Tuned In

Sligh, Dogged

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Chris Sligh may not have won American Idol this season, but he has a legacy. Two, actually. First, he broke my mammoth two-weeks-in-a-row run of predicting American Idol’s ejectees. Second, he proved that, while there are definitely patterns to American Idol voting and a history to learn from, you can’t just strategize your way to the crown like Richard Hatch.

Chris announced that he was an eagle-eyed student of AI strategy, and he certainly utilized the lessons of seasons past on the show: winning over the audience with humor, embracing his fans’ Taylor Hicks-esque name (‘Fro Patrol) and borrowing crowd-pleasing tricks from past idols like walking through the audience during a song. But–maybe through editing, maybe for deserved reasons–his savvy self-presentation came off as calculated. (In this sense, he was kind of like Project Runway’s Wendy Pepper, though thankfully he never managed to become a villain.)

Like a political candidate with too-controlling media advisers, he seemed canned and scripted, and was never able to translate his evident humor and charisma to the stage. His Dukakis-on-a-tank moment may have come through that audience walk-through, where he stared intently at the camera but never connected with the fans in the crowd, who seemed puzzled that he wouldn’t high-five them. Or maybe it was when Simon chided him for taking off his glasses in one performance–“It’s not you”–which summed up the scent of affectedness he gave off.

Also–oh yeah–he just didn’t sing that well. I still don’t buy the idea that AI is just “a singing competition,” but it’s also not not a singing competition, and Chris didn’t even reach the Taylor Hicks-esque level that would have allowed fans to justify voting for him because they liked him.

It’s too bad, because I doubt you can feign the down-to-Earth good humor he showed in his interviews. (He was the contestant you’d most like to watch Idol with; just not the one you most wanted to watch on Idol.) And also because, with him off the show, there goes my last chance to learn what “in the pocket” and “getting ahead of the beat” actually mean.