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Playing the Game - March 18

As you know, this week starts the week that I start drafting the ‘Safe Trouble Out’ individual American Idol singer charts. Before we go into that, let’s add into the mix two factors that will be prevalent into this year’s strategies – factors that were not there that much in the earlier years of the competition.

The first factor is that the level of sophistication in the contestants. Even before the competition started, the producers said that there was a breed of competitiveness in this year’s group that wasn’t there in previous years. The producers were right on the money, as we see exactly what this year’s crop will do to get some extra votes. Break up with the girlfriend? No problem. Create a different persona for yourself? Sure. Although the winner will be determined by talent over substance, every vote helps, and anything that may bring a contestant another week of survival is always an advantage…

…regardless of where those votes come from. This is where we get the new second factor – the ‘Anti-Idol’. Though there are websites that are trying to capitalize on that genre, the genre has always been there. You can trace it back all the way to American Idol 1, where Nikki McKibbin got all the way to the final 3. Continuing through the years – and even through different shows (Rob the Austrian in Cupid, anyone?), keeping the so-called ‘anti’ contestants has always been a tradition. The difference this year is that some of those efforts have been galvanized, which makes getting a fan base an even bigger priority.

Let’s quickly look at who is where, genre-wise –

R&B – Mandisa, Lisa, Paris

Country – Kellie. Bucky, Taylor

Rock – Chris

Male Pop – Elliott, Ace, Kevin

Female Pop – Katharine

Looking at the genre breakdown, it’s not hard to see why Lisa and Ace were in the bottom three. It’s not that they weren’t good, it’s that their genre is oversaturated and some people there need to be weeded out. That being said, according to the Chaos Theory, those people who supported them will be coming in in droves to make sure that they don’t wind up again in the Bottom Three.

So what does that mean to everyone else? That’s what this column is about.

The only thing that’s worse than bad singing is unmemorable singing. Unfortunately, you hit both cycles – you not only haven’t sang anything to give us a reason to vote for you, the one time that you needed to pull out the stops, you forgot the lyrics. Sorry darling, but your exodus in week 1 was more than warranted. You leaving helps 2 people out big time…

She’s one of them. Any more white female non-country singers left? Nope. Katharine is going to get a chunk of Melissa’s vote, and should she stay strong on the vocals, she has nothing to worry about for the next month and a half.

He’s the other person. As Katharine is safe because there’s no more female pop singers, Chris is safe because there are no more rockers. He’s got the Bo Bice vote nailed down, but if he wants to think about winning this thing, he should start expanding himself out. Can he do some R&B or country? Something he should think about seriously trying…

Those are the only 2 people that are truly safe this week. Everyone else has some sort of issue that they may have to deal with. The biggest one – genre overcrowding…

You’ve done a great job in the past few weeks showing off your vocal range in country, and one of the things that is to your advantage is that you can rock as well. I suggest you do something rockish this week, because not only can you compete against Chris a little, but you can also try to steal some votes from the now-departed Melissa.

What a beautiful voice that you have. You need to keep it up this week, because Lisa in the bottom three is going to signal some vote shifting. Just subtly remind everyone why people, when they vote for Lisa, shouldn’t be neglecting you.

You hear that wake-up call? That was for you. I think your fans show up this week, because I know you can pull out a slam bang performance, but you absolutely can not afford a rotten singing effort now – not with Mandisa and Paris both very capable singers in your genre.

You are in a spot this week, because I think that most of those votes on a Chaos Factor switch aren’t going to come from Mandisa – they are going to be siphoned from you. This could be a very early showdown between the two of you and you better be there to answer the bell, because the loser between the two of you will end up in the bottom three – or worse.

So we all know that you are not Little Miss Innocent. The good news is that the info has not hit the mainstream. The bad news is that your bad notes and lyric mangling has – and Carrie Underwood you are not. Still, you are in good shape should you actually nail down a song…which you really need to start thinking about doing.

You are finally getting out of your shell at a good time. You need to step up the talent game, especially because you do not have the advantage of charisma (and what WAS up with that hair? Yikes). You need to keep showcasing that talent, because I fear that one spot in the bottom three will be between you, Kellie and…

Yep. I said it. You have a great voice, but you also have zero charisma or personality. You need to get some very quickly, or you need to deliver your best song of the competition, because the voice this year is not enough. Ace’s fans will have incentive to keep him around because he was in the bottom three last week. Kevin has the Anti-Idol vote in his corner. You have the vote of…well…you see where I’m getting at here?

All of the boos resonating when they saw you in the bottom three is proof enough that you won’t be staying there for too long. That being said, a bad effort on Tuesday will result in you not staying too long on the show. You need to give us a performance of what got you to the Top 12 to begin with, because you right now are the anti-Elliott. The charisma is there, but that won’t be enough – not with all of the powerhouse voices. If you do not improve the vocals, the next time you fall in the bottom three will be your last.

Ah, Mr. Squishy. Where do we start? You clearly have the anti-idol vote, but it’s not going to be enough this year. The fact that you went after a judge is bad enough, but the worst news for you was seeing Ace in the bottom three. Who’s votes will Ace be siphoning off of? Yours. In an already crowded male pop group (and with Katharine being able to eat some of those votes as well), you need to pray that you get what Scott Savol got last year – a lot of help (especially from Elliott or Ace), as there was always someone who did disastrously worse than he did on a week by week basis. Quite frankly, you need that, because if you don’t get it, you’re leaving on Wednesday.

Assuming that everyone sings like they have been, I predict that we will be seeing three new Idolers in the bottom three. Those three will be Paris, Bucky and Kevin, with the Simon-basher getting squished. Of course last year, someone managed to wreck the theory by singing so badly that they got booted. We’ll see what form holds up this year.

Gordon Pepper placed second in GSNN Idol to JD Hernandez. E-mail him at

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