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AI Season 3

[back to top] Contestants

Finalists
Place Name / Hometown #Ep #Pf. Average Rating Hi Lo σ 0-19 20-39 40-59 60-79 80-100
1
Barrino FantasiaFantasia Barrino
High Point, NC
12 18
64.9
 
94 20 17.9 0 3 2 9 4
2
DeGarmo DianaDiana DeGarmo
Snellville, GA
12 18
58.6
 
84 22 16.9 0 2 8 4 4
3
Trias JasmineJasmine Trias
Mililani Town, HI
11 15
38.7
 
87 9 15.5 2 7 3 2 1
4
London LaToyaLaToya London
Oakland, CA
10 12
76.6
 
92 44 15.8 0 0 1 4 7
5
Huff GeorgeGeorge Huff
New Orleans, LA
10 11
58.1
 
86 18 17.5 1 2 2 3 3
6
Stevens JohnJohn Stevens
East Amherst, NY
8 8
30.9
 
59 6 17.8 3 2 3 0 0
7
Hudson JenniferJennifer Hudson
Chicago, IL
8 8
62.8
 
89 40 19.4 0 0 4 3 1
8
Lewis Jon PeterJon Peter Lewis
Rexburg, ID
7 7
33.9
 
45 24 20.4 0 5 2 0 0
9
Velasco CamileCamile Velasco
Maui, HI
5 5
24.2
 
50 8 14.8 2 2 1 0 0
10
Adams AmyAmy Adams
Bakersfield, CA
4 4
61.0
 
89 38 16.5 0 1 1 1 1
11
Rogers MattMatt Rogers
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
3 3
35.3
 
42 32 18.7 0 2 1 0 0
12
LaBelle LeahLeah LaBelle
Seattle, WA
3 3
26.0
 
45 6 16.3 1 1 1 0 0
Place Name / Hometown Avg. Rtg. SF FI Solo Lo1 Growth #Ep. B3 SAge FFact RFact
1
Barrino FantasiaFantasia Barrino
High Point, NC
64.9 75.0 64.3 64.9 20.0 -0.58 12 2 26.9 61% 0.39
2
DeGarmo DianaDiana DeGarmo
Snellville, GA
58.6 84.0 57.1 58.6 22.0 -0.67 12 3 29.2 67% 0.33
3
Trias JasmineJasmine Trias
Mililani Town, HI
38.7 76.0 36.1 38.7 9.0 -3.87 11 3 29.5 33% 0.80
4
London LaToyaLaToya London
Oakland, CA
76.6 92.0 75.2 76.6 44.0 -2.03 10 3 29.9 92% 0.08
5
Huff GeorgeGeorge Huff
New Orleans, LA
58.1 67.0 56.1 58.1 18.0 -3.78 10 2 31.2 82% 0.18
6
Stevens JohnJohn Stevens
East Amherst, NY
30.9 52.0 27.9 30.9 6.0 -3.30 8 2 32.1 63% 0.50
7
Hudson JenniferJennifer Hudson
Chicago, IL
62.8 62.5 62.8 62.8 40.0 +2.90 8 3 22.5 63% 0.50
8
Lewis Jon PeterJon Peter Lewis
Rexburg, ID
33.9 35.0 33.4 33.9 24.0 -0.57 7 1 34.6 71% 0.29
9
Velasco CamileCamile Velasco
Maui, HI
24.2 50.0 17.8 24.2 8.0 -9.00 5 2 28.8 40% 0.60
10
Adams AmyAmy Adams
Bakersfield, CA
61.0 72.0 57.3 61.0 38.0 -3.00 4 2 21.3 75% 0.25
11
Rogers MattMatt Rogers
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
35.3 42.0 32.0 35.3 32.0 n/a 3 1 22.0 67% 0.33
12
LaBelle LeahLeah LaBelle
Seattle, WA
26.0 36.0 6.0 26.0 6.0 n/a 3 1 27.0 0% 1.33
Place Name / Hometown Avg. Rtg. HTH W L T Pct Strk Solo
1
Barrino FantasiaFantasia Barrino
High Point, NC
64.9 35 29 6 0 0.829 7 7
2
DeGarmo DianaDiana DeGarmo
Snellville, GA
58.6 25 16 8 1 0.660 7 7
3
Trias JasmineJasmine Trias
Mililani Town, HI
38.7 31 9 22 0 0.290 2 2
4
London LaToyaLaToya London
Oakland, CA
76.6 15 14 1 0 0.933 10 10
5
Huff GeorgeGeorge Huff
New Orleans, LA
58.1 17 12 5 0 0.706 6 6
6
Stevens JohnJohn Stevens
East Amherst, NY
30.9 10 1 9 0 0.100 1 1
7
Hudson JenniferJennifer Hudson
Chicago, IL
62.8 21 13 5 3 0.690 3 3
8
Lewis Jon PeterJon Peter Lewis
Rexburg, ID
33.9 13 5 8 0 0.385 0 0
9
Velasco CamileCamile Velasco
Maui, HI
24.2 10 5 5 0 0.500 1 1
10
Adams AmyAmy Adams
Bakersfield, CA
61.0 6 4 2 0 0.667 1 1
11
Rogers MattMatt Rogers
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
35.3 7 2 5 0 0.286 0 0
12
LaBelle LeahLeah LaBelle
Seattle, WA
26.0 16 1 15 0 0.063 0 0
Semifinalists
Place Name / Hometown #Ep #Pf. Average Rating Hi Lo σ 0-19 20-39 40-59 60-79 80-100
200 SF
Joy MarisaMarisa Joy
Cloverdale, CA
1 1
40.0
 
40 40 19.0 0 0 1 0 0
200 SF
LeTendre ElizabethElizabeth LeTendre
Sturbridge, MA
2 2
35.5
 
42 29 20.0 0 1 1 0 0
200 SF
Leuschner LisaLisa Leuschner
Watsonville, CA
1 1
61.0
 
61 61 13.0 0 0 0 1 0
200 SF
Lowry CharlyCharly Lowry
Pembroke, NC
1 1
40.0
 
40 40 19.0 0 0 1 0 0
200 SF
Lynche MarqueMarque Lynche
New York, NY
1 1
38.0
 
38 38 18.0 0 1 0 0 0
200 SF
Master KaraKara Master
Palo Alto, CA
1 1
19.0
 
19 19 10.0 1 0 0 0 0
200 SF
Metzger MatthewMatthew Metzger
Oxford, OH
2 2
29.5
 
35 24 20.5 0 2 0 0 0
200 SF
Moananu JonahJonah Moananu
Honolulu, HI
1 1
10.0
 
10 10 14.0 1 0 0 0 0
200 SF
Piccinini HeatherHeather Piccinini
Springfield, FL
1 1
28.0
 
28 28 11.0 0 1 0 0 0
200 SF
Preator JohnJohn Preator
Provo, UT
1 1
18.0
 
18 18 12.0 1 0 0 0 0
200 SF
Purifoy TiaraTiara Purifoy
Beloit, WI
1 1
43.0
 
43 43 21.0 0 0 1 0 0
200 SF
Ramirez-Rial BrianaBriana Ramirez-Rial
Klamath Falls, OR
1 1
27.0
 
27 27 18.0 0 1 0 0 0
200 SF
Roman JesusJesus Roman
Bronx, NY
1 1
6.0
 
6 6 8.0 1 0 0 0 0
200 SF
Roman NoelNoel Roman
Bronx, NY
1 1
7.0
 
7 7 11.0 1 0 0 0 0
200 SF
Thomas AshleyAshley Thomas
Irvine, CA
1 1
25.0
 
25 25 18.0 0 1 0 0 0
200 SF
Vulaca SuzySuzy Vulaca
Phoenix, AZ
2 2
75.5
 
79 72 15.0 0 0 0 2 0
200 SF
Walcott ErskineErskine Walcott
Las Vegas, NV
1 1
37.0
 
37 37 20.0 0 1 0 0 0
200 SF
Webber KatieKatie Webber
Santa Cruz, CA
2 2
42.0
 
60 24 19.0 0 1 0 1 0
200 SF
Wilson LisaLisa Wilson
Rome, GA
1 1
7.0
 
7 7 13.0 1 0 0 0 0
200 SF
Yoder EricEric Yoder
St. Louis, MO
1 1
46.0
 
46 46 19.0 0 0 1 0 0
Place Name / Hometown Avg. Rtg. SF FI Solo Lo1 Growth #Ep. B3 SAge FFact RFact
200 SF
Joy MarisaMarisa Joy
Cloverdale, CA
40.0 40.0 n/a 40.0 40.0 n/a 1 0 30.0 100% 0.00
200 SF
LeTendre ElizabethElizabeth LeTendre
Sturbridge, MA
35.5 35.5 n/a 35.5 29.0 n/a 2 0 24.5 50% 0.50
200 SF
Leuschner LisaLisa Leuschner
Watsonville, CA
61.0 61.0 n/a 61.0 61.0 n/a 1 0 28.0 100% 0.00
200 SF
Lowry CharlyCharly Lowry
Pembroke, NC
40.0 40.0 n/a 40.0 40.0 n/a 1 0 36.0 100% 0.00
200 SF
Lynche MarqueMarque Lynche
New York, NY
38.0 38.0 n/a 38.0 38.0 n/a 1 0 15.0 0% 1.00
200 SF
Master KaraKara Master
Palo Alto, CA
19.0 19.0 n/a 19.0 19.0 n/a 1 0 4.0 100% 0.00
200 SF
Metzger MatthewMatthew Metzger
Oxford, OH
29.5 29.5 n/a 29.5 24.0 n/a 2 0 14.0 50% 0.50
200 SF
Moananu JonahJonah Moananu
Honolulu, HI
10.0 10.0 n/a 10.0 10.0 n/a 1 0 4.0 100% 0.00
200 SF
Piccinini HeatherHeather Piccinini
Springfield, FL
28.0 28.0 n/a 28.0 28.0 n/a 1 0 20.0 0% 1.00
200 SF
Preator JohnJohn Preator
Provo, UT
18.0 18.0 n/a 18.0 18.0 n/a 1 0 17.0 100% 0.00
200 SF
Purifoy TiaraTiara Purifoy
Beloit, WI
43.0 43.0 n/a 43.0 43.0 n/a 1 0 17.0 0% 2.00
200 SF
Ramirez-Rial BrianaBriana Ramirez-Rial
Klamath Falls, OR
27.0 27.0 n/a 27.0 27.0 n/a 1 0 2.0 100% 0.00
200 SF
Roman JesusJesus Roman
Bronx, NY
6.0 6.0 n/a 6.0 6.0 n/a 1 0 5.0 100% 0.00
200 SF
Roman NoelNoel Roman
Bronx, NY
7.0 7.0 n/a 7.0 7.0 n/a 1 0 4.0 100% 0.00
200 SF
Thomas AshleyAshley Thomas
Irvine, CA
25.0 25.0 n/a 25.0 25.0 n/a 1 0 43.0 0% 1.00
200 SF
Vulaca SuzySuzy Vulaca
Phoenix, AZ
75.5 75.5 n/a 75.5 72.0 n/a 2 0 17.0 0% 1.00
200 SF
Walcott ErskineErskine Walcott
Las Vegas, NV
37.0 37.0 n/a 37.0 37.0 n/a 1 0 22.0 0% 1.00
200 SF
Webber KatieKatie Webber
Santa Cruz, CA
42.0 42.0 n/a 42.0 24.0 n/a 2 0 35.5 100% 0.00
200 SF
Wilson LisaLisa Wilson
Rome, GA
7.0 7.0 n/a 7.0 7.0 n/a 1 0 10.0 0% 1.00
200 SF
Yoder EricEric Yoder
St. Louis, MO
46.0 46.0 n/a 46.0 46.0 n/a 1 0 48.0 100% 0.00
Place Name / Hometown Avg. Rtg. HTH W L T Pct Strk Solo
200 SF
Joy MarisaMarisa Joy
Cloverdale, CA
40.0 0 0 0 0 n/a 0 0
200 SF
LeTendre ElizabethElizabeth LeTendre
Sturbridge, MA
35.5 6 1 5 0 0.167 0 0
200 SF
Leuschner LisaLisa Leuschner
Watsonville, CA
61.0 1 1 0 0 1.000 1 1
200 SF
Lowry CharlyCharly Lowry
Pembroke, NC
40.0 4 0 4 0 0.000 0 0
200 SF
Lynche MarqueMarque Lynche
New York, NY
38.0 3 1 2 0 0.333 0 0
200 SF
Master KaraKara Master
Palo Alto, CA
19.0 0 0 0 0 n/a 0 0
200 SF
Metzger MatthewMatthew Metzger
Oxford, OH
29.5 1 0 1 0 0.000 0 0
200 SF
Moananu JonahJonah Moananu
Honolulu, HI
10.0 0 0 0 0 n/a 0 0
200 SF
Piccinini HeatherHeather Piccinini
Springfield, FL
28.0 1 1 0 0 1.000 0 0
200 SF
Preator JohnJohn Preator
Provo, UT
18.0 0 0 0 0 n/a 0 0
200 SF
Purifoy TiaraTiara Purifoy
Beloit, WI
43.0 5 2 3 0 0.400 0 0
200 SF
Ramirez-Rial BrianaBriana Ramirez-Rial
Klamath Falls, OR
27.0 0 0 0 0 n/a 0 0
200 SF
Roman JesusJesus Roman
Bronx, NY
6.0 1 0 1 0 0.000 0 0
200 SF
Roman NoelNoel Roman
Bronx, NY
7.0 0 0 0 0 n/a 0 0
200 SF
Thomas AshleyAshley Thomas
Irvine, CA
25.0 1 0 1 0 0.000 0 0
200 SF
Vulaca SuzySuzy Vulaca
Phoenix, AZ
75.5 2 2 0 0 1.000 2 2
200 SF
Walcott ErskineErskine Walcott
Las Vegas, NV
37.0 2 0 2 0 0.000 0 0
200 SF
Webber KatieKatie Webber
Santa Cruz, CA
42.0 0 0 0 0 n/a 1 1
200 SF
Wilson LisaLisa Wilson
Rome, GA
7.0 3 0 3 0 0.000 0 0
200 SF
Yoder EricEric Yoder
St. Louis, MO
46.0 1 1 0 0 1.000 0 0

[back to top] Episodes

Pre-finals
Date Episode / Theme #Cn. #Pf. Average Rating Hi Lo σ 0-19 20-39 40-59 60-79 80-100
38027 Feb 10, 2004
Open
8 8
50.9
 
84 25 21.5 0 4 1 2 1
38034 Feb 17, 2004
Open
8 8
31.5
 
61 6 14.0 3 1 3 1 0
38041 Feb 24, 2004
Open
8 8
47.4
 
92 10 17.6 1 1 4 1 1
38048 Mar 2, 2004
Open
8 8
46.0
 
79 7 16.3 2 1 2 3 0
38055 Mar 9, 2004
Open
8 8
44.4
 
72 24 18.5 0 5 0 3 0
Date Episode / Theme Avg. Rtg. Solo SR In SR Out CR XFact SAge FFact RFact
38027 Feb 10, 2004
Open
50.9 50.9 n/a 50.9 50.9 n/a 27.9 50% 0.50
38034 Feb 17, 2004
Open
31.5 31.5 50.9 41.2 31.5 n/a 13.8 88% 0.13
38041 Feb 24, 2004
Open
47.4 47.4 41.2 43.3 47.4 n/a 23.5 63% 0.38
38048 Mar 2, 2004
Open
46.0 46.0 43.3 43.9 46.0 n/a 17.0 38% 0.75
38055 Mar 9, 2004
Open
44.4 44.4 43.9 44.0 47.9 -7.00 24.8 63% 0.50
Finals
Date Episode / Theme #Cn. #Pf. Average Rating Hi Lo σ 0-19 20-39 40-59 60-79 80-100
38062 Mar 16, 2004
Soul
12 12
53.8
 
87 6 17.0 1 4 2 1 4
38069 Mar 23, 2004
Country
11 11
50.5
 
89 17 18.7 1 3 2 3 2
38076 Mar 30, 2004
Motown
10 10
49.0
 
84 6 16.1 1 2 3 3 1
38083 Apr 6, 2004
Elton John
9 9
50.0
 
89 8 15.8 2 1 2 1 3
38090 Apr 13, 2004
Movie Songs
8 8
56.4
 
94 22 16.8 0 3 2 1 2
38097 Apr 20, 2004
Barry Manilow
7 7
52.3
 
78 18 21.0 1 1 3 2 0
38104 Apr 27, 2004
Gloria Estefan
6 6
43.3
 
72 8 16.5 1 3 0 2 0
38111 May 4, 2004
Big Band
5 10
53.5
 
91 24 20.3 0 2 5 1 2
38118 May 11, 2004
Disco
4 8
47.5
 
81 9 14.1 2 0 2 3 1
38125 May 18, 2004
Idol's / Clive's / Judge's
3 9
55.4
 
84 23 14.6 0 3 2 1 3
38132 May 25, 2004
Finale
2 6
53.5
 
83 20 12.7 0 2 1 2 1
Date Episode / Theme Avg. Rtg. Solo SR In SR Out CR XFact SAge FFact RFact
38062 Mar 16, 2004
Soul
53.8 53.8 44.0 46.3 58.0 -8.21 32.2 50% 0.50
38069 Mar 23, 2004
Country
50.5 50.5 46.3 47.0 57.8 -10.41 15.5 73% 0.27
38076 Mar 30, 2004
Motown
49.0 49.0 47.0 47.3 57.3 -11.02 38.5 30% 0.80
38083 Apr 6, 2004
Elton John
50.0 50.0 47.3 47.6 55.3 -6.86 25.1 89% 0.22
38090 Apr 13, 2004
Movie Songs
56.4 56.4 47.6 48.4 58.8 -2.86 38.6 50% 0.63
38097 Apr 20, 2004
Barry Manilow
52.3 52.3 48.4 48.6 61.0 -10.08 27.7 100% 0.00
38104 Apr 27, 2004
Gloria Estefan
43.3 43.3 48.6 48.3 58.6 -17.41 15.3 67% 0.33
38111 May 4, 2004
Big Band
53.5 53.5 48.3 48.8 62.1 -10.68 48.6 100% 0.00
38118 May 11, 2004
Disco
47.5 47.5 48.8 48.7 60.5 -15.58 25.3 63% 0.50
38125 May 18, 2004
Idol's / Clive's / Judge's
55.4 55.4 48.7 49.2 55.2 +0.33 27.1 22% 0.78
38132 May 25, 2004
Finale
53.5 53.5 49.2 49.4 62.0 -9.90 6.0 50% 0.67

[back to top] Ratings Distribution

Total of 136 performances
  8
 
7
 
19
 
17
 
20
 
14
 
16
 
14
 
18
 
3
 
 
  9- 10-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60-69 70-79 80-89 90+  

[back to top] Top Performances

Highest-Rated Performances
Highest-Rated Performances
1
Summertime0001Summertime
94
 
2
All By Myself0001All By Myself
92
 
3
Dont Rain On My Parade0001Don't Rain On My Parade
91
 
4
Sin Wagon0001Sin Wagon
89
 
Circle Of Life0001Circle Of Life
89
 
6
Somewhere0001Somewhere
88
 
7
Inseparable0001Inseparable
87
 
8
Take Me To The Pilot0001Take Me To The Pilot
86
 
9
Ain't Nobody0001Ain't Nobody
85
 
Too Close For Comfort0001Too Close For Comfort
85
 
Lowest-Rated Performances
Lowest-Rated Performances
1
Back At One0001Back At One
6
 
You Keep Me Hangin On0001You Keep Me Hangin' On
6
 
My Girl0001My Girl
6
 
4
This I Promise You0001This I Promise You
7
 
Come To My Window0001Come To My Window
7
 
6
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road0001Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
8
 
Music Of My Heart0001Music Of My Heart
8
 
8
Everlasting Love0001Everlasting Love
9
 
9
I Wish0001I Wish
10
 
Crocodile Rock0001Crocodile Rock
10
 

[back to top] Summary

Youth will be served, or so they say.  Though American Idol had always allowed hopefuls as young as 16 to audition, just four of 22 finalists in the first two seasons were teenagers, none under 18.  But Season Three turned that demographic on its head: half of AI3's Final 12 hadn't hit the ripe old age of 20 yet, including four who were still in high school.  America tuned in en masse through the winter and spring of 2004 to find out if the kids were alright....

Sixteen-year-old Diana DeGarmo kicked off the competition with a bang: her leadoff performance of I've Got The Music In Me in the first semifinal episode was the highest-rated performance of the night.  Joining her in advancing was 19-year-old Fantasia Barrino, and of course DeGarmo and Barrino were not only the first ones into the Final 12, but they turned out to be the last ones out as well.

Little can be said about the Group Two Semifinals except that the AI Rewind folks might just want to forget about re-broadcasting it: at an all-but-impossible 30.8, it's the lowest-rated episode in our database by miles.  Group Three wasn't much of an improvement to start, as only Amy Adams of the first seven contestants achieved a rating above 50.  But anchor singer LaToya London, who'd had virtually no camera time up to that point, almost singlehandedly put the season back on track: her performance of All By Myself earned a standing ovation from Randy and Paula and a 94 rating from the Idolsphere, one of the highest in the show's history.

A pair of high school juniors, John Stevens and Jasmine Trias, led the voting from Group Four despite a 5-star performance from Suzy Vulaca.  Vulaca and 11 other non-advancing semifinalists were invited back for the Wild Card Show, four of whom were rather cruelly eliminated by the judges on camera before they'd had a chance to sing.  Jon Peter Lewis earned the voters' nod thanks to a frantic, jelly-legged cover of A Little Less Conversation; Lewis joined New Orleans gospel singer GeorgeHuff (Simon's choice) and cruise ship star Jennifer Hudson (Randy's choice) in the Finals.  Rounding out the Top 12 was 17-year-old Leah Labelle of Seattle, a hugely controversial pick by Paula – Vulaca had scored the highest-rated performance for the second consecutive week but once again failed to advance.

The Finals got off to a strong start, with four contestants – London, Huff, Trias, and DeGarmo – turning in 5-star performances on Soul Week, the most of any AI episode.  LaBelle was dismissed with a near-record low approval rating of 4 for You Keep Me Hangin' On, reflecting the Idolsphere's combined opinion of her performance plus Paula's judgment.  Country Week, which saw the elimination of former college football star Matt Rogers, was highlighted by Adams's showstopping performance of Sin Wagon, which came in at 90.  Sadly for Adams, America mailed her a "Yeah-But-What-Have-You-Done-Lately?" postcard the next week, sending her home on Motown Night despite the fact that Stevens turned in a 4-rated performance of his own with My Girl.

Hudson put her Disney Cruise Lines experience to tremendous use on Elton John Week, closing the show with a (literally) professional rendition of Circle Of Life and earning a 90.  Stevens and Camile Velasco, meanwhile, struggled mightily with the theme; their Crocodile Rock and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, respectively, became the first back-to-back performances on Idol to garner single-digit approval ratings; Velasco was eliminated.  Given a breather from the challenging themes on Movie Songs Night, the Idols responded with the highest-rated episode of the season, punctuated by Barrino's breathtaking Summertime at 95, plus what might be the most-forgotten performance in the 90s ever, London's show-closing Somewhere.  Lewis was voted off, leaving seven contestants standing.

Thereupon followed the most controversial night of American Idol history.  Was it vote splitting?  Racism?  Fanbase power-dialing?  Whatever the reasons (and in fact, there were many), front-runners Barrino, London, and Hudson found themselves in the Bottom 3 after the votes were counted from Barry Manilow Night, with Hudson sent home.  Many fans and critics of the show exploded in outrage at the outcome, with Stevens's continued survival in the competition drawing the most venom.  The redheaded crooner's unlikely run came to an end during Gloria Estefan Week when Music Of My Heart saddled him with his third single-digit approval rating in eight outings.  The AI3 Final 5 would be Barrino, DeGarmo, Huff, London, and Trias.

London was the star of Big Band Week.  The Oakland wedding singer delivered a pair of 5-star performances with Too Close For Comfort and Don't Rain On My Parade, the latter's 93 earning it a spot on the all-time WNTS.com leaderboard.  Huff, who'd been battling a nasty respiratory infection for a month, was voted off.  Then, you guessed it, more controversy.  Trias, whose approval ratings had been slumping of late, hit rock bottom during Disco Week when her two performances garnered a 17 rating...combined.  The judges' comments, and not just Simon's, were unusually harsh, leaving the sweet-natured Hawaiian in tears and unable to speak.  On the next night's result show, Trias was safe, while London and Barrino were the shocking Bottom 2.  London joined Adams in the exclusive club of Idols who'd had a 90-plus performance one week and were sent home the next.

Trias appeared to be almost beaten-down during the Final 3 Show; much of the virulent media criticism that had been aimed at Stevens a month earlier was now directed at her.  Three remarkably close-rated performances in the low 20's sealed her fate.  Barrino, meanwhile, took no chances on becoming the third of the original Three Divas to check out earlier than expected.  She delivered two songs at 5-stars and one at 4-stars, while DeGarmo's Don't Cry Out Loud tied for the top-rated number of the night.

After such a long and trying season, the "Diana vs. Fantasia" Finale came both as an anticlimax and a bit of a relief.  Barrino successfully reprised Summertime, and her choir-backed, gospel-style performance of the AI Original Winners' Song I Believe was cited by most reviewers as the highlight of the show.  Voting was reported to be close, but the next night, 19-year-old Fantasia Barrino was crowned the third American Idol.  So did AI3 at least finish the year without controversy?  Of course not.  Immediately after the Finale, Simon Cowell was quoted in a USA Today interview as saying, "We had to have Fantasia win.  If she hadn't, we would have had a problem...."

What We Thought

In a word: Schizophrenic.  AI3 brought us the greatest number of 5-star performances of any season thus far, 23, and the most in single digits, ten.  It would be simplistic, but not altogether unjustified, to explain this by the wide talent gulf among the top-tier and bottom-tier contestants, plus the inability of some of the younger finalists to cope with the theme weeks.  In fact, however, the highs and lows were more evenly spread around that you might expect: three different contestants (Barrino, Trias, and Huff) had at least one performance fall in all five star strata (that's our fancy way of saying that they each had at least one 1-star, 2-star, 3-star, 4-star, and 5-star performance), while four others posted ratings in four different strata.

The voting patterns that seemed so arbitrary and outrageous in 2004 seem rather less inscrutable today.  For instance, the producers' dream of a Barrino-Hudson-London showdown in the Final 3 was unrealistic from the get-go.  No trio of same-genre contestants, be they black R&B women, white rocker men, or little green jazz hermaphrodites from Mars, will ever make up the last three contestants standing.  Which is just as well for Fox, because otherwise the TV ratings for the last few episodes would probably be abysmal.  America, for better or for worse, values variety at least as much as talent.  Idol fans and executives should simply get used to the fact that showdowns between two or three natural competitors, no matter how strong they may be, will always play out in the Final 4 or (usually) earlier.

That said, the Bottom 3 of the Final 7 Week threw us for as big of a loop as everyone else.  By analyzing the Idolsphere opinions from that crazy night, we can tell you that race, fanbases, and vote-splitting all indeed played a major part.  But so did at least four or five other factors, including a few you'd never guess.  In fact, Idol fans witnessed a perfect storm that evening, a confluence of voting forces that is highly unlikely ever to be duplicated (and that's probably just as well.)  The entire story requires a full feature article, which we're working on and hope to have published by March 2008, so keep checking the WhatNotToSing.com Library.

Conversely, the shocking results in the Final 4 are much simpler to explain.  Had we had this website up and running in AI3, we could've told you by 11pm on Tuesday night that Trias would easily survive her Nightmare On Disco Street.  An extraordinary number of reviewers wrote that her two performances were not only the worst of the night but among the worst of the season...then declared that they would vote for her anyway.  Such was the backlash to the judges' remarks (which, on video replay, were indeed harsh but honestly not all that heartless.)  The fact that Barrino and London happened to be splitting votes was all the catalyst needed.

In keeping with the discordant theme of AI3, even the WhatNotToSing.com core team can't agree on their favorite performances this year.  In addition to "All By Myself", "Sin Wagon", and "Summertime", which we all at least mostly agree on, we have advocates for several others, including two fine ones by Huff that we respectfully believe the Idolsphere underrated: Take Me To The Pilot by a little, and Lean On Me by a lot.

The AI3 crew deserves one big shout-out:  despite the controversies and pressures that swirled around them (and owing to Idol's now-blockbuster popularity, these were major-media firestorms unlike in previous seasons), they remained a unified, tight-knitted group.  If there were any backstage fights or sniping during either the show or the tour, they really haven't surfaced.  Many of the Final 12 are still reported to be close friends, and every eliminated contestant left the show gracefully and defended their colleagues in interviews.  AI3 may have led the league in both showstoppers and train wrecks, but give them credit for doing so as a team.

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