On Thursday's "American Idol" top five results show, Jacob Lusk went home, and given how things had panned out for him in recent weeks, this elimination was no huge shocker. However, if you were to rewind your DVR to about two months ago, you would've never expected this guy to only make it to fifth place. In February, Randy Jackson actually told Jacob that his "God Bless The Child" performance was the best in "Idol" history. Ever. Back then, it seemed Jacob had the potential to become the first R&B singer to win "Idol" in seven years.
So what went wrong? Well, I have a couple theories. While there was little doubt that Jacob had the pipes, some of the strongest pipes of the top 13, he never came across as current. Or cool. Just look at the swag-laden R&B charts these days. It's all about pop/hip-hop crossover acts like Drake, B.o.B., Jason Derulo, Chris Brown, Usher, et al; there's nothing in the old-school vein a la Luther Vandross, the singer to whom Jacob was constantly and perhaps excessively compared, and if Season 2 winner Ruben Studdard wasn't able to bring that style back, then Jacob certainly was doomed. But of course, when Jacob did try to modernize things and cover the Jordin Sparks/Chris Brown pop hit "No Air" this week, it was far and away his worst performance of the season, and it did him in. So I guess he was doomed either way.
Still, doing one treacly, over-emotive, chest-beating power ballad after another, week after week, did Jacob no favors. Maybe he should have realized that being called a "diva" is not a good thing if you're a man. And maybe he shouldn't have worn weirdly patterned/colored suits so much, either. This is "American Idol," after all, not a job interview at Century 21.
Additionally, while Jacob usually came across as a jolly, effusive, all-around pleasant fellow (something we were reminded of during his exit video, a montage of him goofing off in a series of brightly colored anchorman blazers), occasionally he had "diva moments" that might have alienated viewers, who historically vote against anyone who comes across as cocky. Jacob's comment from a few weeks ago--"If I'm in the bottom three, it's not because I'm a bad singer, it's because America is afraid to look at themselves in the mirror"--however he intended it, was offputting, and I actually believe his decline in popularity began that night. Hopefully his fun and over-the-top exit-song performance this Thursday further reminded everyone of his more likable side.
As for the other contestant in the bottom two, it was the barely-16-year-old Lauren Alaina, and there was actually a part of me who wanted her to go, just to put her out of her misery. Her reaction to finding out she was in the bottom--her first time EVER on the chopping block--really showed her age. While Jacob, who'd obviously gotten used to the old elimination drill by now, was pretty stoic, Lauren was a tearful mess the moment her name was called.
Lauren's thin-skinned behavior on the show, whether it was her clearly hurt reaction to Jimmy Iovine's critique of her "Unchained Melody" performance this week, or the way she bristled when anyone dared to call her anything less than perfect several times this season, made a good case for why lowering the "Idol" age limit this year was a bad idea. Let's face it, most 15- or 16-year-olds, especially ones from small towns who've been told all their lives that they're amazing and "The One," simply cannot handle the pressure of a competition like this. Lauren would have been wise to wait until she was 18 to audition, when her emotional maturity finally caught up with her voice.
As for the other 57 minutes of Thursday's elimination episode, there was plenty of the usual filler, like an extended skit in which "Hell's Kitchen" tyrant Gordon Ramsay had the kids compete to make the best omelet (yeah, because what I look for most in my future American Idol is the ability to fry eggs properly); an ickier Gordon skit in which the contestants were force-fed tofu while blindfolded (wait, I thought I was watching "Idol," not 9 1/2 Weeks); and a whole bunch of on-point commentary from Jimmy Iovine in which he said ev-er-y-thing the judges were either too clueless or too afraid to say the night before. (How come Jimmy isn't allowed to give his two cents on Wednesday nights, when it counts?) There was also a surprisingly decent "On The Floor" performance from judge J.Lo...and while it was hard to tell if Jennifer was singing live or lip-synching, either way she fared better than the five live-singing Idols who attempted to harmonize on a group performance of "Happy Together" and didn't sound remotely together at all.
So there you have it. The final four on the floor are Scotty McCreery, James Durbin, Haley Reinhart, and Lauren Alaina, the latter of whom will hopefully be able to hold it together next week. It's really anybody's game--Scotty's the closest we have to a frontrunner this year, but in a season when someone as hyped as Jacob Lusk can suffer such a mighty fall, and someone like Pia Toscano can go home in ninth place, obviously nothing is guaranteed.