You've Lost That Loving Feeling couldn't have been a better song choice for Phillip Phillips & Joshua Ledet's duet on American Idol last night as Phillip's post-performance congratulatory hug was brutally rebuffed by Joshua on live television.
The look on Phillip's face says it all, "What the hell, dude?" It was so unexpected that even Steven Tyler commented on it during his critique, telling Joshua, "You need to embrace each other up there! Hold each other, look into each other's eyes and sing that song! Get over it!"
And when Phillip tossed his arm lovingly around those previously inhospitable shoulders once again, the horrified look on Joshua's face only compounded the issue.
So what's the deal here? I'm hesitant to think the boys dislike one another since Phillip was equally surprised by the diss and more prone to assume the issue lies within the way Joshua is trying to portray himself to America.
Now, I'm in now way saying that Josh is gay. I'm saying that regardless of his sexual orientation, he doesn't want America to think he's gay. I mean, g-d forbid Ledet come across as comfortable with one man putting his arm around him. Although I have to wonder how much this is Josh's will and how much of it has been ingrained in him by the Idol team since, historically, they've encouraged contestants to downplay their alternative lifestyles.
Season one contestant Jim Verraros initially alluded to his sexuality on an Idol profile housed on the Fox website, but was quickly asked to redact the comment. Verraros even confirmed that Fox forced his hand in order to level the playing field, saying that they didn't want to give him a leg up on the competition.
The issue came out again -- in a much bigger way -- with Adam Lambert in season eight. He led his life as an openly gay man prior to the competition, but refused to comment on his sexuality during the competition. Later, after a Rolling Stone profile was used to declare his "out" status, Adam stated that he didn't address the issue because "I wanted the focus to be on my ability as a singer and as an entertainer -- not on my private life. So I chose to kind of ignore the issue until after the voting ended."
Now, I have no issue with that because Adam didn't pretend to be anyone other than who he was in the competition. In fact, he embraced it quite literally as the bromance between Lambert and eventual winner Kris Allen inspired a million fanfic ideas, photoshopped pics and spawned the celebrity "couple" nickname, Kradam.
Now, if Josh is gay, which I'm not saying he is, the fact that he would be so scared of being perceived as gay -- whether as a result of his own desire or producer prodding -- underscores a complaint many have had about the show's homo-genization of America. While he may be biased, The Voice mentor Adam Levine recently condemned Idol for their treatment of the LGBT community.
"What's always pissed me off about American Idol is wanting to mask it, for it to go unspoken,” the Maroon 5 frontman said. "C'mon. You can't be publicly gay? On a singing competition? Give me a break. You can't hide basic components of these people's lives."
The big question is, How will America react to the moment? Josh has struggled throughout the competition, landing in the bottom twice despite possessing an incredible voice. But it takes more than a good voice to win American Idol -- if you look at most of the winners (Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Kris Allen, Scott McCreery), their likeability played almost as large a role in their victories as their voices did.
And this diss doesn't make Josh come across like any nicer of a person. In fact, it makes him seem cold, off-putting and unlikeable. But is that enough to send him packing? We'll find out tonight!
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