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Controversial ‘American Idol’ top 14 results spark confusion, outrage

American Idol has historically been a conservative, “family-friendly” program. (We all remember how the “guylinered” Adam Lambert lost to “guy next door” Kris Allen, or how viewers never accepted Season 12 judge Nicki Minaj.) But after a two-year hiatus and a switch to ABC, the revived show seemed to have the potential to finally broaden its base.

During Sunday’s top 14 semifinals, we saw two edgy, envelope-pushing contestants, Jurnee and Ada Vox, do things never seen before on Idol. Jurnee rapped (with an endorsement from Nicki herself!), and Ada, who had auditioned for the show five years ago as Adam Sanders, performed as a drag queen. But it turned out this is the same old Idol, or at least it has the same old viewership. Jurnee and Ada — both openly gay contestants of color — were not among the six contestants voted through to the top 10 by America and had to be saved by the judges.

Additionally, before the judges’ deliberations at the end of Tuesday’s two-hour elimination episode, the Twitterverse exploded with outrage over the fact that, according to the order in which host Ryan Seacrest announced the results, it seemed like everyone going through was white (with the notable exception of the worthy Michael J. Woodard, one of my top six picks). One viewer tweeted, “Who wants to bet Jurnee didn’t get enough votes because she’s PoC AND lesbian?” Another posted, “I am a white woman, and I am offended by these picks.” And another simply wrote: “Welcome to White American Idol.”

Anyway, along with Michael, America voted for Maddie Pope and Cade Foehner (who were actually in my personal top six), as well as Catie Turner and two country contestants, Caleb Lee Hutchinson and golden girl Gabby Barrett. That shockingly left Jurnee, Ada, Dennis Lorenzo (another my top six picks), Michelle Sussett, Marcio Donaldson, Mara Justine, Garrett Jacobs, and Jonny Brenns to sing for the top 10’s four judge-determined wild card slots.

Ada (whose name, according to Ryan, was chanted by the studio audience during the commercial break) boldly went with the Dreamgirls statement song “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” And she was right! Katy Perry made an “executive decision” to immediately send Ada to the top 10. For that alone, Katy deserves her $25 million Idol paycheck.

“I don’t know everything,” said Katy, removing her earrings to show she meant business. “But I think we do know talent when we see it.” However, Katy won’t be able to save Ada every week, and I’m afraid America just isn’t ready to see a drag queen on a non-Logo/World of Wonder reality competition.

Katy seemed just as frustrated by Jurnee’s failure to make the top six, complaining, “Never have I ever seen a more qualified woman for the job and still not get the job. What’s the disconnect, America?” Thankfully, the judges saved Jurnee, along with Dennis (who had Luke Bryan exclaiming incredulously, “I have never questioned my country, but America does not know what they’re doing!”) and Michelle. This meant Marcio, Mara, Garrett, and Jonny went home.

So, ultimately (and ironically), I did get the top 10 I wanted — and the top 10 that I think American Idol and America in general deserve. But what will happen from here on out? Looking at these early voting patterns, I’m afraid Kieran will soon be dimming the lights on some of my talented favorites.

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