Idol Chit-Chat
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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Idol Column: It's Personal

For those of you who didn't see my "Idol" column in Tuesday's "Herald-Dispatch," I wanted to post it here. It will probably explain a little more about my "Idol" mindset these days...

Every year on “American Idol” we see it happen. A talented contestant who doesn’t get as much camera time as the other contestants goes home because America had gotten attached to those other contestants and just couldn’t make room in their hearts for one more.

Is it fair? No. But it’s just the way the show works. I’d actually gotten used to it. But when it happens to one of your own, it’s different. It’s personal.

There is no doubt that Point Pleasant’s Chase Likens was this year’s lack of camera time victim. While we saw Heejun Han make fun of the other people in his group, Jermaine Jones break down from nerves and Colton Dixon worry about his sister, we only saw Likens sitting in the audience or hanging out in the back of a room. Some nights I actually had to pause the recording to make sure he was still in the competition.

Last week, I wanted to believe that there was still a chance that Likens could make the Top 13. I wanted to believe that talent could still win out. But in my heart I knew better. It was just too much of a disadvantage to overcome.

Now, in all honesty, there is a lot of talent this year and there is no way of knowing if the outcome would have been different if Likens had gotten more camera time. But I would have liked for him to at least have had a fair chance.

I have to admit that this season has given me an entirely new outlook on “Idol.” It’s not that I didn’t know this is how the show works. After all, each year in this column I remind everyone that “Idol” is first and foremost a television show. But when you hear someone who actually lived it telling you his story, it really brings it home.

As Likens told me when I talked to him this week, “you are not always going to get through just because you’re talented, just because you have the look, just because you can perform.” Sadly, he’s right. Jones gave a very shaky performance, but he could’ve sung names out of the phonebook and still made it through to the Top 13 because of his popularity. Popularity not from his singing, but from his personality and the show giving him a second chance just sealed the deal.

And what about Deandre Brackensick? He has yet to impress me with a performance, but because the judges see commercial potential in him, they put him through over Reed Grimm, who would have been way more entertaining.

I believe that “Idol” needs to bring back the group semifinals where the three best contestants from a smaller group (instead of all 24) advanced to the finals. That’s how Season Eight winner Kris Allen made it through when he didn’t receive any camera time. With the current system, I’m not sure he would have survived. And “Idol” without Kris Allen would have been a real shame. Kind of like “Idol” without Chase Likens.

“American Idol” airs Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. on FOX.