I’ve been watching and reading, with some puzzlement, this whole Pia Toscano affair on American Idol. What actually made this the national debate that it has become, is the judge’s reaction to her early elimination from American Idol. Jennifer Lopez appeared in shock, shed tears, and even gave Pia a “we’re-together-chica” send off, by talking about how often doors were shut in her own face. Steven Tyler said America’s “lack of passion was unforgivable.” Tom Hanks tweeted that there was no longer any reason to watch American Idol. Pia’s hometown is organizing an American Idol boycott.
And Interscope records, sensing blood in the water, is releasing chum in the form of a new Pia Toscano album, to the simple-minded consumer sharks that will undoubtedly feed in a frenzy, at least for a little while.
Pia’s elimination shouldn’t be a mystery. While tastemakers may have lauded Pia’s pipes (there’s a porn movie title, if there ever was one,) who are we kidding? The majority of voters on AI are young, teenage girls. And Pia represents everything they hate. She’s a beautiful girl, but am I the only one who found her completely robotic and lacking in any true warmth? Even her interviews seemed scripted, and there was nothing truly likeable about her persona.
And American Idol has long been a popularity contest, not a singing one. Sometimes, stars show up, and the entire context changes. Adults are compelled to come forward to vote. Young girls find an idol, and they vote. Sometimes, popularity meets talent, and a true star is born. It’s really only happened twice: Kelly Clarkson; and Carrie Underwood. Both of them transcended the usual popularity contest into one where they stood in a class of their own…which is what stars tend to do.
Pia Toscana may be the nicest girl in the world. And her pipes are amazing. But, she has no personality, and she has absolutely no star-power. Most importantly, she has no charisma. Which is defined as the ability to make someone else feel better about themselves. People with charisma make the experience of interacting with them (even through a television screen) a joyful exercise. Pia absolutely doesn’t have that quality.
Yes, she’ll release an album. Yes, she’ll sell records. Yes, she’ll make enough money and be seen enough to ocassionally make the pages of US Weekly. But let’s be honest.
She didn’t survive because the wisdom of crowds prevailed.