American Idol’s 11th season’s saving grace was contestant Joshua Ledet, who was eliminated after making it to the competition’s final three. Ledet was consistently praised by the judges and his rousing vocals were electrifying and energetic enough to keep me tuning in through the rest of the lame performances. Ledet, 20, is from Louisiana and the son of a preacher: to say that these things played a major role on his singing style would be an understatement. Unfortunately, Ledet is about three decades too late: soul has no place in today’s pop music landscape, which makes his elimination all the more devastating.

Who will sign Joshua Ledet to release a soul/gospel/R&B/blues album? More importantly, who will buy it?

The remaining contestants are definitely sellable. Phillip Phillips has that indie/rock thing going that’s all the rage on the FM dial these days. Jessica Sanchez is the 16-year-old with the powerhouse pipes. She’ll be fine.

Joshua Ledet needed to win to secure a record deal. He did introduce a new generation of people to his Percy Sledge/James Brown style, but had he been crowned the American Idol, it would have given soul and R&B a platform to possibly make a comeback.

But let’s stop pretending that the competition isn’t rigged. At the end of the day, the producers need to make sure the winner will sell records to secure their bottom line. And it’s a lot more dramatic to have the judges use their save on the eventual winner—”a first in Idol history”, Ryan Seacrest will surely announce if Jessica Sanchez is crowned the winner.

The American Idol finale will air on FOX/CTV on Wednesday and Thursday nights for what is sure to be an unnecessarily drawn-out nine-hour extravaganza. For the third year in a row (and seventh overall), there remains one male and one female contestant. If Phillip Phillips wins, he will be the fifth year in a row (and sixth overall) that a white male contestant wins the title—Scott McCreery in 2011, Lee DeWyze in 2010, Kris Allen in 2009, David Cook in 2008, and Taylor Hicks in 2006, and yes, I had to look that up!

If Jessica Sanchez wins, she will be the youngest to ever do so. I also have a suspicion that the Idol people didn’t want to have a similar winner to The Voice, a singing competition on NBC: Jermaine Paul, who used to sing backup vocals with Alicia Keys, won the second season of that show.

Of course there’s Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry, Adam Lambert and Clay Aiken, who didn’t win but made names for themselves. But for every one of those, there are dozens of RJ Heltons, Leah Labelles, Didi Benamis, Julie DeMatos, Lindsey Cardinales, Danny Gokeys, Chikezie Ezes and Charles Grigsbys. Who?


Joshua Ledet singing “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” on May 9:

Ledet singing “When A Man Loves A Woman” on March 14:


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