So, as we've already established in Epoch 3, we've had a ton of WGWGs win. But what about the remaining WGs that were cast by the wayside? It might be constructive to see what brought the eliminations of these WGs, to see if there could be "strategic" casting of WGs in the future. Since this first occurred in Epoch 3, we'll analyze the ones found in Epoch 3. We'll only focus on the ones who got eliminated outside of the top five, because if they're in the top five, clearly the audience favors them.
Colton Berry (Age: 18/Staunton, VA/ AI7): Berry was sort of a fish-out-of-water Will Makar type back in AI5, but this was sort of the time when Bieber gained popularity. AI, always behind the curve, just didn't realize it at the time, and gave Berry minimal pre-semis exposure. Not saying he's Bieber, but surely, their vocals could be on par with each other. But the show was massively pushing Archuleta, so that, coupled with a subpar performance of "Suspicious Minds", made him eliminated.
Garrett Haley (Age: 17/Elida, OH/AI7): Haley had even worse treatment than Berry--he had no pre-semis exposure, so no one knew who he was. A horrid performance of a Neil Sedaka song was definitely enough to get him eliminated, and Simon made comments about him looking too pale. Fodder from the start. Imagine if Simon told Phillip he looked too cheesy, or something.
Jason Yeager (Age: 28/ Grand Prairie, TX/AI7): Yeager was actually a WG who might have been a WGWG, but he was a family man, from the South, sang frau-appealing standards, and might be a country singer. Might be. Put this guy in AI11, and he might have won this show in his sleep. But here's the problem: the guy had zero pre-finals exposure. Zilch. If there's one way to de-pimp these WGs, this is almost always the way. The contestants can't awwshucks their way out of it. Yeager also didn't sing much country as well--his two songs were "Moon River", an Andy Williams standard, and "Long Train Runnin'". There might have been an identity crisis in there, and he sang both songs horribly according to WNTS, with comments about being cabaret. All the pro-Idol audience strengths were offset by zero exposure, horrible song choices, and horrible performances. If Idol can cast more guys like Yeager to fill future WG slots, and brand those guys the same way, then they could have a greater chance for a non-WG victory.
Robbie Carrico (Age: 26/Melbourne, FL/AI7): Carrico's sort of the more aggressive, mic-wielding screaming WG in the vein of Daughtry and Maroulis of previous seasons. Those types were shock eliminations as the Idol audience prefers their WGs humble, and Carrico was yet another casualty of this line of thinking. It didn't help that his background isn't the type to get votes: he was a former boybander turned rocker--we're not making this up--and was constantly bombarded with concerns about whether he was "authentic" enough. Despite turning in a good performance by Three Dog Night to open the semis, the aggressive WG plus his background couldn't offset decent pre-semis exposure and a good performance. Perhaps Idol should cast more aggressive mic-wielding WGs or WGs who have authenticity problems again.
Luke Menard (Age: 29/Crawfordsville, IN/AI7): Menard is another guy, like Yeager, who could have won this show in his sleep: family man, looked cute for the Idol audience, near enough to the South, seemed very awwshucks humble. Again, though, he was done in by similar factors to Yeager: he had zero exposure previously, and his song choices were dire: I know they were constrained by '60s and '70s and '80s music, but "Killer Queen" and especially the last one, "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go?" If those songs weren't cheesy enough, his performances were--he constantly received 20/100s in WNTS. One might say he actually overstayed the competition due to his humility, but his case illustrates that horrid cheesy song choices can actually oust future WGs, provided they take the bait.
Matt Breitzke (Age: 27/Bixby, OK/AI8): Breitzke was the quintessential Idol type: South, family man, and had pre-finals exposure that portrayed him as a hard worker who could actually sing. Recipe to get far, right? As Terry McDermott and Nicholas David of the Voice have shown, these types get votes. Bretizke's problem was that he might have looked too aggressive for the show, and he only fueled that by doing the aggressive post-grunge Tonic song for his semi's choice instead of some safe coffeehouse WGWG song that always gets votes. When he did a poor performance that got criticized, he started backtalking, and with his aggressive demeanor that might have turned off the votes. Backtalking aggressive looking WGs is thus another way to cast.
Brent Keith (Age: 29/Blanchester, OH/AI8): Keith had a lot of the stuff that, had he played his cards right, could have easily made him a winner in this show: family guy, a country singer, had his audition shown. The show opted not to pimp him as he got an early semis slot, but Keith self-inflicted his elimination here: he went with modern country. With an Idol audience accustomed to Travis Tritt, Keith Urban, Garth Brooks and other old school joints, he opted for Jason Aldean. That's a no-no. In addition, he backtalked when Simon criticized him, so he didn't have the awwshucks attitude of previous WGs. Contrast that to Michael Sarver, who looked humble and was supposedly "country" (he duped the audience into it), and Keith lost out. Modern country, backtalking...take note, TPTB, for future WGs.
Nathaniel Marshall (Age: 19/Malone, NY/AI8): Marshall got a ton of Hollywood exposure but was portrayed more as a drama queen rather than as a singer, and right on cue the show cast a Meat Loaf song on him to make him more the joke. If Idol could waste their WG slots on people like Marshall who don't take the show seriously enough or are humble enough to get votes, all the better.
Nick Mitchell (Age: 27/Brookfield, CT/AI8): See Marshall above. Same thing, except Mitchell received a ton of exposure pre-semis but was cast as a joke right from the start, personality over singing. Right on cue with his semis song. More slots need to be wasted on these for the WGs.
Alex Wagner Trugman (Age: 19/Studio City, CA/AI8): Wagner-Trugman had his audition shown but seemed too geeky for this game, and seemed like a joke contestant. The show hated him, gave him an early spot and made him growl out an Elton John song. Geeky joke type WGs are another to cast.
Von Smith (Age: 22/Kansas City, MO/AI8): Von, in the words of Simon, was very Clay Aiken-ish--looked a bit fish-out-of-water nervous on stage, sang belting diva notes. Didn't seem awwwshucks enough like Aiken to get votes, and to be fair, the Idol audience prefer musicians rather than belters already in Epoch 3. So even a decent performance could not get votes, although to be fair by this time TPTB have already de-pimped him by giving him the first slot. They did give him a wildcard but he bombed and wasn't chosen. Belting WGs therefore is another way to go.
Ricky Braddy (Age: 26/Nashville, TN/AI8): Braddy's another one of those types who fits the WG profile--from the South, family man. He didn't really have all the ingredients to get votes, though: he looked too intellectual for the Idol audience (or wasn't conventionally cute enough for them), and despite being from the South, he was very much more in tune with old school R&B. He gave very good performances of a "A Song For You" and "Superstition", and while had sort of a base to get Elliott Yamin type votes, he didn't seem awwshucks enough for that. In addition, the show really, really depimped him and didn't want him to far--he had zero exposure, got placed in an early slot (2nd) for his semis performance, and then despite singing well for a wild card performance, the judges bounced him again for Jasmine Murray and Megan Joy. Just goes to show you--if you get zero exposure and the show really wants to get rid of you, even if you're a WG, they can.
Tyler Grady (Age: 20/Nazareth, PA/AI9): Grady was too self-absorbed in his persona as this hard rawk frontman type to the point he became a poser and a caricature. He had decent exposure pre-semis, but he's from the Northeast, a place that doesn't get votes, and is a hard rawker who was not humble and acted like a poser in his performance of "American Woman" where he wielded a mic, did the "uhhhhs!" and made faces while receiving his critiques. Casting WGs like Grady--from the Northeast, hard rawk, posers, doesn't take criticism well--should be very easy to do.
Alex Lambert (Age: 19/North Richland Hills, TX/AI9): Lambert was a guitar strummer and from the South. That's all it takes to be the winner of American Idol, right? Wrong. Lambert almost purposely didn't want to connect with the audience--he seemed moody, might have been a troublemaker, was poor with interviews, and gave completely the opposite of an awwshucks vibe throughout his run. He had zero stage presence and seemed quite depressed. Lee DeWyze might have looked depressed, but his case didn't have the feel of Lambert's. So despite two good performances at the end, the audience never connected with him at all. It might all boil down with the humility, as Lambert's case shows. In addition, the show gave him only Hollywood exposure, for better or for worse.
Tim Halperin (Age: 23/Omaha, NE/AI10): Halperin's from near the South and has a sort of bland, coffeehouse voice and probably was perceived as "cute" by the Idol audience. Winner material, right? Well...I saw some of Halperin's pre-Idol youtubes, and he actually seems too creative for Idol's shenanigans, having some pretty high quality recordings, so it was likely the audience didn't understand him. Halperin had his audition shown but had an early spot with a poor performance of an unknown Rob Thomas song. The show hated him, and that's why he got booted--if he wanted votes, he would have went Beatles, or Bob Sager, or something.
Brett Loewenstern (Age: 17/Boca Raton, FL/AI10): Loewenstern was riding on sob story and had a ton of pre-semis exposure, but he had no real WG voting attributes and only had an ok voice. He turned in a decent performance but being more personality than singer it's not surprising he was booted. Idol should cast more WGs this way.
Robbie Rosen (Age: 17/Merrick, NY/AI10): Rosen had his audition shown but was too R&B for the audience to understand--anytime you cover "Down" by Jay Sean pre-Idol and then make it to the Idol stage, you're unlikely to gain votes. He was also more piano belter, and of course, he was from the Northeast, so he'd never get votes. It's a good way to cast WGs--piano types, like R&B, from the Northeast. More of that.
Adam Brock (Age: 27/Washington, PA/ AI11): Brock only got exposure at Hollywood, probably looked too nerdy, and for whatever reason thought of himself as a R&B gospel belter. Also, pre-Idol youtubes showed him as a jazz musician, so between those two, he'd never get votes. An early slot with a subpar performances means that the show has always thought of him as fodder. Nerdy/jazzy/belting WGs is another way to go.
Creighton Fraker (Age: 28/Queens, NY/AI11): Fraker is from the Northeast so he'd never get votes, and also he fashioned himself as a belter, another way to dissuade the Idol audience as they like their WGs as musicians. Casting WGs this way=way to go, as he had a late spot and a ton of pre-semis exposure but still couldn't get the votes.
Eben Franckewitz (Age: 15/Loveland, OH/AI11): Franckewitz pre-youtubes showed him as theatrical, and you can tell that even though this kid really wanted to be Bieber, he was way too theatrical in his performance and turned in an awful, off key performance of an Adele song. Biting off more than he can chew with that song. A ton of exposure and a late spot means that TPTB wanted him to advance, but song sabotage and being a fish out of water is a way to hurt WGs.
Chase Likens (Age: 21/Point Pleasant, WV/AI11): The second of the two country semis fodder, Likens had the template: probably cute for the Idol audience, sang country, was from the South. That's definitely enough to win the show. So what happened? The show hated him. He was virtually the only contestant with zero pre-semis exposure, so no one knew who he was, and then: he got modern country. Like Brent Keith. A Hunter Hayes song that no Idol audience could ever relate to. Where's the Garth Brooks? So TPTB sabotage with song and exposure can really sabotage these WGs.
Reed Grimm (Age: 26/Ellsworth, WI/AI11): Grimm was way too unconventional for the show personality-wise, and liked jazz. That's enough not to get votes. He turned in a poor jazz performance of a current song in an early slot, so the show wanted to get rid of him, stat, even though he had a wildcard which he also didn't care about. Seems like he didn't care about getting votes, and being too unconventional was a way to waste a spot on a WG.
Michael Johns (Age: 29/Buckhead, GA/AI7, 9th): Johns' performances were quite well Idolsphere wise--he had an average of 62/100 for all his performances, which is in the upper crust of Idol contestants. In addition, he was a family man, hailed from the South, sung the sort of '70s rock the Idol audience loved--pretty much a recipe for success. He had a ton of exposure pre-semis as well, helping his cause, and Idol gave him the pimp spot the first week, so they really wanted him to do well. So what went wrong? Many people cite his last "Dream On" performance where he butchered the high note at the end--and this brought other contestants (ahem, Gokey) to butcher that note. It's odd to think considering the other performances one performance can break him, but "Dream On" might be one of those songs that can really hurt a contestant. Perhaps TPTB should keep doling this song out for WGs to sing, to test this hypothesis. Another thing? Johns was from England. I know Terry McDermott from the Voice got to 2nd place despite being very similar to Johns, but back at AI7 perhaps the Idol audience wasn't as receptive to internationals. I think that's changed now, though, but it's definitely preferable to cast someone that's international rather than someone who's really from the South.
Michael Sarver (Age: 28/Jasper, TX/AI8, 10th): Sarver was a weird case. The template reads out like this: family man, hard worker with a job, from the South, sort of an awwwshucks thing he had unlike Breitzke. He also had a ton of exposure pre finals. That's what propelled him to the finals. Had he sang country, he would have won this thing in his sleep. But his problems were two-fold: the major one was that he just didn't sing country. At all. He fashioned himself an R&B crooner. O-Town, Gavin DeGraw, Michael Jackson, The Temptations, nothing was country. And he was a very poor R&B imitation. There was no authenticity in what he did, and even the Idol audience could see into that. Casting delusional WGs like this would really help the cause a lot, but in the youtube era this might be harder to do.
Scott MacIntyre (Age: 23/Scottsdale, AZ/AI8, 8th): MacIntyre was almost always riding on sob story throughout his run, and the show really pushed him: he was given a ton of pre-exposure, given a late spot for his semis. He wasn't a rocker or a country guy, but did this piano soft rock Billy Joel type fare. Also, he had a very average at best voice and his performances were relatively poor. Casting a WG who does this piano rock thing doesn't appear to get votes, and one who doesn't have a good voice is a bonus.
Tim Urban (Age: 20/Duncanville, TX/AI9, 7th): Had Chris Golightly never been replaced, Urban would have never made this list. Urban, like Lambert, plays guitar and is from the South, and had his flaws: namely, he was a horrid singer throughout his run. He also looked like a fish out of water and looked like he sang for the fun of it rather than showing musicianship, sort of like a Jonas Brothers clone catering to the tweenies, which he probably did. He really overachieved because of that. Still, the fish out of water/poor singing is something Idol should carry over to WGs, but avoid casting tween/frau bait perceived as "cute" WGs because they overachieve.
Paul McDonald (Age: 26/Huntsville, AL/AI10, 8th): McDonald's voice and character were way too quirky for the audience to understand from the get go, so even though he had his audition shown, liked rock and was from the South, and was of typical WGWG winning age, he wasn't close to being the winner. There was some backtalk as he thought he was better than the show and was too indie, and he ended up zoning into a bunch of middling, lazy performances. It's like the audience really, really wanted to vote for this guy based on the template, which is why he overachieved, but his persona was too much for them at the end. The show seemed to realize that and started to give him a lot of early slot performances to try to eliminate him, and the T8 first slot finally did him in. Again, casting people too indie for this game, with quirky voices/characters who think they're above this is a good way to cast WGs.
Stefano Langone (Age: 22/Kent, WA/AI10, 7th): Langone is probably too Italiano, sort of like Rosen, to really latch onto the votes, and in addition, he's from the Northwest, a place that never gave votes to anyone except Blake Lewis, and sings R&B. His performances were somewhat middling as well, and he eventually became too cheesy and some have accused him of being arrogant as well. He also had a habit of closing his eyes and avoiding contact with the audience. Casting middling singers from the Northwest who don't make eye contact and are cheesy/arrogant is a method to cast WGs. In addition, he got eliminated on a current song, "Closer", so we know the Idol audience hates these current songs.
Casey Abrams (Age: 20/Wilmette, IL/AI10, 6th): Abrams is a musician who plays guitar. Should win, right? Nope. Despite being given a ton of pre-semi exposure and given the pimp spot in the semis, as the show really wanted to push him as some sort of credible musician, Abrams was too quirky, growly and grunty in all his performances, to the point where many can be construed as jokes. And also...America don't like jazz. Abrams also has California roots, for what that's worth. Casting someone who can be seen as a joke and is a jazz musician for a WG can be useful, like Abrams.
Colton Dixon (Age: 20/Murfreesboro, TN/AI11, 7th): Dixon, although from the South, never seemed like he would get votes. He played piano way more than the guitar, for starters, and his rawk was influenced by Fueled By Ramen's emo stuff. While we have to give credit to Idol for actually trying to go current with the rawk (Paramore stuff attracts the tweenies, and Yellowcard/Simple Plan have always been 2000s popular), it's too current for the Idol audience, so they won't understand anything that's not Aerosmith, Queen, etc. In addition, the show sabotaged Colton by making him emo-ize a Earth, Wind and Fire chestnut while alienating his Christian base by singing "Bad Romance". If that isn't sabotage, we don't know what is. So the Fueled by Ramen, piano influenced, song sabotage issue is something Idol can do for future WGs.
As you can see, in Epoch 3, there's just so many ways for Idol to sabotage their WGs. Certainly many with flaws make in the top five (Durbin is probably too aggressive with the metal for the audience, Gokey had an identity crisis with soul music, Jason Castro purposely tanked, etc), but for the most part the winners were all awwshucks humble, from the South, wielded guitars, and branded themselves as song rearranging musicians. The majority of the contestants above weren't any of the former or the latter two. So we'll see if Idol catches onto that and uses the fate of their past fodder WGs to start sabotaging them in the future.