Just about every season of "American Idol" seems to have at least one: a singer whose talent is so impressive and complete that their weekly performances come off as effortless. Whether it's winners like Ruben Studdard, Fantasia or Carrie Underwood, or runners-up like Adam Lambert, Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson or Chris Daughtry, these finalists make it seem easy.
If you believe Randy, Jennifer and Steven, we are seeing one of those rare moments right now in the form of Joshua Ledet. The old-soul singer has been crushing it without fail just about every week on the show, with just a few missteps along the way.
"I've been doing this 11 years, and you're one of the best singers ever on this show. Ever!" Jackson said following Ledet's take on the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody." "No matter what goes down, you're one of the best singers ever on this show, and that is a big feat, that was incredible. Nobody could do that better." Tyler offered similar praise earlier in the show after Ledet pulled off a near-flawless cover of the Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," telling Josh, "You've gotta be one of the top two best 'Idols' of all time." Hell, Lopez, who is 42, called Ledet one of the "best singers I've seen in 50 years!"
So, is Josh one of the best "Idol" singers of all time? Or just one of the best singer ever, period? We convened a panel of "Idol" experts and asked them to weigh in.
"Idol" blogger MJ Santilli said it is undeniable that Josh is a gifted singer, but she begged to differ with Tyler's claim that Ledet is one of the top "Idol" contenders. "Adam Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia, Ruben Studdard are, arguably, better singers," she said. "When Joshua is excited, he has the tendency to push his vocals to the breaking point. He's had missteps along the way -- his 'gospel' rendition of Billy Joel's 'She's Got A Way' was a hot mess of over-singing."
And, at just 20 years old, Santilli said she doesn't get the sense that Ledet has a complete handle on who he is as an artist. "In comparison to DeAndre Brackensick, who demonstrated knowledge of the greats that came before him, Joshua seems to have very little understanding of not only past masters, but current pop trends," she said.
Could it be that Josh's repeated claims that he's unfamiliar with the songs he's crushing is a savvy rope-a-dope move? Maybe. But as far as Entertainment Weekly staff writer Kyle Anderson is concerned, Ledet is "technically very good," but seems to be good at just one thing. "Even for a show that deals in hyperbole, that seems awfully hyperbolic," he said of the sky-high judge's comments on Wednesday night. "He's really good and probably the best singer of the last three or four seasons, mostly because the past few have tended toward people with gimmicks nor niches, so it's been a while since a pure voice has blown us away."
Former MTV News "Idol in 60 Seconds" host and "Idol" authority Jim Cantiello thinks the problem might be that while Ledet sings it very well, he excels at a style of music that just isn't very "now."
"The only pop artist who has success dabbling in retro-ish R&B tunes is Bruno Mars (and, by extension, Cee Lo, which Mars had a hand in). Yet Bruno injects a modern spin to his retro leanings and has the charisma and personality to back it up," Cantiello said of Ledet's throwback Otis Redding style of gritty R&B belting. "Joshua has only shown strength going REAL old school and typically has the presence of a sedated patient."
Despite the over-the-top raves from Interscope boss Jimmy Iovine and bestie "Little" Steven Van Zandt, Cantiello wondered whether the label had "a secret top-notch retro unit with the right songwriters and producers that could craft Joshua the perfect throwback album." There is no doubt that Ledet crushed it when he sang "To Love Somebody" and, earlier in the season, "When a Man Loves a Woman," but the issue, he said, is that nobody writes those kinds of songs anymore.
"In order to have a big radio hit, Joshua and Interscope would literally have to bring an entire genre back to life, and I'm not sure the personality-challenged Ledet is the one to start that movement," he lamented. Maybe the judges meant that Joshua is "one of the best young male soul singers to come out of the show, versus one of the best singers period," Cantiello speculated, ticking off a list of others who were more versatile and have massive voices (Lambert, Kelly Clarkson, Melinda Doolittle, Fantasia).
Do you think Joshua Ledet is one of the best "Idol" singers of all time? Let us know in the comments!
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