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What's Wrong With This Picture?

A requiem for Idol voting rationality

The latest firestorm to hit Idol Nation is the Associated Press report that David Archuleta's allegedly meddling father has been barred from all backstage access to American Idol.  We'll spare you the details, because we assume that at least 95% of our readers have already read the article and the other 5% are Googling it now.  We'll also spare you our opinions on the scandal, at least until there are substantially more confirmed facts available.  Don't forget, this time last month the media was all but giving David Cook the Last Rites when his chronic high blood pressure had harmlessly spiked.

Not surprisingly, Archuleta's fans and detractors are waging open warfare tonight on the boards and forums across the Idolsphere.  Some are asserting that this news makes little David a shoo-in for the AI7 crown owing to an anticipated sympathy vote, while others believe that the backlash against Archie Sr. will sink his son's chances.  Tellingly, however, virtually no combatant is bringing up Archuleta's track record of performances to bolster their case.  It's as though the fourteen songs he's sung thus far – most well, a few not-so-well – had never happened.

We'd try to pretend to be outraged by this, but it's not worth the effort.  We've become jaded.  Yes, we wish the Idol crown would come down solely to who performs the best onstage on Tuesday nights over the course of the season, fairly and objectively.  And yes, Project WNTS is built around the romantic premise that most AI fans want to make rational judgments on the contestants, without any irrelevant sideshows or distractions influencing them.

But the truth is that American Idol voting is dominated by viewers who abide by their hearts moreso than their ears.  Once a talented and sweet-natured contestant has built a strong fanbase, it almost takes an act of God to break it, no matter how increasingly awful their performances become.  Similarly, once a contestant finds his or her way onto the die-hards' Hate List, there's absolutely nothing he can do later to redeem himself.  When Ryan announces each week that the lines are now open, rationality is always the first casualty.

As we wrote in last week's editorial, the Idol voting system overwhelmingly favors a contestant's depth of support over his breadth of support.  Like most viewers, we find this system (and the silly results it often produces) to be annoying and inferior.  However, we grudgingly understand why the producers like it this way.  Human nature being what it is, we doubt there's any voting system that can produce truly "rational" results, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.  But, here's what we find most depressing about the current situation:  Syesha Mercado, despite her exasperating penchant for oversinging, has made tremendous strides the past few weeks.  In the toughest, most grueling stretch of the competition, she's delivered five consecutive performances rated at 50 or higher.  During that time, her fellow Final Fivers combined for a staggering 11 of 18 performances under 50 (including two apiece by Cook and Archuleta.)  We're not going to argue that Mercado deserves a spot in the Finale;  after all, both Davids have a higher average rating over the course of the season.  Still, it appears that no matter how well or how poorly she sings this Tuesday night, there's nothing she can do to influence her fate.  It will likely come down to what the power voters think of a middle-aged man who hasn't sung a single song all season.  What's wrong with this picture?

- The WNTS.com Team

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