Thursday, May 27, 2010

Debunking the American Idol Runner Up Myth...

Clearly, we need to discuss what happened last night on the television.  And I need to debunk a myth that everyone seems to toss around like factual truth.  Based on Tuesday night's performances, Crystal was most certainly robbed.  This blog is not accepting debates on the issue.

Alright, I'm being a little dramatic here to drive my point home.  Me?  Dramatic?  Oh, just wait...

Round 1:  Bobby McGee vs The Boxer, goes to Crystal
Round 2:  Black Velvet vs. R.E.M. song, goes to Crystal
Round 3:  Up to the Mountain vs. Beautiful Day, goes to Crystal
And the winner is................

Even for those of you who did not tune in to watch this season of American Idol, you know that is not a photo of someone named Crystal.

So, the one who sang better did not win.  And I think it's because she's a girl.  And that makes a lot of people uncomfortable.  But it's why she didn't win.  We're programmed at a very young age to make sure the Lees win things.  So yes.  When everyone says, "he's got the young girls votes,"  you're right.  He does.  Because we programmed them to vote for him.  Just like you've been programmed to get uncomfortable right now reading this blog.  Indeed.  And I'm going to make you more uncomfortable when I get to Clay Aiken and Adam Lambert.  But I'm not there yet.  I'm here, still.  Debunking a myth, one runner up at a time.  Here goes:

Perpetuated American Idol Myth #1:  "The Runner Up always does better...."

  American Idol Runner Up Season 1 - Justin Guarini.  Better off than Kelly Clarkson.  Well, let's think about this for a second.  No.  Then again.  Let's not think about this for a second.  It will be a waste of a good second.  He's NOT better off.  So when we say Runners Up are better off, we must mean from a different season.  Let's explore further.

American Idol Runner Up Season 2 - Clay Aiken.  Mocked.  Ridiculed.  Forced out of the closet before he was ready.  Better off than Reuben?  If you're basing it on record sales out of the gate, sure.  But if you're basing it on civilizations treatment of another human being,  than no.  Reuben was less mocked for being a fat winner than Clay was for being a gay runner up.  So what if Clay was a gay winner?  Would he have been less mocked?  Don't be silly.  We don't let gay people win American Idol.  (see Ameican Idol Runner Up Season 8 for more on that). 

American Idol Runner Up Season 3 - Diana Degarmo.  One of my all time favorite "where are they now?" Idols.   She's got a great name.  And she's so smiley and perky.  And I think we were on a morning TV show with her one time.  *And where are we now?  Whoa.  Way off blog topic.  I'm reigning it back in.  Degarmo.  Runner Up.  She's not better off than Fantasia, and that says A LOT about what being runner up did for her.  (sorry Fantasia, you're still my fave Idol).
*"Blogging for Dummies" says self deprication is a great tool for a successful blog.   

American Idol Runner Up Season 4 - Bo Bice.  OK.  Let's talk about Bo.  Um.  Well.  At one point, my management managed him.  And we did a People Magazine show with him.  No.  Wait a minute.  I'm wrong.  My manager invited me to see him play a People Magazine function.  Right.  So that makes him slightly better off than me.  But that's not what we're debunking here, is it.  He's not better off than Carrie.  That's for sure.  In fact, nobody's better off than Carrie.  God, she's pretty.  And what a voice.  Is he better off than Diana Degarmo?  Now that's an interesting question...

American Idol Runner Up Season 5 - Katherine McPhee.  She couldn't even beat Taylor Hicks.  Also on that season:  Kelli Pickler.  Say what you will.  The girl finished 5th that season and has herself a career.  Oh, and Chris Daughtry came in 4th.  Even Elliott Yamin's doing better.  He finished 3rd.  So, it seems Season 5 added fuel to the myth that Runner Up is better than winning.  But the ones doing well were not Runners Up.

American Idol Runner Up  Season 6 - Blake Whois?  I mean Blake Lewis.  Right.  Wow.  He went on to do big things.  Just like Jordin Sparks, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, David Cook...somebody stop me.

It didn't go so well for this runner up either.  And if you were now buying into the theory that it's better to finish less than Runner up, let's discuss his castmates that went on to do not so much.  Remember Melinda Doolittle?  3rd place.  Phil Stacey?  Gina Glocksen?  Lakisha Jones?  It was the season of Sanjaya who went on to "I'm a Celebrity, Get me Outta Here," fame.  Jordin Sparks, literally and figuratively proving it pays to win.

American Idol Runner Up Season 7 - David Archuleta.  Ok.  So I can see how this season may have fueled the "Runner Up" myth.  But seriously.  Based on that season, I definitely thought the baby-faced Archuleta was going to blow up like a tick - that's how big.  And he didn't.  All that much.  He's doing fine.  But he's not doing David Cook fine.  We can be real about that, yes?  A decent runner up.  But not a strong enough argument to say Crystal's runner-upness guarantees a big career.   

Oh, and that's baby Thomas to the left discovering pine cones.  Archuleta is even runner up in baby faces.

American Idol Runner Up Season 8 - Adam Lambert.  So here's the thing dawg.  Chris Allen didn't win.  It's that Adam Lambert lost.  Because he's gay.  The only thing harder than being a female in this competition is being gay in this competition.  Especially if you're "flamboyantly" gay and not ashamed of it.  I mean, the least Adam could have been was ashamed of it.  Then maybe he might have won.  But who are we kidding?  Ashamed of it or not, he wasn't going to win.  Too gay not only loses to too fat (season 2), it also loses to too boring (season 8).  Yes, I just called Chris Allen boring.  Because he is.  SO boring.

So the middle of the country voted middle of the road Chris Allen as the winner last year.  And NY and LA don't vote much.  We just watch.  So Adam lost.  Because he's gay.  And his entire career will be fueled by controversy.  Partially of his own doing and partially because what he's doing makes everyone totally uncomfortable.    

Will he become the most successful runner up in the history of American Idol?  Depends on how we're measuring success.  If salacious media coverage is our barometer, then yes.  And if we're basing the "runner up" myth on his succss, than I'd say Crystal's in trouble.  Cause she can't hold a candle to Adam's histrionics.  She's a straight up singer/songwriter with zero controversy.  Unless she and Lee turn into the Luke and Laura of American Idol.  Which, I swear to god, I can totally see happening.  Don't you think they're vibing each other?

Alright, Katie just climbed out of her crib and is rattling the nursery door.  No, she's never done that before.  Tomorrow's blog...  Gotta blast.



  1. So with this season, and with last season you don't think it is controversy over who will sell the most records?

    Adam lamber has and always will sell more than kris allen, but in order to boost his sells, wouldn't make more sense for him to win?

    this years winner lee d-bag, fits a mold and patteren, or at least a trend that i am seeing in pop music, especially with the american idol singers following in the footsteps of daughtry.

    I really hope there is a conspircy here, not because i want to be right, but because i want to be wrong about people not voting because contestants are gay, or controversial, or have bad teeth, just makes me feel like a live in a shallow nation.

    sorry hendo...but i can't spell.

  2. Jodie EichelbergerMay 27, 2010 at 12:36 PM

    I agree with everything you said!! Just one more point to add...what is up with America voting for the same old "I wanna be a rock star" guy that sounds just like his predecessors, Chris Daughtry and Chris Allen? Boring!!!!!! Crystal WILL have a helluva career ahead of her and WE will make sure of it!

  3. Agreed. Runners up don't do very well at all. I guess you put that iphone to good work didn't you;-)?

    So riddle me this Robin...why continue to watch? I'm just curious. If everyone just blasts it, why watch it lol? Why do we go bitchcakes (sorry Papa Hendo)?

    And I love that you tagged yourself in yer blog.

  4. I stand corrected... ;-)

  5. On a side note, but still in the realm of music, media and the masses...What is your take on things like creative commons, and since we are on a tangent, what about putting your music up on the rock band game as downloadable content?

  6. So I replied on the last blog, totally forgetting that the voting had already taken place. Wah wah.

    I do agree with your statements. The runner-up is not always better off... this is true. At least Crystal will hopefully have more control over what route she wants to take. I don't know how the whole process works, but I think I remember reading how Kelly Clarkson hated dealing with the A.I. stooges after winning.

    Hopefully things will work out well for the both of them. Personally, I'd love for things to take off for Crystal. I don't know what her personality is, but I think that has a lot to do with whatever happens after Idol. If you notice, the people that didn't win and have had success have the bigger personalities and talent. The winners have mainly had the looks (give or take season 2 haha), the orientation, and for the most part, the balls (literally).

  7. spot on... and i WAS totally uncomfortable reading it... and that's good...

    Kate got out of her crib?!?!?!?! welcome to the new world order!!!

  8. I tweeted something last night about Crystal being better off not winning. And didn't elaborate. I'm so Idol-ed out.

    My mindset of "better off" is freedom. Not $$$. I think/hope Crystal will be "successful" on her own terms. But, with the right support. You know how important that is.

    But, yes. I'm glad you pointed out the runners up past. Yes, Adam absolutely lost because he's gay. And Crystal because she's a girl. That doesn't make me uncomfortable. Just pissed.


  9. Crystal - absolutely the better voice - maybe the most original voice that show has ever seen (although the duet w Alanis was like carbon copy vocals - CB almost did AM better than AM - eerie...) However, I think it is less that she is a woman (women have won, this is not new) but that she didn't fit in any middle American preconceived molds for a pop singer. Crystal never should have let them tart her up, or give her dreads a Snookie Bump, or push her out of her musical comfort zone - she was WAY too uncomfortable there, and made us uncomfortable watching her - she had the gall to argue with the judges (no one seems to like that anymore)- AND she's a single mom, which, more than being femaale, is a social issue that we as a society often judge: "she has a child, she can't possibly committ that kind of time and energy to the process,and if she does, she is short changing her child" etc. Lee is a nice guy, with a nice voice, and a nice feel good back story. We all sort of root for the paint store clerk whose joy at winning was so palpable - especially when the world is so eskew. Crystal is more complicated and makes us question her place and ours - so while I hear you about the runner up myth, I don't agree that it is all about being a "girl".

    (I'm posting as anonymous since I can't seem to remember my aim password...nice)

    Hugs to you, Hendo...Mary Ann S.

  10. I agree with you on most of your blog, and I do think the vast majority of winners are more visible than their runner ups, but as a Broadway fan I can tell you Diana DeGarmo doesn't need anybody's pity or tears. Girl is a bonafide star in those parts. Low key and under the radar but still successful. :)

  11. You really should think about writing a book.

    Oh wait ...

    I've posted your blog to three or four different sights to debunk the "runner-up theory."

  12. I need to get an iPhone so I can be right about things too :(
    Great blog Kristen!! Thanks for pointing out the hard true facts.

  13. @anonymous with the Diana DeGarmo intel, duly noted. I mean, she's not exactly Idina or Kristen Chenoweth. But she's working... It does kill the Bo Bice vs. Diana Degarmo debate, it seems. Unless someone has unearthed whatever Bo is up to. Cause I didn't google it. Just based on the fact that nothing's crossed my interwaves on him.

    @Mary Ann S., I do agree. Crystal did not fit into any preconceived-middle America cookie cutter mold. And yes, girls have won in the past. Even beating cute boys (Clarkson & Sparks). But let's be honest. Those years were truly no contest. Clarkson CRUSHED Justin vocally that entire season, and the beat boxer was never going to win either. So yes. Sometimes girls win. Just like sometimes girls get record deals. Just like sometimes girls have to sleep with their A&R guy to have their record released (not my personal experience, but I've heard reliable stories). Just like sometimes girls have to accept that the radio station is only adding one female led track to the rotation that week/month/quarter. Just like every promoter in the country insists on pairing my band with only female artists, regardless of how inappropriate the genre is, just like, just like, just like.

    I agree. Single mom is way more villainous than first time Dad (Michael Lynche) who thinks auditioning is more important than seeing his daughter be born = hero. If he was pushing that baby out of his penis, he couldn't have made the audition. But since he wasn't, what difference does it make if he's there or not? They can video tape it.

    Being a girl in the music biz ain't easy.

    Just sayin'.

  14. Those kids on Idol are having the ride of their lives....Siobhan singing with the B-Gees made my heart burst.....Lee and Crystal enjoying time with Joe is a crap shoot....winner or not I am much better off for having seen and admired Crystal and she is much better off for having had the opportunity to see herself under such tremendous stress and perform at the top of her game...At least Idol gives these kids a platform....not a perfect one, but it is what it is...... no name for now.

  15. @anonymous "no name for now", your post just reminded how Siobhan was robbed too!

    You're totally right, life IS a crap shoot. I wouldn't say I loved watching every minute of it, but several minutes I did enjoy.

    No doubt, the show is an amazing platform for these kids, extremely entertaining and great fodder for my blog.

    But Siobhan was robbed AND Crystal was robbed. Because they're girls.


  16. perhaps i am missing the entire point... but i do believe "pushing a baby out of his penis" is the best line i've heard in a long, long time...

  17. @liz, ok. let me clarify my point. But I really don't want to go off in this direction too far. For clarification's sake:

    America celebrated the man for missing his child's birth. American Idol worked it into a full blown storyline and it endeared us to Michael Lynche, quite likely pushing him further in the competition than he ever would have gone.

    But the Crystal single mom story wasn't played up in the least. It's not nearly as heart warming a story and doesn't make for great television. If anything, her single motherhood status likely worked against her, and it certainly didn't endear her to the country the way Michael's absence at his own daughter's birth did.



  18. The teeny-boppers of America who call in 1,000 times a night to vote are the same teeny-boppers who love Justin Beeber. That kid is NOT talented. Someone gave him some songs and he sings no better than any other boy his age that can carry a tune. So, they voted for Lee. Lee is cute, Lee has a cool voice, but Crystal killed it. As a Single Mom I know how it goes - and America did not accept the dreds or the feathers in her ears. She will be OK - we will root for her and buy her music. After seeing "Beautiful Day" I certainly would not buy Lee's version! I don't know how to put a name in so I'm anonymous, but really I am Cathy Breen.

  19. Hey @anonymous/CathyBreen, do all single mothers wear feathers in their ears? Just curious. ; )

  20. On the surface Justin Guarini seems like the unfortunate sad sack of the runners up because he is mostly a tv host. But he surely makes more $ than me, so good for him.

    Bo just released another cd and has his southern rock/country thing going. Again, making a living doing what he loves versus working in a grocery store.

    Adam and David Archuleta are doing really well but they might still be riding their 15 minutes of fame. I hope not though.

    Diana is indeed a broadway star now. And apparently a bank--suntrust?-- is using one of her original country songs in a commercial? That's probably banking her a little $$. Plus she's apparently dating her "Hair" co-star Ace Young. Sleeping with him trumps Fantasia's reality show anyday of the week. Sorry Fanny, love ya.

  21. I don't want to turn this blog into a TMZ thing BUT I saw Ace on the subway the other day making out with a girl and it wasn't Diana.

    Loved the blog. You are one funny chick.

  22. Just swinging back through to say that i'm digging the new look around here.

  23. NIce pic. And the blue trim is sweeet. Sweeter than sweet potato pie.

  24. are spot on...and christina aguilera should have been singing "it's a man's world" again but as a duet with crystal...i hope they blow idol up and start all over more vanilla lees...i want me some rocky road crystals winning from now on...and i cant wait to buy her album...she booms the box!

  25. ctdannyd says....

    Kristen, you're right on lots of what you said. Crystal was robbed if you only measure talent. Unfortunately, that's not what Idol does. They market to a young female demographic, and in that, Crystal didn't have a chance.

    I think the runner up is better thing is also out there a bit, but, in most cases, there were some of the top 5 or 10 that did do better than the winner of the "contest".

    Crystal has a long and awesome career ahead of her, but everyone has to remember, even thought the show is over, Simon Fuller owns her ass (or at least 50% of it) for 6 months to a year. So, it's a win/win for the show regardless of who actually wins.

    On another front, with people finally realizing that Idol isn't really a talent show as much as a popularity contest, wait until you see X-Factor. On that show, the 4 judges eventually get to put together a team of the remaining talent (after they're weeded down a bit), and then it's ALL ABOUT THE TEAM. Regardless if you're voting off a MUCH better singer than anyone on your team. Not fair at all.

    Watch the 2009 X-Factor to see a great example of that. Lots of controversy over the puddle last year (re: Lucie Jones).

    Finally (sorry so long winded), the Stern rumor is creeping out again as Simon's replacement. If that happens, they'll loose my household of (3) viewers.

  26. Great blog...and thanks for the recap. I totally got away from AI for a few years until this season, mainly because I can't handle the popularity contest voting mentality. But the female selections this year drew me in and I was really hoping the American Idol public would see the light. Not so.

    And I am sticking to the promise I made in your last blog...never watching Idol again AND I have started my teeny-bopper screenplay. Let me know if you want me to write a Kristen-based character in it! ;op

    FAB photo BTW!

    All the best,

  27. @kimbergie - hah! A character based on moi? Only if you insist....! ;)

    @ctdannyd - Howard Stern would be a nauseating choice. I smell a new blog topic...

  28. I think American Idol has only produced two superstars...Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. But that's not to negate the success of the other winners or runners-up. Even though we may not hear their names every day, in my opinion if they are making a living doing what they love and are happy, then they are a success.

  29. Popping in just to say... Great photo. You know I loves me a great photo.


  30. I think the bottom line is that American Idol is more akin to a cutest baby contest than a good barometer of the best singer. I also think analyzing why someone won is difficult because there are way too many variables in the process and way too many prejudices by any analyst. A person can easily pick facts out to reverse engineer a conclusion, and downplay or ignore the ones that contradict one's conclusion. (Fantasia was a single mom, btw.)

    Yet water-cooler analysis is precisely the show's entertainment value. Talent is secondary. Fortunately, in this digital social networking age, we don't have to be stuck with the musical choices of a TV popularity contest, the executives at the major labels or mainstream radio. Thank gawd.

  31. Crystal is a charismatic person so I'm sure she will be very successful.

  32. Okay, first of all, its KRIS Allen. Wow he must have been forgettable for you not even to know how to spell his name.

    Okay, maybe Diana Degarmo didn't do better than fantasia, but she was absolutely adorable in The Toxic Avengers off broadway. I highly recommend it.

  33. @Ellen, I have to be honest. I can barely remember his name at all. Usually I get the "Kris" part, but can NEVER remember the last name. Boys usually spell it "Ch." Anyway, my mom told me I spelled it wrong too. Whoops.

    @Rick, Fantasia is a single mom. Outstanding point. Got me there. But actually, my point about her single mother-hooded-ness was that it didn't earn her any votes the way, say, it earned Michael Lynche votes for missing his daughter's birth. There's a double standard is what I'm saying. In favor of boys.

  34. So basically, after reading some but not all. Here's what can be summarized from Idol:

    The person who deserves to win, doesn't win all the time.

    The people who are follow uppers..don't stay up..therefore become downers.

    Women do get chosen, but only if they're pretty. I liked Crystal but, based on Hollyweird and musical standards, she wasn't an Underwood..Sparks..Clarkson..Fantasia, etc..Am I the only one who stared at the gap in her teeth? I still support her though based on what I've seen. She's awesome, but not quite what is looked for music. Then again, Jewel was not the um perfect beauty and look how far she got. Not an Idol example but an overall example. I was going to comment about Fantasia winning and being a mom but Rick went ahead and said it. It's like he read my mind. I do agree with you that there is most certainly a double standard alas. Always has been, always will be.

    The show jumped the shark some time ago let's be honest here. Paula leaving. Simon leaving..Kara being added. Then ELLEN. She has as much musical insight as I do for DNA research. And now I hear she has her own label. Are you KIDDING? Seriously. Someone stop the joke. I don't know who they could get to replace Simon. Diddy will expect all the women to be size zeros and use their vocal runs for ACTUAL singing. Stern has no musical value whatsoever. But then again, wouldn't be the first time that that happened.

  35. Well, I had a really good comment, but alas the system failed when loading... To summarize, you failed to mention Jennifer Hudson. She's probably the most successful of the runner's up. The rule might not be that first runner up is more successful, but an argument can be made that America is not so good at picking the most successful winner on a consistent basis. That said, I totally agree that as in society so far, straight men are going to win American Idol over women and gays the majority of the time. Sadly. But fortunately, true entertainers will win in the long run...mostly... I hope...heh.

  36. What about the fact that it was Simonds last AI and he LOVED Lee??? When asked in interviwes who was his pick to win he said "Lee will win".