American Idol - Review of its Southern Winners

To Be Crowned the American Idol it Helps to be From the South
          To date, American Idol has produced eight winners and all eight Idols claim hometowns south of the Mason-Dixon Line. There must be more at play than coincidence.

          Is it possible for a talented singer from the northern, eastern or western United States to become the American Idol? Maybe. But through eight seasons it's Southern States: 6. Midwestern States: 1. Western States: 1.

It Began with Kelly Clarkson

          When a phenomenal singer from Burleson, Texas captured the heart and imagination of a country just beginning to cut its teeth on national talent competitions, a new American passion was born. Kelly Clarkson's charisma and talent fostered a very personal involvement for millions of people, and voting to push their favorite over the top became an obsession.

          Millions of votes came in during that first 2002 season, but in all likelihood
not millions of people voted. It's impossible to know just how many people preferred 
Kelly Clarkson to runner-up Justin Guarini because, in spite of existing technology
that can discern any call's point of origin, American Idol has never released
geographic statistics. The show delights in announcing big voting numbers, yet
there is no way of knowing how many people those votes actually represent.
Automatic dialers and people who hit telephone redial buttons hundreds of times
per hour skew the results. The votes are legitimate, but the fan base is less discernible.

          Considering Kelly's enormous post-Idol success and Justin's moderate one, that first American Idol result may be more than justified, but not all Idol outcomes seem as clear-cut for many viewers.

Where Do the Idols Come From?

          Here are the Idol winners and their hometowns, Season's 1 through 8 respectively.

1. Kelly Clarkson, Burleson TX
2. Reuben Studdard, Birmingham, AL
3. Fantasia (Barino), High Point, NC
4. Carrie Underwood, Checotah, OK
5. Taylor Hicks, Birmingham, AL
6. Jordin Sparks, Glendale, AZ
7. David Cook, Blue Springs, MO
8. Kris Allen, Conway, AR

          Though Missouri is a Midwestern state (with a southern-states border,) and Arizona is a Southwestern state, all eight states that produced Idol winners, including Missouri and Arizona, historically share southern social and cultural commonalities and all reside south of the Mason-Dixon line. All are also politically red states, each having voted for Republican presidents seven or more times out of the last ten presidential elections, 1972 through 2008.

          Out of sixteen finalists in eight seasons, only twice were there no “true South? finalists' Season 5 when Jordin Sparks of Arizona battled Blake Lewis of Washington state, and Season 7 when David Cook of Missouri went to the finals with David Archuleta of Utah.

Kris Allen and the Southern States' Talent Pool

          Could it be that singers from the South are simply superior to
their northern, eastern and western counterparts? Or could this Idol
winners' pattern reflect less about the contestants and more about the
public? Perhaps Southerners just take Idol more seriously, or
Republican-leaning states are more loyal to their favorite sons and daughters.

          Learning the truth will be unlikely unless American Idol changes its
policy and limits the number of votes allowed by any individual. However, 
given American Idol's proud trumpeting of mega-million votes, such
change is not expected.

          Kris Allen, from Conway, Arkansas, is the latest American Idol winner.
Whether he is more deserving than Season 8's other finalist, Adam Lambert
of San Diego, California, will be debated by fans of both contestants for some
time. But Kris did have something Adam didn't have. He came from the South.
And as American Idol history shows, that's a powerful asset.

Prospective American Idol Contestants

          Out of hundreds of thousands of hopefuls in eight seasons of American Idol, the eight who have won have shared what appears to be an unbreakable hold on the Idol crown, a southern lifestyle connection.

          For those talented unknowns considering making a run at the next American Idol title, there may be something far more important than cultivating a pitch-perfect voice, musical prowess, stage presence or even the X Factor. A more crucial element of success just may be found in the establishment of some red-state southern roots before arriving for the first audition.

Sources:
American Idol
Fox TV
US Census Bureau

UPDATE

This article covers the first 8 seasons.  Since then, the American Idol Season 9 winner, Lee DeWyze, came from Mt. Prospect, IL, and Season 10 winner, Scotty McCreery, came from Garner, NC. Season 11 winner, Phillip Phillips, is from Leesburg, GA.  Season 12 winner, Candace Glover, is from St. Helena Island, SC, (with Season 12 runner-up, Kree Harrison, hailing from Woodville, TX, a Southern winner was guaranteed in 2013).  2014 Season 13 winner Caleb Johnson is from Asheville, NC, and newly-crowned 2015 Season 14 winner Nick Fradiani is from Guilford, Connecticut (in a rare North over South victory over runner-up, Clark Beckham from Whitehouse, TN)

Current tally: Southern States: 11 winners - Other States: 3 winners
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