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Why McKenna Lost

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Last Sunday night, not only was Julia Gagnon eliminated from American Idol, but so was McKenna Faith Breinholt.  I already examined why Julia lost, but why did McKenna fall short as well?  As always, I’ll examine the rules that American Idol contestants need to follow in order to find out what McKenna did right, what she did wrong, and why McKenna lost.


The first rule states that contestants should show singing and performing talent.  McKenna began well with this rule, coming in fourth in the Hawaii round on IDF, then coming in first in the Top 20 round and coming in fifth in the Top 14 reveal.  But then she became sick before the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame round and IDF ranked her in eleventh that round.  She managed to make a recovery in the Top 12 and Top 10 rounds, but while I thought she was better in the Top 8 round than in the Top Ten one, others disagreed and her solo was ranked above only that of Triston, whom everyone put in last, and she wound up in the Bottom 2 and had to be saved by Katy Perry.


So how did her final performances of “E.T.” and “Make You Feel My Love” go?  The consensus is that she did better on her second song than on her first.  For example, I gave her an 8 on “E.T.”, but thought that the song choice wasn’t good, and gave her an 8.5 for “Make You Feel My Love”.  Overall, I put her above Emmy, Jack, Julia, Triston and Will in that round.  In the end, I believe that McKenna mostly followed the first rule, but had enough problems on certain songs to hurt her in the end.


McKenna had more problems with the second rule, which states that song choice is key.  One of the reasons why more people disliked her choice of “Everywhere I Go” in the Top 8 round was because the song might not have provided her with a moment like “Bring Me to Life” did for Abi.  And I said that her choice of “E.T.” was bad, even if she chose it to thank Katy for saving her.  Thus McKenna struggled with this rule.


The third rule states that contestants must either be consistently great or consistently improving.  McKenna had problems here as well.  She was very good before she got sick and more or less just good afterwards.  Thus McKenna fouled up this rule as well.


At least McKenna had no problem with the fourth rule, which states that contestants must be confident.  I think that she was confident enough.  While it wasn’t enough to save her, at least she followed this rule, so I’ll move on.


The fifth rule states that contestants must have a strong, current and marketable artistic identity.  McKenna was a singer-songwriter, but I’m not sure how current or marketable her identity was.  Thus McKenna might have stumbled with this rule as well.


The sixth rule states that contestants must remember that they are a package.  While McKenna had the backstory of being adopted and of her biological mother being a fine singer, she also looked more mature than the other girls, and was seen as sexy at times.  This probably alienated the core voting demographic, which prefers girls to be more like the girl next door.  Thus McKenna ultimately screwed up this rule as well.


But McKenna had no problem with the seventh rule, which states that contestants must take advice offered to them and follow it — within reason.  Although it wasn’t enough to save her, she followed this rule, so I’ll move on.


The final rule states that contestants must gather and sustain a fan base, and this was probably the biggest problem that McKenna had.  Even before her sickness, she never had as much of a core fan base as others did, partly because she wasn’t a country singer, partly because she was seen as too mature and sexy for the core voting demographic.  And after her sickness, she wasn’t able to recover enough to get additional fans.  Thus McKenna struck out on this rule.


McKenna began well, showing enough singing and performing talent to overcome being too mature for the core voting demographic.  But she got a stomach ailment, and her singing and performing skills suffered while she recovered, exposing her weak fan base.  Worse, she made a bad song choice in the Top 8 round, and she had to be saved by Katy Perry.  After that, even two great song choices might not have been enough to save her, and she had only one good one and one bad one.  McKenna stumbled at a bad time, and that is why McKenna lost.

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