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American Idol: Tamyra, Nikki, and the Fight for Votesby David Bloomberg -- 08/23/2002
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For a moment, let's put aside the conspiracies of Fox executives or American Idol producers or computer hackers with autodialers. Do I think any of these could have played a role? Yes, the last one, though to what extent I have no idea. But, like I said, let's put that aside.
Instead, let's look at just what might have happened to cause Tamyra to lose. I wrote a similar article when Christina lost. At the time, I pointed the finger at teenage girls who favored boy-bandish RJ over the better, but more adult-oriented, singer, Christina. This time I am not going to point the finger specifically at that group, but I am going to look at fan breakdown.
The main problem, I think, is that the final four fit into three main categories. We had Nikki the rocker/punker/outcast type. Then there was Justin the girl-magnet. These two both have secure fan groups - people who have loved them for almost the entire time (though Justin fell out of favor with some for a couple weeks there) and continue to vote for them. But then we had Kelly and Tamyra. Yes, the women are different, but not in so many ways. Both of them can belt out a great song. Both of them, on pure singing talent alone, should probably be in the final two. But both of them appeal to a similar demographic - those of us who vote in favor of the best pure singers.
It is my contention - although I cannot prove it because Fox won't give out vote totals (perhaps they are afraid we might find a hanging chad) - that Tamyra lost because was fighting for the same votes that Kelly was getting.
Let's take a look at this idea. If you are a fan of great singing, you may have called in votes for both Kelly and Tamyra. Indeed, I know of many people who did just that. So you called in 10 or 20 times for each. Meanwhile, Nikki's fans were voting solely for Nikki. They were not splitting their votes. They were dialing and redialing (to say nothing of autodialing - damn, I said I was going to put that aside) only for Nikki. Even if they spent the same amount of time as you did, they got twice as many votes in because they concentrated on one person. This also explains why Justin was in the top two - his fans may have been doing the same thing.
Another factor is that fans of the others may call in a few times and feel they have done their duty. Dana noted in this article about Tamyra that complacency might have played a big role. But not so for the fans of Nikki. They know that Nikki is consistently in the bottom of the vote-getters. They want to make sure she sticks around, so they may not just call the 20 times from the example above, but 40, 100, or as many as they can in two hours.
I really do think there are more fans of Tamyra, Kelly, and Justin out there than there are for Nikki. But the fans of Nikki make up in dedication what they lack in population. That is how she keeps coming back, week after week.
Yes, Tamyra stumbled this week. She was merely great instead of amazing and astounding. That's why she got fewer votes than Tamyra in the demographic split. But I think this next week will be quite interesting. Putting aside all those who have said they are no longer going to watch the show, I really do think Nikki is headed for the door. Yes, yes, I know I (and just about everybody else) have made this prediction before. But, dammit, it has to be right at some point!
Seriously, there will now be a situation without the potential for vote-splitting. You now have three separate demographics. Furthermore, fans of Kelly have seen that nobody is safe. They must (and I think will) redouble their efforts to make sure she sticks around.
Now, this all raises the question of how to solve this problem in the future. If Fox is looking for a solution, I have seen one raised by several people in e-mails that I think will go a long way: Instead of voting for the person or people you like, vote against the one(s) you don't.
Think about it. How many people actually wanted Tamyra to leave? Very few, judging from the e-mail I've gotten and the studio audience reaction. They might not have thought she was as good this week as, say, Kelly, but they didn't want her gone, either. If American Idol took the same path as other reality shows and let us vote somebody off, Nikki would have been gone by now. It would have removed many of the demographic splitting issues I've discussed here, and focused attention on who people think least deserved to be considered as the American Idol.
Yes, I know it makes the show seem more mean-spirited and less supportive. But it would also, I think, make it more accurate. Now, do I think Fox is going to adopt this? No. They and American Idol producers want fans to support the performers - especially when it comes time to sell albums at the end. They don't want to turn this into a show where viewers target those they want to evict. It's a choice between accuracy and what they think makes for good TV and sales. You know accuracy is going to lose every time.
David Bloomberg is the Editor of Foxes On Idol, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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