Sunday, January 21, 2018
TV and Media

'Idol' ousts singer with stutter, makes history

When Naples ice cream store clerk Lazaro Arbos got his walking papers Thursday night, it was official.

American Idol will have its first female winner in six years.

In fact, this is the first time in American Idol history that the show's Top Five finalists are all female: Janelle Arthur, Candice Glover, Amber Holcomb, Angie Miller and Kree Harrison.

Arbos was literally the last man standing in Fox's blockbuster singing competition this week, a talented amateur struggling to compete with a core of female vocalists who often already seem ready-made for stardom.

His story — pushing to overcome a severe stutter, he impressed with a strong, clear voice whenever he sang — turned Arbos into a favorite of the show and viewers. Minutes after his ejection, Arbos was lauded in a statement by Jane Fraser, president of the Stuttering Foundation, as "an ambassador for the stuttering community."

The Tampa Bay Times wrote about Arbos in 2004, when a family living near Orlando donated a device to the then 13 year old to help with his stutter. A Tampa speech therapist who helped him then told a Times writer in January he seemed like a different person on Idol.

"Six months ago, I had never rode a plane by myself," Arbos told Billboard magazine after the ejection. "I never did anything by myself, so I think that the show molded me so much and gave me so much skin and I'm so tough now. I don't care what anyone says about me."

Still, his lack of knowledge often tripped him up on both his song choices and his performances. On Wednesday, he failed to change keys at a crucial point in a song, leading judge Randy Jackson to pronounce the performance "horrible."

Diva Mariah Carey spent long, excruciating minutes struggling to explain to a puzzled-looking Arbos that he had, indeed, failed to follow the backing band's change of melody.

If Arbos had stayed in the competition after such an awful performance it would have been a signal to all that voting viewers wanted a male winner so bad, they would forgive him anything.

Thankfully for Idol — where producers seemed to pack the competition with ridiculously talented women to ensure they wouldn't get another guy with a guitar in the winner's circle — that didn't happen.

Now, at a time when industry experts and fans are carping about the show's fading popularity, American Idol is posed to make history again.

The question left is: Did change come too late?

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