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'American Idol' Final 3: Why Joshua Ledet Should Win

Jessica Sanchez's Beyonce-esque vibrato is no match for the Louisiana singer's passionate stage presence.

Joshua Ledet PR
Nino Munoz / FOX

Joshua Ledet shouldn't be the next American Idol: He's a bit shy and socially awkward, at least on camera, and his old-school, throwback vibe seems initially out of step with today's Top 40 radio.

But just when you thought Jessica Sanchez was a lock to win the whole thing, the 20-year-old Louisiana native pulls off the unexpected. When finalists were tasked with performing songs they wish they'd written, Ledet went for James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," and the result was nothing short of jaw-dropping: the way he owned the stage, the way he growled the lyrics, the way he emoted each note, appearing to really feel the music, it was as if Brown's hologram had been superimposed, Tupac-style, via the magic of live television.

Yes, it was that good. And truth be told: This kid is way too good for American Idol.

Let's list more reasons why:

Like Randy "Broken Record" Jackson said, he could sing the phone book. Recall Britpop Week, when Ledet learned The Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" in a record span of 15 minutes, stunning Jimmy Iovine and guest mentor Steven Van Zandt during rehearsals. Van Zandt called it "one of the greatest performances I've ever heard in my life." Later, on the live performance show, Ledet moved Jennifer Lopez to tears, with Jackson declaring, "The fact that you never heard [the song] and you did THAT do it, now THAT is what is really all about." Translation: Ledet is not only a gifted performer but possibly a musical prodigy, too.

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Nobody has to tell Ledet to emote, etc. Unlike many of his season 11 competitors, even Sanchez, Ledet rarely receives tough criticism for his performances. Sure, sometimes Iovine will pan a song choice (see: Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up") or question his future prospects on the radio -- yes, Jimmy, he needs a hit as good as Man's World -- but it's never harsh or dismissive. The judges' panel and a gimlet-eyed starmaker like Iovine appear to genuinely believe in Ledet's chances at post-Idol success. And given his impressive run and gospel-reared experience, Ledet doesn't need much training to enter the music industry. Just a good song. In that respect, he's similar to talents like Kelly Clarkson, who coasted by to snag the original Idol title with apparently no effort.

He's actually really fun to be around. Remember when Philip Phillips mocked castoff Hollie Cavanagh, one of Ledet's Idol besties? That's right, a few weeks back, Phillips -- showing a thus-hidden cruel streak -- sniped of Cavanagh: "Hollie is just weird. She's just a little mouse." As Cavanagh reported in her exit interview, Ledet had hatched a prank on Phillips, threatening to unleash a bunny in the Georgia rocker's bedroom. Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

Email: Erin.Carlson@thr.com

Twitter: @ErinLCarlson