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Ada Vox Lost ‘American Idol’ Because She Wasn’t The Best Singer. Period.

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OPINION 
04/30/2018 05:33 pm ET

Ada Vox Lost ‘American Idol’ Because She Wasn’t The Best Singer. Period.

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Ada Vox made it to the final 10 on "American Idol," but no further.
ERIC MCCANDLESS VIA GETTY IMAGES
Ada Vox made it to the final 10 on “American Idol,” but no further.
 
 
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Ada Vox, the first drag queen finalist in “American Idol” history, had a rough go of it with the voters. Not receiving enough support from the public last week to secure a place in the top 10, Vox was, rightly, saved by the judges and given a chance to perform again this week. But Sunday night, America voted once again and Ada Vox was sent home.

The internet did what it does best: It erupted in outrage. The angry consensus was that Vox had been passed over not because of her talents but because of her identity.

“Ada vox had the best voice of the whole competition but conservative america ignored that bc she was a drag queen and that’s the tea,” read one typical tweet. “If @AdaVox was a woman singing like that, y’all know she would be final 3. I thought this was a competition about singing,” read another.

Vox herself had suggested that if she were to be sent home, it might be because she’s not the kind of performer that “Idol” viewers are accustomed to. “America might not be ready for people like those of us who are a little bit different,” she said before Sunday’s show.

I’ve pissed enough people off over the years with my observations on “American Idol” that I’ve lost count, so I’m not afraid to add to that tally. Someone needs to be real here. Ada Vox wasn’t voted off because she is a drag queen and she wasn’t voted off because Adam Sanders (her alter ego) is a gay man. She was voted off because she was not the best voice on the show.

 

Let me be clear: Vox is a star. And Vox can sing. Her performances of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” and “Circle of Life” were rousing spectacles ― but they were not master classes in singing. That outraged Twitter user was correct: This is a competition about singing. And Ada Vox, entertaining performer though she doubtless is, was not the best singer. No, ma’am.

Most of us were thrilled to see a contestant breaking down another barrier. We were excited to see an out and proud contestant doing well and living their truth on an American institution. I certainly was. And when we are proud of someone and rooting for them as fiercely as so many of us were, it’s easy to ignore their shortcomings.

But let me play Simon Cowell here for a moment. Ada Vox was not eliminated because she didn’t conform to the societal norms of “Idol” viewers; she was eliminated because she didn’t conform to the key of the song.

Remember, contestants don’t get voted off “American Idol.” They failed to get voted onAda Vox didn’t have millions of people logging on or calling into ABC and voting to remove her from the show. She simply couldn’t grab enough viewers (or high Bs in “Circle of Life”) to compel them to vote for her.

 

If you want to win an election, you need to motivate your supporters. I’m willing to bet that 80 percent of those lamenting Ada Vox’s elimination didn’t even watch her performance until the next day on YouTube, which means they certainly didn’t vote for her. It’s easy to scapegoat other people by saying “America wasn’t ready for a drag queen to be on ‘American Idol,’” but where were you? Where were your votes?

Those who are furious about Vox’s departure are blaming conservative Middle America or claiming that her TV demise was because of antipathy toward the LGBTQ community. And don’t get me wrong: There are some nasty-ass bigots out there. And there are also some folks who are not bigots but aren’t quite ready to pick up the phone and vote for a drag queen as their No. 1 favorite ― yet.

At the same time, there are millions upon millions of Americans who are more than ready for it. There are millions of us who can’t wait for someone to break down that barrier, who are ready for the first gender non-conforming winner of “American Idol.” But Ada Vox wasn’t the right person for that job. She may well be the best performer the show has ever seen, but “American Idol” is not a performing competition. And she was not the best singer.

 

I’ll leave many of you here so that you can go comment on this article or tweet about my being a self-hating gay man or a washed-up has-been whose opinion nobody asked for. I look forward to reading those remarks and appreciate that you care enough about my opinion to spend time commenting on it.  

For those who care to stick around a moment longer, I’ll say this: Ada Vox is a star, and she deserves to be considered one of the most important television figures of the year. In an interview with Logo’s NewNowNext, she talked about the great responsibility of being a groundbreaker and a role model. “I am standing for something that is so much bigger than myself,” she said. That she has done, and I have no doubt it is what she will continue to do.

After ratings for “American Idol” flagged and its pop culture influence diminished during its final seasons on Fox, ABC revived the show with the goal of producing more stars. I predict that Ada Vox will be one of the first ABC “Idol” alums to achieve that stardom. With the exceptions of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, the “Idol” alums with the most viable and lasting music careers have tended to be those contestants who didn’t win. Ada Vox will likely eclipse whoever the eventual winner may be, and I suspect her success will dwarf many of the careers of those of us who graced the “Idol” stage before her.

Because of her willingness to stand in the line of fire for a cause bigger than herself, because of her ability to perform in a way that excites so many and because of her courage to live out loud and unapologetically ― even when she’s not the best singer ― she deserves it.

Clay Aiken was the runner-up on the second season of “American Idol” in 2003.

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thedailybeast.com

A Drag Queen’s ‘American Idol’ Injustice: Will an LGBTQ Person Ever Win One of These Shows?

A Drag Queen’s ‘American Idol’ Injustice: Will an LGBTQ Person Ever Win One of These Shows?

No out LGBTQ performer has ever won a reality TV talent competition, and the shocking elimination of drag queen Ada Vox from ‘Idol’ suggests we’re still far from that day.

Dressed in a shimmering gold skin of a dress, his hair teased into a lion's mane of curls, and a dramatic projection resembling a burning sun scorching behind him, Ada Vox roared out a rendition of "Circle of Life" from The Lion King Sunday night on American Idol that just about stopped the show.

Take his incredible vocal gymnastics into account, and it was the talent show equivalent of all the fireworks at a firework show going off at once. So it says a lot about the caliber of this performer that a spectacle like his “Circle of Life” performance actually falls among his least memorable. Perhaps that’s why he was voted out of the competition on Sunday night.

After jaw-dropping performances of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” “Creep,” and “House of the Rising Sun” earlier in the season, Ada raised his own bar. Though still delivering a stellar performance Sunday night, he perhaps noticeably faltered in attempting to clear that bar again. Meanwhile his less-talented competition managed to run right underneath it, unnoticed, to the next round of competition.

Ada Vox was the first drag queen to make it to the Top 10 of American Idol, and would have been the first gay or gender nonconforming contestant to ever win an amateur reality TV talent competition. It’s a distinction that many critics watching the show felt he deserved, and the amount of social media attention he received indicated he might accomplish.

But there seemed to be a disconnect between those raves and the actual votes from Idol’s audience, an audience that historically leans conservative and toward Middle America (as many of these talent competitions do). After steamrolling through the rounds of competition that judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan controlled, Ada fell to the bottom twice when the public took control of voting, including his elimination this week.

It’s interesting that one night later, Olympic figure skater and out gay media star Adam Rippon danced his way to the top of the leader board of the new athletes-only season of Dancing With the Stars with a fantastic routine set to a song by RuPaul, “Sissy That Walk.” Later this week, the annual fan-favorite episode of a RuPaul’s Drag Race season will air—“Snatch Game”—an event of sorts for a series that celebrates the art of drag and is breaking ratings records, winning Emmy Awards, and achieving mainstream status 10 years after it first began airing.

Even as we vent about Ada Vox’s elimination, it’s also a moment to cheer on visibility, queerness, drag, and LGBTQ talent on reality TV. It also raises the question, though, of how far we’ve come—and still have to go—when it comes to gay and gender nonconforming performers and acceptance in these reality shows.

It’s been 16 years since Jim Verraros was forced to delete web journalsdiscussing his homosexuality during the first year of American Idol, 15 years since Clay Aiken competed on Idol while closeted, and nine years since Adam Lambert—Adam Lambert!—waited until after the show to come out. No gay contestants have won The Voice. It’s been more than a decade of dancers not discussing their sexualities on So You Think You Can Dance.

It’s 2018, and we still haven’t had an openly gay or gender nonconforming winner of a major reality TV competition. Was Ada Vox going to be the first? Should he have been?

Ada Vox is a drag queen from San Antonio who first competed on American Idol’s 12th season under his birth name Adam Sanders. He made it to the Top 50 before being sent home, returning to compete in the revival as his drag alter ego.

His vocal range and noticeably confident performance flourish stunned the judges. His rendition of the iconic anthem “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls, performed to save himself from elimination from the Top 10, was so remarkable that the judges didn’t even deliberate before deeming him safe.

But that Ada found himself in danger to begin with certainly suggests that something about the package he was serving audiences didn’t resonate, which might not be entirely surprising given the history of the show. In fact, Ada acknowledged that himself before Sunday’s show, saying, “America might not be ready for people like those of us who are a little bit different.”

There are those, whoever, who scoff at the idea of blaming prejudice for Ada’s elimination. Clay Aiken himself wrote an entire piece for HuffPost centered around the idea that Ada simply just wasn’t talented enough to win.

“Ada Vox wasn’t voted off because she is a drag queen and she wasn’t voted off because Adam Sanders (her alter ego) is a gay man,” he wrote. “She was voted off because she was not the best voice on the show.”

Be kind to Aiken. His column does consider Ada’s identity and how it might be perceived, as well as the reaction he might get as a gay man for arguing against Ada’s talent. He calls Ada a star and magnetic performer. But he’s steadfast in his opinion: “Ada Vox was not eliminated because she didn’t conform to the societal norms of Idol viewers; she was eliminated because she didn’t conform to the key of the song.”

Our counter to that opinion is that, as Aiken well knows, the “best voice” is often the least important factor when it comes to Idol winners. The days of Kelly Clarkson-level vocalists belting their way to the finale went by the wayside early in the Idol years, quickly replaced by raspy singer-songwriters with engaging personalities and sexually nonthreatening smiles.

To wit, of this season’s two perceived frontrunners, one chirped through “Bare Necessities” while accompanying herself on the ukulele Sunday night, while the other grinned through a vocally one-note, though very charming, rendition of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”

In fact, you could argue that performance, package, and personality is almost exclusively what matters, certainly over voice, in these competitions. Obviously, Ada’s identity and gender bending are intrinsic parts of all those things. And that’s what Idol voters weren’t buying, which is a shame.

It’s hard to think of a reason why this Idol revival exists, but it did—and still does—have the opportunity to make a cultural mark showcasing diversity of all kinds, be it gender, race, or sexuality. It’s only in recent years on shows like The Voice that a performer has even felt comfortable talking about identifying as queer, after too many storylines to count about heterosexual performers’ love lives.

After Ada’s elimination, there is one performer left in the competition who identifies as queer, 18-year-old out lesbian Jurnee, who is married to a woman. Jurnee stumbled in the Top 10, finding herself up for elimination before being saved by the judges alongside Ada Vox. But she was voted through to the Top 7 Sunday night.

She hasn’t made nearly as much noise as Ada and could be hindered by more direct comparisons to the show’s other young female belters. But she could also make history as the first out champion of American Idol.

It’s interesting, but perhaps hardly surprising, that for all the campy theatrics that define these competition shows, audiences are hesitant to vote an LGBTQ winner. We’re at the point where contestants are finally comfortable being out and discussing their identity on the shows, but that still seems to be a liability against winning.

It makes Adam Rippon’s run on the athletes-only Dancing With the Stars this season one to watch. Rippon’s media star shot through the hemispheres during the Winter Olympics. But as beloved as he was by the media, he was equally polarizing to many Americans who were put off by his personality and his outspoken politics.

Of course, few TV shows are gayer than Dancing With the Stars. To wit, in 2016 male model Nyle DiMarco, who publicly identifies as “sexually fluid,” became the first contestant who identifies on the queer spectrum to win the competition. Though his sexuality wasn’t addressed on the show, he also became the first man to dance with a same-sex partner—although just for a few seconds during a group routine.

It might be surprising that Dancing With the Stars, of all these competition shows, is breaking so many boundaries, though it should be said that So You Think You Can Dance has made major strides in embracing its queerness in recent seasons, and had same-sex couples dancing together long before Stars did. Still, a win by Rippon would be monumental.

All that said, there’s a difference between a show that showcases performers who are already celebrities, and a show meant to launch the career of an unknown person, one who is attempting to do so while being true to their identity. There’s a powerful message that crowning a person who identifies that way unapologetically could send. We’re just waiting for one of these shows to send it.

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abcnews.go.com

Was 'American Idol' ready for a drag queen as its star?

Was 'American Idol' ready for a drag queen as its star?

May 2, 2018, 9:16 AM ET

Was the world ready to support a drag queen on "American Idol"?

That's the question raised by many viewers of the ABC show after Ada Vox, birth name Adam Sanders, was sent home during last week's show.

After the top 10 were announced, it was up to America's vote to decide the fate of the three that were eliminated. On previous shows, Vox had been saved by judges Lionel Richie, Luke Bryan and Katy Perry after not making the cut.

Over the past two days, tweets from angry fans have dominated the discussion of Vox on social media.

One person said, "Hands down you are the best singer and entertainer American Idol has had this season! You should be in the top 7!!! You earned it! I’m team Ada!!!!"

Another weighed in, writing, "The best singer on the show is gone now ... Bring Ada Back!" and "ada vox had the best voice of the whole competition but conservative america ignored that bc she was a drag queen and that’s the tea."

But a past "American Idol" star came to the defense of the voters, while also saying that Vox will have a huge career beyond the show.

Clay Aiken insists Vox was eliminated because of her voice, not her appearance.

In a column for the Huffington Post, Clay, who's openly gay, said Ada was eliminated because she simply wasn't good enough.

"Someone needs to be real here," he writes. "Ada Vox wasn’t voted off because she is a drag queen and she wasn’t voted off because Adam Sanders (her alter ego) is a gay man. She was voted off because she was not the best voice on the show."

But Aiken continued, "Let me be clear: Vox is a star. And Vox can sing ... Her performances of 'And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going' and 'Circle of Life' were rousing spectacles but they were not master classes in singing ... And Ada Vox, entertaining performer though she doubtless is, was not the best singer. No, ma’am."

Ultimately, Aiken predicts that Ada "will likely eclipse whoever the eventual winner will be" in terms of success.

"Because of her willingness to stand in the line of fire for a cause bigger than herself ... even when she’s not the best singer," he said. "She deserves it."

Aiken has also tried his hand in politics, in addition to his singing career, and expected to get a reaction out of people with his column.

"Bring on tomatoes," he wrote next to a tweet posting the story.

But Aiken received a lot of support for his thoughtful commentary.

 

"We need you on the judging panel..." one fan wrote, with another adding, "I'd watch if there were intelligent and witty judging like this!"

 

Some fans did disagree, stating, "She was better than people who are still there for sure ... Her identity was a factor in her leaving."

"American Idol" returns to ABC on Monday night with America's top seven vying for a chance to win it all.

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abcnews.go.com

Former 'Idol' contestant Adam Sanders sounds off on drag queen debate

Former 'Idol' contestant Adam Sanders sounds off on drag queen debate

May 3, 2018, 8:16 AM ET

 

Ever since "American Idol" contestant Adam Sanders was sent home earlier this week, the big debate online is whether his decision to perform in drag as Ada Vox factored into his elimination.

Former "Idol" star Clay Aiken wrote an op-ed in The Huffington Post that Sanders may be the biggest star when it's all said and done.

Aiken wrote that "someone needs to be real here. Ada Vox wasn’t voted off because she is a drag queen and she wasn’t voted off because Adam Sanders (her alter ego) is a gay man. She was voted off because she was not the best voice on the show."

But, he added, "Let me be clear: Vox is a star. And Vox can sing ... Her performances of 'And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going' and 'Circle of Life' were rousing spectacles but they were not master classes in singing ... And Ada Vox, entertaining performer though she doubtless is, was not the best singer. No, ma’am."

Ultimately, Aiken predicts that Sanders "will likely eclipse whoever the eventual winner will be" in terms of success.

Sanders also spoke out on Twitter, thanking fans but also Aiken for the inspiration to "build myself up to become even better."

"From this, I will take your words and use them to build myself up to become even better. I know that there are great things to come for me in the near future, and I’m glad that you believe in my career! Im honestly honored. Thank you!" he wrote Wednesday.

And Sanders seems to be taking the elimination in stride.

"I want to say thank you all so, so much for the love and support on my journey!" he posted on Instagram. "My 'American Idol' journey may have come to an end, but the real competition begins now. From here, it's all a competition to see who will really climb to the top! Please remain respectful to the remaining contestants. They have all earned their spot and we all have the same dream. You will be seeing much more of me VERY soon."

Sanders, out of drag, also posted a fun picture with what looks to be his boyfriend, seemingly carrying on just fine without the show.

"American Idol" returns to ABC on Sunday night with America's top seven vying for a chance to win it all.

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Clay Aiken bashes 'American Idol' again; current contestants call him 'bitter'

Clay Aiken bashes 'American Idol' again; current contestants call him 'bitter'

Lyndsey Parker
 
Singer Clay Aiken performs during Fox’s “American Idol” finale for the farewell season at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016, in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Clay Aiken is at it again. The Season 2 American Idol runner-up hasn’t been shy with his Idol-bashing in the past — during Fox’s farewell season in 2016, he called the premiere “boring” (“I’ve watched root canals more entertaining than these judges” was one of his more damning tweets), and back in 2009, he even blogged that the series was in a “state of decline” and said that that Adam Lambert made his “ears bleed.”

This week, Aiken took to social media to once again blast the show — but this time, two recent Idol contestants, Catie Turner and Ada Vox, blasted right back.

Aiken’s anger was sparked by Sunday’s Prince-themed episode, on which Turner shockingly forgot the words to almost an entire verse of the Prince-penned Bangles hit “Manic Monday.” America judged her harshly and sent her home — but actual TV judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan, instead of critiquing Turner, gave her a cheerful pep talk. Bryan encouragingly told Turner, “You have been in this competition since day one, and you have not had one glitch. So, what just happened to you is OK, darling!” Richie praised Turner’s “fantastic” recovery. Perry even said, “You did great!”

“So, when I was on American Idol, I slightly flubbed some lyrics. Nowhere near this noticeable … and even Paula [Abdul] gave me hell,” Aiken tweeted incredulously. “This girl [Catie] gets a therapy session?! Really? Seriously??! What happened to the show we loved? #MakeIdolGreatAgain.”

Turner, the most-followed contestant of this current Idol season, hopped on Twitter to defend herself, accusing Aiken of sour grapes. “I’m sorry, Clay, you are still upset about something that happened to you 16 years ago,” she responded. “It shows bitterness, doesn’t age well. … No tea no shade and nothing but respect, just disappointed in someone who has been through this experience wouldn’t have an ounce of empathy and wants an 18-year-old to get clawed into.”

Drag-queen Idol contestant Ada Vox also chimed in, tweeting: “You’re really starting to look desperate @clayaiken … you had your time. There’s no point in attacking an 18-year-old girl because you’re bitter about your f***up. Stop trying to stay relevant by riding the coattails of a show that you couldn’t win, either. #TakeASeat.”

There was clearly no love lost between Aiken and Vox. When Vox was controversially voted off Idol during top 10 week, Aiken penned an op-ed for the Huffington Post titled “Ada Vox Lost ‘American Idol’ Because She Wasn’t The Best Singer. Period.”

Aiken may be harsh with his Idol commentary at times — but in his defense, specifically regarding Turner’s flub, he did have a valid point.

“Remember back 2002–2003 when American Idol was a high-stakes singing competition and we were all waiting and nervously anticipating what Simon Cowell had to say?” he posted. “Why’s it now totally without critique and essentially just a Vacation Bible School talent show?” Turner’s kid-gloved treatment this week was indeed a far cry from Aiken’s Idol days, when lyrical errors were original judge Cowell’s No. 1 pet peeve and could send many a contestant packing before Hollywood Week was even over. The rebooted show’s kinder, gentler approach — while it makes for feel-good TV — will not prepare Turner or other hopefuls for the cutthroat, unforgiving music industry.

There are times, however, when Aiken can be gracious to his fellow Idol alumni. Earlier this year, when Season 10 champ Scotty McCreery tied Aiken’s chart record for the most successful male contestant ever, Aiken took to Twitter — this time in a congratulatory mood.

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ew.com

Clay Aiken joins Amber Rose and Big Brother contestant Cody Calafiore in Amazon series

Clay Aiken joins Amber Rose and Big Brother contestant Cody Calafiore in Amazon series

 
 
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Walter McBride/Getty Images; Leon Bennett/WireImage; Gary Gershoff/WireImage
ISAAC FELDBERG 
May 23, 2018 at 02:00 PM EDT

Looks like Clay Aiken is lining up to teach some New Dogs, Old Tricks.

The American Idol alum has signed on to join Big Brother contestant Cody Calafiore and model and activist Amber Rose in the series, EW can exclusively reveal. The spin-off of last year’s college comedy What Happened Last Night will hit Amazon in September.

Even beyond those three stars, though, New Dogs, Old Tricks reads like a who’s-who of small-screen celebs, with Jessie Godderz (Big Brother), David Otunga (I Love New York 2), Clayton Snyder (Lizzie McGuire), Eric Roberts (Heroes), and Shelley Regner (Pitch Perfect) also attached in various roles.

The show, set in the same world as the film, will focus on a group of friends facing down the triumphs, trials, and tribulations of daily life on their college campus. Aiken is set to play Nathan, described as the college’s self-serving resident director.

 
image?url=https%3A%2F%2Fewedit.files.wor
Gemelli Films

New Dogs, Old Tricks hails from What Happened Last Night writer-director Candice Cain, also on board here as the series’ creator.

The first episode rolls out Sept. 28 on Amazon, with additional episodes airing Fridays throughout the fall.

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