6 Reasons Kevin Skinner (The Chicken Catcher) Won America's Got Talent
Skinner Captures Title Despite Cries of No Talent
Kevin Skinner, the down-home country singer from Kentucky, has just captured the title of America's Got Talent. As the champion, he banks a million dollars and a headline show in Las Vegas. The final results were broadcast live on NBC and revealed on Wednesday, September 16, 2009. Skinner, who came to be known as "The Chicken Catcher" for his previous job as, well, a chicken catcher, was perceived by many to be low on talent but won the national vote to become this season's champion.
There are several reasons why a singer like Kevin Skinner can win a show like this. First, not everyone thinks he lacks talent. In fact, Skinner won an online poll as the pick to win over at the official message board at nbc.com. Although I did not pick Kevin to win, I did pick him as one of three favorites to win on my America's Got Talent Finale Predictions hub. But others, including everyone else who watched in my household, literally thought he was horrible. Even my mother, who only likes country music, thought he was an embarrassment and was not happy with the results.
My mom thinks that people just voted for Kevin "for the heck of it." I am not sure what that means exactly, but I have six reasons or factors which I think contributed to Kevin's win:
1. Kevin Skinner is just a good ol' hometown boy. He's like the guy next door in a small town or the mechanic you see when you go to fix your car. Small-town people love to vote on these shows, and they can see a little bit of themselves in The Chicken Catcher. You just want to see the guy do well. And the producers played this "country boy" image over and over again during every round of this season of America's Got Talent. You couldn't miss it if you were watching.
These "back stories" seem to reign supreme on shows like this, especially AGT. Only Bianca Ryan had no kind of sympathetic backstory to help her win. Terry Fator had worked hard for years as a ventriloquist, Neil Boyd's mother raised him and his brother as a single mother, and Kevin is the unemployed Chicken Catcher who just wants to sing country.
2. The voters have full control and love to make their own success stories. In some ways, Kevin Skinner is the best success story as a champion of America's Got Talent. We don't really know much about Lawrence Beamen, so his image as a success story would not be clear to voters. Although Barbara is a cancer survivor and in remission, she is in some ways already a success story. After all, she is a survivor.
And I think that most people feel that Barbara has already achieved some success due to her opera training. There are rumors that she has already had some success as an opera singer, so some people felt that Barbara Padilla was overqualified for America's Got Talent. Kevin, on the other hand, is a tailor-made success story.
3. Skinner was definitely an early favorite, and his best performance was his initial audition. Having become an early favorite, he was destined to get lots of votes regardless of the talent shown in his subsequent performances. Why is this so? We have seen this many times on these shows. Once someone picks a favorite, a lot of people will just stick with that favorite until the bitter end. Many of these people do vote and can affect the results all the way to the finals.
Look at it as rooting for your favorite football team or picking a candidate in an election and sticking with that candidate even if they say some stupid things in the press or have some opinions you disagree with. Voting-based talent contests are as much "root for your favorite" contests as they are "vote for the most talented" contests. Most people don't know how to judge talent, anyway. They have no real basis for their opinions or may not even care about "talent" in the least. Once they have their favorite, they will rationalize any weakness to stick to that favorite.
4. Judges on all these shows overpraise some contestants' questionable performances and even over-criticize good performances. Producers and judges clearly have their own favorites and develop biases or preconceived notions that color their opinions of the actual performances. I just can't say how often I am scratching my head at some of the judges' comments. I think Kevin is a very emotional singer who has "some" talent, but let's be real.
The judges just ignored all of his technical problems until the final performance. They then acknowledged the issues with Kevin's singing but then made excuses and basically said that it didn't even matter. Frankly, Skinner's win does not bother me at all. I laughed hard because the show had become something of a joke during this fourth season, but I do wonder how many people just blindly rely on the judges' seemingly scripted comments.
5. People who voted for Kevin Skinner perceive him as a genuine entertainer. By that, I mean that Kevin seems to be someone who is genuinely interested in being a singer and entertainer. He doesn't seem to care about fame or fortune. In short, Skinner is the "real deal" as a singer and entertainer even if he needs some singing lessons. As Sharon Osbourne said, lots of successful singers are not really standouts as actual singers, such as Lou Reed, Mick Jagger, Johnny Cash, and Bob Dylan.
6. People who study marketing and advertising understand the concept of "branding." By far, Kevin Skinner was the most effectively branded contestant. Whoever came up with "The Chicken Catcher" is a marketing genius. Even if you forgot Kevin's name, you could not possibly forget "The Chicken Catcher." This was brilliant marketing because people will vote based on their familiarity with or feeling of "closeness" to a contestant.
There you go. Those are at least 6 reasons that could have helped Kevin "The Chicken Catcher" Skinner become the new champion of America's Got Talent. I am somewhat surprised by the results but not so disappointed. In the end, this is just a television show, and it is very difficult for all the contestants to launch a career after appearing on America's Got Talent. Besides that, I think Kevin does have talent. Emotion and genuineness are key elements of stage entertainment, and I think Kevin has the right stuff to entertain within his genre of country music.
For more information on Kevin, you can visit a fan site at MyKevinSkinner.
Update: Kevin is now performing at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, Nevada. The show is scheduled to run through December 13th. Kevin is joined by runner-up Barbara Padilla, finalist Lawrence Beamen, and some of the other Top 10.