthetics, there has been nothing but disappointment. McPhee lacks zest and stage presence and the capacity to distinguish style from an assemblage of unedited trends. Yamin and Hicks lack Daughtry's supremely fine bald head and ability to wear a thick, macho wallet chain and not look as though he should be bicycling across K Street making a super-rush delivery.

Daughtry glared. He glowered. He did the rock-star growl during which he looked to be at risk of popping his jugular. He wore cool shades. Oh sure, he was cocky. But he should have been. He was the best. America, have you no soul?

Yamin seems like a nice guy. He has a nice voice and he wears a lot of tasteful blazers, which should serve him well should he ever find himself sitting in the human resources office of an insurance agency. McPhee seems like a pleasant girl. She has a pleasant voice. She's a brunette beauty with long legs and nice cleavage -- that she has amiably displayed -- which should all serve her well . . . no matter what. Last month, when Hicks wore that ice-blue Costume National suit, it seemed he had style possibilities. He refused to dye his gray hair and he has an interesting gravelly voice. But then he wore a paisley shirt, sang Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music" and writhed on the floor like a Joe Cocker impersonator. He wore paisley, people. He cannot win and he will be discussed no further.

In Daughtry, America had the opportunity to choose distinctiveness, confidence and cool. Instead, it chose bland and boring. Blech and blech.

All one can do now is savor the memories of Daughtry. There was the week that he embraced the cleaned-up-rocker look with his black trousers and matching vest. He wore one of those short-sleeve shirts with the cuffs that cut tightly across the biceps. Their sole purpose is to make a man's upper arms look Paul Bunyan big, as though he has spent his entire adult life chopping wood, hunting and gathering just for you. That was a very good week for Mr. Daughtry and his fans.

He sometimes wore a blazer, usually when he was planning to stand calmly behind the microphone -- rather than prowl the stage -- while yelling his lungs out. Typically Daughtry wore those blazers with a pair of jeans that were loose, but not baggy. He wore expertly faded T-shirts and macho silver jewelry. And he always looked like the same guy from one week to the next. He looked as though he had been groomed, but not dressed.

Daughtry had a cocksure style that might have irritated some voters. But he was the only contestant who seemed to understand that a pop idol needs an indelible image, swagger and self-confidence. While successful pop singers often have imperfect voices, they have something else that makes up the difference: a look, a sensibility, a point of view. They know who they are and they know how to communicate that in songs and through their stage images.

It may be that Daughtry was done in by the system. To attract voters, the contestants must be desperately humble. Aw shucks, pick me! Love me! They must display a freeze-frame grin for the camera and then flail their fingers around like they're practicing Chisanbop to remind viewers of which number to call to cast their vote. Winning "American Idol" requires the perfect balance of mediocrity and humility. The better the voice, the style, the package, the more self-effacing the performer must be. Whoever heard of a humble rocker? Daughtry was doomed.

Now that he's gone, there is a choice of nice Elliott, pleasant Katharine and the paisley karaoke king who shall not be named. As so often is the case, the quality of the candidates makes it hard to go to the polls.

May 12th, 2006, 10:39 AM
The only mass marketable one left is Kat, and she's most likely not gonna pull off the upset of Taylor.

Wendy Williams
May 12th, 2006, 11:28 AM
For the Idolnistas:




May 12, 2006 -- AS a seasoned political observer with more than two decades of experience analyzing voting patterns and the like, I would now like to explain to you one of the greatest mysteries in the history of balloting - a mystery so profound that people have sobbed and scratched their heads, gasped and cried out in anger, and insisted they would never again participate in the voting process.

Am I talking about the Florida election in 2000? The 1984 controversy over the victor in the race for Indiana's Eighth Congressional District? The race for president in 1876?

No, I'm talking about the elimination on Wednesday night of rocker Chris Daughtry from the list of contenders for the title of "American Idol."

There was universal dismay when Ryan Seacrest announced on the air that the gravelly-voiced Daughtry - who was said to be the odds-on favorite to win this year's competition - had been booted out rather than sultry songstress Katharine McPhee.

The previous night, McPhee and Daughtry had both performed Elvis Presley songs. McPhee, talented but erratic, clearly stunk up the joint, while Daughtry, as always, did well. And yet, after the 40 million (or more) phone calls were tallied, McPhee got more votes than Daughtry and he was out. How could this happen?

Here's how. If you want to understand "Idol," you need to understand American politics. And if you want to understand the workings of American politics, "Idol" isn't a bad introduction to the way political coalitions are formed and elections are won.

After the "American Idol" field narrows to 12 finalists, the show kicks one contestant off every week - the one who gets the lowest number of votes.

The number of votes seems to remain remarkably constant (this year, somewhere north of 40 million) week to week. This indicates the same people continue to vote each week. It also means that the people who voted for the contestant who was kicked off go ahead and just choose somebody new to vote for.

This is a direct parallel to the presidential primary process. In the early primaries, candidates who do poorly usually drop out of the race, leaving those who would have supported them in other states high and dry. Those supporters then have to pick somebody else among the surviving candidates to vote for.

This winnowing process allows the most appealing candidates to pick up steam by adding new voters to their cadre of supporters. And as they do so, the field continues to be winnowed, until finally there are only one or two candidates left standing. The single-issue candidate, the flash-in-the-pan, the guy who has one fantastic debate - they may all have their moments, but in the end, the candidate with the most broad-based appeal will usually win.

And this is what explains Chris Daughtry's stunning loss this week on "American Idol." He has a distinctive voice and distinctive appeal. The problem is that he never broadened his base very much. If you liked him from the start, you stayed with him - which is why he remained solidly among the top contenders through most of the show's run.

But if you didn't much like his sound when there were still 9 contestants remaining, you weren't suddenly going to decide you liked his sound when there were only 4 remaining.

The key to winning "American Idol" isn't being overwhelmingly popular in the early stages. The key is having a sound that makes it possible for you to pick up votes from people whose favorites have gotten booted off the show. Because if you don't get those votes, somebody else is going to get them.

That is almost certainly what happened on Wednesday night. Chris Daughtry lost out to Katharine McPhee because the young female singer Paris Bennett was sent home the previous week.

If you loved Paris, you probably weren't going to move into Chris's camp. It's likely that the Paris voters went both to McPhee and to underdog Elliot Yamin, the sweet-sounding guy with the odd teeth who is a balladeer like Paris.

Elliot has been gaining strength both because his performances have been good, and because he's clearly picked up support from the fans of eliminated contestants Paris, Kellie Pickler and Ace Young. So where does this leave the final three in "American Idol"? It's likely that McPhee will be the odd person out next week, leaving front-runner Taylor Hicks and under-the-radar Elliot left to duke it out for the title.

Taylor Hicks has a distinctive sound and style that are clearly very pleasing to millions. But I think he's a little like Daughtry. If he's your favorite, he's been your favorite for a long time - and he needs to be the second favorite for McPhee's fans to win.

But McPhee's sound is probably closer to Elliot Yamin's. Thus, according to the logic of coalition-building that is at the heart of both American politics and Fox's pop-culture phenomenon, Elliot Yamin will be the next "American Idol."

It's just good politics.

John Podhoretz's new book "Can She Be Stopped? Hillary Clinton Will Be the Next President of the United States Unless . . . " has just been published.

May 12th, 2006, 01:48 PM
Chris looked too serious...
Mcphee.. has a lot of fans... :)
I think they want a MALE IDOL this time around... :)

May 12th, 2006, 07:11 PM
If Taylor wins I'll never watch American Idol again.

Helen Lawson
May 12th, 2006, 07:17 PM
I'm not wild about the talents of the last three, but Taylor Hicks is hot and sexy and I'd do it to him all night long.

May 12th, 2006, 07:32 PM
But McPhee's sound is probably closer to Elliot Yamin's. Thus, according to the logic of coalition-building that is at the heart of both American politics and Fox's pop-culture phenomenon, Elliot Yamin will be the next "American Idol."

YAYYYYYYYYYY :banana: :banana: