Spoiler alert: Lauren Alaina is going to win.
That’s hardly a spoiler though. If Alaina wins, such will only follow a pattern that American Idol has followed since it began. Every season has had a clear presumptive frontrunner, and every time the season got down to just two contestants, no matter how bland and forgettable the alternative may have been, the vote comes down to either being for the favorite or against the favorite. And in American Idol’s history, America has almost always voted for “the other guy.”
Think of each season’s presumptive favorite: Adam Lambert, Clay Aiken, Crystal Bowersox, David Archuleta, Bo Bice, etc., etc. All of these contestants were runners up, but how many people out there actually remember the names of the contestants who defeated them?
The only possible exception to the rule was for Taylor Hicks in Season 5, but even that is a gray area (pun not intended). Hicks’s win could be attributed to his fanatically loyal fans — the Soul Patrol — successfully convincing the rest of the American Idol community that it was actually Kathraine McPhee who was somehow to blame for the elimination of better contestants in the weeks leading up to the finale.
This trend has persisted throughout the years because of simple errors of logic in American Idol’s format that the studio has deliberately perpetuated. The first, most obvious and already mentioned is the head-to-head finale, which allows the vote to be dumbed down into “for or against.” Rival shows like America’s Got Talent have not had this problem because they go into the finale with a larger set of acts that encourages viewers to keep voting for their favorites. American Idol should have been made aware of this problem by now, but has perpetuated the problem because “down to the final two” has more dramatic flare to it.
The second is the complete lack of voter accountability. Simply put, American Idol has no restrictions on how many times a person can vote. AT&T likely encourages this lack of oversight so they can increase their revenues, but American Idol benefits as well by announcing the number of votes as if it were equal to their viewership. The problem is that this winds up granting a victory, not to the most popular contestant, but to the contestant with the most fanatically devoted fan following.
American Idol continued to perpetuate this problem even after it was pointed out that the American Idol contestants were receiving more votes than presidential candidates.
With Pia Toscano having been eliminated at a (criminally) early stage in the competition, Scotty McCreery is now the presumptive winner. That means that many American Idol loyalists will be looking at tonight’s decision as being, not between McCreery and Alaina, but either for McCreery or against McCreery.
And as the most lame, gimmicky and downright pathetic finalist since Taylor Hicks, you can bet that McCreery has made a lot of enemies in the American Idol viewership. This is why Alaina’s chances of winning are greater than anyone is willing to admit.
At the very least, American Idol should be hoping for Alaina to win. Most estimates are that at least 60% of the American Idol vote comes from the South, which is why country singers always last longer in the running, and why presumptive favorites of the past have often been upset by bland singers who call the region home.
McCreery, on the other hand, is the official favorite to win because of the Southern vote. So if the rest of the country does not pool together enough votes against McCreery to have this season end in yet another upset victory, American Idol might as well change its name to Bible Belt Idol, because that will be the only region in which people are routinely tuning in.
Not that a Lauren Alaina victory would be any different. She made it as far as she has by reminding everyone that she’s country whenever possible too (just not nearly as blatantly).
It had a long run, but if American Idol has not jumped the shark and passed its prime already, it’s about to.