Past 'Idol' winners possessed humbleness and gratefulness, not arrogance

One characteristic virtually all past "American Idol" winners have had is a basic level of humbleness and a sincere feeling of gratitude for being where they were.

Current front-runner Caleb Johnson is not doing a terribly good job on either the humbleness or gratitude scale. The kicker: last week, he offered rather arrogant comments last week where he called his social media fans "retards" for bombarding him with song selections that "Idol" actually solicited. He said he will pick his own songs, natch.

What's going on in his head? Does he not want to win? Does he think he is conveying a "rocker" attitude and that's cool? Does he think he's just the funniest guy ever?

He has already gotten himself in trouble before on a much smaller scale. He made fun of "old ladies" and kids with peanut allergies, the latter which forced him to apologize sheepishly.  The interview with Buzz TV also included a joke about cocaine and hookers for his hometown visit in Asheville. N.C., a visit he is hardly guaranteed.  If anything, these comments collectively indicate a sadly puerile sense of humor, especially for a 23 year old.

He will lose votes. (Based on comments on MJs blog and this one, he already has lost a few.) Will this hurt him enough to cost him the crown? I'm not sure because this story hasn't reached the mass public to any major degree and I'm not sure if most of his voters are even aware of what he said.

He's been a front runner for most of the run of the live show. I've had him as my No. 1 since week 12. But that may change quickly.

Will "Idol' force him to apologize on the live show? I doubt they'd repeat what he said about "retards" on the air. They might have him say something vague about offending people. This might hurt him - or not, if people don't bother to find out what he actually said.

Bottom line: besides talent, likability is what gets you votes on "Idol." Think about the two most successful winners Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. To this day, I don't think the word "arrogance" has ever been described for either of them. Likable? Yes. Sweet? Yes. Hard-working and determined? Of course.

How about others? Ruben Studdard's nicknamed of the "Velvet Teddy Bear." That says it all. Fantasia wasn't a traditional type of humble but she possessed a pained vulnerability that made you want to hug her and make her feel better. Taylor Hicks was very very confident and not exactly humble but goofy likable, someone who was just thrilled to perform before 30 million people a week. His joy was palpable and he got the votes.

Last year's winner is the closest to a cipher to me. While I loved her singing, Candace Glover's personality wasn't quite as easy to define. She is a bit of a blur to me a year later and her lack of artistic success doesn't surprise me. But she certainly never said anything on air or off that I can recall was troublesome.

You can argue more talented folks some years lost because they had a bit of an attitude problem. They either got overconfident or conveyed a level of arrogance that turned voters off.  Remember season one when Justin Guarini talked back to the judges? The next week? He was in the bottom. Both Jennifer Hudson and Chris Daughtry had attitude issues and it cost them the win, though certainly their careers blossomed after the fact.

And that could happen to Caleb, too, though the chances are far smaller given that only one-quarter of viewers are paying attention vs. 2006. Regardless,  he needs to learn to respect his fans and his audience if wants anything close to a career. Period.


Here was Caleb's effort at sort of apologizing, which didn't help matters because he used the "I'm sorry if you were offended" tact, which most people find insincere:

For the record that juvenile comment I made in the interview was not directed towards my fans but to the wackos that send hundreds of hate messages a day to me ! You guys are amazing and I cannot thank you enough for your support. Sorry if it offended anybody it was the wrong choice of words . Also I greatly appreciate it when you guys give me song suggestions but it gets really overwhelming at the volume it comes in so please understand ! Rock on !:)


So my Power 4 this week? It's all changed up!

1. Alex Preston. Sure. I thought he might be the surprise elimination last week. But now I think he may just win this thing. His singular vision and his whole WGWG vibe might help him take home the prize. His fans have proven to be solid and have kept him out of the bottom to date. (last week's ranking- 2)

2. Jena Irene. She has built up a fan base with a strong stage presence and impressive versatility that may just carry her to the finals.  (3)

3. Caleb Johnson. Did his "retard' comment really hurt him? It did with me. I'm not even sure a strong performance this week will matter. He won't win. (1).

4. Jessica Meuse. She knows she is now going to need some real help to survive. She is improving. She needs to improve even more to stick around much longer. (5)


The theme this week is love: break ups and make ups. In other words, it's another broad theme. Most songs are about love.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.