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'American Idol': Joshua Ledet leads top 11

Joshua Ledet performs Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" in

Joshua Ledet performs Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" in front of the judges on "American Idol." (March 7, 2012) (Credit: Fox)

This was a terrible week for “American Idol.”

“Songs from the Year They Were Born” Week is generally tough and this season's performances were even worse than usual. But what made this week so bad was the way producers handled the exit of Jermaine Jones.

Instead of dispatching with the news at the beginning of the show and moving on, keeping the focus on the singing competition, they teased his disqualification at the beginning, as if his life was simply another drama for them to manipulate. It was sad to watch. It was also kind of hard to believe that Fox doesn't require simple background checks on all of its finalists, considering how much the network has riding on them, but whatever.

Back to the music.

Maybe it was because of the controversy, but the judges seemed extra crazy last night. They went wild for Joshua Ledet's version of “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Jennifer Lopez went as far as calling it “the best thing I've ever seen on 'American Idol'.” It was good, but it wasn't as lose-your-mind good as, say, Jessica Sanchez's “I Will Always Love You” from last week.

They also overpraised Hollie Cavanagh's “The Power of Love,” which was really good until she ran out of gas at the end. That didn't get mentioned, though.

Also, it's one thing for Jessica to be off the tempo on the disco classic “Turn the Beat Around,” which she was. It's another entirely for Elise Testone to be off the tempo in the ballad part of “Let's Stay Together,” which is practically inexcusable. Of course, the judges skipped past that, eager to help out the struggling one by throwing the successful one under the bus.

The judges did the same thing with Heejun Han criticizing his pretty, but flawed, “Right Here Waiting,” while praising Deandre Brackensick for a wobbly “Endless Love” when he even messed up the lyrics (“You're every breath I make”) again with no acknowledgment from the judges.

“One Sweet Day” was too big for Shannon Magrane's voice, while “Heaven” wasn't big enough for Erika Van Pelt. Erika then made the mistake of adding odd phrasing and weird emphasis choices in an attempt to make it sound tougher to sing.

Colton Dixon did a good job making White Lion's “Broken Heart” sound like an original, contemporary song and Skylar Laine did well with making “Love Sneakin' Up on You” sound country. And Phillip Phillips did a good job recovering from kidney stone surgery on Thursday night to do OK with “Hard to Handle.”

Hopefully they can all put this mess, which was somehow all made worse by mentor will.i.am, behind them next week.

THE RANKINGS

Joshua Ledet, “When a Man Loves a Woman”
Hollie Cavanagh, “The Power of Love”
Colton Dixon, “Broken Heart”
Skylar Laine, “Love Sneakin' Up on You”
Phillip Phillips, “Hard to Handle”
Heejun Han, “Right Here Waiting”
Jessica Sanchez, “Turn the Beat Around”
Erika Van Pelt, “Heaven”
Elise Testone, “Let's Stay Together”
Deandre Brackensick, “Endless Love”
Shannon Magrane, “One Sweet Day”

BOTTOM THREE: Erika, Elise, Deandre
SHOULD BE ELIMINATED: Shannon
WILL BE ELIMINATED: Erika

ACTUAL BOTTOM THREE: Erika, Elise, Shannon

ACTUALLY ELIMINATED: Shannon

Tags: American Idol , Jessica Sanchez , Phillip Phillips , Jessica Sanchez , Colton Dixon , Skylar Laine , Deandre Brackensick , Heejun Han , Erika Van Pelt , Hollie Cavanagh , Joshua Ledet , Jermaine Jones , Shannon Magrane , Elise Testone , Jennifer Lopez , Steven Tyler , Randy Jackson , White Lion

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