'American Idol': Voting methods, judges are to blame for the girls' downfall

idol-recap.jpg"American Idol" has a problem. We've all seen it the past several seasons. The female contestants as a group cannot compete with the male contestants. Is it because they are less talented? No.

The main problem is that the voting methods have changed. In the first few seasons of "Idol," the only voting method was to call in. There were no text votes, there was no online voting. Therefore older fans were on a level playing field with younger fans. Let's be honest - older fans do not by and large know how to text or are on Facebook.

My mother is a prime example. She loves "Idol." She votes. She actually takes notes about who she liked and writes down their numbers and will vote multiple times for people she thought did the best job. But therein lies the rub. "Multiple times" for my mother is like 10 because A) there are busy signals and B) she is not going to devote several hours to voting.

In contrast, "multiple times" for a 12-year-old girl with a cellphone that can repeatedly send text messages may literally mean 500 votes.

Naima Adedapo, a female contestant eliminated from "Idol" last week, hit the nail on the head when she said in her exit interview: "I would get people saying, 'Yeah, I voted for you three times!' and it's like well, you could vote 500 [ laughs] ... that's just the reality of the situation."

It used to actually be about who did the best each week. Sure, contestants had their voting blocs, but the average viewer with no particular tie to anyone would pick up the phone and vote a few times for his or her favorite. That isn't the case anymore.

Young girls latch on to some boy they think is cute and they vote like crazy for him. So a singer like Stefano Langone or Tim Urban sticks around while a crazy talented singer like Pia Toscano goes home. The girls cannot compete with that kind of fandom.

The other problem? This year's judges.

Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe insists judges' opinions don't matter - but they do. They 100% absolutely do.

We used to have Simon. We used to have someone who was not afraid to tell contestants their performances were "rubbish." And guess what? Average viewers with no ties to someone would listen to him. Lythgoe insists the voters aren't "sheep." Well, guess what? They are.

This year, we have Jennifer Lopez, who won't say anything bad to anybody, and we have Steven Tyler, who mostly just spouts off word salad. Poor Randy Jackson (a phrase I never thought I'd write) keeps trying to criticize performances he doesn't think were that great - and he is getting shot down by J.Lo and Tyler left and right.

In fact, sometimes the dynamic smacks of some kind of high school bully situation. J.Lo and Tyler are like the cool kids and Randy is like the chubby nerdy guy that they dismiss out of hand. Stefano is a perfect example. J.Lo is telling him he's magical, when I guarantee you his performances would've been panned by Simon as being karaoke-cruise-ship-Broadway nonsense. Randy tries to criticize, but the other two treat him like he's a second-class citizen.

And Randy isn't bold enough to stand up to them. So now the judges are spewing platitudes instead of actually criticizing the Idols.

"American Idol," for all its faults, used to be a talent show. It was about talented singers. Now it is about who is the cutest boy and one girl (Allison Iraheta, Crystal Bowersox) can eek by on her talent.

I fully expect to see a Top 7 or Top 6 comprised entirely of boys and Lauren Alaina. And it's too bad.

"The X Factor" better figure something out or they are going to have the exact same problem. They need firm judges, they need a variety of talent and they should not have endless voting methods that favor teenagers. Or welcome to more seasons where the Pias go home early and the Tim Urbans stick around.
Photo/Video credit: FOX
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