photo: Michael Becker/Fox“American Idol” diehards have been not-so-secretly power-voting for years, but now the show has made it official: Starting this week, as Season 12 finally moves into the live voting rounds, the show will debut a new “SuperVote” feature, which will grant fans the ability to cast FIFTY online votes at once. A viewer can divvy up those 50 votes across multiple contestants, or (more likely) give ‘em all to a single favorite. SuperVoting begins this Tuesday, when the 10 female semifinalists compete, and continues Wednesday with the 10 boys.
Well, this certainly is an interesting development, one that could have major ramifications for the show and its ultimate Season 12 outcome. Why, after 11 seasons—and only two years after opening up voting online at all—is “Idol” encouraging SuperVoting? Here are my theories why…
The powers-that-be want to fudge the numbers. Ryan Seacrest always loves to boast about the gazillion jillion votes tallied every week. But let’s face it, a gazillion jillion people aren’t watching “American Idol” anymore. However, thanks to producers Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe’s fuzzy new math, the show’s bragging rights can remain intact.
The powers-that-be want to skew the voting younger. Older viewers, who still comprise the majority of avid “Idol” fans, are less likely to use “new-fangled” technology to cast their votes: Their preferred voting method is still the good ole landline and Ma Bell. So while Grandma is hopelessly hitting redial and getting a busy signal while trying to show her support for Vincent Powell, her grandkids will have already cast 50 votes apiece for Angela Miller and Breanna Steer.
The powers-that-be want to keep the frontrunners up front. Right now, the contestants with the largest online presence, at least judging by their sheer number of Twitter followers, are: Angela Miller, a pretty, commercially appealing pop singer whose original song, “You Set Me Free,” was a Hollywood Week highlight; Lazaro Arbos, the adorable bow-tied boy with a made-for-TV sob story; Burnell Taylor, who with the right post-“Idol” material could definitely go down a Bruno Mars/Justin Timberlake-esque career path; and two clean-cut country girls who could be Season 12’s answer to Carrie Underwood, Kree Harrison and Janelle Arthur. Conversely, the three contestants with the fewest Twitter followers are, arguably, the top 20’s most old-fashioned (i.e., Grandma-friendly) singers: Curtis Finch Jr., Tenna Torres, and Vincent Powell. It could be easily assumed that the contestants with the biggest online profiles would be the ones who’d get the most online fan support. And it could be even more easily assumed that that is exactly what Nigel Lythgoe, Ken Warwick, and Jimmy Iovine want.
You know, this whole development is giving me déjà vu, back to the vote-skewing shenanigans of the most recent season of “The Voice.” Sure, “The Voice” still limits its votes to 10 times per voting method (a rule I actually wish “Idol” would instate, instead of doing the exact opposite with the “SuperVote”)…but with rule changes that involved giving much more weight to weekly/cumulative iTunes sales, “The Voice” was able to manipulate a victory for a commercial country-pop girl (Cassadee Pope) over a typical frontrunner type (cute classic rocker Terry McDermott) and a less marketable fan-favorite eccentric (Nicholas David). This outcome, I theorize, had to do with the fact that older viewers would be a lot less likely to use iTunes, or even know what iTunes is. Now “Idol” is also tweaking its voting process to favor technology-savvy younger viewers.
So, will all this help fulfill “Idol’s” obvious mission-near-impossible to finally crown a female and/or pop winner this year? Or will it all backfire, and the moms, grandmas, and cougars of America will just figure out a way to SuperVote for Paul Jolley instead? Only time will tell if the SuperVote was such a super idea.