Throughout the 11th season of “American Idol” he’s been called “one of the top two best 'Idols' of all time” by Steven Tyler and one of the best singers Jennifer Lopez has “seen in 50 years.”
Now, he’s a third-place finisher.
Louisiana soul singer Joshua Ledet was sent home by “American Idol” viewers in the show’s semifinals week. Ledet’s exit sets up a finale between acoustic strummer Phillip Phillips and diva-in-waiting Jessica Sanchez.
“American Idol” will come to a close next week, with performances between the two finalists taking place on Tuesday and a winner being crowned on Wednesday. San Diego’s Jessica Sanchez is just 16, but she’s been championed by the “Idol” judges all season, earning the trio’s “save” when viewers tried to send her home on April 13.
"This girl is one of the best singers in America, ever," Randy Jackson gushed after the judges vetoed voters and kept her on the show.
Phillips, a 21 year-old from Georgia, has stayed true to his rock 'n' roll roots all season, usually appearing tethered to his acoustic guitar as he tackled songs from the likes of the Box Tops, the Zombies, Jonny Lang and the Dave Matthews Band. The latter was a sly wink to the judges and viewers, as Phillips has been compared to Matthews since first appearing on the show.
He wowed the judges on Tuesday when he showed his tender side, tackling Bob Seger's "We've Got Tonight" sans guitar.
L.A. Times readers called the final two right in voting that has taken place over the last eight weeks in our "Idol" vs. "The Voice" poll. The poll has pitted the hopefuls on Fox against their counterparts on NBC, where former backup singer Jermaine Paul emerged the victor earlier this month.
Of more than 300,000 reader votes cast, San Diego-native Sanchez, has drawn about 99,000. Phillips is in second with 37,500.
Our readers got Ledet's third-place finish right -- he had nearly 26,000 votes in our poll.
Do you think readers' predictions will hold for next week's finale? Will Sanchez emerge the first female winner since Jordin Sparks in 2007 or is Phillips going to keep the boys' streak alive?
The poll below includes the top 15 reader vote-getters. Vote for your favorites and check back Friday to see who tops the chart and where our experts stand on the talent after watching all season.
NEW YORK -- NBC is not going to turn into one big musical.
The troubled network relaunched its hit “The Voice” this year after the Super Bowl. That helped bring in big numbers for the show’s early episodes and made it a nice lead-in for the network’s heavily hyped midseason musical drama “Smash” — which, though by no means a ratings powerhouse, pulls in solid numbers.
So it makes sense that music from both shows was rampant at NBC’s upfront presentation to advertisers held at Radio City Music Hall on Monday.
“Smash” stars Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty performed the ballad “Let Me Be Your Star,” before being joined onstage by “The Voice” judge s— Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera — in their signature red revolving chairs (which will get more air time when the series returns in the fall).
Advertisers were even shown a clip, introduced onscreen by “30 Rock’s” Tina Fey and late night host Jimmy Fallon — imagining what the upcoming season might look like if it went through the “Smash” machine: with a montage showcasing actors from “Parks and Recreation,” “The Office,” “Law & Order: SVU” and even “Grimm,” belting out mid-scene.
Then there was a performance by “The Voice” winner Jermaine Paul. And yet another performance by Katherine McPhee.
But there’s no need to break out the headphones.
“I’m not hijacking the network and turning it into a musical,” Greenblatt assured.
“The Voice” ended its run this week, crowning Jermaine Paul the winner of Season 2. Over at "American Idol," Hollie Cavanagh got the boot, leaving finalists Jessica Sanchez, Phillip Phillips and Joshua Ledet to do their hometown visits and vie for the big prize.
Although “The Voice” is over, our "Idol" vs. "Voice" rankings continue, taking the singers from both shows and putting them head to head each week. I'm still choosing my top five performers from among the two shows, along with Times music writers Todd Martens and Chris Barton, and you can cast your votes too, at the bottom of this post.
Below are my picks for the week. To see what my co-judges have to say and to view the performances, click below.
Jimmy Iovine predicted that Sanchez's performance of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from "Dreamgirls" could seal the "Idol" win for her, and if Phillip Phillips and Joshua Ledet hadn't also had strong performances this week, it likely would have done so. Sanchez funneled into the song all the fury and frustration she felt after her near-elimination earlier this season and solidly, passionately landed every note, every word, every nuance. It felt cathartic. And when she sang "And you, and you, and you, and you … You're gonna love me," she left viewers no choice but to surrender.
2. Phillip Phillips, "American Idol"
This take on Damien Rice's "Volcano" was perfect, pure Phillip Phillips: intimate, contained, intense, with so much hot emotion roiling beneath the surface of his pebbly voice. He showed a range, melodic command and vocal ease he had not before and brought the song a lava-like sizzle that was also … cool. No herky-jerky moves, no jimmying legs, you could barely see Phillips' profile in chiaroscuro. Steven Tyler was spot-on when he said it was the kind of song he could imagine listening to on headphones over and over and over again. I'm ready to replay it –- yet again -– right now.
3. Jermaine Paul, "The Voice"
Paul tucked the "Voice" win under his wing and lifted off as a solo artist with R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly." He sang with soul and style, passion and power, emotion and elegance. Now he'll be able to crow about a win (though he seems so humble, it's hard to see him doing that), feather his nest with $100,000 and sing like a bird on his own record. May he soar high and go far.
4. Joshua Ledet, "American Idol"
Ledet went all in on James Brown's textured "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." At points, he seemed to be attacking the song through gritted teeth. And how could you not love that stage full of female musicians? Though it didn't pack quite the emotional punch and the added irony of Juliet Simms' triumphantly furious recent take on it on "The Voice," it had standing-o-worthy soul to spare (that "ahhh-hooo" moment especially). If Ledet keeps this up, who knows? It may be a Man's Man's Man's "Idol" again this year.
5. Juliet Simms, "The Voice"
Though she was apparently ill, Simms carried off Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird" like the rock star she's poised to become. She's a bird we don't want to change –- and it will be interesting to see how she launches from her second-place perch. The incredible Erte-esque costume –- that fiery red dress with the filmy cape that at one point shot up in the air like a flame –- didn't hurt either. Lighters aloft to that!
Each week our experts and readers rank the best of the best between the two blockbuster singing competitions. Last week, readers put "American Idol's" Jessica Sanchez just slightly ahead of "The Voice's" Juliet Simms on top. Who will be the favorite this week? Vote below and check out this week's performances and see what our judges had to say at latimes.com/idol-voice.
Were the ratings good for Tuesday's finale of "The Voice," won by Jermaine Paul? That depends on how you look at the numbers.
On the bright side, the two-hour extravaganza scored 11.6 million viewers, up 5% from last season's closer for NBC's singing contest, according to Nielsen. Among adults 18 to 49, the show rose an impressive 16%.
But here's the problem: Last season's finale came in late June, when TV viewing, thanks to summer vacations and longer days, is as much as one-third lower than it is in early May. That means "The Voice" actually underperformed when the so-called "homes using television" factor -- "HUTs" in industry-speak -- is thrown in.
Given that NBC is hoping "The Voice" can ring loudly for years to come, the latest results have to be giving certain TV executives a case of the shakes.
For some, the takeaway from "The Voice" finale was an image of Christina Aguilera strutting around in a bedazzled diaper. For the few who managed to see beyond the odd fashion choice, a winner -- Jermaine Paul -- was named.
Minutes after the confetti dropped and Paul struggled to sing R Kelly's "I Can Fly" as his comrades and family attacked him with hugs, the former backup singer and Team Blake contestant proclaimed "I Won!" as he entered the red carpet area Tuesday night to talk to reporters.
Paul, who was an underdog in the contest, said that earlier in the day he had accepted the idea of losing.
"It was probably the first time I said, 'I'm good -- wherever it falls, America has done it. It's not producers. It's not coaches," he said. "I left my heart on the stage yesterday."
Juliet Simms, the 26-year-old indie rocker, came in second. Often a hit with the judges with her gritty voice and dramatic performances, Simms is already in talks to collaborate with judge Cee Lo Green on a song he's had stashed away. And though she may not have been crowned "The Voice," she says it was all meant to be.
Jermaine Paul won! The former backup singer for Alicia Keys and Mary J. Blige stepped definitively out of the background and into the winner's circle in the Season 2 finale of "The Voice" Tuesday night.
"Winning would mean just, uh … it would mean the world to me," Paul had said, choking up, moments before Carson Daly revealed the results of the audience vote that would determine the winner.
It had taken Paul years of hard work, touring and toiling, to get there, clustered with fellow contestants Chris Mann, Juliet Simms and Tony Lucca, on the "Voice" stage, waiting to hear whether he'd captured this season's crown, as well as the recording contract and $100,000 that come with it. (Each of the four finalists had already won a new car, we learned during the finale, and Paul had seemed particularly tickled about his new wheels.)
Viewers may have felt they had spent years getting to the moment of truth as well. Tuesday's two-hour finale included performances by the four finalists, who brought back previously dispatched Season 2 "Voice" contestants to sing with them. But that wasn't even the half of it. There were highlight reels of the judges' bloopers, a tribute to CeeLo Green's cat, a look at Blake Shelton and Adam Levine's "bromance." Flo Rida dueted with Simms. Daryl Hall and John Oates sang "Rich Girl," backed by Paul, Mann and Lucca. Lady Antebellum performed. And Justin Bieber kept that promise he made his fans and the show earlier this season and returned to sing his new single "Boyfriend." (What, you didn't belieb him?)
At the outset of the show, Paul's coach, Shelton, uttered words that would prove prescient: "Jermaine Paul dug down deep" with his stirring, stylish rendition of R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" Monday night, giving "the performance of his lifetime," Shelton said. "He won."
And win he did.
Daly revealed the results from the bottom up, revealing first the contestant finishing fourth, Team Christina's Mann, who was separated from the third-place finisher, Team Adam's Lucca, by only a quarter of one percentage point. (Talk about a squeaker.)
That left Paul and Team CeeLo's Simms clinging to each other, awaiting their fate.
Only four percentage points separated them, Daly said, then asked, "Are you ready to find out the winner?"
In the seconds before she learned she'd finished second, tears gushed down Simms' face. But her emotional display was no match for Paul's once he learned he'd triumphed. He thanked the voters, his wife, his children, his parents, even his mother-in-law. (What a guy.) And then he gave a special shout-out: "Nobody but Jesus, man, nobody."
Then he had so many people to hug and kiss, he could barely get through the beginning of "I Believe I Can Fly," which he was to reprise, singing a large part of it holding his wife, who was sobbing in his arms.
But finally, Paul broke away from the pack and let his voice soar, which it did, as impressively as ever.
Paul's career, too, is set to take wing. I believe he can fly. And though I wouldn't have minded seeing Simms go home a victor (I'll forever admire her "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World"), I have to admit, the win couldn't have happened to a nicer-seeming guy.
Each week our experts and readers rank the best of the best between the two blockbuster singing competitions. Last week, readers put "American Idol's" Jessica Sanchez just slightly ahead of "The Voice's" Juliet Simms on top. Who will be the favorite this week? Vote below and check out last week's performances and see what our judges had to say at latimes.com/idol-voice.
Photo: "The Voice" winner Jermaine Paul with coach Blake Shelton. Credit: Justin Lubin / NBC
The Season 2 winner of "The Voice" has been crowned: Jermaine Paul, of Team Blake, snatched the win away from Team CeeLo's Juliet Simms, Team Adam's Tony Lucca and Team Christina's Chris Mann in the "Voice" live finale Tuesday. It was an emotional victory that left him, and probably more than a few viewers at home, in tears.
Going into Tuesday's finale, there had been no clear favorite, though Paul's performance of R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" on Monday's final performance show had offered up raw emotion, vocal power and an elegant stage presence and style.
It obviously did the trick with voters, who were the sole determining factor in choosing, from among the four finalists, this season's winner, who will receive a recording contract, $100,000 and, of course, bragging rights.
To be sure, the results did not come quickly. NBC stretched out the suspense for two hours, as Flo Rida, Daryl Hall and John Oates, Lady Antebellum, and a bevy of returning "Voice" contestants all took the stage, as did Justin Bieber, with his new single "Boyfriend."
But finally, after the Beliebers' screams had died down, Carson Daly revealed the results: Classically trained opera singer Mann finished in fourth place, just edged out by former Mouseketeer Lucca, who came in third.
That left Paul, a former backup singer for Alicia Keys and Mary J. Blige, and Simms, an aspiring rock star and the only woman in the final four.
With only four percentage points separating them, Simms claimed second place and Paul emerged the winner, bringing him out of the background, into the spotlight, and ready to fly.
Each week our experts and readers rank the best of the best between the two blockbuster singing competitions. As of Monday, readers put "The Voice's" Juliet Simms on top. Who will be the favorite this week? Votes were tallied below. And check out last week's performances and see what our judges had to say at latimes.com/idol-voice.
It's finale week on "The Voice," and Monday night the four finalists — Team Blake's Jermaine Paul, Team Christina's Chris Mann, Team Cee Lo Green's Juliet Simms, and Team Adam's Tony Lucca — took the stage with three (count 'em!) songs apiece to vie for the win.
They had a lot to prove and a lot on the line, but for the most part they stepped up and showed themselves worthy of occupying their slots in the final lineup. It's probably safe to say none of the four contestants dramatically changed the game with their final official competition performances. (Each also sang a duet with his or her coach and soloed on one of the coach's songs, as a tribute.) Fans will remain fans, detractors will remain detractors.
Who deserves the win is another question entirely and one that America's votes, and America's votes alone, will decide. Mercifully, the suspense will be short-lived. We'll have to wait only a few more hours to learn the results. Tuesday night, the Season 2 winner of "The Voice" will be crowned.
My top thoughts heading into the moment of truth:
1. What does Christina Aguilera have against Tony Lucca, anyway? On Monday night she seemed to be gunning for him particularly hard, taking issue with his song choice, Jay-Z’s "99 Problems." The chorus of the song is "I’ve got 99 problems but a ... ain’t one,” though Lucca omitted the expletive from his version. Blake Shelton took a gentle poke at Lucca, saying he was "confused" by the lyrical omission, but then adding that the performance was "all fun" and "a really cool version of that song."
But then Aguilera said the "lyrical connotation was a little derogatory toward women." Normally, I'm sure I'd agree with her, but after seeing her pick-pick-pick at poor Tony, who comes across as a perfectly nice family man, week after week, well, I felt for the guy. Levine said the song's omitted word referred to "life" and not to women, which, OK was a little specious, but he'd clearly anticipated Aguilera's response: He tried to shut her down by flashing a "Team Xtina" T-shirt.
But Aguilera didn't stop. After her team's finalist, opera singer Chris Mann, sang her hit "The Voice Within," she clambered onto the stage and declared, "This is a real man, who respects women." The implied contrast was clear. And it seemed like an unnecessary kick.
The finish line is in sight for both "The Voice" and "American Idol," with just a handful of performers still standing. On "The Voice," Jamar Rogers, Lindsey Pavao, Katrina Parker and Erin Willett were eliminated, leaving behind a final four of Tony Lucca, Chris Mann, Jermaine Paul and Juliet Simms. Over at "American Idol," Skyler Laine went home, leaving behind Jessica Sanchez, Phillip Phillips, Joshua Ledet and Hollie Cavanagh.
As the final four on each show move forward, so do our "Idol" vs. "Voice" rankings, which take the singers from both shows and put them head to head each week. I'm choosing my top five performers from among the two shows, along with Times music writers Todd Martens and Chris Barton —and you can cast your votes too, at the bottom of this post.
Below are my picks for the week. To see what my co-judges have to say and to view the performances, click below.
This performance of "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World" wasn't just a deeply visceral take on the James Brown classic and one of the best performances we've seen on either "The Voice" or "Idol" all season long. It also was a rallying cry, a raised fist against the male favoritism Simms has come up against in the music industry. "My performance tonight is for women everywhere. Mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, and grandmothers," she tweeted. "You're amazing and beautiful. <3 you all." It feels both ironic and inevitable that it helped secure Simms' spot as the sole surviving female contestant on "The Voice" going into next week's finals, an especially impressive accomplishment given that she had to beat out perceived front-runner Jamar Rogers to get there.
2. Jessica Sanchez, "American Idol"
Shunning the stage commotion after her too-much, too-soon take on Tina Turner, Sanchez kicked off her high heels and offering up a soul-baring moment with "You Are So Beautiful" that was magnified by its intimacy. She'd worried before taking the stage that she might end up sounding lounge-y. But her voice came through as pure and honest and just … so beautiful. The stillness and simplicity of the staging (nothing onstage apart from a few fog-ensconced flickering candles) allowed us to zoom in on Sanchez's pure voice — its clarity and vibrato, its breadth and tone — and appreciate every detail.
3. Jamar Rogers, "The Voice"
Despite the song title ("If You Don't Know Me by Now") and the fact that we've been watching and listening to Rogers all these weeks, we learned a few things about him we didn't know. He showed us his vision for the sort of musician he'd like to become and revealed a heretofore-unheard resonant lower register that somehow felt like a deep surprise. On results night, he seemed as shocked as the rest of us by his elimination. But we know him well enough by now to predict that — as long as he keeps his newly adopted "victor's mentality" — the comeback kid will bounce back just fine.
4. Lindsey Pavao, "The Voice"
Katrina Parker, also eliminated this week, was a near miss for this slot. But Pavao, with her quirky lyrical pronunciation, asymmetrical 'do, beautiful tone and shy smile, pulled ahead, capturing my attention anew in her final performance of "Skinny Love." Those haunting, breathy, half-swallowed "my my mys" were particularly arresting. Had Christina Aguilera not been so irritatingly aggressive an advocate, my love for Pavao, slender at times though never emaciated, might have been much beefier.
5. Joshua Ledet, "American Idol"
Though he'd never heard the Bee Gees song "To Love Somebody" before Jimmy Iovine and this week's guest mentor, Steven Van Zandt, handed it to him in rehearsals, Ledet sang it as if it had been written for him — or by him. He got swept up in the emotion, and swept us up in it, but never lost control. Midway through, he actually seemed to be ripping whole hunks of pain off with his teeth, chewing them up and spitting them out. We may or may not know what it's like to love somebody like he does. But he sure made us love him.
Each week our experts and readers rank the best of the best between the two blockbuster singing competitions. Last week, "American Idol's" Jessica Sanchez came out on top. Who will be the favorite this week? Use the poll below to vote. Check out this week's performances and see what our judges had to say at latimes.com/idol-voice.
To quote the song Juliet Simms completely slayed on "The Voice" Monday night, "This is a man's, man's, man's world, but it wouldn't be nothing, nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl." And in the man's world that America's votes helped create on "The Voice" in Tuesday's results show, that woman or girl turned out to be Simms. She's the last female contestant standing heading into the finals next week.
In a night that brought back last year's four finalists — Dia Frampton, Vicci Martinez, Beverly McClellan and winner Javier Colon — to perform alongside artists like Cyndi Lauper, Kid Cudi and "Voice" coach Cee Lo Green, the results were parceled out team by team.
The final tallies, flashed briefly onscreen, followed a mysterious formula (Carson Daly said it was all spelled out on "The Voice's" website, but I couldn't find it) that combined percentages assigned by the judges and America's votes. But what was clear was that at the end of the evening, one member of each team would be left standing and the other left to utter his or her thanks into the mike and wave a tearful goodbye.
Since each teams featured two solid performers, we probably could have predicted that seeing four talented singers swept offstage in one night was going to feel brutal, even bloodbath-like. We might also have guessed, based on previous votes, that in most cases the best man would win, but we might not have realized just how sad we would be to see almost all the best women sent home.
On Monday's episode of "The Voice," which saw the remaining eight singers perform in the semifinal, it was a Christina Aguilera world ... in case the tiara didn't tip you off.
The pant-less pop diva wanted viewers to know she was the first to consider "How Do You Like Me Now" as a song choice for one of her contestants. She wanted to remind them she knows what it's like to sing "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" — because, lest you forget, she performed it at the Grammys five years ago. She wanted them to see her leotard and tiara, so she strutted up to the stage (twice). And when it came to her former Mousketeer-mate Tony Lucca, she wanted to make it clear she was rooting for Katrina Parker to be the last one standing on Team Adam.
"I don't know where it comes from," Lucca said of Aguilera's one-woman attempt to take him out of the competition. Perhaps she's bitter she couldn't land a spot on Emerald Cove with the older "MMC" crew? Lucca speculates old riffs may be coming into play.
But, hey, at least Lucca didn't call her a five-letter name, like boy band sensation "The Wanted" did recently after feeling snubbed by the songstress. And while all the remaining contestants told Show Tracker that Aguilera is the judge they fear hearing comments from the most post-performance, Jamar Rogers (Team Cee Lo) still has love for her, no matter how harsh her comments can be.
The eight remaining contestants -– two from each of the four teams -– took the stage Monday to vie for a spot in next week's finals on "The Voice." Tonight, half of them will head home, their fates determined by a combination of coach and audience votes.
Who will make it through, and who will head home in disappointment? That's really a matter of taste and luck, I guess. As the coaches keep telling us, the surviving singers are an eclectic bunch. There's the classically trained opera guy and the quirky former barista (Christina Aguilera's team), the girl rocker and the comeback-kid wonder (Cee Lo Green's team), the former Mouseketeer and the former cubicle worker (Adam Levine's team), the backup singer stepping into a spotlight and the devoted daughter who's staking her claim to fame in her beloved father's memory (Blake Shelton's team).
Though the audience has shown a recent preference for the guys on each team, Monday's performances could prompt a recalibration. And the coaches' opinions could tip the balance either way.
Here's how the performances went down:
Tony Lucca (Team Adam): Lucca still seemed to have something to prove after last week's Aguilera-tweaking, triumphant take on Britney Spears' "… Baby One More Time." He strutted the stage singing "How You Like Me Now" with a new confidence, yet also an eager hopefulness. Green said it was a "really, really pleasant surprise." Aguilera called it "slickly done," which didn't seem like a compliment, and she snarkily suggested Lucca and Levine form a Spears' cover band. Levine, though, said it was "the perfect thing at the perfect moment" and told Lucca he'd "killed it."
Erin Willett (Team Blake): Clearly evoking memories of her father, who died during battle rounds, Willett sought an onstage "moment" with "Without You." She gave a smooth performance, and then, finishing, fought back tears. Aguilera called Willett's performance "very bold" as well as "unique and original," adding that she was "proud" of the way Willett invested emotionally on the song. Green said it sounded new and fresh. And Shelton, whose own dad recently died, said he wished he had "a tenth of the talent" Willett had, calling her singing "unbelievable" and adding that he'd "give anything to have the strength" Willett showed by holding it together emotionally while she was singing.