American Idol" hasn't had a female winner since Jordin Sparks in Season 6. With Season 12 under way, the "Idol" machine is desperately angling to change their oft-criticized trend of crowning a cute WGWG (white guy with guitar) winner. While producer manipulation this year may finally get a gal to that confetti shower, will it hurt her credibility to win a contest that was rigged from the start?"
The manipulation: No WGWGs allowed
There have been many theories about the recent streak of homogenous male winners on "American Idol." Most center on the power-voting structure that allows power-texting tweens to cast a disproportionate amount of votes for the cute boys. Middle-aged cat ladies are also often blamed for the cute-boy vote.
This season, "American Idol" has been flashing real-time results of online polls about the show. One such poll showed "Idol Country" as the fans' favorite type of music, outweighing pop and other genres. The producers know this, which is why they decided to push for a country girl finalist in Season 10. They got close, but that staple of country music, WGWG, won instead.
The "American Idol" producers learned from their mistakes and decided to make it easy on themselves. They simply avoided including a white guy singer-songwriter type in the competition at all. They selected talented singers, but with as little charisma as possible, to prevent them outshining the ladies. Paul Jolley, in a post-elimination interview, even hinted he'd had an interesting song choice vetoed last-minute by the powers-that-be. If true, that careful manipulation helped seal Jolley's fate and sent the last white guy home as number nine.
What about the girls themselves?
The power of cute boys on reality TV has definite basis in fact, but considering how well pop princesses and powerhouse divas have done in the music industry, one has to think that if a girl contestant was awesome enough, she could win without any producer help. Looking back on "American Idol" Seasons 7-11, did we really have a Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood in the bunch? Haley Reinhart might have been the one, but she had a bit of a slow start, and the we-want-a-country-winner "Idol" machinations may have inadvertently steamrolled their chance at a female winner that year.
As for the gals in Season 12, the five remaining all have high levels of talent, marketability, and likability. Any woman that wins over the others will have a lot to be proud of, because even without a decent threat on the men's side, there is plenty of tough competition amongst the ladies. The women this year seem good enough to have beat out the opposite sex in a fair fight, but the "American Idol" voters can be a stubborn lot over cute guys -- just look at Lazaro, still hanging on in the Top 7.
Does the end justify the means?
People have short attention spans. Diehard "American Idol" fans might remember that a girl only won Season 12 because the guys weren't that great, but it won't matter much to anyone else if the winner is talented and comes out with a great album. Most music buyers have no recollection -- if they even watched -- of what dramas Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood endured to nab the "Idol" crown. They recognized the names, found the performers appealing, and bought the music they liked.
As we've seen over the years, winning also doesn't guarantee success, no matter what manipulations occurred that season. "American Idol" champions flop, and singers that went home as runner-up, fourth, or even seventh place can have excellent careers. As we learned on this season's Top 8 results night, last year's Top 7 finisher Colton Dixon has stormed to success in the Christian market. It's not tough to imagine Angie Miller having similar success, regardless of whether she wins or not.
While success of its contestants affects the entire "Idol" machine, including the record companies attached to it, the ratings are also an important factor. Some WGWG-lovers, discouraged by having no one to vote for, have stopped watching the show. "American Idol" is betting that loss will be less than the loss of viewers who would be disgusted by another white-guy winner.
Despite all the producer manipulations, both subtle and obvious, viewers who vote still like to feel they have some control over the outcome. Having a woman win will give those fans the feeling that the results aren't disappointingly inevitable. Then they will happily reward that first female winner in years with enthusiastic support and record sales. At least, that's what "American Idol" is banking on.
What do you think, "American Idol" fans? Do you hate that there were no great male contenders this year, or are you excited that there might finally be an all-girl finale?
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