Chuck Ross

‘Idol’ Irony: Explaining Why Viewers Voted Off Who They Voted Off This Week, And Why They’ll Vote Him Off Again

Apr 8, 2010

Ryan Seacrest, introducing "Idol" on Wednesday night, said the results of that night’s "American Idol" show would be shocking, and, indeed, conventional wisdom says they were: America voted, and the person with the fewest number of votes was Michael Lynche.

I say shocking to those who lean toward conventional wisdom, because, indeed, Lynche has been a favorite of the judges this year. Furthermore, he hasn’t been in the bottom two or three prior to this week.

But to many of us, his being voted off was not that surprising. (Nor was his being saved by the judges, given the praise they have lavished upon him.)

First, as most longtime “Idol” watchers know, it’s about this time every season that America often votes off someone the judges think is really good. Many times I’ve also found it inexplicable why that person is voted off.

But not this time.

That’s because something has been going on with Michael that’s different than any other contestant who has come this far in the contest, at least that I can remember.

And it’s unfortunate, because Big Mike has a big personality and a heartwarming personal story. You wanna root for the guy.

But here’s what’s been going on with him for many of us who watch “Idol.” Too often Michael’s vocals aren’t da bomb in our living rooms. Giving the judges their due, I’m assuming that in person Lynche has been hitting doubles, triples and home runs just about every week.

But if our house is typical, what we’re hearing through our TV—and we have a big Sony Bravia with decent speakers—is walks, singles, and the more than occasional long fly ball that’s caught by an outfielder for an out.

For two seasons TVWeek did weekly podcasts with “Idol” executive producer Ken Warwick and former showrunner Nigel Lythgoe. Every so often Lythgoe and I would discuss the fact that a performance that Lythgoe and the judges thought was just fantastic in person really fell flat when viewed on TV at home.

The judges rarely mention it—though Simon has referred to it a few times this season.

I call this factor “Idol" Irony. Why this happens fairly often with a Lynche performance I don’t know. And with fewer and fewer contestants left on the show, it’s now manifest itself with what happened this week—Lynche receiving the fewest number of votes.

Clearly Tim Urban is only still on the show because girls think he’s cute. I’m not sure why Aaron is still on. Andrew is on thin ice. Katie making it down to the final two or three is doubtful

And despite the judges saving Lynche this week, he’ll soon be gone again.

Because regardless how much he might remind one of Maxwell or Al Green in person, too often in our living rooms he reminds us of a Max not well at all, with a voice sounding surprisingly thin and almost weak, lacking both the vigor and character of real soul.

It’s a case of a great guy who might have a lot of singing talent when seen live, but whose voice just doesn’t travel well over TV.

And unfortunately for Big Mike, what America is judging him on is how his performance sounds to us on TV.#


  1. Mr. Ross.
    You’ve nailed it!!!!
    Everything you wrote was true, including but not limited to, your statement that
    “Clearly Tim Urban is only still on the show because girls think he’s cute. I’m not sure why Aaron is still on. Andrew is on thin ice. Katie making it down to the final two or three is doubtful.”
    Very honest and insightful, so keep up the great work!

  2. I used to listen to your conversations w/ Nigel and enjoyed them. Thought you’d like to know.
    Re now, I like your insights and I agree. Actually this season, so many contestants that are good but not quite great — I kept wondering why some weeks I like Michael and others he’s forgettable. Will someone please tell Lee (my favorite voice) to make himself angry enough to calm his fears? (Doing that works for me as a speaker every time.) And gosh, finally, Casey connected with the emotion of the song. He gives the impression he’s not very aware of matching words with voice with facial expression and body language. I wish someone could have taken the top 12 and given them unilaterally a combination of instructions on how to pick songs, how to use the stage, how to be fearless, how to speak when the world is listening, and how to have fun and enjoy the experience. Hmmmm.

  3. Chuck,
    As a choral music director, my students watch American Idol in my classroom as a part of their classwork and of all of my classes, Michael Lynche has become the favorite. Your theory has no validity. I think last night’s vote was a fluke and borderline racist and so do my students. Michael is extremely likeable and got stuck in a genre that was not a neccessary strength, but still managed to pull the song off as he always does. I think that by choosing a song that not everyone can relate to or has heard of hurt his vote. He should have choose “Imagine” or something more common. Out of all of the guys, Michael is the only one who has any genuine talent. My student don’t even want me to play any of the others. I think polling 100 kids and seeing their reaction has been a very good way to see what people are thinking. Let’s face it, kids are ten times more likely to vote and vote more often than adults because they have the time.

  4. I think you have a very valid point. The first time I attended an Idol concert I was blown away by how much richer and professional sounding the performer’s voices were than when heard thru the TV. Like hearing two different people perform.

  5. You’re not really going to play the “race card” are you?!?!? The very talentless Ruben Studdard won the whole enchilada a few years back. And because your students think he’s the best, and will vote for him doesn’t make it so. I could find you a room full of kids who think Lady Gaga, Rhianna and all the rest of the “auto-tune” crowd are better than The Beatles…It doesn’t make it so. You are, sadly, naive and gullible. I feel sorry for your students!

  6. I’m no expert, but I told my wife almost a month ago, I think we’re witnessing an Obama backlash. There have been others of color who were equally or nearly as gifted as Big Mike and they went down in consecutive weeks. Now, someone has to go, but as already alluded, there are presently several who could arguably have been booted earlier on. Just a thought. To Mr. Ross, I too have a Sony Bravia and crank it up during American Idol. I think Mike has given performances so powerful, even the onboard speakers do him justice.

  7. Frequently the show’s on-air mix is sub-par… and not just with Big Mike. I have a high-end system on which I can hear most every nuance, but whether on a 2″ built-in speaker or the high-end system, the quality of the mix falls flat more often than not. Vocals get lost, effects are applied inconsistently, some instruments aren’t mic’d at all… this has been a problem for years.

  8. I voted a few times for Michael earlier, but this week really disliked hearing a song I love, a working man’s ballad, sung like just another love song. So I didn’t vote for him. I loved him the week before, though. If you really think I’m racist because I didn’t like how he sang ‘Eleanor Rigby,’ I feel sorry for you & sorrier for your students. You are way off key.

  9. Hmm. Why isn’t Chuck Ross eating his words this week?!

  10. I agree. I mean, I had a feeling Andrew was going home, but I didn’t think Katie would. It’s probably because she begs the viewers to vote for her after she sings. Guess it didn’t work this week. I think that Tim NEEDS to go home. PLEASE STOP VOTING FOR HIM. HE IS NOT GOOD! I’m a female with relatively good taste, and I don’t think he is that attractive. His smile is the only thing he has going for him, and I think that was played out a long time ago. But, back to my point. I think that Mr. Chuck didn’t think it through that the viewers were more likely to vote for Michael this week, especially Michael fans, because he was saved last week. I do agree that it might be the only reason he is still alive in the game. We shall see next week. 🙂

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