It’s the shocker to end all shockers.
In a twisted turn of events, Pia Toscano, one of the heavy favorites to win American Idol Season 10, was voted off last night – a result which had Jennifer Lopez on the verge of tears and Randy Jackson hurling offscreen F-bombs. Barely featured in the audition rounds, the stunning 22-year-old make-up artist from Queens, New York gained considerable ground after her powerful cover of The Pretenders’ I’ll Stand By You. From then on, she was expected to be the one to beat. Or at least make the Top 3. So what went wrong?
Some people blamed the usual suspects: (1) the fans for being too complacent, (2) the judges for using the save too early, and (3) the massive female tween voter population for saving Bottom 2 placer Stefano Langone. While wannabe conspiracy theorists suspect that maybe, just maybe, she had already been approached for a record deal and that the result was merely orchestrated.
But then, let’s not forget that Pia also had her stumbling blocks. Critics found her performances verging on robotic and the judges thought she needed to let loose. Her repertoire also left a lot to be desired, as week after week, she kept over-channeling the likes of Whitney and Celine with predictable, run-of-the-mill song choices. So when she did finally did go up-tempo with Ike and Tina Turner’s River Deep, Mountain High (which incidentally, was also covered by Celine Dion), it was probably already a case of “too little, too late”.
Of course, Pia still has what it takes to be, as the sorely-missed Simon Cowell would put it, “current and relevant” (Youtube her rock-solid Hollywood group round cover of Bruno Mars’ Grenade and be amazed), but she chose to market herself as the ballad-belting babe – which probably wasn’t what majority of voters were looking for.
Still, this doesn’t make her sudden deprature any less shocking. At the end of the day, Idol is still a talent competition and, by vocal prowess alone, Pia stood head and shoulders above the rest. But in a show that’s had a history of drawing its thrill factor from blindside eliminations, Ms. Toscano now joins the ranks of Jennifer Hudson and Chris Daughtry in the pantheon of worthy contestants who left too soon.
In what is perceived to be yet another male-dominated season, Pia was the fifth girl in a row to be sent packing. Here’s a look at the other 4 female finalists who got the boot:
With her unusual musical rearrangements and wild African dance moves, this free-spirited wildflower may have been too eclectic for the voters’ taste. But there is no doubt that she was the most original performer of the bunch. I would have wanted to see more of her.
At 15, this year’s token Fil-Am contestant (and America’s Got Talent alum) made Idol history for being the show’s youngest-ever finalist – thanks largely to the reduced minimum age requirement. But despite showcasing seasoned vocals and a surprising amount of poise, she was overpowered by her dreary song choices and lack of stage presence.
Adding Latin flavor to hackneyed ballads wasn’t a bad strategy, but her stiff pageant demeanor and over-channeling of the J.Lo-circa-Selena look sealed her fate.
Her colorful, catty personality evaporated every time she sang. Was she really worth the extra semi-final slot? Suffice to say, we’ve been “Punk’d”.