American Idol: Jacob Lusk leaves, Lady Antebellum soars

American Idol said goodbye to Jacob Lusk. Lady Antebellum performed its new single, and JLo also sang on American Idol Thursday night.

Michael Becker/Fox/AP
The Final Five contestants on American Idol, clockwise from back row left, James Durbin, Lauren Alaina, Jacob Lusk, Scotty McCreery and Hayley Reinhart. Jacob Lusk was voted off Thursday night.

Thank goodness for Lady Antebellum.

If it weren't for this country band and Jacob Lusk's excellent swan song, the American Idol results Thursday night would have been simply one long series of commercial plugs.

Host Ryan Seacrest started by promoting Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler's new book "Does the Noise in my Head Bother You? A Rock 'n' Roll Memoir."

That was quickly followed by the weekly Ford video starring American Idol contestants. Then, we moved into a new degree of Fox cross-promotional audacity.

It's not enough to have the stars of various Fox TV shows sitting in the front row, now Fox is integrating its other shows into its biggest TV ratings star, Idol.

We were "treated" to two cooking segments with "Hell's Kitchen" chef Gordon Ramsay. Each Idol contestant had to make an omelette in 10 minutes and be judged. Lauren Alaina won that round. Later, she and Jacob squared off in a blindfolded contest of Name This Food. Lauren won again.

What does this have to do with a singing competition?

Nothing. Instead of padding the results night with musical performances, American Idol producers are now unabashedly pushing Fox products or selling the in-show time to sponsors.

Later, we had the Microsoft Bing search engine sponsoring a whole video segment on contestants searching for a song or what clothes to wear.

(At this point, Idol lost me. I began Googling "Next Celtics-Heat game." Results: Saturday night, 8 p.m., ABC)

If it weren't for Lady Antebellum debuting their latest single, "Just a Kiss," the night would have been a near-total write-off. This Grammy winning group, with lead singers Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott brought back the proper Idol groove with their duet, and brought back fond memories of their 2009 hit "Need You Now." This new song will do well.

Later we saw Jennifer Lopez given time to hawk her single "On the Floor," as she performed in a droopy drawer outfit that looked more like a silver lame sweat pants. Is that the new fashion? Then, Idol ran one of her music videos while she changed back into her judge clothing.

Finally, we got to the results, which were set up again by coach/record producer Jimmy Iovine. On results night, Jimmy has become the fourth American Idol judge, and really, the only reality check on the cheer-leading panel that Steven, Randy, and JLo have become.

After 60 million votes were cast (a record for this season), American Idol viewers agreed with Jimmy, putting Lauren Alaina and Jacob Lusk in the Bottom Two. Both looked as if they were going to cry, and Lauren did when it was announced she was safe.

But then Jacob looked relieved. "Now I can put out that great R&B record!" he gushed. The college drop-out from Compton, Calif., who was working as a spa concierge before American Idol, probably peaked too early. America saw his best work in the initial episodes, and he never quite regained that degree of confidence and control.

Still, Jacob left the show with class and a reminder of what got him this far: He closed with a beautiful rendition of Luther Vandross's "A House is Not a Home."

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