'Race' heats up in Idols final
If Durbanite Khaya Mthethwa is not announced as the first black winner of Idols SA tonight the outcry will rival the one that followed Jennifer Hudson's American Idol exit in 2004.
At the time, Hudson proclaimed: "I don't think it was based on talent - but if it was, I was robbed."
As it stands, Mthethwa looks likely to win .
If he were to lose, it would be the one of the biggest upsets in local reality television.
In every one of the past seven seasons of the competition, broadcaster M-Net has had to defend itself on allegations of vote-rigging and racism. No black contestant has won the Idols SA title.
Smelling blood, black celebrities have, to use political-speak, canvassed and mobilised voters on Mthethwa's behalf, sensing that he is on the verge of changing the trend. Celebrities Lupi Ncgayisa, The Wild actress Minnie Dlamini, Loyiso Bala, Kelly Khumalo and Kabomo have made no secret of their support for Mthethwa.
Some fans have gone so far as to buy several SIM cards (despite the prospect of a Rica process), loading them with airtime, dowloading Mxit, opening various accounts and voting multiple times to ensure Mthethwa's success.
There has even been some creative picture manipulation. In one, the iconic 1956 photo of the thousands of women who marched to the Union Buildings to protest against pass laws was reworked to read "SMS 08 to 37400. Vote for Khaya".
It's easy to forget 23-year-old Melissa Alison is also in the running. For her part, she has come across as having no envy, quietly going about her business, and encouraging her own fans on social networks to keep voting.
In a video released yesterday, the Port Elizabeth-born lass said: "I've learned most about character building - I've needed to build a thick skin, especially when it comes to social media."
During the Friday-night recording of Sunday night's show, an Allison fan and a Mthethwa fan sparred by SMS.
The debate ended with the one-liner: "In the end, gospel always wins, mark my words - Khaya will win."
Mthethwa is part of Joyous Celebration, the biggest touring gospel choir in the country.
The 25-year-old Durbanite said of his journey: "I've learned that nothing is as important as being prepared. Success is preparation mixed with opportunity.
"If you're prepared, you will make a mark, but if you don't know who you are, you're going to crumble and it will not work out simply because you're unprepared."
Still, if he doesn't win, Mthethwa will find it hard to play the race card - he will know there's never been a better chance for him.
WHAT THE STARS THINK
- Season 5 co-winner Jason Hartman (he shared the title with Jody Williams) wouldn't reveal his pick for the title, but said: "Whoever wins will do so because they have converted the whole country into believers. That's what the competition is about. You must convince the country that you're the best for the job."
He added: "I've not watched the entire season, but I've seen them both, and I can't really say who should win. They must go out there and smack it out the park and forget about the pressure."
- Lira was also reluctant to pick her outright winner, but said that while Mthethwa was "the stronger vocalist", Alison had "stage presence".
"Idols is a great platform for any aspiring musician, transforming this platform into a sustainable career is where the real challenge lies and I believe both have the ability to achieve that," she said.
- Season 7 runner-up Mark Haze picked Mthethwa.
"I hope they keep their heads down and work really hard. The winner is announced on Tuesday night [tonight], but people really start to think about what happens [the day after]."
If the competition was judged on perseverance then Alison would cruise to the title, suggested Haze.
"I think she has stronger character. She's shown incredible tenacity because she's had some really bad comments on Facebook and Twitter, which I've seen, and even from the judges. It takes a tough person to continue and get this far."
- SA Music Award winner Lloyd Cele, a runner-up in season 6, also backed Mthethwa.
"In previous seasons, you had a feeling that the finale could go either way. I don't see that this time," Cele said.
"It's all leaning towards Khaya. He has dominated the hype, and you can even tell from the judges' comments. He is incredibly talented, and I like him because he is grounded and humble, Cele said, adding that if Mthethwa remained down-to-earth, he will reach stardom.
Cele also revealed he was disappointed that both his picks [Simphiwe Gwegwe and Tshidi Tenyane] fell short. He said Tenyane was the strongest vocally, but Gwegwe was the "complete package".
- All Things Grey crooner Kabomo (Vilakazi) said Mthethwa "should and will" win it, and when he does, he would "scream my lungs out".
Kabomo said he knew Mthethwa was a shoo-in for the finale after watching his audition (he sang Bruno Mars' Just The Way You Are, before an impromptu duet of John Legend's So High with judge Unathi Msengana).
"I think he's talented, not just as a singer. His versatility is good.
"The way he reworked with that Nicki Minaj song [Super Bass] having not heard it before, was telling - even I as a professional singer would've sat it out. He takes instructions well too."
ON THE ROAD TO THE FINALE
Audition: Bruno Mars - Just The Way You Are
Top 10: Aerosmith - I Don't Want To Miss a Thing
Top 9: David Guetta and Usher - Without You
Top 8: Earth Wind and Fire - September
Top 7: R Kelly - The World's Greatest
Top 6: Keri Hilson, Kanye West and Ne-Yo - Knock You Down
Top 5: Marvin Gaye - Let's Get It On; Otis Redding - Try a Little Tenderness
Top 4: Zahara - Lengoma; Springbok Nude Girls - Blue Eyes
Top 3: Justin Bieber - Down to Earth; Maroon 5 - She Will Be Loved; Nicki Minaj - Super Bass
Top 2: Otis Redding - Try a Little Tenderness; R Kelly - The World's Greatest and his new single, Move
Audition: Jessie J - Mamma Knows Best
Top 10: Stevie Wonder - Superstition
Top 9: Joe Goddard - Gabriel
Top 8: The Bangles - Eternal Flame
Top 7: Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox - Sisters Are Doing it for Themselves
Top 6: Rihanna - Where Have You Been?
Top 5: Bill Withers - Aint No Sunshine; Tina Turner - Proud Mary
Top 4: The Arrows - Lovesick; Mafikizolo - Ndihamba Nawe
Top 3: Adele - Chasing Pavements; AliciaKeys-Fallin'Rihanna - Unfaithful
Top 2: Joe Goddard - Gabriel; Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox - Sisters Are Doing it for Themselves, and her new single I Could Spend a Lifetime