The Idol nation is a colourful mosiac. It ranges from casual viewers who sometimes watch when they are flipping channels to those who are regular watchers to people who follow the show online (most of you) to the sage fanatics who parse the show into minute details. This is our annual round up of the works of the latter group. They have theorized, experimented, catalogued and let their imaginations run wild. They have found the patterns, the sign-posts, the fortune cookies of the gods. They know where the four horsemen are and they can tell you who will win Idol this year. Some call them crazy. I call them fun. Let us examine their predictions…
1) So the Last (alphabetically) will be First
Growing up, those at the front of the alphabet have the advantage. When the kids give Valentines to everyone in the class, those in the A’s through E’s get the carefully selected cards with the neat writing. The T’s through Z’s? They get scrawls on whatever slightly ripped cards are left-over. At high school graduations, the A’s are met with wild applause and whoops. R through W get the tepid applause of “Is this still going on? My hands hurt. I’ve seen my kid. Would anybody notice if I just slipped out?” All their lives, the Aaron’s are given subtle positive rewards while the Zacharies are not. Idol is one of the few entities to reverse that trend. For whatever reason, Idol viewers prefer to reverse the alphabet rules when it comes to voting in the finale. This rule held sway for the first 11 years of Idol history, but was rejected last year. Has the polarity changed for good or was last year an aberration?
David C/David A
2) It is a Truth Universally Acknowledged that a Contestant from the South will Win
This is perhaps one of the oldest legends in the pantheon of Idol predictions. Southerns seems to have some sort of hypnotic power over the Idol voters. Many times, the entire finale is full of Southerners. Some say it is because Northerners have better things to do with their time than vote for reality shows. Some say that South is a better incubator for musical talent. Some say that AT&T had a bigger presence in the South allowing their texters to hold sway. Some say Northerners are just big whiners. Whatever the real reason is, this theory is persistent and was quoted as recently as Friday (if not Sunday).
I’ll be honest, as somebody who is not from the States, it seems to me that the definition of “South” is somewhat arbitrary and elastic. Arizona is not South, but Virgina is. Oklahoma and Missouri share a border, but one is South and one is Mid-west. For some strange reason, both North Carolina and South Carolina are Southern states. Why did they ever split? Yah. Yah. I got my own history to study. I don’t expect you to know why several dogs named Pat were consulted about my country’s involvement in WWII do I? So, bear with me if I mis-classify some North by North West state as being North by West North.
For the record, here is how I classify the wins:
Kelly (Texas)/Justin (Pennsylvania) – South won
Ruben (Alabama)/Clay (North Carolina) – Both from the South
Fantasia (North Carolina)/Diana (Georgia) – Both from the South
Carrie (Oklahoma)/Bo (Alabama) – Both from South
Taylor (Alabama)/Katharine (California) – South won
Jordin (Arizona)/Blake (Washington) – Neither from the South
Cook (Missouri)/Archie (Utah) – Neither from the South
Kris (Arkansas)/Adam (California) – South Won
Lee (Illinois)/Crystal (Ohio) – Neither from the South
Scotty (North Carolina)/Lauren (Georgia) – Both from the South
Phil (Georgia)/Jessica (California) – South Won
Kree (Texas)/Candice(South Carolina) – Both from the South
Caleb (North Carolina)/Jena (Michigan) – Caleb from the South
Accuracy: 100% (4 out of 4 times a Southerner faced somebody from the non-South), 75% (9 out of 12 winners from the South).
Note: AT&T is no longer a sponsor and voting rules have changed this year. Will that impact this superstition?
3) Losers Bottom-two Many Times Before Their deaths; The Winners Never Taste of Bottom-two But Once.
As we saw throughout this year, people who end up being eliminated were often already in peril before. It shows a lack of devoted fan base to get a seat amongst the stools of doom and one really is just buying time. This is generally true of Idol winners – many of whom breeze through with never a week in danger. It’s not full-proof though because some years the race is close (meaning a potential bottom-two near the end) and some years viable contestants stumble out of the gate but have solid footing near the end.
Plus, they don’t always tell us who is bottom 2.
Season 1: Kelly (never) vs Justin (Bottom 2 – Top 7): Advantage Kelly; Kelly won
Season 2: Ruben (Bottom 2 – Top 5) vs Clay (Needed WC to advance): Tough to call – Ruben actually won the semi-final round that Clay did not advance on, but Clay apparently led for the rest of the season –
Advantage: Clay; Ruben won
Season 3: Fantasia (Bottom 2 – Top 7 & 4) vs Diana (Bottom 3 – Top 11, 9 & 8) Diana hit the seal more often, but earlier in the competition (indicating that she gained fans through the competition) and never hit the bottom 2 like Fantaisa did. Advantage: Diana; Fanatasia won
Season 4: Carrie (never) vs Bo (Bottom 2 – Top 8): Advantage Carrie; Carrie won
Season 5: Taylor (never) vs Kat (Bottom 2 – Top 10 & 4): Advantage Taylor; Taylor won
Season 6: Jordin (never) vs Blake (Bottom 3 – Top 7): Advantage Jordin; Jordin won
Season 7: David (never) vs David (never): Advantage none; David won
Season 8: Kris (Bottom 3 – Top 5) vs Adam (Bottom 2 – Top 5): Advantage Kris; Kris won
Season 9: Lee (never) vs Crystal (never): Advantage none; Lee won
Season 10: Scotty (never) vs Lauren (Bottom 2 – Top 5): Advantage Scotty; Scotty won
Season 11: Phillip (never) vs Jessica (Eliminated and Saved – Top 7): Advantage Phil; Phil won
Season 12: Candice (Bottom 2 – Top 4A) vs Kree (Bottom 2 – Top 5): Advantage: too close to call: Candice won
Season 13: Caleb (never) vs Jena (WC, Bottom 3 – Top 12): Advantage: Caleb
Accuracy: 100% (9/9 clear calls – 82% (9/11) on iffy calls – 83% or 75% depending on how you call last year)
4) Blessed are the Last – For They Shall Inherit the Win
All year long, fans hope that their favourite contestant will perform last. This is a theory that transcends the murky forests of Idol conspiracies – mainstream media has written of this phenomena and asked the producers about it. The producers generally feign ignorance. The last slot has long been called the pimp spot and in any sport, getting the last at bat, stone throw or chance to dive has always been seen as an advantage. Performing last gives one the chance to obliterate everything that has come before you with an Idol “Moment”. Everything can pale in comparison. You give the last impression. So powerful is this spot, that from its first Season, Idol producers have left the final two performance slot up to chance. A coin toss (sometimes I suspect that the coin is loaded) decides who performs last. The contestant almost always chooses to perform last if they don’t decide to be a gentleman and/or an idiot instead.
That said, the pimp spot does not guarantee the win:
Kelly/Justin: Kelly won the coin toss, sang last and won
Ruben/Clay: Clay won the coin toss, sang last and lost
Fantasia/Diana: Fantasia won the coin toss, sang last and won
Carrie/Bo: Carrie won the coin toss, sang last and won
Taylor/Kat: Taylor won the coin toss, sang last and won
Jordin/Blake: Blake won the coin toss, gave the choice to Jordin who sang last and won
Cook/Archie: Archie won the coin toss, sang last and lost
Kris/Adam: Kris won the coin toss, sang last and won
Lee/Crystal: Crystal won the coin toss, sang last and lost
Scotty/Lauren: Scotty won the coin toss, gave the choice to Lauren who sang last and lost
Phil/Jessica: Phil won the coin toss, sang last and won
Candice/Kree: Kree won the coin toss, chose to sing first (?!?!?) and Candice who sang last won
Accuracy: 67% (8 out of 12)
If you count the coin toss winners, 8 out of 12 (67%) have won.
5) Insanity is Auditioning for Idol, Over and Over again, but Expecting Different Results.
Idol winners are generally first time auditioners. It may be that if you have that certain je-ne-c’est-quoi (Simon would say X-Factor), you make it onto the show and win the first time you try. If you are technically a good performer and singer, but lack that star power, you get rejected as an auditioner. If you keep trying, eventually you may make it on the show, but you aren’t going to win. On the other hand, if you are not what the producers are looking for that given year (for instance, Ed Sheeran could have auditioned last year and they weren’t going to let his foot anywhere near the door because they were determined to have a non-WGWG winner).
Season 1: Kelly vs Justin – obviously, both first time auditioners
Season 2: Ruben vs Clay – apparently, both first time auditioners
Season 3: Fantasia vs Diana – first timers, though Diana had done the pageant circuit
Season 4: Carrie vs Bo – first time for each
Season 5: Taylor vs Kat – two first timers
Season 6: Jordin vs Blake – first timers – but Jordin did audition in two cities (cut in the arena the first time) and was on the kids version of AI
Season 7: David vs David – also first timers (Archuleta had been on Star Search)
Season 8: Kris vs Adam – first time auditioners
Season 9: Lee vs Crystal – first time auditioners
Season 10: Scotty vs Lauren – first time auditioners
Season 11: Phillip vs Jessica – first time auditions, but both auditioned for AGT (Jessica got further)
Season 12: Candice (auditioned Seasons 9, 10 and 11) vs Kree (first timer)
Season 13: Jena (X-Factor) vs Caleb (auditioned Seasons 10 and 11)
Confidence: Low – repeat auditioners don’t generally make the finale, but the one time one did, they won.
6) Two by Two They Came into the Win
The Idol Fates smile on those with double letters in their names. Idols that change their names to have double letters are doubly loved. Those that reject parts of their names with double letters feel the full wrath of the Idoldom’s fury. Idol contestants would be wise to choose their Idol names wisely.
Season 1: Kelly Brianne Clarkson (“ll”, “nn”) vs Justin Eldrin Guarani (Zero!)
Season 2: Christopher Theodore Ruben Studdard (“dd”) vs Clayton Holmes Aiken (and that is why he can only win when his opponent dies)
Season 3: Fantasia Monique Barrino (“rr” – wisely kept the last name until she won) vs Diane Nicole Degarmo (her marriage to Ace Young did not help in this department)
Season 4: Carrie Marie Underwood (“rr”,”oo”) vs Harold Edwin “Bo” Bice (should have had the nickname “Boo” Radley instead)
Season 5: Taylor Ruben Hicks (no double letters unless you start gluing names together) vs Katharine Hope McPhee (“ee” – she should have won by this rule)
Season 6: Jordin Brianna Sparks (“nn”) vs Blake Colin Lewis (he may repeat syllables when beat-boxing, but he does not repeat letters in his name)
Season 7: David Roland Cook (“oo”) vs David James Archuleta (see…he should spell his last names with double “tt”s as I too frequently do)
Season 8: Kristopher Neil Allen (“ll”) vs Adam Mitchel Lambert (not happening)
Season 9: Leon (Lee) James Dewyze (“ee” – wise choice to pick up the double letter nickname – the Fates smiled) vs Crystal Lynn Bowersox (“nn” – nicknames trump middle names).
Season 10: Scotty Cooke McCreery (“tt”, “oo”, “cc”, “ee” – a new record!) vs Lauren Alaina [Suddeth] (Idol gods angry about that double name drop)
Season 11: Phillip Phillips (“ll”, “ll”, same name twice, same name as his dad) vs Jessica Sanchez (“ss” – overwhelmed)
Season 12: Candace Rickelle Glover (“ll” in the middle name”) vs Kree Annette Harrison (“ee”, “nn”, “tt”, “rr” – ties the record with Scotty but still loses)
Season 13: Caleb Perry Johnson (“rr” in the middle name) vs JENA [Irene [Ascuitto]] (dropping the last name and losing the double “tt”‘s will be met with ire. Just ask Lauren).
7) One Fish, Two Fish, Lose Fish, Win Fish
It has been observed that the whichever gender has majority at top 3 wins the show. It may be that people prefer certain types of voices (male or female) and were vote splitting at top 3. It may be that two contestants of the same gender are seen as being good friends so fans slide their vote over to their favourite’s best friend. It may be that it is just a coincidence.
Kelly/Justin/Nikki – two females, one male = female winner
Ruben/Clay/Kim – two males, one female = male winner
Fantasia/Diana/Jasmine – three females = female winner
Carrie/Bo/Vonzell – two females, one male = female winner
Taylor/Katharine/Elliot – two males, one female = male winner
Jordin/Blake/Melinda – two females, one male = female winner
Cookie/Archie/Syesha – two males, one female = male winner
Kris/Adam/Gokey – three males = male winner
Lee/Crystal/Casey – two males, one female = male winner
Scotty/Lauren/Haley – two females, one male = male winner
Phil/Jessica/Josh – two males, one female = male winner
Candice/Kree/Angie – three females – female winner
Caleb/Jena/Alex – two males, one female = male winner
8) Some of the Worst Mistakes in My Life were Haircuts
Back when Glee was watchable, they had a show about Hairography. The premise was that hair can be used to distract from otherwise mediocre performances. Perhaps people have internalized such a message and if the hair becomes too relevant to the performances, they think less of the performer. Or maybe voters forget what you look like if you mess too much with your hair (those channel flippers sometimes vote). So, I’ve attempted to categorize people based on their relative note-worthiness of their hair.
Kelly (short bob) vs Justin (Side Show Bob) – Justin had more noteworthy hair
Ruben (bald) vs Clay (flat-iron addict) – Clay’s hair was much commented upon as was his transformation in general
Fantasia (no-nonsense pixie cut) vs Diana (long tresses worn in a variety of styles) – Diana’s hair was used more to define performances
Carrie (long hair) vs Bo (longer hair, plus a beard!) – Bo was a shock to the Idol viewers used to
clean-cut, short-haired contestants
Taylor (grey hair, $8 hair cut) vs Katharine (hair extensions) – Taylor started out with the most hair comments, but when he insisted on doing nothing with it, Katharine’s tresses got more of the styling attention
Jordin (flowing hair) vs Blake (always with the new styles, even changed from blonde to black!) – people tuned in to see what Blake had done with his hair
Cook (didn’t one of those over-reacting teens say “But he’s bald!) vs Archie (thick locks) – Cook let the hair dye grow out and Archie took the lead on noteable hair
Kris (did he ever even change his hair?) vs Adam (even brought in his own hair stylist) – Adam was definitely the hair revolutionist of the two.
Lee (boring, non-descript hair plus muskrat on his face) vs Crystal (much commented-upon Dreadlocks) – Crystal made waves with her hair while people tried forgot Lee’s hair as much as possible.
Scotty (started with a buzzcut and ended up with about an an inch of hair) vs Lauren (long hair, extensions, which ended up dyed two different colours) – after he grew it out (an inch!) people ignored his hair and focused on Lauren’s two tones.
Phil (ran away from the stylists, probably didn’t even own a comb) vs Jessica (always looking styled) – no contestant has rejected hair care as much as Phil since Taylor, so Jessica was clearly the int-hair-esting one here.
Kree (long hair that seems to get blown dry and she’s good to go) vs Candice (lots of different, stylish looks) – Candice had the more remarkable hair
Caleb (stringy hair that frequently looks unwashed) vs Jena (adopted a new style which JLo raves about) – Caleb belongs to the Phil/Taylor school of hair styling while not even bothering with the basics of hair maintenance – Jena’s bangs rule the hairwaves.
9) Saving the Best for Last
It is an argument that rages endlessly in the Idoldome. Every year, it is noticed that some contestants get to frequently perform near the end of the show while others are tossed out like cannon fodder at the beginning of the show. Fans will say that their favourite performs later because they are better/more popular and viewers would stop watching the show after they perform so in only makes sense they perform last. Detractors say they need the propping up that performing later provides with getting votes. Who is right? Without the vote tallies (please, please when the show ends can we get vote tallies in a tell-all book somewhere?), this argument can never be won.
But, our new theory this year (there must always be a new one) is to explore if favourable/unfavourable performance order can predict the win. To do this, I looked at when each final two performer performed in the order and even something like that can be somewhat arbitrary. I’ve included all voting rounds (ie semi-finals and finals) and duets (but not threesomes or larger because I think duets can feature a contestant while larger groups don’t give enough opportunity to shine). On nights with multiple performances where the order changed, I just looked at the last flight (so if you start and end the show, I only count it as ending the show). I classify first, last, first third, last third (I may have sometimes changed whether 8th out of 11 constitutes last third because I was distracted by a bird or a cookie). I don’t count final 2 performances because the Fates decide those.
Stats (first, first third, last third, last) – if you are first you also performed in the first third. If you are last, you also performed in the last third
Kelly (1,1,5,3) vs Justin (0,1,4,2) – first year and pimping not perfected?
Ruben (1,3,7,4) vs Clay (2,6,4,4) – Clay more at risk performing early, we are told he dominated the votes until he last very close battle
Fantasia (2,3,5,3) vs Diana (4,4,6,4) – IDK Seems Diana was both put at risk more and pimped more
Carrie (2,7,5,2) vs Bo (1,5,5,2) – Carrie put at risk performing early
Taylor (3,3,7,3) vs Kat (2,2,6,3) – Taylor more at risk performing early, but not much more. Daughtry stats would be interesting.
Jordin (2,4,5,3) vs Blake (2,3,4,1) – Blake seems slightly more at risk, coronation song killed him
Cook (1,4,6,3) vs Archie (1,3,6,3) – most even year (in many categories), but Cook a little more at risk
Kris (1,5,2,1) vs Adam (0,0,8,5) – most uneven year, Kris clearly more at risk
Lee (4,5,6,4) vs Crystal (2,3,6,2) – these third years feature the same pattern of distributed risk
Scotty (3,3,3,0) vs Lauren (1,4,4,1) – Scotty more at risk
Phillip (2,4,5,2) vs Jessica (0,1,6,1) – Phillip more at risk
Candice (2,2,3,2) vs Kree (3,3,4,2) – Kree slightly more at risk
Caleb (3,4,5,3) vs Jena (3,4,6,3) – Caleb slightly more at risk
I would guess that the person with the more stable voting block was more likely to be put at risk performing early and that generally led to thhat person winning (Clay being the biggest exception with known data). I think that gives Caleb the slight advantage.
Accuracy: 66% (if we look only at the 9 years where there seems to be somebody more at risk
10) The Curse Of Kristy Lee Cook – to be retired?
Kristy Lee Cook is the harbinger of WGWG. She is said to have predicted the next 5 winners of the show based on her name alone. Kristy Lee Cook was originally known for selling her favourite horse, getting sick and murdering the Beatles “8 Days a Week”. But then, a guy with the same last name as her won Idol that year (David Cook). That barely rated a notice. The next year, another guy won with the first name Kris (Kris Allen). Kris cook. “Hey, that’s kind of interesting”, thought people. Season 9 was won by a third guy named Lee. Wow! Who knew? Kris Lee Cook. Ha! Ha! Those coincidences are bound to end, no? No. Scott McCreery clarified his name was ScotTY. Could the TY be the missing “ty” in Kristy Lee Cook? It was indeed. His middle name was Cooke for good measure. Okay, her name was finished. Time to retire…but wait…Phillip Phillips attended Lee Country High School in Leesburg which is located in Lee Country. Surely all these Lees meant something combined with Kristy Lee Cook auditioning in Philladelphia. Sure enough, he won.
Some thought Kree (a portmanteau of Kristy Lee) might win last year, but she did not. So that may mean the curse of Kristy Lee died…or it may mean that it lies dormant until the next WGWG makes the final 2. I can see nothing about Caleb Perry Johnson or JENA that resemble Kristy Lee Cook, so I’m going to call advantage for neither this year.
Accuracy: 100% (5 of 5 with a WGWG in the finale), 80% (since it started)
History of the Superstitions (Advantages):
Season 10: Scotty (4), Lauren (2), Neither (1) – Scotty won
Season 11: Phil (7), Jessica (0), Neither (0) – Phillip won
Season 12: Kree (4), Candice (1), Neither (3) – Candice won (although, Neither has made a strong case for being the real winner)
Season 13: Caleb (6), Jena (3), Neither (1)
Sources: Many of these theories are exrracted from a variety of Idol related sites, all claiming to originate them. I salute the clever people who developed them whoever they are.