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HOME > American Idol > American Idol 6

Simon Cowell: I can't call 'American Idol' finale, Melinda cut was 'unfair'

By Christopher Rocchio, 05/21/2007 

Despite having watched every one of Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis' performances prior to the two becoming American Idol's sixth season Top 2 finalists, judge Simon Cowell said the competition is just too close to call.

"I can't call it at this stage because I think they've both got different strengths.  One is a better entertainer, and one is a better singer, so it will be down to what they do [during Tuesday night's final performance episode]," Cowell told reporters during a Friday conference call that was supposed to focus on the upcoming second season of American Inventor, which he produces for ABC.  However the Idol questions came fast and furiously at Cowell, and he answered them.  "I would say the pro for Blake is he's a brilliant entertainer, the negative would be he's not a fantastic singer.  I would say the advantage for Jordin is obviously she is a great singer.  On a negative, she hasn't done one performance yet which I can remember as a wow."

On Tuesday, May 22, Sparks and Lewis will each perform three songs during Idol's final performance episode: the one chosen by viewers via American Idol's sixth season songwriting contest; a second song of their own personal choosing; and a third one that they previously performed during Idol 6.  Cowell said he's heard the song chosen via the songwriting contest, and described it as being "alright" before offering some insight into how it might have an affect on the competition.

"I think it's going to be harder for Blake to sing because it's more of a ballad," said Cowell.

While he's looking forward to the finale, Cowell must be forgiven if it seems his heart isn't in it as much.  After all he's only human, and was a big booster of Melinda Doolittle, who was the tenth finalist eliminated from Idol 6 on the cusp of the finale.

"I was very down on the night because I think -- rightly so -- you should have your own personal favorites as well because obviously we're not robots.  And I just felt that it was unfair for [Doolittle] that she had delivered for 10 weeks in a row better than anybody else and at the last minute was denied the chance of showcasing herself in the final," explained Cowell.  "It just didn't seem fair to me.  So I felt for her.  There's nothing much you can say to somebody at the end of that.  'You sang better than anybody else.  You gave it 100% every week.  But you're not in the finals...' It just didn't seem right."

Cowell may have been personally pulling for Doolittle, but that didn't mean he particularly liked the chances of the 29-year-old Brentwood, TN resident making the finale.

"I kind of went into the semifinals thinking Melinda wouldn't make it because the younger dialers would probably speed dial compared to the older voters who would vote for Melinda.  So I had a hunch she wasn't going to make it, but I was still determined to give her every help I could on the night," said Cowell, who made several comments during the semifinals expressing that Doolittle deserved to be in the finale because of her consistency.  He said she came into Idol 6 "timid" and "really afraid," but thinks she would have been able to shake that on the stage of Hollywood's Kodak Theater during the finale. 

"I actually believed if she had walked out on that Kodak stage and actually felt, 'You know what?  I'm good enough to be in the final,' said Cowell.  "I think we would have seen the best in Melinda.  It's one of the reasons why I was a bit frustrated."

He may have personally felt Doolittle deserved to be in the finale, but added he doesn't think her absence from it necessarily hinders Idol's reputation.

"I don't think it hurts the show's credibility," he explained.  "When you allow the public to choose, you've got to live and die by the vote.  It's just one of those things.  I didn't agree with the vote but more people should have dialed for Melinda.  It's as simple as that."

From former semfinalist Antonella Barba's provocative pictures to Top 10 finalist Sanjaya Malakar's creative coifs and less than superb singing --  as well as everything in between -- Idol's sixth season has been a bit of a rollercoatser.  However Cowell said he wouldn't have it any other way.

"Well I like crazy.  I would never want to be in the situation where we cast the [Top 12 finalists] as normal people because I think it would be boring," he said.  "I mean the [judging] panel is wacky enough, and therefore I think the contestants should be a bit strange as well.  And I thought the whole Sanjaya thing was hysterical.  Well I'm happy now because he's out.  I don't think I'd be happy if he was in the finals.  So I can now be quite smug about it.  But looking back, I thought it was quite amusing."

After six seasons of watching Cowell dish out criticism to the performers, some of Idol's sixth season finalists decided it was time to fight back and were quick to tell the often sharp-tongued British judge what they thought in return.

"I encourage it.  I don't think [the contestants] do it enough because I think they all think they're going to be voted off if they're rude to me," said Cowell.  "I think it's the opposite.  The more rude they are to me, the more votes they'll get.  I think off camera, they're going completely nuts complaining about me, then on camera they're just smiling.  I don't understand that.  I think it should be two ways.  If I'm rude to them, they're more than entitled to be rude to me back."

There's also been an unusual amount of banter between Idol host Ryan Seacrest and Cowell during Idol's sixth season.  As an avid animal lover, it's really no surprise how Cowell described dealing with the long-time host.

"It's rather like having a silly little dog who wants to jump on your lap and you just swat the dog off," he explained.  "And occasionally, in a very stern voice, you have to say, 'No.'  And that's how I deal with Ryan."

Cowell told reporters he currently has "50 or 60 shows in production" around the world, so he's understandably busy these days.  However it's Idol that consumes a good amount of his time, and he admitted he didn't think it would be that way when the show premiered in 2002.

"I think if you had said to me on Season 1, 'By Season 6, you'd still be No. 1 averaging 28 million [viewers].  Do you want to take that?'  I'd go, 'Yeah, I'd take that,'" he said.  "I didn't think we'd get beyond Season 1, so every other season's has been a bonus."

It's not as if the show hasn't been without its bumps, according to Cowell, who said he wasn't entirely thrilled with America's choice of Taylor Hicks as Idol's fifth season winner.  Never one to shy away from how he feels, Cowell was quick to offer an "I told you so" now that Hicks' debut album hasn't sold as many copies as previous Idol winners or even other finalists from the fifth season.

"I was talking about this with someone the other day, which is don't confuse talent with popularity," said Cowell.  "Because actually this is a talent show, and no one listened to me at the time and they all laughed at me when [Hicks] won last year.  I remember saying, 'He's not the best person we've had enter, he's just the most popular.'"

And the commercial success of Idol winners matters to Cowell, as he reiterated a previous point he made when interviewed by CBS' 60 Minutes, that he treats Idol as a "route to selling more records."

"I've never done it for art.  I've done it to sell records," said Cowell.  "As long as people enjoy what you're making, and I've always been able to sell a lot of records, that's my main concern.  I've never believed in wanting to leave some sort of artistic legacy.  It's not what I've done.  It's like the shows we make.  We just want a lot of people to enjoy them, and I don't care about winning awards or not, I just want ratings."

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