Twenty-two-year-old Compton, Calif., crooner Jacob Lusk remains the lone African American on “American Idol” this week, securing his stay Wednesday night with a rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s hit “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” However, the end of the road came tonight for Huntsville, Ala., native Paul McDonald, who had been a regular performer in the Atlanta area in recent years.
At the start of Season 10 of the phenomenally successful FOX program, three African Americans were included in the group of 13 who opened the show: Lusk, a spa valet; shoe store manager Ashton Jones, 25, of Valdosta, Ga.; and 26-year-old wife, mom and former maintenance worker Naima Adedapo of Milwaukee, Wisc. Jones, who judges likened to Diana Ross, was voted off the show by viewers on March 10. Adedapo, about whom many wondered how she lasted so long on the show and whom judges praised for her performance energy and other talents, left on March 31. Both will join the other top 11 contestants on a tour later this summer.
Lusk has been compared to the late Luther Vandross, who died in 2005. The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter-producer Vandross, known for his velvety, spine-chilling voice, always had a cloud of suspicion surrounding his sexual orientation. Likewise, Lusk has had a similar doubt cast upon him. One blogger was pretty hard on the animated singer recently, as many opinionated viewers most likely have been.
“Today’s music scene isn’t very receptive to openly gay male performers; and the biz is exceptionally cold when it comes to pudgy, black, flamboyant men,” he quipped on his blogspot. “Personally, I don’t have a problem with Lusk’s womanly mannerisms, but there are a lot of people, gay and straight, who are turned off by the singer’s girlie posturing and Diva hand gestures.” Could this characterization be the demise of Lusk’s chance to be the next American Idol?
Whether he is black, pudgy, gay or not, the fact remains that the young man can sing, and the judges — singer-dancer Jennifer “J Lo” Lopez, musician-producer Randy Jackson, and legendary Aerosmith rock star Steven Tyler — have had nothing but consistent praise for him. J Lo even said, “Your singing comes from a special place … I tried to fight getting chills this time, but I couldn’t. They came up anyway.” Lusk is still on a roll, which translates into thousands of votes from admiring fans.
In tonight’s elimination show, Rihanna took the stage as guest performer, singing “California King Bed,” the latest single from the LOUD album. Songstresses Anita Baker and Chaka Khan also made appearances as special guests in the audience, waving to fans and chatting briefly with show host Ryan Seacrest. –arnell pharr