For years now, particularly since the inception of Vote for the Worst, American Idol has had one person who continually gets through week after week, despite bad performances and nasty critiques from the American Idol judges.
Everyone remembers Nikki McKibbin from Season 1, for example. Or Sanjaya Malakar from Season 6, who rose to 7th place despite horrendous performance after horrendous performance. You also likely remember Simon Cowell’s initial amusement... that quickly turned to outright disgust. As he famously said to him during his run, “Sanjaya, I don't think it matters anymore what we say ... I think you are in your own universe and if people like you, good luck."
Fans reacted to Sanjaya with their votes of support despite his terrible performances, with Vote for the Worst at least partially fueling his success. Even though quite a few people voted for Sanjaya just because he was the worst singer, many actually admired his upbeat attitude and continued to vote for him no matter how badly he performed. Quite a few fans, however, were beyond frustrated at watching him soar through week to week while other, better singers were eliminated. One woman on MySpace (‘member MySpace?) even said she was going on a hunger strike until he was voted off.
Here we are again during season 12 with another Sanjaya on our hands: Lazaro Arbos. While he comes with a much more touching backstory (having had a stutter since he was six years old that he loses when he sings), he pretty much is the same flavor of contestant as Nikki McKibbin or Sanjaya Malakar. All three of these contestants had a strangely huge fan following even in their worst moments.
Whether people just give these finalists their votes because they truly like them, or because they like to defy the judges and producers, they keep on making it way further in the competition than they should.There is just a certain amount of popularity and curiosity that surrounds these types of hopefuls. Kind of like watching a train wreck in action and, in a way, having a hand in causing the disaster to take place.
The downside to this weird fascination with horrible contestants is watching really talented singers like Devin Velez, Curtis Finch Jr., and Burnell Taylor go home, while Lazaro Arbos has flubbed his lyrics and lost his pitch nearly every week and still survived. If you look even further back, amazingly talented people like Isabel Pasqualone and Breanna Steer were sent home, while less talented guys got through. Of course, that has to due with the gender split, which we also think is an issue (for another day!).
Lazaro had two abysmal performances on American Idol last night, one of which was out of key from beginning to end. But will he still make it to the Season 12 Top 5? If the American Idol judges had a "Veto" power in addition to, or in place of a "Save", we know exactly who would be eliminated on the show next.
The problem with the judges’ Save power, which Nicki Minaj called “bullsh*t” on Twitter, is that it doesn’t keep people like Lazaro from getting through with the help of pity votes and the VFTW factor. And the judges are to afraid to use them on people like Burnell, lest someone like Kree Harrison end up on the chopping block the following week due to a voting snafu. We all remember the Chris Daughtry fiasco during season five. No one really knows what happened, but many have thought that, because Chris was so popular during season five, everyone assumed he was safe and therefore used their votes on others. It’s what many think caused the show to enlist the Save power in the first place.
But what if the judges were given one elimination in addition to the Save? If they decided not to use the Save on someone like Devin, they could decide to use their veto power that week instead, and send two people home (buh bye, Laz), thus nipping the problem in the bud. When they are doing the big revamp for American Idol 2014 the show needs so badly, we can only hope someone in the big office will think of this idea...
What do you think of this idea? What are some other ways to prevent talented people from going home while popular but mediocre singers get through?