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Has American Idol resumed shunning women and people of color?



naimaandthia.jpgEvery year American Idol airs I bring this up. And every year fans get really upset with me.

But it is a simple fact that, with its two eliminations Thursday, every finalist eliminated in the show's last four weeks have been women and people of color. And its not a new pattern.

In truth, with many of these shows, it may not matter which order people get bounced. Often, its obvious which contestants are the biggest contenders, and everyone else is just struggling to stay in the game long as possible.

But on Thursday, hardworking Naima Adedapo, who is African American, got swept off with an admittedly overmatched Thia Megia, the youngest contestant to make the finals (with her disturbing habit of sounding like a cruise ship lounge singer, Megia never would have made the finals in a Idol cycle judged by departed star Simon Cowell).

Paul McDonald, whose thin voice and inability to hit notes has always left me wondering why he's still in the game, landed in the bottom three but ultimately survived to rasp his way through another Rod Stewart cover.

In a conference call with reporters today, Adedapo said the show's audience is more than 50 percent teen girls, so when they get a crush, "we're done." Thanks to MjsBigBlog for listening and live blogging so I didn't have to.

As a longtime musician, I do tend to focus largely on singing; if contenders can't hit the notes on Idol, I'm not interested (which would explain my lack of patience with this season's explicable golden boy, Casey Abrams). So I think a fair vote would have bounced McDonald, who can't compete vocally with any other contender, instead of Adedapo, who simply took too big a risk injecting a reggae style into an Elton John song on Wednesday. That's also why I think Abrams, whose scruffy charm can't hide his tendency to be "pitchy" in performance, should have gone home last week, instead of being saved by the judges.

americanidol110324caseyabrams.jpgBut the shock of nearly losing fan favorite Abrams seems to have pushed the show's voters back into following old patterns, which in years past, produced a string of uninspiring, scruffily cute male winners who can't sell records. Like Abrams.

Watching 2004 winner Fantasia Barrino belt out her latest single Thursday, I had a hard time imagining she would make the cut on today's Idol, which hasn't seen a female winner since Jordin Sparks, who also is biracial, took the crown in 2007.

Adedapo and Megia, a Filipino immigrant, join Miami native Karen Rodriguez, who is Puerto Rican and Ashthon Jones, who is African American, among the castoffs. And while it is probably true that none of these people had a shot of actually winning Idol, it is a disturbing pattern that also happened last year; among the also-rans, the first people kicked off are often the women and people of color.

In the overall trajectory of the contest, perhaps it doesn't matter much. Particularly, because experts seem to blame the shows tween fans, who may be choosing sensitive guys over anyone else.

But I wonder what it says about Idol's audience -- and all of us -- if we simply shrug our shoulders and accept this trend as an unfortunate coincidence.


[Last modified: Friday, April 1, 2011 1:17pm]


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