There's almost always a singer on each season of "American Idol" who makes it way deeper into the competition than expected. But season 11 of the show has seen two unlikely finalists — Heejun Han and DeAndre Brackensick — stumble into the top nine and onto this summer's cast tour despite a string of, respectively, jokey and lackluster performances that have drawn assorted raspberries from the judges and outright derision at times from music-industry icon and show mentor Jimmy Iovine.
Their resilience got MTV News wondering if perhaps they have a special magic that some of the other eliminated finalists haven't discovered yet. We spoke to some of our favorite "Idol" experts to take a look at the dynamic duo's social-network presence to try to figure out how they've done it.
For Brackensick, it doesn't appear to be thanks to Twitter, where he had just 31,660 followers (dubbed "DreDreamers") as of Tuesday evening and spent most of his time thanking fans for their support or complaining about poor WiFi at the "Idol" mansion.
"DeAndre is a hot dude who appeals to the female demographic," said leading "Idol" blogger MJ Santilli of MJsbigblog about the strange allure of the singer with a sky-high voice and hair-commercial-ready curls. "He's sung well enough to give the impression that he's got potential. The 'Master Blaster' performance — which Jimmy and the judges loved — was enough to keep him going for a week or two more, but if he doesn't step it up, he's going out mid-pack, too."
Heejun's following on Twitter was a heftier 86,663 on Tuesday, putting him near the top of the social-networking heap among his fellow finalists. Not surprisingly for the yuk-loving singer, his interactions with fans are much sillier and more playful than most of the others, with a loose vibe that matches his onscreen persona, including lots of candid photos and suggestions that fans adopt the nickname "Hanimals."
He also has the dubious distinction of being the subject of this year's target on the Vote for the Worst website. "Finally, the man we were waiting for comes out to play," the site said in a banner promoting the vote. "Welcome to VFTW, Heejun. We love you. Here are lots of votes."
"Idol" expert Jim Cantiello said he gets Heejun's appeal. OK, he doesn't get it get it, but he can see how Han attracts attention by being a spectacle while everyone else is singing ballads — all the time. "His silliness supplies good .gifs for tumblr and easy fodder to tweet about," said the former MTV "Idol in 60 Seconds" host. "Trust me, just like Sanjaya, the first time he has a performance that provides zero water-cooler talk, he'll be dropped. Or as soon as it seems like powerhouse singers are in jeopardy, casual 'Idol' fans won't be as quick to call in a vote for the clown."
Cantiello suspects Han has another thing going for him as well, whether it was all part of his devious plan or not. "Heejun's got the whole bromance thing with Phil Phillips going on," Cantiello said of the buddy-comedy vibe between the joker and one of this year's leading male contenders. "So some of Phil's fans are automatically into Heejun, and they'll vote him through to keep seeing them be silly on TV together."
MJ agreed that Heejun is just good TV. Not only did he bring some unneeded extra drama to the Hollywood rounds by sparring with annoying Richie "Cowboy" Law, he's shown his vulnerable and sensitive side as well. "Up until now, viewers wanted him on their TVs and most definitely wanted him on the tour, where he is likely going to be super-entertaining," she said. "But now that he's beginning to knock off vocally gifted finalists like Erika [Van Pelt], watch the backlash begin. I don't think he's got more than a couple of weeks left in the competition."
How do the seven other finalists match up on the Twitter tote board? Pint-sized cute Hollie Cavanagh actually comes in below Brackensick with 30,792 "Holliepops," while faux-hawk flying singer Colton Dixon has one of the highest Twitter tallies at 92,458, putting him just ahead of foot-stomping Dave Matthews-alike Phillip Phillips, with 90,116 followers.
Solidly in the middle of the pack is leading female contender Jessica Sanchez with 69,825 followers, while country girl Skylar Laine rounds out the bottom with 33,122 "Skoutlaws," just ahead of gritty Elise Testone (23,969) and R&B crooner Joshua Ledet (23,618).
Why do you think Heejun and DeAndre have survived this long? Let us know in comments below!
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