10 things we learned from ''American Idol'' season 3 -- Now that Fantasia's won (yay!), Brian Hiatt takes a look back at the third installment of everyone's obsession

By Brian Hiatt
May 01, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
Jasmine Trias: FOX
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10 things we learned from ”American Idol” season 3

1. Personality counts. Hence the early departure of La Toya London, whose poise and impeccable vocals couldn’t overcome the sense that she was auditioning for the title role in ”I, Robot.”

2. Dancing doesn’t. Though choreography is Paula Abdul’s one proven area of expertise, she rarely had much to say about the contestants’ moves — and neither did anyone else. Instead of elaborate, La Toya-on-Latin-night style routines, future contestants can stick to bouncing (à la George Huff) or twitching (like Jon Peter Lewis).

3. Forget Texas — don’t mess with Hawaii. The 50th state’s slavish devotion to their homegirl, the painfully pitch-impaired Jasmine Trias, landed her a spot in the final three. Maybe they just couldn’t stand to see her cry.

4. The extra phone lines are a good idea. Multiple numbers per contestant and a longer calling period made it much easier to get through for the final vote — so next season, why not do it every week? At the very least, those pesky conspiracy theorists — who blamed just about every week’s results on a strategically placed hurricane that blocked calls — would shut up.

5. Teenage girls still love a crooner. Or redheads. Or something. Jasmine is Aretha Franklin compared to lil’ John Stevens, whose four-note range, lack of rhythm, and indifference to pitch don’t quite make him the second coming of Ol’ Blue Eyes. True, Jennifer Hudson at times sounded like she was roaring gospel and opera simultaneously, but no way did she deserve to go before Stevens. His version of ”Crocodile Rock” belonged on ”Fear Factor.”

6. Clive Davis rocks. Not only did he choose the perfect material for Diana DeGarmo — ”Don’t Cry Out Loud,” which became her long-needed signature song — the septuagenarian music-industry vet showed a rare willingness to move beyond ”You did your thing, girl”-style banalities by singling out suckitude. His apparent near-grab of Fantasia’s rear, however, was frightening.

7. Girls rule, boys drool. Female-dominated season 3 produced just one memorable male singer. William Hung, take a bow — and then go back to class. Immediately.

8. ”Idol” voters are hipper than we thought. Fantasia Barrino — who may be the coolest human being to grace an ”Idol” stage — actually won, despite a nasal vocal tone, a questionable nickname, and a teen-mom past that set message-board moralists a-posting. Bobo, you go-go.

9. Paula’s just not right — and that’s fine with us. Even when she’s not suffering from manicure-related injuries, Abdul’s weepy blathering (”I’m just so proud of you!”) and apparent inability to understand the rules (i.e., that SOMEONE has to go home each week ) are endlessly entertaining.

10. It’s just a TV show, people! The excitement around ”Idol” — and the genuine talent of a Fantasia — can suck in even cynics. But routinely dire song choices, agonizing promos for Ford, Up With People-style group performances, and off-key voting results are constant reminders that taking ”Idol” too seriously can lead to madness — or at least sugar shock.

What did you learn from this season’s ”Idol”?

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.
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