The Chaos Theory
- April 1
To be completely honest, I was going to make this an
April Fool's column, except that after Wednesday night's
Idol results, Chico demanded that I write up a column on
the Chaos Theory or else he'll do unspeakably bad things
to Jason Elliott. After reading Jason's column this
week, I told Chico to go ahead and do unspeakably bad
things to Jason but after he said that he'd find where
I was staying at GSC 4 and show up with 50 of his
friends who didn't appreciate the 'Kentucky Fried Tar
Heel' commercial that I created during ACC Tournament
week on WLTI, I figured that the Chaos Theory would be a
delightful topic for this week's column.
So what is the Chaos Theory that we all talk about?
It's simple. The theory is based on a few things that
has to be considered fact. Of course, these are for MOST
people's tastes (so don't e-mail me and say that you
don't do it most people do).
Theorem A -
1) People will vote for more than one person. Most
people, as they can vote as many times as they want, so
if they called in 20 times, they will usually vote 10
for 1 person and 10 for another.
2) Those people will usually vote for people in their
same genre. If you are a hard rock fan, you will
probably vote for Bo and Constantine and maybe a
little for Carrie. You wouldn't be voting for Vonzell
Solomon or Anthony Fedorov, and vice-versa.
3) Based on that, the people in Idol are weeded out not
just based on talent, but based on genres, and the final
2 will have 2 singers in completely different genres. As
AI3 showed, the 3 best singers were all R & B females,
yet only 1 of them made the top 3. Racism? No. Genre
elimination? Yes. Let's say that you had three types of
strawberry flavored ice cream and 5 different other ice
cream flavors (mint, vanilla, chocolate, rocky road, and
dead skunk ripple) and you had to vote for the best
flavor and eliminate the worst one. For week #1,
obviously, the skunk ripple is leaving, but after that,
a strawberry flavor will be leaving. It's not because
strawberry isn't any good, but because there are so many
other good flavors that you won't have enough votes to
lift all three strawberry variations over all of the
other delicious ice cream flavors.
In the finals, you will always have 2 different genres.
The pop/rock vixen Kelly Vs. the smooth crooner Justin.
R & B Stud Ruben Vs. A.C. and Broadway show tune Clay.
Gospel and Soul Fantasia Vs. Bubble Gum Pop Diana.
Hence, all of you who want to see Bo Vs. Carrie or
Vonzell Vs. Nikko it's not happening, and the singers
need to prepare for it.
The best way to win American Idol? Diversify. Kelly won
AI 1 because she could sing in many different genres,
while Justin was severely limited and exploited for it.
I called Ruben winning AI 2 all the way back during
Country Week, because he was able to carry a country
tune and that, ultimately, got him the South and the
win. For AI3, neither of them really diversified, but
Fantasia had the better vocal range. Diana could have
won AI3 easily, but her failure to diversify cost her
because she failed to equalize the field and try to sing
in different genres and get more voters. There was many
audiences (country, rock, etc.) who didn't have a singer
of their own to vote for that were just waiting to be
wooed over, but neither of them - especially Diana -
even tried to make a connection there, and for Diana,
that was fatal.
Now let's take Theorem A and combine it with Theorem B:
1) If you are clearly in trouble, your fans will come
out of the woodwork to save you and vote until all of
the radiation from being on the cell phone for 2 hours
makes their ears bleed. Of course, if you sing lights
out and the judges love you when you are in trouble,
that can only help you gain fans. Let's not forget that
if you are in trouble and sing so badly that glass
shatters and gerbils explode, then not even the chaos
theory will save you - except for rule #5.
2) If you are NOT in trouble, but sing lights out, you
will gain new fans and you will be safe.
3) If you sing 'just ok' or not wonderful, but not
awful, this is where you get into trouble because you
won't have new people calling to save you and some of
your fans will think that you are safe and will spend
more time trying to save people that they know are in
This is when the chaos theory happens when one person
who everyone thinks is safe gets the boot because either
they put up such a lackluster performance that they are
forgotten about or they are just an 'ok' person that
people assume are safe and don't vote for them.
There are 2 occasions when you can almost guarantee that
the Chaos Theory will happen 1. There is a glut of
people in one genre who are all considered safe and 2.
Due to bad singing performances in the past, there is NO
DOUBT in people's minds (heh) who the next person will
be going is. Let's flashback to the Final 7 from last
year's AI 3. We had 4 R& B singers (Fantasia, Latoya,
Jennifer and George), 1 pop male singer (John) that
everyone was SURE would be leaving and 2 pop female
singers (Diana and Jasmine) that everyone thought would
be leaving after that. Let's see
you have too many R &
B people (4 out of 7), and someone (John) that all of
his fans knew was in dire trouble. Add to it the fact
that Diana and Jasmine fans knew they weren't safe and a
public's opinion that we'd have 3 R and B divas in the
finals (hence, why bother voting this week), and BANG,
all of the divas are at the bottom, with the one that
gave the safest performance that week (Jennifer)
leaving. America sort-of woke-up after that, but that's
why it's called the Chaos Theory because this will
most likely happen when you think that it's least likely
So based on all of this, who do I think is safe and who
is in trouble? Before we look at the individual singers,
let me say that the race to win the competition is wide
open, because almost no one is diversifying their fan
base. Only three people have come out of their genres to
try something in a different genre and those three
performances happened this week. Those three singers
have the edge, but they need to continue diversifying if
they want to have a shot at winning the whole thing.
Let's look at the singers
Jessica Sierra Why do I start with the deposed person
first? Because she fit the chaos mold. She gave a
lackluster performance, was outsung by the same genre'd
Carrie and the rest of her contingency was out saving
Anthony Fedorov and Scott Savol. Quite simply put, you
didn't give people a reason to vote FOR you, and that's
how we get Chaos Theory Victims. Who does this benefit?
Carrie Underwood You, by far, are the safest. Not only
is your main country opponent (Jessica Sierra) gone, but
there's no one left who's a pure country singer. Unless
you start putting on a chicken costume and start
performing yodeling songs, you are safe until the final
Are you the favorite to win American Idol right now? Not
by a long shot. You MUST diversify or you will not even
make the top two. Country is just not as strong in the
United States as other genres and you will lose to
either an R and B or a Pop singer if you stay in
country. You moved over to rock this week, which was an
excellent start, but you have to keep going and get a
fan base in both rock AND pop. If you can nail some pop
renditions, then you will certainly be the threat to win
the whole thing.
Constantine Maroulis Forget about what everyone else
said in the WLTI booth on Wednesday. Jason Elliott and I
are on the same track here you did yourself a HUGE
favor by showcasing your pop talent, and that can only
get you more fans. You are now a double threat, and you
need to exploit the pop/grunge connection if you
possibly can. Above all else, stay young your audience
is the kiddie teeny bop girls, and you need to keep them
happy. One more nice pop song like that will make you
the favorite from the men's side.
Vonzell Solomon like Constantine, you had a perfect
selection with a song that has both R and B roots as
well as pop roots. You can do R and B, you can do pop,
and if my guess is right, you may have no more natural
predators (Nadia) going after your votes next week.
Nadia will be on the ropes this upcoming week for
reasons that I will be mentioning later. A gangbuster
song that once again hits R and B and Pop could be good
enough to knock her out of the competition.
Bo Bice With Constantine migrating over to pop, this
helps and hurts you. It helps you because some of the
hard core rockers will swing over to your side, but it
hurts you because you have 5th place written all over
you if you don't diversify. You also need to be very
concerned that Carrie is coming into your rock
territory, and that could erode your base even further.
You are fairly safe this week, so your job is to go
completely out of your comfort zone and reach for
something different. If you don't, you will be watching
the final 4 from the audience because everyone else will
have raised their game except you.
Nikko Smith This is a VERY critical week for you. You
will virtually cement your final 4 status or you will
probably be in the bottom three. Quite simply put, as
everyone knows that Anwar is in trouble, all of his fans
will be voting for him and I am guessing that his fans
vote for you, too. You have to show the fans why they
have to vote for you instead of Anwar, as you could
knock him out of the competition with a lights out
effort on your part (such as what Carrie did to Jessica
last week). The worst thing you can do is to come out
safe or lackluster and remind everyone why Anwar was the
favorite because if they remember and vote for him
like wildfire, then it will be you who's playing the
part of Jessica instead.
Scott Savol I admit that I thought you were going to
be gone but your voting block is much stronger than I
thought and you obviously have the Ruben crowd going for
you. That's a good thing. Here's the bad thing let's
look at the demographics. 3 women, 6 guys. Of the 9
people left, 5 of them (Nadia, Vonzell, Nikko, Anwar and
YOU) all have an R & B base. The past 2 weeks have not
been good for you. You cannot afford a third bad week
ESPECIALLY because you're group is currently in the
Chaos Theory Cross-hairs and you have yet do to anything
memorable. Another lackluster performance and you will
be in the bottom three or worse.
Anthony Fedorov You were in trouble 2 weeks ago, and
then last week, you were saved by your fans. Does this
sound familiar? Yep this is where Jessica Sierra was
going into this week. Jessica did not take advantage,
let herself get throttled by Carrie, and got booted. In
order to avoid that, you have to make sure that 1. You
improve from last week and 2. You don't get royally
outsung by Anwar and/or Nadia. Like Scott, Anwar voters
will be calling for Anwar, but unlike Scott, Constantine
is moving into your territory which is why you are in
more danger than Scott is. You must outsing and siphon
votes from Constantine and you better remind your fans
why they should keep you around.
Anwar Robinson The judges pinpointed you perfectly
you are Anwar one-note. Now that you have been exploited
and the audience has called you on it, you have to step
it up a notch and sing something not in a low register.
Should you do again what the judges said you did last
time, then you are leaving the show. That being said,
you are a music teacher, and I think you are much
smarter than to just do what you've been doing, so I
think you won't be leaving or even be in the bottom
three. However, in the showdown coming in a few weeks,
you and Nikko will be competing for the male R & B vote
and you have a lot of ground to make up.
Nadia Turner 3 weeks ago, you were a chic pick to be
in the finals. Here are your problems since then - #1
You stopped singing R and B, so Vonzell now has that
vote. #2 Your rock skills aren't as good as
Constantine, Bo, or the now-emerging Carrie, and #3
Your visit to pop was a complete disaster (and saying
that you did the performance for Mario clearly did not
help your cause). The most damning one, however, is #4
everyone knew you were in trouble, yet with your fans
coming out of the woodwork
.you only improved from
second to last to third to last. Not good. What to do?
Instead of competing against a (very competitive) rock
trio (Bo, Constantine and now Carrie) that she will have
no chance at cracking, you have to go into R and B and
hope that you can siphon enough votes from Vonzell AND
you has to hope that either Anthony, Scott or Nikko
crashes and burns, because Anwar isn't going to.
So to wrap this up, Nadia is clearly in the most dire of
situations, while Anthony, Anwar, Scott and (to a lesser
extent) Nikko have to be concerned as well. We'll see in
7 days how accurate we are.
And as a final note to Jason 1. I thank you for
showing me where the edge of the cliff is and sometimes
having to pull me back to the other side and #2 If you
didn't like the Heather and Eve emporium sketch, then
you are REALLY not going to like what I sent to your
house as an April Fool's Joke. =)
Gordon Pepper can be reached at