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AI Season 6

[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
Sparks JordinJordin Sparks
Glendale, AZ
14 19
58.8
 
86 15 17.7 1 2 7 6 3
2
Lewis BlakeBlake Lewis
Bothell, WA
14 19
55.7
 
83 19 20.6 1 4 5 8 1
3
Doolittle MelindaMelinda Doolittle
Brentwood, TN
13 16
77.0
 
92 46 16.1 0 0 2 4 10
4
Jones LaKishaLaKisha Jones
Flint, MI
12 13
55.7
 
88 23 17.7 0 5 2 4 2
5
Richardson ChrisChris Richardson
Chesapeake, VA
11 11
38.2
 
65 18 20.3 1 4 5 1 0
5
Stacey PhilPhil Stacey
Jacksonville, FL
11 11
51.6
 
77 25 18.5 0 4 3 4 0
7
Malakar SanjayaSanjaya Malakar
Federal Way, WA
9 9
19.1
 
48 7 16.4 5 3 1 0 0
8
Scarnato HaleyHaley Scarnato
San Antonio, TX
8 8
30.1
 
49 17 16.4 1 6 1 0 0
9
Glocksen GinaGina Glocksen
Naperville, IL
7 7
53.9
 
81 30 16.4 0 1 3 2 1
10
Sligh ChrisChris Sligh
Greenville, SC
6 6
53.5
 
75 19 16.8 1 1 1 3 0
11
Edwards StephanieStephanie Edwards
Savannah, GA
5 5
57.4
 
81 33 16.4 0 1 2 1 1
12
Rogers BrandonBrandon Rogers
North Hollywood, CA
4 4
31.0
 
48 14 16.0 1 2 1 0 0
Place Name / Hometown Avg. Rtg. SF FI Solo Lo1 Growth #Ep. B3 SAge FFact RFact
1
Sparks JordinJordin Sparks
Glendale, AZ
58.8 60.0 58.6 58.8 15.0 -1.26 14 0 23.8 63% 0.58
2
Lewis BlakeBlake Lewis
Bothell, WA
55.7 71.7 52.7 55.7 19.0 -1.34 14 2 18.6 79% 0.32
3
Doolittle MelindaMelinda Doolittle
Brentwood, TN
77.0 89.0 74.2 77.0 46.0 -1.48 13 0 33.1 56% 0.50
4
Jones LaKishaLaKisha Jones
Flint, MI
55.7 75.7 49.7 55.7 23.0 -4.12 12 2 28.7 46% 1.08
5
Richardson ChrisChris Richardson
Chesapeake, VA
38.2 49.7 33.9 38.2 18.0 -2.04 11 3 17.9 73% 0.36
5
Stacey PhilPhil Stacey
Jacksonville, FL
51.6 48.3 52.9 51.6 25.0 +1.25 11 5 23.4 82% 0.18
7
Malakar SanjayaSanjaya Malakar
Federal Way, WA
19.1 15.0 21.2 19.1 7.0 +1.73 9 2 37.3 44% 0.78
8
Scarnato HaleyHaley Scarnato
San Antonio, TX
30.1 29.3 30.6 30.1 17.0 -1.01 8 3 28.5 75% 0.50
9
Glocksen GinaGina Glocksen
Naperville, IL
53.9 58.0 50.8 53.9 30.0 -0.43 7 1 28.4 57% 0.57
10
Sligh ChrisChris Sligh
Greenville, SC
53.5 71.0 36.0 53.5 19.0 -10.14 6 1 18.0 50% 0.50
11
Edwards StephanieStephanie Edwards
Savannah, GA
57.4 67.0 43.0 57.4 33.0 -11.00 5 1 26.4 60% 0.40
12
Rogers BrandonBrandon Rogers
North Hollywood, CA
31.0 36.7 14.0 31.0 14.0 -4.60 4 1 31.8 25% 0.75
Place Name / Hometown Avg. Rtg. HTH W L T Pct Strk Solo
1
Sparks JordinJordin Sparks
Glendale, AZ
58.8 18 9 7 2 0.556 10 10
2
Lewis BlakeBlake Lewis
Bothell, WA
55.7 17 8 9 0 0.471 4 4
3
Doolittle MelindaMelinda Doolittle
Brentwood, TN
77.0 12 8 4 0 0.667 11 11
4
Jones LaKishaLaKisha Jones
Flint, MI
55.7 31 18 12 1 0.597 7 7
5
Richardson ChrisChris Richardson
Chesapeake, VA
38.2 12 1 10 1 0.125 1 1
5
Stacey PhilPhil Stacey
Jacksonville, FL
51.6 6 2 4 0 0.333 2 2
7
Malakar SanjayaSanjaya Malakar
Federal Way, WA
19.1 10 1 9 0 0.100 0 0
8
Scarnato HaleyHaley Scarnato
San Antonio, TX
30.1 9 0 9 0 0.000 0 0
9
Glocksen GinaGina Glocksen
Naperville, IL
53.9 16 9 7 0 0.563 3 3
10
Sligh ChrisChris Sligh
Greenville, SC
53.5 7 5 2 0 0.714 3 3
11
Edwards StephanieStephanie Edwards
Savannah, GA
57.4 4 0 4 0 0.000 4 4
12
Rogers BrandonBrandon Rogers
North Hollywood, CA
31.0 7 1 6 0 0.143 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
Alexander AlainaAlaina Alexander
West Hollywood, CA
2 2
18.0
 
18 18 12.5 2 0 0 0 0
200 SF
Barba AntonellaAntonella Barba
Point Pleasant, NJ
3 3
14.3
 
17 13 11.7 3 0 0 0 0
200 SF
Cardenas RudyRudy Cardenas
North Hollywood, CA
1 1
23.0
 
23 23 19.0 0 1 0 0 0
200 SF
Cotter JaredJared Cotter
Kew Gardens, NY
3 3
37.0
 
40 34 17.7 0 2 1 0 0
200 SF
Head SundanceSundance Head
Porter, TX
3 3
32.3
 
51 12 19.3 1 1 1 0 0
200 SF
Hunt LeslieLeslie Hunt
Chicago, IL
2 2
37.5
 
38 37 21.5 0 2 0 0 0
200 SF
Kim PaulPaul Kim
Saratoga, CA
1 1
17.0
 
17 17 19.0 1 0 0 0 0
200 SF
Krebs AmyAmy Krebs
Federal Way, WA
1 1
31.0
 
31 31 18.0 0 1 0 0 0
200 SF
Pedro NicholasNicholas Pedro
Taunton, MA
2 2
35.0
 
36 34 21.5 0 2 0 0 0
200 SF
Sloan SabrinaSabrina Sloan
Studio City, CA
3 3
62.0
 
77 44 15.3 0 0 1 2 0
200 SF
Tabaldo AJAJ Tabaldo
Santa Maria, CA
2 2
46.5
 
54 39 21.5 0 1 1 0 0
200 SF
Tranquillo NicoleNicole Tranquillo
Wernersville, PA
1 1
28.0
 
28 28 17.0 0 1 0 0 0
Place Name / Hometown Avg. Rtg. SF FI Solo Lo1 Growth #Ep. B3 SAge FFact RFact
200 SF
Alexander AlainaAlaina Alexander
West Hollywood, CA
18.0 18.0 n/a 18.0 18.0 n/a 2 0 14.5 100% 0.00
200 SF
Barba AntonellaAntonella Barba
Point Pleasant, NJ
14.3 14.3 n/a 14.3 13.0 n/a 3 0 7.0 33% 1.33
200 SF
Cardenas RudyRudy Cardenas
North Hollywood, CA
23.0 23.0 n/a 23.0 23.0 n/a 1 0 34.0 100% 0.00
200 SF
Cotter JaredJared Cotter
Kew Gardens, NY
37.0 37.0 n/a 37.0 34.0 n/a 3 0 26.0 0% 1.33
200 SF
Head SundanceSundance Head
Porter, TX
32.3 32.3 n/a 32.3 12.0 n/a 3 0 32.3 100% 0.00
200 SF
Hunt LeslieLeslie Hunt
Chicago, IL
37.5 37.5 n/a 37.5 37.0 n/a 2 0 41.0 0% 1.00
200 SF
Kim PaulPaul Kim
Saratoga, CA
17.0 17.0 n/a 17.0 17.0 n/a 1 0 23.0 0% 1.00
200 SF
Krebs AmyAmy Krebs
Federal Way, WA
31.0 31.0 n/a 31.0 31.0 n/a 1 0 16.0 0% 2.00
200 SF
Pedro NicholasNicholas Pedro
Taunton, MA
35.0 35.0 n/a 35.0 34.0 n/a 2 0 31.0 50% 0.50
200 SF
Sloan SabrinaSabrina Sloan
Studio City, CA
62.0 62.0 n/a 62.0 44.0 n/a 3 0 22.0 100% 0.00
200 SF
Tabaldo AJAJ Tabaldo
Santa Maria, CA
46.5 46.5 n/a 46.5 39.0 n/a 2 0 34.0 50% 0.50
200 SF
Tranquillo NicoleNicole Tranquillo
Wernersville, PA
28.0 28.0 n/a 28.0 28.0 n/a 1 0 29.0 100% 0.00
Place Name / Hometown Avg. Rtg. HTH W L T Pct Strk Solo
200 SF
Alexander AlainaAlaina Alexander
West Hollywood, CA
18.0 0 0 0 0 n/a 0 0
200 SF
Barba AntonellaAntonella Barba
Point Pleasant, NJ
14.3 11 0 11 0 0.000 0 0
200 SF
Cardenas RudyRudy Cardenas
North Hollywood, CA
23.0 0 0 0 0 n/a 0 0
200 SF
Cotter JaredJared Cotter
Kew Gardens, NY
37.0 6 2 4 0 0.333 0 0
200 SF
Head SundanceSundance Head
Porter, TX
32.3 0 0 0 0 n/a 1 1
200 SF
Hunt LeslieLeslie Hunt
Chicago, IL
37.5 9 0 9 0 0.000 0 0
200 SF
Kim PaulPaul Kim
Saratoga, CA
17.0 1 1 0 0 1.000 0 0
200 SF
Krebs AmyAmy Krebs
Federal Way, WA
31.0 4 0 4 0 0.000 0 0
200 SF
Pedro NicholasNicholas Pedro
Taunton, MA
35.0 3 0 3 0 0.000 0 0
200 SF
Sloan SabrinaSabrina Sloan
Studio City, CA
62.0 3 1 2 0 0.333 2 2
200 SF
Tabaldo AJAJ Tabaldo
Santa Maria, CA
46.5 6 4 1 1 0.750 1 1
200 SF
Tranquillo NicoleNicole Tranquillo
Wernersville, PA
28.0 0 0 0 0 n/a 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
39133 Feb 20, 2007
Open
12 12
39.3
 
79 12 18.3 3 5 1 3 0
39134 Feb 21, 2007
Open
12 12
52.3
 
88 13 15.2 2 4 0 3 3
39140 Feb 27, 2007
Open
10 10
47.8
 
75 7 19.5 1 2 4 3 0
39141 Feb 28, 2007
Open
10 10
50.6
 
92 13 14.8 2 2 2 3 1
39147 Mar 6, 2007
Open
8 8
42.4
 
67 21 17.4 0 4 2 2 0
39148 Mar 7, 2007
Open
8 8
50.3
 
88 17 14.8 1 1 3 2 1
Date Episode / Theme Avg. Rtg. Solo SR In SR Out CR XFact SAge FFact RFact
39133 Feb 20, 2007
Open
39.3 39.3 n/a 39.3 39.3 n/a 18.2 42% 0.67
39134 Feb 21, 2007
Open
52.3 52.3 39.3 45.8 52.3 n/a 25.6 50% 0.83
39140 Feb 27, 2007
Open
47.8 47.8 45.8 46.4 45.5 +4.70 28.7 60% 0.40
39141 Feb 28, 2007
Open
50.6 50.6 46.4 47.3 53.8 -6.30 20.7 40% 0.70
39147 Mar 6, 2007
Open
42.4 42.4 47.3 46.6 45.2 -4.25 14.6 63% 0.50
39148 Mar 7, 2007
Open
50.3 50.3 46.6 47.1 56.9 -10.00 16.9 63% 0.88
Finals
Date Episode / Theme #Cn. #Pf. Average Rating Hi Lo σ 0-19 20-39 40-59 60-79 80-100
39154 Mar 13, 2007
Diana Ross
12 12
45.8
 
85 8 15.2 2 3 4 1 2
39161 Mar 20, 2007
British Invasion
11 11
52.1
 
86 23 18.0 0 4 3 2 2
39168 Mar 27, 2007
Gwen Stefani
10 10
48.9
 
81 15 18.2 2 2 3 2 1
39175 Apr 3, 2007
American Classics
9 9
51.3
 
86 24 19.6 0 3 4 1 1
39182 Apr 10, 2007
Latin
8 8
42.3
 
73 17 19.8 1 3 3 1 0
39189 Apr 17, 2007
Country
7 7
49.6
 
84 9 13.6 2 1 1 1 2
39196 Apr 24, 2007
Life Anthems (Idol Gives Back)
6 6
51.7
 
82 28 18.5 0 3 1 0 2
39203 May 1, 2007
Bon Jovi
6 6
63.0
 
86 15 18.0 1 0 1 2 2
39210 May 8, 2007
Bee Gees
4 8
41.8
 
77 19 21.6 1 3 2 2 0
39217 May 15, 2007
Idol's / Producers' / Judge's
3 9
59.2
 
80 33 22.6 0 2 2 4 1
39224 May 22, 2007
Finale
2 6
52.3
 
77 20 19.3 0 2 1 3 0
Date Episode / Theme Avg. Rtg. Solo SR In SR Out CR XFact SAge FFact RFact
39154 Mar 13, 2007
Diana Ross
45.8 45.8 47.1 46.8 53.4 -10.19 35.1 50% 0.67
39161 Mar 20, 2007
British Invasion
52.1 52.1 46.8 47.5 54.8 -3.34 41.5 73% 0.27
39168 Mar 27, 2007
Gwen Stefani
48.9 48.9 47.5 47.7 53.6 -5.60 18.3 80% 0.30
39175 Apr 3, 2007
American Classics
51.3 51.3 47.7 48.0 53.3 -2.24 63.2 67% 0.33
39182 Apr 10, 2007
Latin
42.3 42.3 48.0 47.6 51.8 -10.93 26.9 63% 0.63
39189 Apr 17, 2007
Country
49.6 49.6 47.6 47.7 54.3 -5.34 6.3 71% 0.57
39196 Apr 24, 2007
Life Anthems (Idol Gives Back)
51.7 51.7 47.7 47.9 59.3 -8.52 21.5 67% 0.67
39203 May 1, 2007
Bon Jovi
63.0 63.0 47.9 48.6 59.7 +3.67 15.5 83% 0.17
39210 May 8, 2007
Bee Gees
41.8 41.8 48.6 48.2 63.2 -25.30 29.0 63% 0.63
39217 May 15, 2007
Idol's / Producers' / Judge's
59.2 59.2 48.2 48.9 64.3 -6.42 19.4 67% 0.33
39224 May 22, 2007
Finale
52.3 52.3 48.9 49.0 56.9 -5.32 4.0 67% 0.83

[back to top] Ratings Distribution

Total of 152 performances
  3
 
15
 
16
 
28
 
16
 
21
 
14
 
21
 
17
 
1
 
 
  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
My Funny Valentine0001My Funny Valentine
92
 
2
And I Am Telling You Im Not Going0001And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going
88
 
Im A Woman0001I'm A Woman
88
 
4
Sweet Sweet Baby Since Youve Been Gone0001(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone
87
 
5
I Who Have Nothing0001I (Who Have Nothing)
86
 
I Got Rhythm0001I Got Rhythm
86
 
Have A Nice Day0001Have A Nice Day
86
 
8
Home 10001Home
85
 
9
Trouble Is A Woman0001Trouble Is A Woman
84
 
10
You Give Love A Bad Name0001You Give Love A Bad Name
83
 
Lowest-Rated Performances
Lowest-Rated Performances
1
Steppin Out With My Baby0001Steppin' Out With My Baby
7
 
2
Aint No Mountain High Enough0001Ain't No Mountain High Enough
8
 
3
Something To Talk About0001Something To Talk About
9
 
4
Nights In White Satin0001Nights In White Satin
12
 
5
I Dont Want To Miss A Thing0001I Don't Want To Miss A Thing
13
 
Because You Loved Me0001Because You Loved Me
13
 
7
You Cant Hurry Love0001You Can't Hurry Love
14
 
8
Bathwater0001Bathwater
15
 
Livin On A Prayer0001Livin' On A Prayer
15
 
10
Careless Whisper0001Careless Whisper
17
 
Knocks Me Off My Feet0001Knocks Me Off My Feet
17
 
Put Your Records On0001Put Your Records On
17
 
Turn The Beat Around0001Turn The Beat Around
17
 

[back to top] Summary

Po-hawks.  Naughty beach photos.  Crying girls.  Falling TV ratings.  Many American Idol fans would argue that Season Six doesn't need a summary, it needs an autopsy.  Perhaps so, but we'll warn you up front: determining the cause of death of the lowest-rated season in our database isn't going to be easy.

Were the contestants all stiffs?  Actually, eight of the Final 12 finished with above-average approval ratings, tied with AI4 for the most of any season.  A lack of world-class talent?  Two words: Melinda Doolittle.  Not enough showstoppers?  AI6 had precisely as many performances rated in the 90s, three, as sainted AI5.  Too many train wrecks?  There were just three performances all year in the single digits, the fewest of any season to that point, and all by you-know-who.  Speaking of which, can we just dump the entire mess on Sanjaya Malakar's head?  It's true that if you take away the nine, uh, remarkable performances from the soft-spoken, soft-singing Seattle heartthrob, AI6 would have the highest average approval rating of the first six seasons.  But then, the same would be true if you dropped the lowest-rated finalist from almost any season.  Back to the coroner's table, Dr. Quincy.

Whatever the reasons, Season Six never quite seemed to capture America's heart.  One big problem is that the Semifinals got out of bed on the wrong foot.  Yes, we know we're mixing our metaphors, but the Top 24 Guys episode was so terribly received that one cliché just isn't enough.  The 12 boys combined for a dismal 38.7 average rating, ahead of only AI1 Group 3 and the legendary mass train wreck that was AI3 Group 2.  Nine performances checked in at 40 or lower, bottoming out with a 10 for much-promoted Sundance Head's theatrical take on Nights In White Satin.  On the plus side, Blake Lewis drew rave reviews and 5-stars with Keane's Somewhere Only We Know, while Chris Sligh and Phil Stacey delivered 4-star performances.  (Malakar, if you're wondering, debuted with a somnambulant rendition of Knocks Me Off My Feet, featuring its signature lyric, "I don't want to bore you...."  Any punch line we offered would be overkill.)

What a difference a day makes.  19-year-old Stephanie Edwards kicked off the Top 24 Girls show with an 83 for How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?, and there were many more fireworks to come in this remarkable episode.  Doolittle and Michigan choralist LaKisha Jones fell one point shy of becoming just the second pair of contestants to reach 90 in the same night.  (Who were the first, you ask?  Hmph – and you call yourself an Idol fan.  Hover your pointer here for the answer.)  Doolittle earned 89 on Aretha Franklin's Since You've Been Gone, while Jones closed the show with an even 90 for the classic Dreamgirls torch song And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going.  Speaking of one-point near-misses, Sabrina Sloan's I Never Loved A Man came in at 79, keeping the episode by the smallest of margins from becoming just the second to have four 5-star performances.  (Oh, for heaven's sake, not again.  Here.)  17-year-old Jordin Sparks also hit 4-stars, as did Chicago's Gina Glocksen, who chose All By Myself and somehow lived to tell about it.  The other six performances weren't anything to text home about, so the average rating was just under 53 – still, it ranked as the highest-rated Semifinal episode to date.

Things settled down a bit during Top 20 Week.  The Guys' average rating jumped almost 10 points.  Lewis and Sligh again reached the 4-star plateau, joined this time by Virginia's Chris Richardson's playful cover of Jason Mraz's Geek In The Pink.  (Malakar?  Steppin' Out With My Baby, fedora, 6.  Enough said.)  The Girls followed with another strong but top-heavy night: 4-stars from Edwards, Jones, and Sloan, plus Doolittle's magnum opus.  The career backup singer delivered a master class in professional song phrasing on My Funny Valentine, earning a standing ovation from Randy and Paula, a near-speechless "That was incredible" from Simon, and a monster 94 rating from the reviewers.  (Regrettably, the talk across the Idolsphere in the subsequent week wasn't of "Valentine", but rather of some racy photographs of semifinalist Antonella Barba that had surfaced on the Internet, many of which turned out to be hoaxes.)

In Top 16 Week, the Guys' schizophrenic season continued – a 42.3 average rating and only two above-average performances, again by Lewis and Sligh.  They advanced to the Final 12 along with Richardson, Stacey, and another career backup singer, Brandon Rogers.  The last slot came down to the underachieving Head and the under-everything Malakar, who'd reached 2-stars for the first time with Waiting On The World To Change.  In a decision that would have considerable portent on the remainder of the season, even if no one quite realized it at the time, the AI electorate chose Malakar.  On the Girls' side, Doolittle joined Clay Aiken in one of Idol's most exclusive clubs: contestants delivering back-to-back 90+ performances.  She earned a 91 rating for Peggy Lee's I'm A Woman, and observe what feat she would have accomplished had her Top 24 Week performance scored just one point higher.  Joining her in the Final 12: Jones, Sparks, Edwards, the musically fearless Glocksen (who'd tackled All By Myself, Heart, and Evanescence thus far), and...Sloan?  No, Sabrina's magic had surprisingly run out with the voters; they instead advanced Texas's Haley Scarnato.

Rogers opened the Diana Ross-themed Final 12 episode with, fittingly, a 12, forgetting the lyrics of You Can't Hurry Love and putting the Idolsphere in a bad mood before the first commercial break.  Doolittle and Jones later delivered 5-star performances of Home and God Bless The Child, respectively, while Malakar brought up the rear with his second 6 in three weeks, this time for a punchless and nearly tuneless Ain't No Mountain High Enough.  He and Rogers were the Bottom 2 the next night, with the latter sent home and the former left to ponder what he could do to catch America's eye.

British Invasion Week was highlighted by Sparks's breakout performance: an 88 for her appropriately overwrought I (Who Have Nothing).  Doolittle entered uncharted territory with her fifth straight 5-star performance, Lewis and Jones hit 4-stars, and Scarnato reached 3-stars for the first and last time with Tell Him.  But it was Malakar who stole the show with perhaps the most memorable 2-star performance in Idol history.  Dashing furiously across the stage and through the audience, his hair flying in every direction, and interposed with bizarre cut shots of a 13-year-old girl bawling uncontrollably in the crowd, his You Really Got Me was more Fellini than The Kinks.  Even many of the Web reviewers who hated it sort of liked it, and Sanjayamania was born.  Almost as an afterthought, Edwards was eliminated.

The Final 10 Week's theme was Songs That Inspired Gwen Stefani, whatever that meant.  Doolittle's amazing 5-star streak was snapped when she earned "only" a 77 for Heaven Knows, while rocker Glocksen had the night's highest rated performance, a 5-star cover of The Pretenders' I'll Stand By YouThe Police had an up-and-down night: Stacey got rave reviews for Every Breath You Take, while early favorite Sligh got a plane ticket home for Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.  And what did Malakar do for an encore?  Bathwater, po-hawk, 13...once again, enough said.

American Classics Week, mentored by the great Anthony Benedetto, was led by Doolittle's spirited I Got Rhythm at 89.  Sparks reached 4-stars, but the other seven Idols all fell into the 2-star and 3-star range, prompting many Web reviewers to dismiss the show as "good but forgettable."  Glocksen was the odd woman out.  Next came Latin Week, prompting many Web reviewers to pine openly for "good but forgettable" episodes.  The average rating was under 43, with Lewis's I Need To Know the only performance to reach 4-stars – even Doolittle fell below 60 for the first time.  Malakar closed the show with his own magnum opus...well, relatively speaking.  Besame Mucho drew a modest 48 rating but earned him widespread praise even among his harshest critics for being the only contestant to take the theme seriously.  The comely Scarnato, whose hemlines were the only thing retreating faster than her approval ratings, was voted off.

Normality, or some reasonable facsimile thereof, returned on Country Week, mentored by Martina McBride.  Doolittle's Trouble Is A Woman and Sparks's A Broken Wing both earned 5-stars, while Stacey reached 4-stars.  Malakar gave America Something To Talk About, all right: his third single-digit approval rating, tying John Stevens's uncoveted record, not to mention his fifth of 1-star, giving him that honor all by himself.  The teen's extended run had become a weekly media circus, but on this night a far less lighthearted controversy erupted.  After his performance of Mayberry, Richardson made a sympathetic shout-out to his home state in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre a day earlier, prompting an annoyed response (and an ill-timed eye roll) from Simon, who was trying to deliver his critique.  The former earned a 17 for his nasally vocals; the latter, a stinging public rebuke from fans and detractors of the show everywhere.  In all the hubbub, guess who was voted off?  Sanjaya Malakar's Flying Circus had finally folded its tents.

To the show's everlasting credit, American Idol took a break from its cheesy fantasy world and opened its eyes, and the rest of America's, to the pain and poverty of the real one.  The first Idol Gives Back fundraising episode raised over $70 million for a variety of charities worldwide.  The video clip of Simon and Ryan in the AIDS-inflicted villages of sub-Saharan Africa is not one that many viewers will soon forget.  The night's official theme was Life Anthems, and we'll note only that Doolittle and Sparks became just the second pair of Idols to both post 5-star approval ratings in back-to-back episodes.  (*sigh*...Here.)  No one was eliminated on the next night's star-studded results show, just as many bloggers and forumists predicted.

So the AI6 Final Five actually numbered six – well, what else did you expect from this surreal season?  Doolittle, Jones, Lewis, Richardson, Sparks and Stacey, a sextet not exactly known for their headbanging personalities, next took on the high-energy rock of Bon Jovi Night.  The Idolsphere's forecast overwhelmingly called for cloudy skies with a 90% chance of train wreckage.  So naturally, the much-maligned Idols turned in the third-highest-rated episode (63.7) of the first six seasons!  Doolittle reached 5-stars yet again, Stacey and Jones just missed, and Lewis delivered a performance for the annals.  His heavily beatboxed, dance-rock take on You Give Love A Bad Name rated out to an 85 with a gargantuan standard deviation of 27 (but the positive reviews outnumbered the neutrals and negatives by better than 3-to-1.)  To most reviewers, the only thumbs-down performance was by, of all people, Sparks; her 13 for Livin' On A Prayer marked a 69-point drop from the previous week and her first dip below 50 all season.  After the evening's votes were added to those from the previous week, Stacey and Richardson were sent home.

Just when AI6 seemed to be gaining a little traction, it spun out again.  The Dow Jones Idolstrial Average plummetted over 20 points on two-song Bee Gees Week, closing at 41.7.  Just two performances, one by Doolittle and one by Sparks, reached 4-stars, or even 50 for that matter.  Lewis just missed breaking Sparks's one-week-old record for the largest ratings drop from one performance to the next when his first number, You Should Be Dancing, came in at 17, a 68-point fall from "Bad Name".  Even Doolittle wasn't immune; she delivered her only below-average rated performance of the campaign, Love You Inside Out.  (Somewhere in Oakland, LaToya London was screaming "I told you so!" at her TV.)  Jones, who'd sung Stayin' Alive, didn't, leaving Doolittle, Lewis and Sparks to battle for the two spots in the Finale.

Right on schedule, the AI6 yo-yo rose again.  The Final 3 Episode became just the sixth to post an average rating in the 60s, with Doolittle's Nutbush City Limits becoming her tenth and final performance to earn 5-stars.  Sparks and Doolittle each turned in a 4-star reprisal of an earlier performance, while Lewis went with three new songs, including Maroon 5's This Love.  In the days leading up to the episode, many bloggers predicted that Lewis's and Sparks's fans would vote like wildfire to push their favorite into the Finale alongside the front-running Doolittle, so much so that Doolittle herself might be left out.  The judges' anxious comments throughout the episode suggested that they too sensed the danger.  And, like one of those Shakespearean tragedies in which everyone alive already knows the ending but your English teacher makes you read it anyway...that's exactly what transpired.

The absence of Doolittle in the AI6 Finale was the last straw for many fans and critics, but "Blake vs. Jordin" went on as scheduled.  And, to their credit, the duo did a pretty good job, turning in one of the higher-rated Finales led by strong reprises of A Broken Wing and You Give Love A Bad Name.  As usual, the Idolsphere's decision came down to the American Idol Original Winners' Song™, this time selected from a nationwide contest that the producers no doubt hoped would hold down the annual blistering criticism aimed at them.  Failure.  Lewis's attempt at This Is My Now can best be described as "understandably halfhearted", while the emotive ballad was right in Sparks's wheelhouse.  Twenty-four hours later, 17-year-old Jordin Sparks became the sixth and youngest winner of American Idol.

What We Thought

If you're one of those people who demand simple answers to complex questions, and you're wondering what went wrong in Season Six, look elsewhere.  Our research suggests that AI6's problems ran deep and wide, with no one factor standing out.

To start, Doolittle's professional vocal skills were so strong and polished that every other contestant suffered in comparison.  Jones seemed at the outset that she might be able to match Doolittle note-for-note, which would've set up AI6 as a captivating, Frazier vs. Ali-style "battle of the heavyweights" (er, nothing personal, ladies.)  Sadly, Jones faded during the demanding theme weeks, and while Sparks and Lewis occasionally rose up to challenge Doolittle, no one could do so on a consistent basis.

Indeed, lack of consistency in general was another massive issue – note how the approval ratings for contestants and episodes alike rose and fell like a four-month-long ride on Disney World's Tower of Terror.  Stacey was particularly maddening in this regard; only once all season did the talented Navy musician post consecutive approval ratings within 15 points of one another!  The Final 12 also contained an inordinately large number of risk-takers like Lewis, Sligh and Glocksen, who combined for 15 performances of 4-stars or more, but also eight of 2-stars or fewer.  Other than Doolittle, the two most consistent Idols were Richardson and Scarnato, but it didn't help that they were consistently mediocre.  Sixteen of their 19 performances rated out to either 2-stars or 3-stars.

On the flip side, the Great Sanjaya Sideshow took its toll as well.  Malakar was by no means the first eager young Idol who'd found himself way in over his head when the competition started.  He was, however, the first one to respond to the ridicule by fighting back.  The competitive spirit and sense of humor he displayed only added legions of voters to his already huge fanbase.  But whether you considered it entertaining, appalling, or a little of both, the hoopla became a serious distraction to the.show's basic premise of identifying contemporary singing talent.  (Incidentally, Malakar's approval ratings were extraordinarily difficult for us to calculate.  We have statistical methods to correct for biased fans who overrate contestants they love or underrate ones they loathe.  But what does one do when many of a contestant's most sincere fans take pleasure in ripping his own performances?)

Other factors played a role as well.  Don't underestimate how much air the disastrous Top 24 Guys episode took out of the fans' balloons.  It made the rest of the season an uphill battle for the contestants and producers alike (and it makes Idol's institution of themed Semifinal weeks in AI7 appear even more ill-advised.)  Rogers's gaffe in the very first performance of the Finals was equally deflating.  Narrow-genre themes in general hampered the Idols all season long, Bon Jovi Night being the sole, surprising, and very fortunate exception.

Finally, and although this is a discussion that will make some readers uncomfortable, no analysis would be complete without it.  After the first week of the Semifinals, it was clear that five of the very strongest contestants all happened to be women of color: Doolittle, Jones, Sparks, Edwards, and Sloan.  We'll leave it to others more qualified than us to analyze the roles that race and gender play in Reality TV dynamics.  However, we'll assert yet again that musical variety, more than anything else, is American Idol's best friend.  Four of the five ladies chose old-fashioned R&B torch songs for their first numbers (Edwards' "HCUDCMA?" was far closer to Alicia Keys's cover version than Prince's original); the fifth, Sparks, chose a blues tune by Tracy Chapman. Two promising girls whom the producers no doubt counted on to provide stylistic diversity, Glocksen and Leslie Hunt, unhelpfully chose "All By Myself" and A Natural Woman, adding no variety to the night; a third, Alaina Alexander, butchered Brass In Pocket.  Having sat through the 12 guys' enormously discouraging start, fans of rock, country, folk, dance, hip-hop, power pop and other genres were left feeling marginalized from the season at the outset.  Had the strongest five contestants all been equally-talented white male crooners, we doubt that AI6 would have been much better off.  As an exercise to the reader, compare the five great AI6 ladies to the fabled Final 5 of AI5, who may or may not have been better vocalists (on the whole, we'd say "not"), but who brought a wide range of demographics and musical styles to the table.  Having said all this, we're not sure what, if anything, the producers could or should have done differently.

Our favorite moments of AI6?  Please.  If it is conceivably possible for a performance to be underrated at 94, "My Funny Valentine" qualifies.  And while "You Give Love A Bad Name" had its detractors, none of them are on the WNTS.com staff.  They were two spectacular high-water marks in Idol's low-water season.

In our humble opinions, Doolittle was the rightful winner of AI6.  But, Sparks holds tremendous promise as a recording artist, particularly when she masters the art of singing uptempo songs, her sole Achilles heel during the season.  We doubt Lewis will enjoy much success as a pop vocalist, but we wouldn't be a bit surprised if he ultimately wins more Grammy awards than any other former Idol...as a record producer.  Finally, as for Malakar, our opinions are split.  Our junior staff member found him charming and thoroughly entertaining, but her senior co-founders began watching the show from second-floor rooms of their respective houses, so as to hear a more satisfying crunch on the ground below when they threw their TVs out the window.  (We admit we find the young man infinitely more likable today in his role as an occasional TV personality, but if he ever tries singing again...*crunch*!)

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