There’s now less than 24 hours until the penultimate winner of American Idol is announced. Will it be a white male singer or will it be — shocker — a white male singer?
Both Clark Beckham and Nick Fradiani have had standout moments throughout the course of season 14. Clark was considered the frontrunner early on, while Nick has had a slow and steady rise.
The final performance episode of the season would have been a lot more exciting if Jax was competing, but each of the Top 2 singers still brought out some good performances overall. I could give my prediction right here, right now, for obvious reasons, but that would spoil the fun of looking at their chances of winning or losing. But I will say this: the reason for my prediction can be summed up in one word. What is it? Let’s first discuss both Clark and Nick and then see what the outcome might be.
The case could be made for either singer to win. For Clark, the fact that he’s been the frontrunner since early on speaks volumes to the kind of singer that Idol voters like to pick in recent years, what with that whole White Guy With Guitar element. Of course, Nick’s got that going for him too.
Once the semifinalists were announced, I wasn’t a fan of Clark. I didn’t really see what others saw in him. But before I knew it, I was getting on board and fast becoming a fan. He has had some truly standout performances during his run. When he’s fully on-point, his voice is exquisite, particularly when he really digs deep into some of the notes he’s singing. There’s a depth to his voice that a lot of singers who come on Idol don’t have.
Another huge factor in his favor? He’s from the South. And we all know what that means. In terms of making winner predictions, that factor alone is why Clark should be the prohibitive favorite to win season 14.
Now let’s take a look at what Clark doesn’t in his favor. You can be the early frontrunner all you want, but if you don’t step up consistently in the final weeks, you might be in trouble when another singer (in this case, Nick) is on the rise at the exact same time. Look at season 9’s Crystal Bowersox. She was the favorite to win early on. But she didn’t exactly have that huge momentum in those final weeks of the competition, and it became easier to see why someone like Lee DeWyze could win.
Also, we’ve seen in recent weeks an unwillingless on Clark’s part to listen to advice and instead stay the course on what he wants to do with his performances. Now, you could argue that it paid off in his favor since he’s now competing for the title, but there are some Idol fans who have cooled to him ever since his little confrontation with Scott Borchetta. If Clark wins, then it’ll prove that his fans didn’t care about any of that and that they loved what he was already doing.
While Clark might not be as marketable as Nick (something that Mr. Borchetta obviously is aware of), they almost should pair him with the songewriters and producers who made Phillip Phillips’ debut album. You never know what might happen. A good song can go a long way.
Finally, just looking at the final performance episode, to me, Clark won the first round with a reprise of “Georgia on My Mind,” lost the Simon Fuller round partly because it was too similar to his first number and lost the final round — Winner’s Song — through no fault of his own. Here’s the deal: the quality of these final performances aren’t necessarily an indicator of who will win. There have been contestants who were good but not great with their final songs, and ended up winning.
It took a while for many viewers to get on board with Nick. And that’s because he was never considered a frontrunner. Singers like Clark and Jax always held that title.
But what Nick has been able to do is quite remarkable. In the back half of this season, he has made a slow and steady rise to the top — the true underdog story. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have any standout performances early on, but we never considered him a potential winner at the time. I talked about momentum earlier. And having late momentum can be really helpful in making an impression on voters when it matters the most.
Nick is a very marketable singer. Scott Borchetta, who will be signing the winner to his label, knows that. I’m sure Scott would love to sign Nick more than Clark. Nick should be paired up with songwriters and producers who know how to craft songs and albums in that mainstream pop/rock mold that Nick has showcased on Idol. It shouldn’t be too hard to do that; Scott knows people, of course.
On the downside, for me personally, Clark has a more memorable voice than Nick, who, while still good, can be kind of bland at times. If you had me listen to a bunch of pop/rock singers’ voices in the same vein, could I pick Nick out of the lineup? Maybe not. Whereas with Clark, I’m sure I could. But this area really depends on your preference and what you like in a vocalist and performer.
Something more concrete, though, is the hometown aspect. Nick (and Jax, if she had made the Top 2) is at a disadvantage because he’s from Connecticut, while Clark is from the South (Tennessee). Can Nick really overcome this huge hurdle and make history as a result? Or is he destined for runner-up status just because of where he’s from? A lot of people were so sure Jena Irene was going to win last year, but while she would have been a great winner, I knew it was not meant to be because Caleb Johnson had the hometown advantage.
And finally, as I did with Clark, I have to bring up the Top 2 performances. Nick really stood out with his Simon Fuller-chosen song, “I Won’t Give Up.” It allowed us to see a different side to him that we don’t normally see. I love that he was at the piano, something that we’ve come to expect from singers like Jax and even Clark. There’s something about those pianos this season that has really brought out the best in these singers — and the same happened here with Nick.
Regarding the coronation songs, yes, Nick’s was better. Again, he didn’t have any control over that. I don’t think his voice was as good as it could have been at times, but the overall feel of the song was great.
With that winner’s song, “Beautiful Life,” Nick got the final pimp spot of the season, when it mattered the most. Looking back over the years, the vast majority of the time, the winner was the singer who had the final pimp spot, something like 69% of the time, if my math is correct. Only four contestants have performed first and won. So while Clark has the hometown advantage, Nick has the pimp spot in his corner.
Who Will Win American Idol Season 14?
I said at the start of this article that I can boil down the reason for my prediction in one word. So here goes…
I am predicting that Clark Beckham will win American Idol season 14.
Yes, I predicted his demise for the past couple weeks, but now that he has made the finale, the choice is clear. The one word that sums up why he will win is this: location. Over the entire history of American Idol, a singer from the South or Midwest has won every single time they made it into the Top 2. It’s not 95% of the time or 98%, it’s 100% of the time. Now, there’s a first for everything, of course, and if Nick manages to win, good for him and congrats on breaking the foolproof predictor.
Both Clark and Nick are deserving of the title. Yes, Nick may be more marketable, but Clark has proven himself to be a very worthy competitor and has had many amazing vocal moments.
Regardless of who ends up winning, he will have earned it and will be a deserving winner.
Who do you predict will win? Is it a given that Clark is the winner because of where he’s from? Or will Nick end up with the title? Share your predictions in the comments section below.
The American Idol season 14 finale airs Wednesday, May 13 at 8pm on FOX.
(Images courtesy of FOX)