My initial reaction was…Wow! Well, I think I’ve gotten past that, but it seems that many people have not.
Pia Toscano is a lovely, talented, photogenic singer. She seemed destined to go far in this season’s American Idol competition. Common knowledge and public opinion would have led the average observer to believe that perhaps this season’s competion was a foregone conclusion. The judges lauded her, praised her and lavished her with compliments and comparisons. On a weekly basis she scored high in polls and more than held her own in the blogs. Therefore, even though she was not my pick to win I think that it’s safe to assume that much of the American Idol fan base of the show was…is… shocked by her departure. Sure Wednesday night’s rendition of Tina Turner’s classic was not her best performance, and her styling was a “bit” out of the ordinary for her (if she is a pro, what was Gwen Stefani thinking?). Further, she demonstrated that she was not the most fluid in moving about the stage. But up until now while her performances have not been electrifying they were not bad. She was not horrible. In fact the one thing that I have said about her from the beginning is that she has been consistent. Are there any clear answers about what happened? I really don’t think so.
However, there is one thing that I’d like to point out from which perhaps future lessons can be derived. Last week in an article titled “American Idol: Stellar Talent; Less Than Stellar Judging,” March 31, 2011, I stated:
“That said Pia will probably be your winner this season. She doesn't sound the best, doesn't have the best range, she is not the most diverse, and is not necessarily the most entertaining (in fact, she's pretty stiff boring. She may be a bit too polished and homogenized. She may do well as an opening act in Las Vegas. But the name of the show is American Idol, so if that works for her, so be it. But the judges have really taken themselves out of the process by not giving any real criticism. She drank the Kool-Aide about her beauty and similarity to Celine Dion from the judges like Casey bought into his "sexy." Otherwise, it appears that most of the contestants could have basically the same scores from the judges. They have made themselves irrelevant especially now that their one save is gone. So, it may not be as much about talent and art as it is about what the public (that is, the majority of the voters) wants to see. And if the public sees her as great no matter how she performs that's who they will choose. Meanwhile guessing who will be voted between now and the end seems to be more like an exercise in rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. Just remember, there may be a big difference between and "idol" and a "star." Her staying power will determine which one she really is.”
What I alluded to here was the fact that if the judges gave away their power by using their save (after all they could only use it once) and if the people – the voting public - felt that she was being too heavily favored by the judges, regardless of the realities, that this could all backfire on her…and on the judges. While there may not be a consensus about the influence and effectiveness of the judges, there seems to be growing sentiment that the judges are too weak, inconsistent, non-constructive, overly complimentary, and in some cases pandering. Because their critiques are generally positive, flowery and noncommittal the voting public tends to be the “bad guy” in terms of the outcome of the votes. After all, if no one ever seems to have a bad night, or if someone does have some issues but they aren’t sent home, how does the judging – and their influence make any sense when someone is voted off? It seems that on one case where the judges are actually doing the right things concerns Stefano. Why? Well when you look at it, he is the only one how has received tough consistent criticism almost every week. Every week he appears to take it to heart and he comes back and demonstrates improvement – in other words, he gets it. He has improved. For a variety of reasons he doesn’t seem to be a favorite, but week after week he is still there even after being sent to the stool. No else who is still there, nor did anyone who has been sent home receive the level of criticism he has. Yet in his case so far it seems to be paying off. There is also one other small note to be mad here. Last week tow contestants were voted off. Neither seemed to be favored overall, but neither was absolutely terrible. This was directly the result of the judges’ decision to save Casey the previous week. What may not have been calculated is 1) the anger of the fans who felt that Casey should have been saved, 2) the anger of the fans who felt that Pia’s imperfect performance was touted as perfect, 3) the anger of the Naima and Thia fans. For as displeased as the fans were with Casey’s recent performances, they may have been even more put out with the judges usurping the power and authority of the public. What’s the most demonstrative way indicate that? Vote out the favorite of the judges.
After this many years, the show may be ready for some changes - changes that will give at least the perception of fairness and non-bias. It may also be ready for changes that also exact some accountability from the judges. To be fair to the judges it appears that there is no concrete scoring or rating system in place. Perhaps requiring the judges to vote using a score system from one to five or one to ten and explaining their scores would help. Or maybe a list of 10 or 20 criteria can be sued every week so that after the performer performs the judges can tell them clearly and concisely what they did right and what needs improvement, and most importantly why. If there are 10 criteria and the performer does 8 of ten well, then a score of 8 is justified. Each judge can explain the technical and artistic merits of the score as they see it, but in general the scoring would become less subjective. At the end of the show the total number of points or the average of the points could then be used to rank the performances. The public doesn’t have to like or agree with the judges, but at least there will be better understanding of how the judges arrived at their decisions. At that point the voting public will decide to go with the judges’ scores or go a different way. And one last thing…get rid of the SAVE!
Unless there was something wrong with the systems used to collect and count the votes the viewers around America have spoken. It appears then, that they don’t want to be directed whom to vote for, to have their opinions biased, see favoritism and be conned into believing it is fairness. The responses from the judges were that it was wrong and they didn’t know what happened. Well, it wasn’t wrong. Someone got burned here and not just Pia. The public decided to demonstrate that they are, in fact, lemming. The people in the majority that night decided what they wanted, and not to accept what the media was feeding them. It will be interesting to see how the producers of the show respond to fix this...if they can.