Season 8 of American Idol has now begun, and I decided to make some predictions about the outcome. Surely I've been watching long enough to know how this show works, right? Okay...predictions, but first some presuppositions:
• Someone, maybe it's the viewers...maybe it's the producers who are occasionally led by what the viewers want...will pick a winner and that winner will be presented to the public at the end of the show. The winner will be the contestant who is most likely to make money for the show, its producers, its associated companies, and its advertisers.
• Someone, perhaps the viewers or perhaps the producers, prefers that there be a balanced variation of gender and ethnicity and musical style in the winners from year to year.
Based on the above presuppositions we can look at the past winners and the current crop of contestants and predict a winner, or at least a category of likely winners, for this season. First of all, the gender/ethnicity/style categories for the past 7 seasons:
Season 1 winner: Kelly Clarkson is a white female whose singing style is, according to Wikipedia, Pop Rock. (I'm going to rely on Wikipedia for the style information so as to avoid referring to most of the female singers as "shrieking divas".)
Season 2 winner: Ruben Studdard is a black male whose singing style is Pop, R&B, and Gospel.
Season 3 winner: Fantasia I'm Too Sexy For My Last Name is a black female whose singing style is R&B.
Season 4 winner: Carrie Underwood is a white female whose singing style is Country Pop.
Season 5 winner: Taylor Hicks is a soulful white male whose singing style is Classic Rock, Blues, and R&B.
Season 6 winner: Jordan Sparks is a black female whose singing style is Pop/R&B.
Season 7 winner: David Cook is a white male whose singing style is Rock.
Okay, what do we need for balance this year? There have been 4 white winners and 3 black winners thus far, so maybe we need an ethnicity balancer. So far, none of the winners have been Latino or Asian; if we need balance we are past due for a winner in one of those ethnic categories.
There have been 4 winners who are at least partially identified with R&B, so we can have another year off from that...and there was very great rejoicing. There have been 2 winners identified with Rock music, and one of those was last year's winner, so it's highly unlikely that a rocker will win this season. Only two winners are in the Pop category (which seems odd...isn't this show all about the Pop?) so that's a ripe possibility. Carrie Underwood is the only Country singer who has managed to win thus far, and since it's been several years since her win it might be Country's turn again.
In terms of gender balance there have been 4 female winners and 3 male winners. Obviously the men need to win this year, right?
So, what do we need for our ideal winner? A male Latino Country singer! Uh oh. As far as I can tell there is no one in the Top 36 who fits that description. We need Gabe Garcia...the runner up from last year's Nashville Star. Unfortunately we ain't got him, so where do we go from here?
A male Latino Pop singer? A male Asian Pop singer? Hey, lookie there at the selection the producers thoughtfully provided for us in this year's Top 36. We have Anoop Desai, Jorge Nunez, and Kai Kalama!
I'm going to throw in another variable just for this particular year of American Idol...the Obama Factor. The USA's historic election of Barack Obama is recent enough that Americans are still in "Obama Mode" in their decision-making. I'm predicting this will affect the AI results. President Obama was born in Hawaii, although he is not of Hawaiin ethnicity, he is of mixed ethnic heritage, and he has an unusual name with a melodic flow of vowels and consonants.
Based on all of the above criteria, my prediction for winner of American Idol Season 8 is: Kai Kalama!