While the elimination of James Durbin on Thursday's "American Idol" practically broke Twitter thanks to the wild indignation of his disappointed nation of fans, longtime "Idol" watchers said the demise of season 10's resident rocker was both a huge surprise and kind of predictable.
"I was shocked. I thought there was no way Haley wasn't going home," said Richard Rushfield, author of "American Idol: The Untold Story." In light of the sassy backtalk from Haley Reinhart in the wake of judge Randy Jackson's harsh comments, Rushfield said he was sure the singer was going home after her disastrous cover of Michael Jackson's "Earth Song."
But even so, he thought voters got it right and that Reinhart deserved more time to get her act together.
"Durbin's rock act had become predictable and cartoonish," Rushfield said. "Despite the raves from the judges, performing one of the most familiar rock songs with 'Don't Stop Believin' ' and doing what was, in the end, truly a nothing-special, sound-alike version was a bad mistake at the point when you need to stand out with every song."
And, as much as writers love to point out the excitement of having a "rocker" make it far into the competition, Rushfield said there still appears to be an anti-rock bias given the similar fourth-place departures of Allison Iraheta and Chris Daughtry.
Shirley Halperin, Hollywood Reporter music editor and author of "American Idol: Celebrating 10 Years," agreed with Rushfield, noting that Durbin's performances had been slipping in recent weeks, and instead of amping it up, he "grossly miscalculated" with a series of questionable song choices.
"This has been the most unpredictable seasons of 'Idol' ever," she said when asked if viewers got it right by sending Durbin home. "What America is looking for in an Idol is clearly open to debate. But if the finale ends up being Scotty vs. Lauren? Well, let the 'Nashville Star' jokes begin."
Halperin said what ultimately did James in was a combination of bad song choices and ... Lady Gaga? "I think Gaga brought a lot of votes to Haley because, after choosing 'You and I,' it was almost like an endorsement," she said of the superstar's pretaped performance of that new ballad on the show a week after Reinhart was knocked by the judges for picking an unreleased song. "Plus, James was clearly uncomfortable around Gaga — and even said so after the show in interviews with reporters — so how is he supposed to fit into a roster that includes freaky artists like Gaga, Marilyn Manson and the like?"
Both agreed that Durbin can likely have a career if he follows the path of fellow fourth-place finisher Chris Daughtry, but Rushfield wondered if he'd ever play arenas again after this summer's "Idol" tour.
" 'Give metal a chance' is a nice slogan, but it's not what's played on the radio these days," Rushfield pointed out. "We'll see if he tries to take it in a more mainstream-rock, Nickelback/Daughtry direction, or if he tries for something poppy, which might be a tough fit."
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