Jacob Lusk was pretty sure his "American Idol" journey was going to end Thursday night, and he was OK with that. But what kind of stung were the harsh comments made by mentor Jimmy Iovine in a taped package that ran before Jacob got his news, in which the Interscope Geffen A&M boss said Lusk appeared to lose his confidence and said the singer's voice "closed down."
"I wouldn't call it soul-destroying. It definitely hurts a lot to have someone who is supposed to be mentoring you and it feels like every time you turn around, [he's] tearing you down," Lusk said of Iovine's cutting comments. "But what you have to remember is that you're not doing it for him, you're doing it for the people out there in America. They're the people who are voting. It definitely hurts, it's definitely hard to have someone beat you over the head with a baseball bat and then say, 'OK, now go ahead and sing for your life.' "
If there is any reason he was sent home, he said, it was because he wasn't in his gospel/R&B element on Wednesday night and simply didn't have a great performance.
After his elimination, though, Lusk went out on a high note, giving one of his loosest, most engaging performances of the season with "A House Is Not a Home." But in a call with reporters Friday (May 6), he talked about his performance after that performance, where he really took the audience to church and let loose. "I made a joke months ago [to 'Idol' bandleader Ray Chew]. I said, 'Ray, if I ever got off this show, if I ever win, whatever happens, we're going to church.' "
But when he finished singing, he didn't want to end on a sad, tearful note (though he did cry a bit), so he did what he always does: He rejoiced and celebrated making it to the #5 position surrounded by his family, producer Nigel Lythgoe and "Idol" stage manager Debbie Williams.
When asked about Iovine saying the pressure seemed to be getting to him, Lusk disagreed with the assessment.
"I wouldn't say that the pressure was getting to me. I was getting a little tired and I was just really trying to do different things that I thought that he would like and that America just wanted to see different things," he explained. "But at the end of the day, I definitely went out and I said, 'I'm going to give them my all,' and that's what I did."
One of the signature moments Lusk was asked to clarify was when he seemed to call out the voting public before singing Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror." It appeared at the time that he was making some sort of political or personal statement with this warning: "If I end up in the bottom three, it won't be because I sang the song bad. It won't be because I sang the song wrong. It'll be because everybody in America wasn't ready to look at themselves in the mirror."
Lusk said Friday that he didn't mean anything personal by it at all and lamented that it was all a big misunderstanding. "It had nothing to do with me and my vocal performance. I'm not the greatest singer in the world; at least I don't feel that I am," he said, explaining that he was referring to his song selection, which he'd changed from the more sensual Marvin Gaye tune "Let's Get It On," and how it was inspired by the recent Japanese earthquake.
"For me, it was about us all taking an internal glance. ... It had nothing to do with my vocal performance. It had nothing to do with people voting for me. It wasn't about that. It was about me wanting people to look at ourselves and look at what we can do to change the world. ... I was starting with me that night and saying that I was going to make a change to help change the world."
Now that the pressure is off and he can start thinking about the rest of his career, Lusk said he's looking forward to auditioning for Broadway shows and films and working on a debut album that will eschew the bubblegum-pop sensibility of the day and get back to some classic soulful R&B like that of his inspirations, Luther Vandross, Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston and Patti LaBelle.
"I've heard some things through the grapevine, and I think I'm gonna be fine," Lusk said when asked if, like another recently eliminated singer, Stefano Langone, he's gotten calls from major artists eager to work with him. "There's a world out there who is desirous of what I have to offer, and it's just about me really going out there and giving my heart and soul. Someone out there is gonna want it, and I'm excited just to give that."
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