American Idol has been on the air for 12 seasons now. The purpose of this show from the start was to find the greatest undiscovered talent from all over the country and turn them into superstars. But is the talent (especially the winners) that graces the Idol stage really representative of the United States of America? And more to the point, can we predict who will win this year based on where the contestants are from?
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To start off, let’s take a look at the list of winners and their hometowns:
1. Kelly Clarkson: Burleson, TX
2. Ruben Studdard: Birmingham, AL
3. Fantasia Barrino: High Point, NC
4. Carrie Underwood: Checotah, OK
5. Taylor Hicks: Birmingham, AL
6. Jordin Sparks: Glendale, AZ
7. David Cook: Blue Springs, MO
8. Kris Allen: Conway, AR
9. Lee DeWyze: Mount Prospect, IL
10. Scotty McCreery: Garner, NC
11. Phillip Phillips: Leesburg, GA
Notice any trends? Most of these hometowns are in the South or the Midwest, with the former overwhelmingly taking the top spot. There’s only one state not from these regions, and that’s Arizona. (Incidentally, that was the only season where both contestants in the Top 2 — Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis — were from other parts of the country.)
So while the best singer should in theory win, location is obviously something to take into consideration when looking at who might win each year. (This was never more apparent than when the vastly superior Adam Lambert lost to Kris Allen — this proves that it’s more about location than choosing the best singer.)
In season 1, it came down to Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini. Kelly’s from Texas, Justin’s from Pennsylvania — the South vs. the East Coast. Besides the fact that Kelly is the most talented winner to ever come out of American Idol, the South did win this battle. The same thing happened in seasons 5, 7, 8 and 11. As far as the finale match-ups go, there have been four Southern, one South vs. Midwest and one Midwest match-up. It just goes to show that if you’re not from the South or Midwest, you don’t really stand a chance of winning, something like less than a 10% chance.
Taking all this into account, can we predict who will win season 12 based on where in the country the contestants are from? I’d say it’s very possible, so let’s run through the hometowns for each of the Top 4 finalists:
Candice Glover: St. Helena Island, SC
Kree Harrison: Nashville, TN
Amber Holcomb: Houston, TX
Angie Miller: Beverly, MA
Three of the four singers left in the competition are from the South, which means there’s a 75% chance the winner will be from this region, sort of like how it was all but guaranteed that a girl would win this year. May the odds be ever in your favor — and they will be if you’re a girl and you’re from the South.
Does this mean Angie has already lost? It’s pretty much a given at this point. This doesn’t mean she can’t still place in the Top 2, but to win? No. Considering most of the winners have competed against someone outside of the South and the Midwest, there’s actually a high chance she’ll be the runner-up.
Although we all know who should make the finals: Kree Harrison and Candice Glover. Both are from the South. And as mentioned, there have been four Southern finale match-ups in the past. Will this actually happen, though? Based on these location stats, there’s about a 36% chance of this happening. And because this season has been extremely predictable, I’d say it’s even more likely to happen. The winner will be one of these two, no doubt, not just because of their exceptional talent but also because of location.
Then there’s Amber Holcomb. I’ve saved her for last for a reason. She’s from Texas, so by these standards, she should go far, right? Not necessarily. Just because you’re from the South or the Midwest doesn’t automatically put you in the finals. You’ve got to have the talent worthy of going all the way, putting you in a frontrunner position. (Then again, Kris Allen’s not as talented as Amber and he ended up winning, so what do I know?)
If the talent level was more evenly matched between the guys and the girls, then I’m fairly confident in saying Amber would most likely have already been eliminated by now. This isn’t saying anything negative against her singing ability. That’s just the way the cards would have been dealt. That, along with the fact that most viewers haven’t really connected with her all that much, doesn’t bode well for her chances, regardless of her hometown.
Why is it that contestants in the South and the Midwest have ended up winning 90% of the time? The saying “Location is everything” does apply here. When you’re in these smaller towns and/or these general regions in the country, the community tends to coalesce around you more. And on the flip side, if you’re from a place like Los Angeles, even though it’s a huge city the community isn’t as tight-knit and thus the likelihood of everyone coming together around a particular contestant is slim.
Keep in mind, I’m not dissing any city or state when I say this. That’s just how it ends up being when you look at the history of American Idol. And history has proven that the winner of season 12 will be from the South — either Kree Harrison or Candice Glover.
Do you think a contestant’s hometown is a strong indicator of who wins on American Idol (that is, if they’ve also got the talent to back it up)? Or has it merely been a coincidence?
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(Image courtesy of FOX)