The confetti has fallen, the tears have dried and at the end of season 11 of “American Idol” we have … another WGWG winner.
You can’t blame the fans for picking Phillip Phillips , they voted, in record numbers, in fact, of 132 million. They clearly had their minds made up a long time ago.
And with his emotional breakdown as he was attempting to strum the coronation song
, “Home,” the normally unflappable, soft-spoken pawn shop worker provided the show with one of the most riveting moments in an otherwise dull season.
We have our own ideas about who deserved to win what this year , but MTV News reached out to a number of “Idol” experts to see how they felt about Phillips’ triumph.
Richard Rushfield, author of “American Idol: The Untold Story,” picked Phillips as the winner after the top 24 was revealed, and he never wavered from his belief that the humble acoustic strummer would emerge victorious . “I think it’s how it is now, there’s no disputing it,” he said of the steady stream of five male guitar-strumming winners. “The show exists to find the next cute white guy with a guitar … and everyone else is competing for second or third place … if something happens five times you can assume it will happen 20 times.”
That said, Rushfield said he thinks Phillips — unlike, say, Lee DeWyze, Kris Allen or David Cook — could have a “decent” career in a John Mayer/Dave Matthews vein.
Among all our experts, only one, TVLine.com “Idol” recapper Michael Slezak, bucked conventional wisdom and predicted a win by Jessica Sanchez . But he asked all those “WGWG” (“Idol fan shorthand for “white guys with guitars”) grumblers to take a step back. “I feel like if an R&B diva won five years running or a country chick won five or six years running, you’d be like, ‘what’s happening to this show? Are we just producing one kind of winner?’” he said.
The difficulty for Phil, he said, will be to find a way to break through at the same rock stations that have been cool to DeWyze, Cook and Allen. “Phil will probably make a much better album than Lee … but, pardon the pun, it’s unfortunate for him that he will be painted with the same brush … The hard part of the equation is that the genre of music that is doing best in terms of winning ‘Idol’ has the hardest time getting post-’Idol’ play.”
Like Slezak, former MTV News “Idol in 60 Seconds” host Jim Cantiello had Phillips pegged as the winner months ago. He actually went so far as to call Phillips a “mash-up of every male winner ever,” and said he thought once the confetti had been swept up and the image of Phillips stepping from the mic middle of his coronation performance fades people will simply not care.
“I don’t think anyone cares about this season,” he said. “Super ‘Idol’ fans are disappointed that another dude won, but they also voted for him, so…” A bigger issue is whether Phillips’ health problems will delay the typically rush-job winner debut album, which usually comes out in late November or early December, and if Phil will be able to appear on some or all of this summer’s “Idol” tour.
“If they can get more songs like ['Home'] for him, maybe the guy will have a chance,” he said of the Mumford & Sons/Coldplay like tune that seemed to fit Phillips like an acoustic glove. “The bigger problem is I have no idea how they will be able to capitalize on the post-winning press tour and keep his name and face out there or get people excited when a video or single comes out and make people feel like they know him [if he's recuperating from surgery].”
Though still the #1 show on TV, “Idol” shed nearly 25 percent of its audience this season, falling below 20 million viewers for the first time since 2003. According to reports, the steepest drop-off was among viewers 18-49, the most sought-after demographic among networks. Then again, there were those 132 million votes cast in this year’s finale showdown, so clearly the interest is still there.
“I feel bad for several past male winning contestants whose careers have not been in the same superstar league as Carrie and Kelly and I feel bad if Phillips comes out and doesn’t sell well then the attitude is that the show isn’t relevant in the music industry anymore,” said Cantiello. “That hurts it.”
It was not hard to sense of lack of enthusiasm in the voice of “Idol” blogger MJ Santilli of MJsbigblog.com about Phillips.
She agreed with Slezak that if Phil makes a bland singer/songwriter album like DeWyze or a more adult-oriented rock effort like season nine runner-up Crystal Bowersox his chances at radio are slim.
“First, it will be hard to make a fast-turnaround record because he’s sick and needs a major operation,” she said of Phillips ongoing kidney problems, which his doctors have urged him to get surgery for as soon as possible. “And second, there’s this idea out there that the men who win can’t get songs on the radio and if that’s the case he’s not going to be a star and that’s a problem for the show.”
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