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Monday March 24, 2008 12:18 pm

In the Mold: What Does it Take to Win American Idol?

Season Seven Top 12

Kelly Clarkson. Fantasia Barrino. Taylor Hicks. Carrie Underwood. Ruben Studdard. Jordin Sparks. Put them together and it’s hard to find one common element - other than the fact that they can all sing. But here’s the thing - many of the contestants on can carry a tune. Winning the show takes a whole lot more than sensational singing. What does it take to win American Idol?

The hot button issue for this year’s crew of competitors is sexual orientation. The Internet community is alive with comments, videos, and hooplah regarding the sexual preference (real or imagined) of Season Seven’s best and brightest singing talents. As far as fans know, a homosexual has never won American Idol. Some say that one will never win on the show.

Danny NoriegaLet’s review. Danny Noriega, who was ousted this year just before making the , was a flamer. I don’t mean that in a bad way - I loved Danny on the show and want to see more of him. Arguably one of the better singers in the competition, he was still voted out. Because he was gay? Some in the gay community might say so - but in truth, many wonderful singers are voted off the show for a myriad of reasons (anyone remember seventh-place finisher, Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson?). David Hernandez, whose somewhat sketchy past as a male stripper in a gay club was revealed, was summarily dismissed from the show two weeks after the story broke. Is he gay? We don’t know. Was the suspicion of it reason enough for him to miss out on votes? We don’t know.

Season Two’s almost-winner Clay Aiken, who has perhaps enjoyed more success than season two winner Ruben Studdard, has always been a mystery. To this day, he does his best not to answer the question (are you gay, are you straight, what’s the deal?), but when pressed will say he’s hetero. Always the source of speculation, Aiken’s fan base is largely female. Admitting he’s gay would be tantamount to putting a grave marker on his career - possibly. Amid vote controversy and a ton of rumors, Aiken didn’t win and has remained somewhat overshadowed by the burning question as to which sex he prefers.

Does orientation play a part? Are some contestants just too gay for American Idol, or does it even matter?

An openly gay contestant has never won Idol, but then neither has a rock-n-roller. I’ve never even seen a true punk rocker even make it into the Top 12, and most of the winners haven’t been heavyset either. Too gay, too fat, too short, too tall - the truth of the matter is, if Idol was a singing competition it would be on the radio. The show puts these people in our faces, treats us to tidbits of their lives via clips, and sits back as we dive into judging them all with pure glee. We discuss the fashion, the flaws, the flops, and sometimes we get around to thinking about the singing, too. What does it take to win American Idol? Don’t be the best singer - be the most popular one.

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