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'Idol' shocker as Toscano voted off

What? What? Pia Toscano?

If words escaped you, and still do, then you weren't and aren't alone: One of the best singers in "American Idol" history was voted off Thursday night.

Her departure even left the judges momentarily mute, but not for long, with each expressing outrage (Randy Jackson), disbelief (Jennifer Lopez) and bewilderment (Steven Tyler.) In closing, she sang "I'll Stand By You," her voice breaking -- for the first time in her run -- then she broke into sobs. She was surrounded by other contestants and in yet another first in "Idol" history, the three judges walked to the stage to comfort her.

Howard Beach native Toscano, 22, was and is one of the true standout singers ever on "Idol." "Idol" watchers will compare this injustice for as long as this show airs to a pair of other travesties -- Jennifer Hudson (third season) and Melinda Doolittle (sixth season), the other best "Idol" singers who never won, and should have.

Like them, Toscano was a balladeer with a beautiful voice, and a powerful upper register. When she closed songs -- invariably hitting top notes with gale-force bravado -- she pushed other "Idol" contestants to match her game. She was the one to beat; now she's been beaten.

What happened? Complacent voters figured someone else was voting for Toscano. And regional voting biases penalize contestants from the northeast.

What an injustice.

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