American Idol Top 30 Performances of All Time: No. 24, Joshua Ledet, “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World”
Joshua Ledet never had a chance.
Vocally, he was far superior to Phillip Phillips and every other guy – and maybe girl, but I though Elise Testone was slightly better – in Season 11 but he wasn’t stopping the P-Squared train. Phillips had the looks, the guitar, the twitch and was among the best ever at song selection and performing ability.
Now I didn’t start off as a Josh Ledet fan. I prefer my soul brothers to be in the 6-foot-3, 250-plus pound range. Fat black dudes for the win, as far as I’m concerned.
But dear lord did Josh Ledet grow on me.
He never made apologies for his song choices and never strayed from who he was. If Season 11 took place in the late 60s or early 70s, he wins in a runaway. He has a timeless voice in a generation where a good voice means less than “the package.” He’s never going to be as famous as he should and it’s a shame because there isn’t an R&B singer on the planet who can sing as well as Josh Ledet. CHURCH.
When he sang the No. 24 song on our American Idol Top 30 Performances of All Time list, James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” he showed his strength and a glaring weakness; the strength being his voice and his weakness being a total lack of ego, because anyone with any sense of showmanship who can sing like Josh Ledet would have had someone come from off stage, drape a cape around his back a la James and walk off following the last note.
The selection took balls because you have to have funk and a whole lot of soul.
We didn’t know it at the time, but Josh Ledet has a shitload of both.
THE SITUATION: Season 11 came down to four singers; Phillips, Ledet, Jessica Sanchez and Hollie Cavanagh. P-Squared was in the Top 3 but the other two spots were a toss up. Sanchez was on fire after being saved and Cavanagh was a pretty white girl. Ledet had to bring the heat.
In the penultimate – Latin all in your face – spot, Ledet needed a huge performance. P-Squared was amazing with his last performance of the night and Cavanagh put herself in a good spot with her to songs. Sanchez had the final spot so it was make it or break it time for Josh Ledet.
Song selection is a tricky thing and singing James Brown is, simply put, risky as shit. James didn’t sing as much as talk; this might be blasphemy, but his voice wasn’t great. He was a showman; Josh Ledet wasn’t. He needed to sell the song and he did.
HIGHLIGHTS: Running theme to make this list – don’t fuck up the start.
Ledet nails the notes, but it’s still tough to predict where he’s going. The song is funny because he comes out so cheesy. He’s decked out in all black, a red pocket kerchief and looks very 60s. He doesn’t ooze sex; he looked a little like a less swollen Will Smith in Hitch when Big Willy eats the shellfish he’s allergic to and there’s something about the way his left hand hangs at the 40 second mark that makes me laugh.
You can hear how strong his voice is as he continues. Then we get it.
“Man made the TRRRRRRRAIN,” and that subtle growl showed Josh Ledet wasn’t fucking around. That was funk. That was soul. That was the note of a guy who is about to impregnate everyone watching.
(NOTE: Ledet was an early follower of Dudes Review Idol on Twitter and I feel like he’ll read this and be mortified by the language but enjoy the praise. He knows how we roll).
When he comes back with “Man made the electric light” with his hands flowing and face scrunched up, it’s like watching the Exorcist. There’s a bad, bad man trying to get out and sweat all over that stage and Josh Ledet, a church-going, god-fearing man, is trying to keep the beast in.
He starts getting into the song and showing a flair he didn’t have the entire season. He’s singing to everyone – the audience, the judges, American – and then he shows his anger off at the 1:58 mark where he manages to sing, not have you understand, but still sound fucking awesome.
The note at 2:10 for the win, by the way.
The falsetto run at the end is ridiculous, the scatting is just dirty and then he finishes with such power and strength he should have passed out.
WHY IT’S HERE: All said, it was a different Josh Ledet than we’d seen and it was awesome.
Plenty of people have tried James Brown but none did it like Josh Ledet. He was a holy roller and this song didn’t seem to fit his style; he made it work. That’s not easy to do because we see tons of contestants bomb trying to perform something that might not fit their ideals.
Ledet’s performance is here because of his strength and soul. It’s deserved of it’s spot in the Top 25 and, had it been any other year, might have been enough to propel him to win the season.
PREVIOUSLY: No. 25, Pia Toscano, “I’ll Stand By You”
NEXT UP: Band? He don’t need no stinkin band.