Tonight the American Idol men take the stage—and it's a bully pulpit, because guys have dominated Idol's recent years.
Click Image to See Richard Rushfield's Prognostications on the Top 12 Men
For Idol's men, there are two huge demographics ever on the hunt for a new heartthrob: the tween girls and the Cougars. Any singer who can become the poster boy for one of these groups gets a golden ticket straight to the finals.
• View our coverage of American Idol Season 9 • Richard Rushfield: American Idol's Top 12 WomenStill there are risks aplenty in catering to those demos. As in a presidential primary, playing to your base can make a candidate toxic to the electorate at large. For instance, a young man stepping on the Idol stage wants to seem intense, unshaven, smoldering (see: David Cook), but if he cross the line to downright sacrilegious (see: Adam Lambert) he risks scaring off all the church-going non-Cougars in the crowd.Conversely, an intense, devout worship leader will win over a large number of constituents (see: Danny Gokey), but how many audience members does an openly religious appeal turn away?
Similarly, the tweens will turn their hero in an instant phenomenon (see: David Archuleta) but too bubble gum and image can nauseate everyone else.
In the end, the best course may be to be a little of everything (cute, spiritual, intense) but not too much of any one of those things. This is the path that allowed Kris Allen to stealthily navigate his way through last year's higher profile singers all the way to the Idol crown. Do any of this year's singers posses that agility? Our tip sheet takes a look.
Richard Rushfield is a four-year veteran of the American Idol beat and the author of a recent memoir, Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost.