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The Chaos Theory - April 1
Gordon Pepper

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 trouble.

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 to occur.

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 four.

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


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