Jordin or Blake?Fox
Viewer favorite Melinda Doolittle, left, got voted off, so it's down to Blake Lewis, center, and Jordin Sparks.
Click photo for larger image.
Starring: Blake Lewis, Jordin Sparks
Will it be 17-year-old Jordin Sparks, the Glinda-the-Good bronzed bombshell from Glendale, Ariz., or 25-year-old Blake Lewis, the beatboxing-Maroon 5-ish-Jamiroqaui-ish spiky-haired hipster from Bothell, Wash.?
After more than 100,000 auditions in eight cities, myriad Sanjaya hairdos and more Ryan Seacrest mutterings of "... after the break" than a person can shake a stick at, tonight we'll learn the Season Six winner of "American Idol."
Do we still care?
It seems, albeit begrudgingly, we do. Viewers grow to care about the contestants during the course of the season and feel as if they know them and want them to succeed.
The final Jordin-Blake contest could prove to be a lopsided mismatch of Kelly Clarkson-Justin Guarini proportion. At press time, a nonscientific Post-Gazette Web poll had 64 percent of more than 2,500 readers rooting for Jordin.
Still reeling from the Daughtry-fication of Melinda Doolittle last week, some "American Idol" fans are bitter and less than thrilled about tonight's finale.
"The public makes it more of a popularity contest. ... There is no way Melinda Doolittle should have been sent home," says Erica L. Batte, 36, of Swissvale. "The judges should have more say in the elimination process."
The 29-year-old Melinda-aw-shucks-you-like-me-Doolittle with the powerhouse voice was Simon Cowell's pick to win the competition almost from day one. However, viewers sent the long-on-talent-short-on-neck former backup singer from Brentwood, Tenn., packing last week, a disappointed third-place finisher.
"I'm getting more and more disgusted," says longtime "Idol" fan Carol Frye of Hopewell. "With Sanjaya staying long after he should have been voted off and Melinda getting voted off before she should have, I am ready to quit watching."
Average viewership has been down by almost a million on Tuesdays this season, according to the Fox network.
Still, the show's a ratings Goliath. An average of more than 30 million people ages 18-49 have watched each of the two weekly installments of American Idol this season.
About 8 million Americans discuss "American Idol" each day, making it the 17th most talked about brand in the country, according to the word-of-mouth marketing research company, the Keller Fay Group. However, about 41 percent of all those Idol conversations are mixed or negative, with the hot topics including Sanjaya, the judges or other performers.
Frye believes the show's rules should be changed so that people vote for the person they want sent home and that there should be a limit to the number of calls that can come from any one phone number.
"America thinks of 'American Idol' as a joke, and unless the voting is changed to eliminate the 12-year-old girls who vote 200 times for Sanjaya, then we will never have a true American Idol," says Timothy Lego, 27, of Marshall-Shadeland. "It has been proven over the last few years that the winner of 'American Idol' does not have the most success."
In another shocking ouster last season, viewers kicked favored-to-win Chris Daughtry to the curb, giving him a fourth-place finish. However, his band's album "DAUGHTRY" is No. 6 on the Billboard Top 200 and has been on the chart for 25 weeks, reaching No. 1 for a time. His success has easily surpassed that of Season Five "American Idol" winner Taylor Hicks.
"I voted 20 times for Melinda," says Sherry Kraft, 70, of Greenfield. "Now, I don't care who wins. I think it's fixed."Kevork Djansezian, Associated Press
Chris Daughtry ended up in fourth place, but his career has taken off.
Click photo for larger image.Dima Gavrysh, Associated Press
Taylor Hicks won season 5.
Click photo for larger image.
Kraft was shocked when Melinda Doolittle was sent home and wrote a letter to Fox telling the network as much.
"I'm going to buy Melinda's CD when it comes out, and I think that Jordin is going to win and she's second best," she says.
Kraft believes Jordin may be more marketable than Melinda to the American public because of her biracial background. Jordin's father, former New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys cornerback Phillippi Sparks, is African-American. Her mother is Caucasian.
Others say the now moot Melinda-Jordin battle was more about youth and beauty. Jordin is a talented, beautiful and bubbly young woman with a very good voice. She's only 17.
Tillie LaMastro, 56, of McCandless thinks it had more to do with their different personalities.
"Melinda wasn't as outgoing as Jordin," she says. "She was so wonderful, but she acted like she was the worst thing in the world. You have to be a little self-confident."
She still predicts Melinda will have a chart-topping CD.
"She was the best, let's face it," she says. "Beautiful voice. Simply beautiful."
And while disappointed that Melinda didn't make it to the final two, LaMastro now is rooting for Jordin to win.
"She outshines him, and I think Melinda outshined them both," she says.
Blake is a quirky and refreshing performer who isn't afraid to take chances and has his own distinct style.
"Blake is the most entertaining and original," says Nancy Fleeher, 50, of Cecil. "He should win."
That said, she still believes this season was "terrible."
"It's the viewers' fault," she says. "They voted off the better singers early on and did not leave much for the end."
Katie Hasty, a Billboard associate editor, says people have to remember that the concept of talent is completely subjective.
"A lot of people think that Jordin is a better performer, or they like looking at her more," says Hasty, who was a Taylor Hicks fan. "As far as singing talent goes, the show isn't supposed to be the perfect test of who has the most pure voice and is most appealing vocally, but who is a great performer."
She says the two remaining finalists are there for a reason. They're entertaining.
However, some fans, such as Lego, say they won't be watching the finale and won't be there next season, either.
"Unless some changes are made to prevent talented contestants from being voted off in favor of jokes like Sanjaya, 'American Idol' is going to give America nothing but bad musical talent."
AOL Music is slated to premiere the studio recording of this year's "American Idol" winner at 10 p.m.
L.A. Johnson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-3903.