Second 'American Idol 3' vote stunner: LaToya London out, while three teens remain
By Wade Paulsen, 05/13/2004
Is this really American Idol 3 -- or is it really American Juniors 2?
In a second shocker, 24-year-old La Toya London, who was the odds-on favorite of both the judges and the betting public to win Idol 3, was instead ousted by vote of the American public after the May 11 "Disco Night" show. LaToya becomes the ninth of the 12 finalists to be voted off the show by the American public, and all three of the remaining contestants are teenaged women ... uh, girls ... uh, betwixt and between.
LaToya, who followed a dull performance of the BeeGees' "Love You Inside Out" with a very strong performance of Thelma Houston's "Don't Leave Me This Way" that earned rave reviews, was joined in the bottom two vote-getters by 19-year-old Fantasia Barrino, the judges' and bettors' second choice, who delivered a great rendition of Amii Stewart's "Knock on Wood" but then misfired on Bonnie Tyler's non-disco "Holding Out for a Hero" from the movie Footloose.
LaToya's boot recalls the untimely boot earlier in Idol 3 of the third member (with LaToya and Fantasia) of the show's "Three Divas": Jennifer Hudson. In that episode, the other two members of the "bottom three" were LaToya and Fantasia. Following the result, Idol guest judge Elton John described Idol voting as "incredibly racist." We wonder what Elton will have to say about LaToya's ouster, since he had said that he'd give her a record contract "straight away" during his appearance.
Joining Fantasia in the final three are two high-school students: 16-year-old Diana Degarmo, who was Miss Teen Georgia 2002 and was a finalist last year on NBC's America's Most Talented Kid, and 17-year-old Jasmine Trias, a Hawaiian of Filipino ancestry. Diana has ranked among the most improved contestants during the season, and both of her performances during Disco Week, renditions of the Barbra Streisand/Donna Summer duet "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" and Melba Moore's "This Is It," earned her raves from the judges -- including a rare apology from judge Simon Cowell, who had earlier called her "too young" to be the winner.
Jasmine, however, was hammered mercilessly by the judges for her lackluster (to put it kindly) performances of "It's Raining Men" and "Everlasting Love," which were clearly the two low points of the night. Even guest judge Donna Summer and judge Paula Abdul, who usually has a nice word to say about everyone, couldn't be positive in the wake of Jasmine's misfires, and Jasmine broke down in sobs after the judges' criticism of her second song, in which she seemed to struggle with the lyrics. Whether her tears won her some sympathy votes from the audience or whether her Hawaiian voting base simply does not care that she is completely outclassed at this stage of the competition is not known, but the Idol studio audience greeted Jasmine's survival with loud boos Wednesday night.
Despite her ouster, LaToya continued to smile throughout the announcements, and she performed "Don't Rain on My Parade" as a farewell song. Also appearing on the May 12 results show were Donna Summer, who sang her hits "Last Dance" and "MacArthur Park," and Idol 2 runner-up (and multi-platinum artist) Clay Aiken, who sang Earth, Wind & Fire's 1977 hit "Fantasy."
In next week's "Judges' Choice" show on Tuesday, May 18 at 8 PM EDT, each of the final three will sing three songs, one chosen by the judges, one chosen by themselves, and one chosen by music industry legend and RCA Records boss Clive Davis -- whose label will be responsible for releasing and promoting the album of the winner. In addition, on Monday, May 17 at 8 PM EDT, Fox will be airing another Idol special, featuring host Ryan Seacrist discussing the season to date with the judges plus one song each from the three finalists. (We hope that Jasmine finds a song that at least doesn't induce cringing.) The third-place finisher will then be announced on Wednesday, May 19, at 9 PM EDT.
In the wake of Jasmine's unexpected survival and John Stevens's similar survival earlier in the season, some fans of American Idol have begun advocating for a Jasmine victory, in hopes of forcing changes in the show's voting procedures. We note merely that, while Idol 3 seems to be duplicating the skewed audience voting of Idol 1, in which favorite Tamyra Gray placed fourth while the final matchup came down to Kelly Clarkson and outclassed Justin Guarini, the final three in Idol 2 (Clay, Ruben Studdard and Kimberley Locke) were also the three judges' favorites.
The real issue seems to be more one of overlapping demographics than flaws in the voting procedures, but that also reflects the reality of the music business. After all, if female singers became successful based solely on their talent, no one would even have heard of Madonna or Britney Spears.