If you watched Tuesday night's "American Idol," you're no doubt buzzing about Kris Allen's left-field take on Kanye West's "Heartless." But you're probably also talking about the actions — and comments — of Simon Cowell.
The cantankerous "Idol" judge spent the early portion of Tuesday's show sparring with fellow judges Kara DioGuardi and Randy Jackson, and closed the night out by openly campaigning for contestant Adam Lambert, telling viewers to "take nothing for granted" and vote the flamboyant singer into next week's finale.
It was a move that raised more than a few eyebrows in the "Idol" community. Sure, Cowell has openly declared his support for contestants in the past, but it's always been on red carpets or talk-show couches (earlier this week, for example, he told Oprah Winfrey that he wants Lambert to win), never from behind the "Idol" judges' desk. It seemed a bit odd — dropping any airs of impartiality and openly instructing viewers to vote for a particular contestant — and it made us wonder: Did he cross a line last night with his comments?
"I don't think so. I see it more as an evolution of the judging of the show ... it shows a natural progression," Rickey Yaneza, who runs "Idol" blog Rickey.org, told MTV News. "The whole judging thing has become a little more sophisticated now. It's not the same show as it was during season one. Things have happened. There are repeat customers, they know the drill, there are obsessive online fans, and then there are the casual viewers. And I think Simon was reaching out to them with his comments."
Yaneza added that Cowell probably realizes that there are two distinct camps of "Idol" viewers — those who populate message boards with discussions about the show, and those who, well, don't. And while one of those groups is firmly behind Lambert, the other isn't. So basically, Cowell may have been attempting to shore up support for the contestant he believes is the best.
"We live in a different world online, because as far as I'm concerned — and I have stats for whenever I do a post about him, or how many people are searching for him on Google — Adam Lambert is pretty much a lock to win, and he's been that way for about a month now," he said. "But if you're not following the show as intensely as we are, well, then perhaps you don't know about him, or you just assume he's going to make it to the finals, so you don't vote for him. And that was Simon's point: to put that question in viewers' minds. And, of course, it makes for good TV, too."
Fellow "Idol" blogger MJ — who runs the comprehensive MJ's Big Blog — didn't find Cowell's comments to be out of line, either. In fact, the way she sees it, he was trying to prevent the mistakes of previous seasons.
"I thought it was kind of smart, actually. I think he's looking at 'Idol' history and trying a different path, because he knows the show has lost people he liked in the past. And I think it's up for grabs tonight. ... Simon is probably worried about Adam's chances," MJ said. "He doesn't want another Chris Daughtry or another Melinda Doolittle. I think he really wanted her in the finals in season six, and she didn't make it, even though everyone sort of assumed she would. So even though everyone's telling [Lambert], 'See you in the finals,' he wanted to remind the casual voters that they need to vote for him. And when he reminds people to do things, they generally do."
So even though Cowell's campaigning may have been a questionable move, it's a component of "American Idol" these days: Just because some of the show's fans seem to think Lambert's a lock, there's a huge number of viewers out there who might not see it that way. Cowell reminded them of that fact, regardless of what people might think.
"I think it bugged a lot of people, the fans online were really irritated, but the casual person at home, it sort of put a thought into their heads," MJ said. "I actually didn't think it was a bad move, because what he said is kind of true. You can assume someone will make it to the finals ... but you have to actually vote for them to get there."
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