Carlson by a nose, say the odds

By Hannah Lawrence

Support is split, the polls are neck-and-neck and the result is too close to call.

This Sunday night New Zealand Idol's final two, Nik Carlson from Masterton and Auckland's Rosita Vai, will sing in the showdown, and on Monday night the new Idol will be crowned.

But will it be polished performer Carlson or soul diva Vai?

Polls on fan website idolblog give few clues as to which way the voters will jump.

A poll asking "Who do you want to win?" has Carlson with 43 per cent support, Vai on 40 per cent, and 17 per cent answering "I don't mind".

Another poll asking "Who is your favourite?" as at lunchtime yesterday had Carlson with 51 per cent support to Vai's 49 per cent (a reversal on the morning, when Vai was on 53 and Carlson 47).

But the total votes cast were just 129, so maybe this tells us there should also have been a "none of the above" option.

Both Carlson and Vai are capable singers, but neither really stands out.

Carlson is a good looking guy, but at 26 - near the top of the age range accepted for NZ Idol - he may appeal to an audience older than those likely to vote.

A banner brandished by an audience member during much of the series summed it up with the message: "Nik, will you date my Mum?"

The youngest of the top three, 19-year-old Steve Broad from Invercargill, was sent home this week, leaving the more experienced campaigners to slug it out.

Carlson is no stranger to competitive singing. He started country and western singing at age 4 and was a winner at the Wairarapa Country Music Club awards at age 18.

He has no shortage of local support, with Masterton Mayor Bob Francis and his wife, Eva, among his dedicated fans.

Carlson says on TVNZ's website that he wants to be the next Idol because "I would love the opportunity to record an album".

Vai, on the other hand, is more open than Carlson in answering that same question (as many would argue she is on stage).

"I believe I'm destined for great things and this is an awesome opportunity to grasp hold of," she says.

"I have a gift and my purpose is to share it with others." The 24-year-old's favourite book is the Bible, she's a fan of Angelina Jolie, and her favourite food is taro with corned beef.

But it could be the things the final two have in common that makes it hard for fans to pick a favourite.

Both include Mariah Carey and Beyonce on a list of their top five recording artists. Both list their grandmothers as one of the most important people in their life, and both select Hawaii as their favourite holiday destination.

Neither are strangers to television either - in fact all of the top three have been on our screens before. Both Carlson and Vai appeared in the TVNZ variety show talent search Showstoppers in 2002 and Broad has competed twice in Wannabes, a talent quest for young singers.

This demonstration of the limited pool of talent available in New Zealand may be one of the reasons the second series of NZ Idol does not seem to have secured the hype or following of the first.

Another factor could be the speed with which Ben Lummis, last year's winner, faded into obscurity and off the pop music radar.

The shine went off series two for some viewers when popular Keshia Paulse was given the boot early on and more recently when Teresa Bergman - clearly the most talented singer in the top 10 - failed to secure enough votes to stay.

This rammed home the fact that while the contestants sing, at the end of the day the show is about popularity and voting demographics.

So who is the most popular?

Online bookmaker Centrebet has Carlson as favourite, paying $1.70 to win over Vai at $2. Carlson was Centrebet's $4.50 favourite when its book opened in July, with Vai ranked fourth at $10.

But Vai is the only contestant never to have been in the bottom three, and it's votes that count. So for my money it could well go her way on Monday.

Meanwhile, in a strange twist of fate, New Zealander Emily Williams is Centrebet's frontrunner to take out the new series of Australian Idol, screening across the ditch.

"New Zealanders aren't satisfied with their men beating our blokes in Bledisloe Cup matches," said Centrebet's Gerard Daffy. "Now their women want to win our Australian Idol competition."

Now that might be something worth tuning in for.

The odds

* Centrebet is offering $1.70 on Nik Carlson and $2 on Rosita Vai for NZ Idol.

* New Zealander Emily Williams is the new favourite in Australian Idol at $3.


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