There are two groups of contestants in the Final 24 -- Those Who Can't Win The Whole Thing, and Those Who Can. As long as they get rid of the first group before starting to pick at the second, it's not worth stressing over the order of elimination. In other words, I don't care if Robbie Carrico goes before Jason Yeager, as long as they both are gone before Michael Johns is at risk. Similarly, with the ladies, as long as women like Asia'h Epperson and Brooke White are in it for a while, Kady Malloy and Ramielle Malubay can fight it out for 11th place.The theory extends on microlevels throughout the competition -- the order of elimination last season between Megan Joy Corkrey, Michael Sarver and Scott MacIntyre didn't matter as long as they wall went before the final 4-5 singers, and it didn't matter whether Allison Iraheta or Danny Gokey went #3 vs #4, so long as Kris Allen and Adam Lambert were the final two.
It's time for Theory #2, which I want to crystallize so much that I'll blockquote it:
Whoever you think is the best singer during the round of 24, or who seems most fully-formed as an artist will not win American Idol. The winner of American Idol will be the singer who demonstrates the most development as an artist during the competition, and over whom the audience can claim more ownership and from whom they will derive more satisfaction as the competition progresses.This theory tracks the last three seasons of American Idol well -- Jordin Sparks over Blake Lewis and Melinda Doolittle, David Cook over David Archuleta and certainly Kris Allen over Adam Lambert. In all three seasons post-Hicks/McPhee on Idol, in which original rearrangements and musicianship have been stressed, it has transitioned from being a Best Singer competition to a Best Artist competition, and within that competition fans will gravitate towards the best narrative. Each of the last three winners showed improvement as artists as the competition progressed, surpassing folks like Melinda Doolittle, Michael Johns, Matt Giraud and Danny Gokey who basically remained at their same (and in some cases, arguably higher) levels of professionalism and talent at which they entered the competition.
Bottom line: don't look at this week's best performances for your Next American Idol. Look instead towards the ones who are competent, somewhat surprising and vaguely interesting, and about whom you may know a little less than others. In other words, no matter how much you think you like him, that you know so much about him already means Andrew Garcia will not become The Next American Idol, because there's no place to go from the top.
[One caveat, however, and that's The Variable: Ellen DeGeneres. We don't know what her preferences are going to be among the singers, and her critiques (and praise) may subtly swing the course of this series just as much as Simon's do, as folks gradually (and perhaps subconsciously) incorporate her views along the way as their own. So if she starts focusing on the technical quality of the singing, all bets are off.]
Kim and I will be around shortly after 10pm with our roundup of tonight's performances.