antiTainment NEWS: American Idol Controversy Over Jennifer Hudson Vote:  An Analysis 

04-27-04 antiGUY
Was it the folly of democracy? Or is American Idol simply a reflection of the music business and popular taste, where talent doesn’t always equal success? There has been no shortage of speculation as to why Jennifer Hudson was voted off of the talent show last Wednesday. The reasons range from racism, to phone and electricity outages near her home town, to the teeny-bopper factor (young girls that vote for who they think is cutest and not who has the most talent) and that the voting was “rigged”. 

The anger seems very genuine from many people after they look at Hudson and compare her to some of the contestants that didn’t get the boot. Then they get even more upset that the bottom three for the week was comprised of the three black women competing and some start to see racism at play.  That’s a logical conclusion if you don’t think it all the way through. People forget one of the most important factors; variety is the spice of life, and the “bottom” three contestants were competing as much with one another for viewers’ votes as they were against the rest of the panel. 

Jennifer Hudson’s problem wasn’t that she wasn’t talented enough, she most definitely can sing, and sing better than some of the others that made it into the “top four” last week. Her problem is that she doesn’t really stand out as a vocalist. And this is where variety is the spice of life comes into play.  The viewers were given a choice between seven performers; three of which basically filed the same category—female R&B singer. While both Fantasia Barrino and to a lesser extent La Toya London do stand out more with original vocal styles, Jennifer Hudson suffered from a problem that judge Simon Cowell often talks about, “I could walk into any [insert type of establishment] and see that performance.” 

Cowell also recognized that Barrino, London and Hudson were competing as much against one another as they were against the rest of the panel when he said Tuesday night, “You're creating something we never had had in this competition: a battle of the divas". 

While Hudson has genuine talent, but when stacked up against Barrino and London she does come in third place as a singer and as an original. Her problem isn’t so much that she can’t sing, and sing better than most of the “top 4”, it was the fact that her style fits too nicely into the female R&B singer box. You can turn on any modern R&B station and hear a singer that sounds very similar to her. She started out the competition by trying to stand out from the field with her over-the-top clothing and it worked. But she toned that down and because she never really attempted to step outside the box as a singer, it ultimately cost her. 

That being said, she will most likely end up with a record deal, especially following the controversy that her ouster has created, and that is as it should be. She is talented and deserves a shot. Hudson doesn’t seem to be bitter about what happened and she does recognize that there is far more to the American Idol competition than just talent. She told MTV news, “Nobody knows what really happened, but I feel like whatever it is, it was meant to be… I don't think it was based on talent, but if it was, I was robbed.” 

And if American Idol and the popular music business are based on talent, where the most talented enjoy the most success, she certainly was robbed, considering some of the performers she was competing against. But talent is only part of what makes pop singers stars and Hudson ultimately got the short end of the stick because she didn’t stand out enough from the others at this point of the competition. 




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