What strikes me the most looking at the final two for season 11 of American Idol is the resemblance to season 5. The male R&B artist is sent home in third place, leaving the young female pop star, who has appeared in the bottom group of vote-getters before, and the male rocker with a unique sound who has never appeared in the bottom two, as the final two standing. We know how that season ended up.
That’s right. Season 5 that crowned Taylor Hicks as the winner and Katharine McPhee as the runner-up, and sent Elliott Yamin home in third place, looks the most like our emerging finale for season 11. And season 5 is recognized widely as a bust. What will make the difference for season 11? Will it be because Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez, and Joshua Ledet for that matter, are different artists?
I think the difference will be Jimmy Iovine. As much as I don’t always agree with him, I think the difference with the Idols now is that they work with the producer every week leading up to the finale. He understands the artists he’s working with. Taylor, Katharine, and Elliott didn’t seem to be understood very well originally, and none were extremely successful, especially Taylor.
Much more could have been done with Taylor. It’s not like he’s a non-talent. What the Idol machine often misses out on is the personalities they’re given with their winners. The winners that never appear in the bottom two have a way of winning over audiences, not necessarily selling records. Jennifer Hudson opened it up with Dreamgirls. No one said you had to start out with a chart-topping album. She’s now an Oscar-winner. Katharine is now on a successful series. Realize the talent that you have instead of forcing them into the Idol winner and runner-up box.
Hopefully Jimmy will do that with Phillip and Jessica, as well as Joshua. Obviously there’s a market out there for his R&B, just as Elliott eventually found. But you can’t market him as a pop artist. Jessica can’t be marketed as the second coming of Mariah Carey, despite having the vocal chops, because she’s too young, She needs to be marketed like Jordin Sparks. Phillip needs to be marketed as an alternative rocker and singer/songwriter. That’s what he is. It’s a style of artist the Idol machine hasn’t marketed yet.
That’s the key to the success of the Idols, not the Idols themselves. It’s all in the marketing. Look at what’s on the radio today and who is successful. Listen to their voices. They aren’t any more talented than the Idols. But they’re marketed correctly for their talent and personalities. The most successful Idols, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, while all being extremely talented, are all marketed correctly.
But first, before Phillip and Jessica are marketed, one of them has to be crowned a winner. While the Idol machine works behind the scenes, probably already putting everything in place to sign Joshua before someone else does, as they did with Elliott, Phillip and Jessica will be putting everything in place for the finale next week. Here’s a look at their chances next week.
Phillip Phillips – Randy Jackson kept telling Hollie Cavanagh she was peaking at the right time. He was obviously off the mark, since she’s out of the running. The person who was actually peaking at the right time was Phillip. He wowed us early with his talent, but got too predictable in the middle rounds. Last week, he reached a new level by dropping that protective wall he had up, and allowed us inside his performances. This week he kicked the door open with We’ve Got Tonight.
If Phillip steamrolls over the building next week, letting us see that tender singer/songwriter inside of him that has been trying to crawl out every week, he’s the winner. The competition is already his to lose anyway based on existing votes and audience screams. If he crawls back inside himself and plays it safe, he might lose.
Jessica Sanchez – This girl has done the insurmountable. She lost the viewer votes early on, then clawed her way back. She has proved she’s a fighter. And that’s something that even losing this thing won’t take away from her. She’s been wanting and fighting for this since she was 5. She isn’t going to give it away next week.
Yet, Jessica’s undoing will be in something she has no power to change. Her talent doesn’t match her age. She has vocals that can pull off Mariah Carey, but her maturity level is at Miley Cyrus in her Hannah Montana days. Those two don’t match up. She’d simply look ridiculous singing Disney songs. We know her talent far surpasses that. Yet she comes off unbelievable singing Mariah songs.
This is why Jessica needs to be marketed carefully. If the producers are smart, they’ll double market her. They’ll let Jessica Sanchez put out an album, and a few months later they’ll let “BeBe Chez” put out an album. She has that split in her, let her do it. Just don’t dress her like she belongs on a street corner. And the time to start setting that up is now. Let her perform in the finale as both Jessica and Bebe. It will get people talking and make them remember the performances. And if they remember the performances, she just might get the votes. But she will not win singing Mariah and Whitney songs.