The ouster of Pia Toscano from American Idol tells me one (or more) of three things: American Idol is broken. American Idol is unfair. American Idol is rigged.
Analyzing these ideas:
American Idol is Broken
This is assuming that American Idol is actually a talent contest looking for the best singer. With that assumption, the ouster of Pia is certainly proof, and proof we’ve seen before. Let’s now reconsider what its purpose is. Perhaps its purpose is to find a marketable performer. Defining success as having gone platinum, we see a total of eight Idol alums, six of which were the actual winners for their season. Of those eight, the genders are equally represented. However, of those that win the season, the women, without exception, went platinum with at least one album. The Idol female season winners are: Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood and Jordan Sparks. Only two of the five male season winners have gone platinum: Ruben Studdard and David Cook. Statistically this says that if the goal is to sell records, women are the more reliable choices to win. However, the people deciding who wins are not the people who are buying the records (clearly or there would be more correlation between winners and record sales). The people deciding the winners are young women and teenage girls, thus explaining Sanjaya and David Archuleta. Double However, the actual goal of American Idol is to make money however they can, starting with television advertising revenue and ending with merchandise sales and making a few bucks actually selling music.
American Idol is Unfair
American Idol is Rigged
I’m not saying they choose who will win. I’m just gullible enough to trust them to be honest with the highest vote count. Just Kidding. No, really. I don’t believe for a second that they don’t understand how to market for success. Let’s draw out the scenario.
Contestant A is an awesome singer, guaranteed to sell at least enough records to make it worth the investment to make a record.
Contestant B is a good singer, but not quite good enough to make that guarantee.
Who, in winning, results in the most record sales for the Idol Producers?
The answer is B. By slapping the title “American Idol Winner” on the album, they can boost sales enough to make the record profitable.
So then the question becomes when do you pull contestant A out of the competition?
The answer is: When all the other contestants look like amateurs in comparison.
I’m not saying they do this every year. There is not always a stand out from the pack. But I can point to two contestants that were, and who were voted off just as they were striding away from the pack. Chris Daughtry and Pia Toscano.
It’s just a little too convenient that both of those people had record deals lined up within a week of being booted. Rumors of Pia’s record deal were coming from her mouth within 48 hours. Daughtry’s was carved in stone in less than two weeks.
Pia, unlike any Idol contestant, ever before, knows exactly who she is as a singer. There’s no reason to think she needs to ever sing anything other than a ballad. They make entire albums of Ballads. Those records sell.
I can’t verify any of these are true. It’s just a suspicion. But conspiracy theories are the adult version of fairy tales ; even the little meaningless ones are fun.
In the end, it’s just a television showcase of fairly talented people trying to endear themselves to the American audience. Those who succeed in that, whether they win the competition or not, will sell records, those that don’t will, at worst, be relegated to the local college bars. In any event, the show makes money for it’s producers and for the FOX network. In that, it’s still succeeding in its purpose.