(USA TODAY) Forget the new judges. Forget the American Idol small-town bus tour. Forget the decision to dump almost everybody in the quarterfinals that, left to their own devices, opted to sing a standard in a standard fashion.That's all just window dressing.
American Idol is determined to have a new type of winner this year, and the show's producers are pulling out all the stops to get one. Today, they introduced what might be the season's biggest game-changer - the SuperVote. For years, we've heard stories of mass-texting. This morning, the show made mass-voting official: Starting Tuesday (8 p.m. ET/CT, FOX), viewers be able to cast 50 votes at once online, in addition to all the regular voting methods.
Here's how Monday's press release describes the new voting method:
"Viewers will be able to SuperVote - cast multiple votes at one time - via any of these AT&T AMERICAN IDOL VOTE destinations: americanidol.com, the AMERICAN IDOL mobile app (data and message rates may apply) and Facebook. To SuperVote, fans can allocate any number of votes for one contestant or multiple contestants, for a total of 50 votes (across all online voting destinations), and in a unique interactive experience, they can adjust their vote selections as performances happen during the show. When the voting window officially opens, fans can submit their final votes - all at once. [Only fans with a registered Facebook account in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will be able to cast their vote(s) online.]"
Of course, this isn't the first significant adjustment to the Season 12 process. First, producers assigned groups themselves for dramatic purposes, putting some contestants in a great light while creating unsurmountable obstacles for others. Then, they created a series' first-ever quarterfinal round, cutting 40 contestants to 20 over two weeks of performances rather than putting them through the traditional "chairs" episode.
But those were general changes, the kind that favor a different type of contestant but can't be guaranteed to produce a different result. The SuperVote's different. It favors specific contestants, and you can already name them.
The new SuperVote should dramatically shift power to the contestants that have the biggest, most active online following. And who might those be?
The official Top 20 semifinalists Twitter accounts went live a few days ago, and the numbers already tell a tale of haves and have nots.
As of Monday morning, these are their stats:
- Angie Miller (8,135 Twitter followers, 47 following, 84 tweets/5,952 Facebook likes)
- Lazaro Arbos (6,399 followers, 68 following, 24 tweets/3,017 Facebook likes)
- Burnell Taylor (2,517 followers, 79 following, 202 tweets/63 Facebook likes)
- Kree Harrison (2,308 followers, 51 following, 60 tweets/1,809 Facebook likes)
- Janelle Arthur (2,285 followers, 171 following, 133 tweets/2,539 Facebook likes)
- Paul Jolley (2,075 followers, 177 following, 29 tweets/1,353 Facebook likes)
- Aubrey Cleland (1,930 followers, 236 following, 140 tweets/1,808 Facebook likes
- Candice Glover (1,903 followers, 65 following, 121 tweets/656 Facebook likes)
- Adriana Latonio (1,604 followers, 146 following, 297 tweets/277 Facebook likes)
- Cortez Shaw (1,452 followers, 70 following, 48 tweets/347 Facebook likes)
- Nick Boddington (1,263 followers, 231 following, 53 tweets/764 Facebook likes)
- Devin Velez (1,110 followers, 23 following, 36 tweets/89 Facebook likes)
- Charlie Askew (1,047 followers, 5 following, 3 tweets/118 Facebook likes)
- Zoanette Johnson (992 followers, 0 following, 0 tweets/110 Facebook likes)
- Breanna Steer (981 followers, 114 following, 82 tweets/182 Facebook likes)
- Amber Holcomb (850 followers, 42 following, 62 tweets/76 Facebook likes)
- Elijah Liu (848 followers, 22 following, 9 tweets/171 Facebook likes)
- Curtis Finch Jr. (819 followers, 48 following, 34 tweets/157 Facebook likes)
- Tenna Torres (555 followers, 8 following, 56 tweets/200 Facebook likes)
- Vincent Powell (501 followers, 35 following, 4 tweets/196 Facebook likes)
Now, I'm not declaring an Angie Miller/Lazaro Arbos finale already. But I am saying Tenna Torres will have trouble simply surviving the week when she's got a third of the followers of the No. 6 woman on this list, Adriana Latonio. I'm also saying that Vincent Powell can't possibly hope to compete when he's got so few followers and is neither interacting with the ones he has nor trying to gain new ones. And Zoanette Johnson seems to either not know or not care that she even has social-media accounts: At least, she's not doing anything with them.
And how does the SuperVote not help Angie Miller? She already has about triple the followers/likes of her nearest female competitor. Letting all those fans throw down an extra 50 votes right at the end of the show has to make her a prohibitive favorite.
If you're a singer who appeals to a demographic that prefers the old-fashioned phone-voting method with which they got comfortable a decade ago, they're now going to have to work 50 times harder to keep their contestant in the competition.
Meanwhile, the SuperVote also will allow Ryan Seacrest to continue announcing ever-greater vote totals, even though Idol is no longer the top-rated show on TV and sometimes struggles to make the top five in a week.
On a possibly completely unrelated note: The Idol two-night finale will be held Wednesday and Thursday, May 15 and 16. That leaves 11 weeks for 10 contestants once this week's cuts are made. Do you think that means the producers will keep the judges' save or let the judges pick a wild-card contestant Thursday night? Me, I'm going with the save option.