I didn’t catch Simon Cowell on the Larry King show Friday night, but I did read the transcript of the interview over at CNN.com. He repeated his prediction–that Chris Daughtry, Taylor Hicks and Kellie Pickler would be the Top 3 contestants this year.
Here’s my extremely cynical take on Simon’s “prediction”. I don’t think he’s merely parroting who he thinks the viewing public will like–or who’s running highest in the voting–though Chris, Taylor and Kellie could very well be the Top 3 right now. Simon has said on many occasions that he plays judge on Idol because the winner gets signed to his record label. He’s got a big financial stake in the winner, as do the other producers who get various pieces of the pie–no way can they afford to sit back and “let America decide.” The judges function, among other things, is to influence viewer opinion. Although viewers have a love/hate relationship with Simon, I think they love to hate him. Occasionally (like with Melissa the last week of semi-finals) he’ll cross the line and there’s a backlash. But I think his opinion is highly regarded and does influence the viewer’s opinions. His critiques can help to make or break a contestant.
Having said that, I’m aware of the AI voters who are unmoved by the “pimping”. I think that super-fans of the show, like ME–and many of you out there reading this blog–are more likely to do your own thing, than the millions and millions of casual fans who watch the show and may pick up the phone to cast some votes. I also believe that the Idol internet fandom is its own world, and really not a microcosm of the entire AI audience.
Coming back round to my original point. I think Simon is repeating this prediction to reinforce the “chosen” winners in viewer’s minds. Why else would he do this? Why ruin the suspense by leaking who’s leading the voting? Simon went out on the interview circuit the past three seasons and “predicted” the wins of Ruben, Fantasia and Carrie. So, if this year runs the same course, expect Chris Daughtry to win AI5. Simon has said more than once that Chris is “real world” and “radio ready”. I believe the producers want him to win–watch as he gets the best placement in the performance line up, all his songs are cleared, and he’s given plenty of airtime and flattering video packages. And watch as the judges mostly praise him week after week, even when he turns in less-than-steller performances.
But, maybe Taylor Hicks will win. I’ve been so, so, so wrong about Taylor in the past, I could be wrong now, too.
Thanks to the reader who posted the Insider and ET scoop: The 11 finalists made a trip to Las Vegas to see Barry Manilow perform. While they are there, Barry will also work with each contestant on their song selection.