Cultural commentator Andrew Sullivan has had a couple posts this week about why most American Idol winners come from the South (9 out of 11 thus far). That may be true (we'll get to more on that in a minute), but if you want to break that trend, you can audition right here in Los Angeles next week at Dodger Stadium. (More on that next week.)
Sullivan's first post cites Harry Enten from the Guardian. The theories he cites:
- American Idol viewers in the South are more likely to watch the show;
- You can vote as many times as you want, which others have said allows phone-eager teen girls to stuff the ballot box for their favorite;
- And Enten's own theory, that there's more untapped talent in the South.
He argues that it's easier to get a record deal on the coasts, thanks to the proximity to California and New York. In the age of the Internet, this seems a bit less likely, but there's probably at least something to this. Still, I don't find it entirely convincing since it doesn't account for Nashville, which is still a huge deal in country music, which many of Idol's winners have been practitioners of.
Enten looks at the record sales of Idol contestants, but doesn't account for the genre differences. Country music has historically been more about storytelling than once-in-a-generation Mariah-esque voices, so the type of contestants you get on Idol have a lot better chance of breaking into that market.
In Sullivan's second piece, where readers offered their theories, they include southerners voting at a significantly higher rate than other parts of the country in American Idol voting; southerners being more likely to sing in church; and the South putting a higher value on charm, thus allowing their charisma to carry them to the top in a contest like American Idol.
My theory I'm still sticking to: The Cute Boy Theory. Looking at the predominantly female demographics of the viewers, and with cell phones in the hands of the young being de rigeur at this point, the finals from season 7 onward almost always tend to go toward the Cute Boy in the finals. (Most egregious example: The adorable Kris Allen defeating the charismatic/manic/maybe-over-screamy Adam Lambert.)
Season 6 was the last time a woman won, and her competition in the finals was doing a more experimental techno-influenced pop style that was already amazing to have made it as far as it did, so the loss in the finals wasn't much of a surprise. The guy lost in season 4 — when the male finalist was a hippie-looking guy trying to do '70s rock with a drug bust in his past. No males made it to the season 3 finale, but season 2 has two guys facing off (and texting wasn't quite as much of a standard 10 years ago as it is today), and the first season's voting system was largely different.
So everyone, you can go out and audition for Idol next week — though, if you're a Cute Girl, you might want to sit this one out.