Fantasia Barrino bests Diana DeGarmo by 1.3 million votes to win 'American Idol 3'
By Wade Paulsen, 05/27/2004
In the "Battle of the Teens" on the season finale of Fox's American Idol 3, 19-year-old Fantasia Barrino, the last remaining member of the show's "Three Divas," defeated 16-year-old Diana DeGarmo to become the third "American Idol" selected by the show.
After several voting controversies that plagued the entire Idol season, the final vote was reasonably trouble-free, as Fox opened up three phone lines per contestant instead of its normal one line. As a result, the number of votes cast just about tripled from the Idol 2 finale to the Idol 3 finale, from 24 million to 65 million -- roughly consistent with the increase in the number of lines (especially if the number of text-message votes remained about the same).
In the final tally, Fantasia's winning margin was about 1.3 million votes -- or, in other words, Fantasia received about 51% of the votes cast, with Diana receiving about 49%. The result puts to rest (once and for all, we hope) the charges of "racism" that followed the booting of the other two members of the "Three Divas" -- Jennifer Hudson and LaToya London.
Fantasia thus joins Idol 1 winner Kelly Clarkson and Idol 2 winner Ruben Studdard as the winner of a car, a management contract with Idol creator Simon Fuller's 19 Management, and a recording contract with a division of the BMG Music Group, now headed by industry legend Clive Davis. Since Clive, while acting as a guest judge on the show, had promised to sign Fantasia whether she won or lost, we imagine that he's relieved by the outcome.
Fantasia's first single will be a song that both she and Diana performed on Idol: 'I Believe,' a ballad written by Louis Biancanello, Sam Watters and former Idol 1 contestant Tamyra Gray, whose debut album was released Tuesday. The New York Times has already characterized 'I Believe' as a "hokey inspirational ballad" -- not a promising start. An album will follow, probably in the fall, including some tracks produced by hip-hop star Missy Elliott (according to Clive Davis).
According to MTV, Fantasia was the favorite of Idol judge Simon Cowell from the time that the final twelve were chosen. Although it comes as no surprise that one of the "Three Divas" won, many Idol viewers other than Simon felt that Fantasia was the least talented of the trio, and interest in the show declined for the first time as the finale approached ... to the point where Idol 2 third-place finisher Kimberley Locke predicted (for MTV) the show's imminent demise unless things are fixed: "They're going to have to change the voting process and get some really talented people next year" or else the show might not recover.
According to Nielsen Media Research, the audience for the finale dipped from 34.2 million for Idol 2 (Clay Aiken versus Ruben) to 28.8 million for Idol 3 -- a 16% drop, despite the increased number of votes. The ratings also declined in share of viewers ages 18-49, which is the most desirable category for advertisers. Nevertheless, Idol's Tuesday-night show finished the 2003-04 TV season as #1, and Idol's Wednesday-night show, including the finale, was #3.
We wish Fantasia, who is also the mother of a 2-year-old daughter, the best of luck as a recording artist. Unlike our feelings about Kelly, Clay or Ruben -- but like our feelings about Idol 1 runner-up Justin Guarini -- we think she may need it. And we wish Diana luck in just landing a recording contract with someone. Again, we think she may need it.