Because he got the most votes.
But why did he get the most votes?
Was he really a better singer?
Was he really a better performer?
But I think the real reason why Sylvia Ratonel lost was because like Sylvester and Jonathan who lost to Taufik and Hady Mirza respectively, she was not a significantly better performer than Sezairi Sezali.
So here’s the deal. If somehow you end up in the final two, and one of the finalists is a cool Malay dude, and you’re not the cool Malay dude, then you jolly well be a way better singer and performer, otherwise you don’t stand a chance. For the last 3 seasons of Singapore Idol, it always seemed like either finalists had an equal chance to be the Idol based on singing and performing abilities. And that’s why for the last 3 seasons, the Malay dude always won.
I have a few theories.
Reason 1 – Gender.
You got a good looking male singer. You got a good looking female singer.
Female singer appeals to girls who want to grow up to be like her and guys who want to bang her.
Male singer appeals to guys who want to grow up to be just like him and girls who want to have his babies.
Girls who want to have potential male idol babies > (any other group of supporters)
Girls who want to have his babies is the only group that will vote with any significance. Somehow women tend to get more invested in their male idols and actually spend money supporting them. Guys, well, we just jack off.
Reason 2 – Race & the Mendaki effect.
Now, because race plays a part in the voting patterns doesn’t mean Singapore is a racist country. In fact, it is because most Singaporeans aren’t racist that the Malay dudes keep winning.
I suspect that if only 1 of the finalists is a Malay, then he or she automatically gets almost all the support of the Malay followers of Singapore Idol.
Look at Mendaki, Sinda and CDAC. Our government organizes help along ethnicity lines. They actively encourage it. Adding to this environment, the Malays think of themselves as the minority, thus they tend to support each other more.
Don’t believe? Guys who have done National Service can be testament to how the minority races organize themselves.
So, when the Malay community sees a young Malay lad, they start thinking,
“We got to support our bro.”
“We got to support this boy, almost like our son.”
“We got to support this boy, he is one of us.”
Because Malays see themselves as the minority race in Singapore, the effect of this “let’s help one of our own reach his dreams” effect is stronger than in the Chinese community under normal conditions.
So what happens is that as the non-Malay finalist, you really only can fight for the non-Malay votes. For this discussion, let’s focus on the Singaporean Chinese – the majority. Since both finalists won’t have much to differentiate themselves, then the Chinese votes get split down the middle.
One assumption is that regardless of race, a supporter will vote the same number of times. In other words, a Malay fan will vote the same number of times as a Chinese fan. It would be interesting to see if race and socioeconomic backgrounds have any impact on frequency of voting.
So, since the Chinese votes get split, and the Mendaki effect is in play, it is almost inevitable that the cool Malay dude will always win if he is the only cool Malay dude in the final.
So, how can Singapore have a non-Malay Singapore Idol? This isn’t a matter of prejudice in the sense of not wanting a Malay to win just because he or she is a Malay. There are more practical concerns. The last two Idols have barely made a splash internationally and it seems that despite Hady’s Asian Idol win, it is still arguable if he has achieved any significant impact regionally. It would not be too presumptuous to assume that the marketing potential of another Malay Singapore Idol who appeals to similar demographics will also luck out. In terms of finding a local talent that we can export, it might help if the Singapore Idol is not another cool Malay dude.
So how can the next Singapore Idol not be a cool Malay dude?
I have some suggestions.
1. Market a strong Christian singer. The Christians are another voting bloc that is just as strong as the one created by the Mendaki effect.
2. Test the SINDA effect.
3. Paradoxically, make the next Singapore Idol season to be a battle between two cool Malay dudes. Place heavy emphasis on the rivarly in marketing the season. Split the traditional voting bloc for the cool Malay dude. Ensure that there is signifcant animosity between the two camps such that if one of them is voted out of the final two, the supporters will not shift support to the remaining cool Malay dude in the final. Weaken the traditional support base of the cool Malay dude by having two cool Malay dudes. Don’t try to have the first female idol by pushing for more female talent to be in the finals. Underplay the first female idol card. Have less females so the votes don’t get split.
A probable undesirable effect of overt marketing of Singapore Idol as the battle between two Malay dudes will be the galvanization of the racist elements in society. A play on the perception and fears that Singapore Idol is really Malay Idol could be effective in ensuring that Singapore Idol will not have another cool Malay dude as the winner.
At the end though, having all the 3 Singapore Idols being Malay is a good sign. If Singaporeans are voting based on racial lines, then at least it shows that the Malay community has the economic power to carry their guys forward, so we know they aren’t being left behind. If Singaporeans aren’t voting along racial lines, and voting for talent, then the Singapore government’s efforts to promote racial tolerance and harmony is working.
Frankly, I rather things be left the way it is – no strategy to force a non-Malay Singapore Idol. When the day comes that we actually have a non-Malay Singapore Idol, one who actually overcomes the voting patterns by sheer force of talent, we would have someone who is so awesomely talented that keeping him or her in Singapore would be impossible.
After the performances ended, I got ready to leave my gf’s place for home. She asked why I wasn’t staying for the results. It was because I knew who the winner will be. That cool Malay dude.
The Malays really do have a stronger sense of community, at least based on my experiences growing up living in a HDB flat. When I was younger, my Malay neighbor would cook satay along the corridor and shared the food freely. When I moved to my new flat in Sengkang, my neighbor prepared a rather hearty meal to welcome my family.
I wonder what the voting percentages were like. Did Sezairi keep scrapping through and avoided enough elimination rounds until all the other Malay contestants lost and then built up significant voting power when their supporters shifted to him.
To be fair, though it may seem boring that we have another Malay Singaporean Idol, he did hold his own against Sylvia, in fact besting her for at least 1 set.