It makes no real difference once the obvious stinkeroonies in the top 12 are sent packing how many people vote by phone, text or online. It all boils down to who the producers think will make Interscope the most money. Same thing on "The Voice" and "AGT," except it's NBCUniversal. If it were truly about pure talent and not marketability, there would be no age limits. ("BGT" used to be about pure talent until Paul Potts won and Susan Boyle nearly won, and the producers' record label bean-counters nearly threw themselves into the Thames in a panic--turns out that enough of my fellow-geezer demographic ignored Boyle's Asperger-inflected phrasing and scooped up at least her debut CD if only for the novelty factor). If you think I'm being a bit cynical here, remember a few years back when, after "Senior Idol" died a quick and merciful death, the "Today" show decided to run its own singing competition for "normal people?" Buried in the rules was an upper age limit of 42. No surprise, since grand prize was a major-label record contract. (Which is why I never tried out for any of these shows despite others' urging--I'd rather entertain fans one-on-one in coffeehouses, house concerts and writers' rounds). So Interscope is betting on a teenage diva, a male R&B/gospel powerhouse not seen since Vandross died, and a guitar-slinging cougar-tween-DMBfan-magnet who will cross over into AAA radio for awhile till someone truly original comes along (unless Cocker dies and Matthews retires).
So let's see--why did Bidet, Sancheese, and Pee Too make it into the top 3? Even though Hollie has a voice reminiscent of Melissa Manchester in her prime, she has the off-mic personality of not the girl-next-door but the shy neurotic girl next door. And not in a funny Woody Allen or Rita Rudner--or humble Sally Field "you really like me!"--way either; but in a way that makes you want not to comfort and reassure her but instead turn away awkwardly because you really don't know what to say to keep her from falling apart. It's not a matter of she "can't make us love" her, but rather, she's never sure we LIKE her. Sort of reverse stage fright--not afraid of the performance but terrified of its aftermath. Add to that the fact she's so blandly nice (as opposed to Taylor Swift perkily nice) that there is utterly nothing there for even the most creative publicist to hang her Tweets on. No P.R.=no press=no sales.
Jessica is a lifelong showbiz kid, even if neither of her parents were pros. It's in her culture: musical performance ability is to modern Filipino families as mere academic ability is to other ethnicities (make no mistake about it, that musical ability also has to be accompanied by academic prowess). If a middle-class Filipina-American kid can't get into conservatory, she'd damn well better get into med or grad school...preferably both. (My husband's partner in his medical practice is one of 12 Filipina kids and it's only her achievement as a doctor that's kept her mom from comparing her unfavorably to her Grammy-nominated sax-playing Ph.D biochemist brother. Tip: if you are invited to a Filipino dinner or holiday party, put down the mic and back away from the karaoke system unless you can throw it down vocally with the best of them). Though she's only 16 and has had NONE of the life experiences in the lyrics she sings, you'd better believe she's studied every note in the performances of every diva who HAS lived those songs. By osmosis, it was impossible for her not to have become a good actress as a singer. Poor Hollie, having grown up in a completely different small-town culture where she was expected to be merely smart, diligent and a "mensch," didn't stand a chance. Maybe 5-10 years of life experience (including, alas, rejection) in both romance and the music industry will give her the nuance, proportion and instincts she so desperately needs to temper her vocal firepower. She's nonetheless the best #4 finisher since Daughtry.
Poor Joshua. I really, really feel for the guy even when he makes my ears bleed. In this day & age when LGBTs are finally being accepted by a majority of Americans (and embraced by fans), he still is afraid to come out. He doesn't dare--he's a PK (Preacher's Kid), and not in the United Church of Christ or MCC either: traditional African-American Protestant, which is as socially conservative as any LDS, Orthodox Jewish or pre-Vatican II Catholic congregation. It nearly breaks my heart when he speaks, as if he so dearly wishes to finally be openly true to himself. (There's a small chance that he talks that way because while Papa was on the pulpit, he had mostly female role models raising him--just as even some straight male figure skaters speak in a sterotypically gay manner because they grew up mostly among women, girls and gay men as their auditory points of reference).
That brings us to Phil. (Enough with the "Phillip" already, it's getting too cutesy and will annoy deejays in record time--no pun intended but I'll take it). Gotta admit that though his vocal range is limited and his ear for pitch erratic, as a WGWG on Idol he's probably the best acoustic guitarist they've had in the finals....except for Bowersox, whom I've heard leave her fellow Chicago open mikers slack-jawed with her guitar chops. And though he's almost certainly in violation of his AI contract by skipping all those video and photo shoots (c'mon, nobody can time their kidney stones THAT accurately), it's not just us Worsters and his cougar-tweenie-Matthews wannabe fanbase that'll put him over the top. The producers know that his anti-authoritarian yet sociologically unthreatening mien is exactly what they need to cynically "prove" to a jaded and disgusted music-consumer public that the music industry recognizes some individuality.......even if that individuality is derivative as hell.
At this point, I don't really care who wins. Except for Clarkson & Underwood, the Idol finalists with the most robust and enduring careers have been the also-rans. Everyone in the Final Four this year will land on their feet in the music industry (as have their predecessors--even Doolittle is quietly pulling in triple session scale and will make a lifelong living rather than a brief killing)...it's up to the winner to stay there.
What really fries me is why Chris Mann chose that commercial piece of schlock "You Raise Me Up" as his "classical" piece in "The Voice's" finals, when he'd have wiped the floor with everyone else had he done "Nessun Dorma" or "Vesti La Giubba," (Wrong series, I know--just hadda vent).