Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Jordin Sparks: Idol's stealth contestant?

The big question from last night’s American Idol isn’t when Barry Gibb started talking like Sean Connery (well, okay, that is a big question), but whether an eventual win by 17-year-old Jordin Sparks has been in the cards from the start.

A month ago. Idol was shaping into a clash of the divas Melinda Doolittle and LaKisha Jones, but in recent weeks, thanks to some overpraising of pleasant performances (and criticism of the frontrunners) from the judges and unfortunate song choices by the competition, it’s looking more and more like the next American Idol will be the seventeen-year-old football player’s daughter who's big enough to play linebacker herself.

Which is what brings us back to January, before the season launched (but months after the auditions), when Entertainment Weekly quoted judge Randy Jackson “cryptically” predicting the winner will be ''someone with curly hair."

And then there were the auditions in Seattle, where Jordin’s inclusion, how she arrived there-- and the reception from judges-- raised a red flag when the auditions aired.

Until now, the Seattle auditions— the last ones for the season-- were memorable for Blake Lewis, Sanjaya Malakar, the Bush Baby— and the accusation that a “ringer”— a professional— was planted among the contestants.

That was Tom Lowe, a flamboyant British boy band singer who was once signed to a label that employed Simon Cowell, and profiled in the version of Idol that was shown only in the UK.

But the real ringer of the Seattle auditions may have turned out to be Jordin Sparks. In fact, the morning after the Seattle episode aired, TV critic Melanie McFarland wrote about it, indignantly, in the Seattle-Post Intelligencer:

“… one shining star stood out: 16-year-old Jordin Sparks from Glendale, Ariz. She's beautiful, has a smile that can light up L.A., and tore apart Celine Dion's ‘Because You Love Me.’

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!

“Seeing her is supposed to drive home the reason we keep running back to Idol. Young, ambitious and undiscovered, she embodies the dream of Idol, the idea that someone with small but bright embers of talent can, within the space of a few months, shoot from obscurity to superstardom.

“Except that's not exactly the case with this young woman.

“Out of nowhere, Abdul says she recognizes Sparks' name -- and Sparks reveals she is the daughter of former New York Giants cornerback Phillippi Sparks. What a coinky-dink!

“And that's not all! Jordin Sparks has an exhaustive Wikipedia page, where you can find out interesting facts such as: She was the Coca-Cola Rising Star in 2002. Coca-Cola, of course, being Idol's major sponsor. She also appeared in America's Most Talented Kids in 2004, toured with Michael W. Smith and sang in Alice Cooper's Christmas show. Winning Arizona Idol netted her a Ford Fusion and a trip to Seattle. Wonder if she had to wait in line?”

So... the sponsor’s favorite gets a trip from Arizona to Seattle for an eleventh-hour spot in the final, controversial audition session. Randy predicts a winner with “curly hair” (a clue that many mistook as pointing to Chris Sligh)— just as his executive producer promises (accurately) Entertainment Weekly that Sanjaya Malakar won’t make it through. The judges begin to heap extravagant praise on the young girl with the beauty pageant-High School Musical talent. She begins to overshadow her more gifted opponents.

Was her victory in the cards from the start?

Then again, Jordan could be eliminated tonight. Stay tuned.

No comments: