Paula Abdul, a Grammy Award-winning singer and one of American Idol jurors, provoked yesterday a great deal of controversy over how objectively the American Idol final five are judged, by criticizing a song that had not yet been performed.
For this moment people had been waiting for a long time. The seventh season had been growing dull as more colorful contestants had been either dropping out of the show or adjusting to the mediocrity of their colleagues. Finally, on Tuesday, April 29, people got the meat they had longed for. Jason Castro, a 20-year-old Texan from the picturesque town of Rockwall, knew that he was not the favorite of Paula Abdul but hardly could he expect that she would criticize him for a song he didn’t have a chance to sing.
After Jason and the remaining four contestants performed one Neil Diamond song, they were all summoned to the stage where they were to hear the verdict of the grand jury. Randy Jackson offered his typical amalgam of harsh and lackluster comments and passed the baton to Paula Abdul, who appeared to be bored with everyone, including herself. Surprisingly she was quite lenient with Jason and everything would have gone smoothly like during the previous dozens of episodes, had she bitten her tongue and let the other judges speak.
“The second song,” Paula Abdul began staccato, slightly irritated, “I felt like your usual charm wasn’t – it was missing for me. It kind of left me a little empty.” The audience burst into laughter while the contestants’ stony faces did not reveal a trace of astonishment. “The two songs made me feel like you’re not fighting hard enough to get into the top four,” she added as seriously as if she was at a congressional hearing. Finally Randy Jackson, sitting to her right, saved the show from a complete disaster, whispering to Abdul, “that was just on the first song. Just on the first song.”
It could have been just one of many blunders that Paula Abdul has made. After all, she once appeared on a Fox show being totally wasted and terrorized the viewers with her hysterical laugh. She was even gossiped to have had an affair with one of Idol contestants, greatly exceeding her duties as a juror. But the Internet community with its typical disbelief of reasonable answers began to question the honesty of the show that claims to promote those singers who are truly popular among American viewers. If Paula Abdul criticizes a song before it is sang, then maybe the American Idol is chosen before people have a chance to vote?
It is not the first time that such rumors have appeared on the Internet. The Uncover, an online magazine that “reveals the things they don’t want you to know,” informed over two years ago that American Idol might be controlled from the back seat. In one of the magazine’s articles, Colleen Smith suggested that the number of phone calls did not always tally with the number of received votes. “In season three, Latoya London had gotten the most calls each week, but Diebold machines declared her a loser in one of the late elimination rounds. Based on phone logs however, there is no way that Fantasia was the most popular. Leah LaBelle was also ousted before her fans stopped calling,” wrote Smith.
Record companies have always lobbied for their favorite artists. The seventh season began with a controversy over one contestant, Carly Smithson, when it turned out that she had released an album before qualifying for American Idol. What is more, Smithson had been working for the same MCA agency as Randy Jackson, one of the three judges. The album sold in fewer than 400 copies and Jackson resigned from the MCA before the seventh edition took off, but the amiable atmosphere has remained poisoned.
“This was officially the strangest show we’ve ever done,” said Simon Cowell at the end of the broadcast. Smiling as he was, even such an experienced television personality like him (he has appeared on at least four American and British shows) could not hide a tint of embarrassment in his voice.