Credit: American Idol: Ray Mickshaw/FOX

Maybe they should rename it Southern Idol, since so many of the top contestants and finishers each year hail from the South — Kelly, Ruben, Clay, Fantasia, Bo, and this season, Chris, Paris, Taylor, Kellie (pictured), Elliott, and recently ousted Bucky and Mandisa. Why is this so? The Washington Post‘s Neely Tucker looks at several factors, but none of them seems enough on its own to explain the phenomenon.

True, the country and R&B that the show’s producers seem to favor has its roots in the South, but that doesn’t apply to theme nights like last week’s Queen catalog or this week’s Tin Pan Alley songbook. Tucker also notes that a greater share of TVs in Southern markets are tuned to Idol each week, but in sheer numbers, Southern viewers and voters are swamped by Idol fans from large urban markets outside the South. Finally, there’s a cultural heritage in the South of kids getting their start singing in church choirs, but that kind of training doesn’t necessarily produce great soloists.

So PopWatch remains as stumped as Tucker or anyone else. Any thoughts, y’all?

addCredit(“American Idol: Ray Mickshaw/FOX”)