American Idol Top 30 Performances of All Time: No. 22, Michael Johns, “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right” (RIP)
(EDITOR’S NOTE: In my hopes of hopes, Michael Johns read this before he passed. He was one of the greatest Idol contestants the show’s had even if he didn’t go as far as some others. RIP)
You need to have the complete package to fare well in Idol.
Voice is obviously the most important thing, but you need to have some showmanship on stage, the smarts to pick the right songs and execute arrangements to get through and you need to look the part.
If any Idol looked the part, it was Michael Johns.
Michael was a California via Australia who was arguably the hunkiest hunk who ever hunked in the history of Idol. He was so good looking how he sounded came second. He was so good looking, former Idol prognosticator David Portnoy – El Presidente from Barstool Sports – famously quipped “I’d never buy a CD from him in a million years but there are definitely going to be lots of girls fingering themselves and then doing the stinky dial every Tuesday night after Johns performs.” Nailed it.
Season 7 was one of the most competitive the show’s ever seen. David Cook deservedly won, but look at who Johns was competing against (and for all the first-timers, this list is based on their performances on Idol, not what they’ve done since, so calm. The. Fuck. Down.) – David Archuleta, who stole the team vote and was a beast of a competitor; Brooke White, who had a huge backing thanks to being the first female to step up and play an instrument while singing; Carly Smithson, who probably wins in most other seasons but couldn’t get past the Top 6 in this one; Jason Castro, who had the stoners’ vote; and Syesha Mercado, who was simply stunning all season.
Johns voice was legit, but his stylings didn’t fit Idol at the time. In Season 7 pop stars still ruled; Cook won because he put a rock edge on some pop songs and really started the shift away from solely pop music. Johns was too bluesy for the show at the time; had he come up now, he’d probably fare a hell of a lot better.
It was hard to ignore his performances, especially the time he could have banged Dolly Parton but didn’t, instead singing her song better than she did in our No. 22 American Idol Performance of All Time, “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right.”
THE SITUATION: We were three weeks into the Top 12 and contestants were just throwing haymakers at one another. There were four or five contestants that had a legit shot of winning and Johns was definitely in the conversation, especially after his Top 10 performance of Queen’s “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions” medley (it should be noted that he was 28 at the time of the tryout, 29 when the live shows started and the oldest contestant on the season by four years but looked younger than everyone except Archuleta).
Dolly Parton was the mentor for the Top 9 which was fitting because they were singing her songs. Johns chose “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right” which wasn’t exactly fitting because there was nothing wrong about the performance and it was more than all right.
THE HIGHLIGHTS: I had to use the link with Dolly mentoring Johns. Why?
Because it’s clear Dolly would be more than happy to take a ride on the Michael Johns Express Train to O-Town. He tells her that his first concert experience was of her shows and at this point Dolly is all in. Why wouldn’t she be. Take the hair, add the jawline and eyes then throw in the accent, there isn’t a chick on the planet he couldn’t bang. After the flirting and the “mentoring,” Dolly finishes with this little quote – “He would make some good records and I think Could probably right some good songs for him so I hope he does become a star TEE HEE.”
The performance doesn’t have the humor. It’s just straight gold.
I’m not a pro when it comes to Dolly Parton music, so I didn’t know this tune until I heard Johns sing it. Normally when that happens, things get boring quick but the bluesiness in his voice and terrific job by the band forces you to stick around.
Running theme alert – he crushes the start – “Hello are you free tonight/I like your look I love your smile” and keeps going. He doesn’t sound like an American Idol; Michael Johns sounds like a dude who should be the special guest performer. How this guy wasn’t a superstar before Idol – remember, he’s almost 30 when this performance took place – is beyond me, especially when you consider he’s super hot, has an accent and can sing his balls off.
The performance never loses traction. There’s so much passion in his voice and the tone is ridiculous. And the end? Holding the note and going a little high on “it’s all” and then finishing perfectly with the “it’s all wrong but it’s all right” is magic and I know this because Paula Abdul fails to say one complete sentence before telling him “you’re gorgeous.” That or because she’s a nutbag.
WHY IT’S HERE: Performances like this get overlooked because Idols like Michael Johns didn’t really go far enough to get noticed. Again, this season was ridiculously deep but he was a few years ahead of his time with his singing style.
Did it change American Idol? No. But is it a performance that gives you chills and makes you question your sexuality? Hell yeah.
He is one good looking dude though.
PS I was reviewing the videos to make sure the links were still good and had to listen. Then my kid chimed in. Made her repeat it to get it on video
PREVIOUSLY: No. 23, Bo Bice, “In a Dream”
NEXT UP: “Get ready” for a performance on Idol that could make you cry.