Jacob Lusk is full of contrasts.
He's a sunny guy, someone who was a concierge at a spa and has spoken fondly of baking and pedicures; he also, when prodded, talks of bleak moments in his past. He's a church guy; he also spent three days in jail, charged with boarding the Los Angele Metro train without a ticket. He's a soulful guy with immense gospel talent; he's also tried to rein that in at times, with mixed results.
Lusk talked to reporters today, after being ousted from "American Idol" on Thursday. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
When the end comes on “American
Idol,” some people weep and some grin. Jacob Lusk did both.
“I said I didn't want it to be a sad,
crying time,” Lusk told reporters Friday. “I did cry (later), but
I said, 'I'm here to rejoice.'”
So he sang vibrantly, even continuing
after the show finished. There was much to cheer, with a fifth-place
finish; had he been dumped earlier, it would have been different.
“I was shaking in my boots,” Lusk
recalled of a performance in the Hollywood round. “I did not want
to go back to my life. I didn't want to wonder where I was going to
live or if I was going to have enough money to eat. Now I won't have
to worry about that again.”
Those fears reflect Lusk's early years
in Compton, a California city with a tough, macho image.
“My mother and father divorced,” he
said. “My father died when I was 12. I was picked on and beaten up
… and snubbed on the playground.”
He says he thrived in high school –
president of the student body, captain of the speech and debate team
– but sometimes stumbled afterward. “I was 17 and I thought I was
grown up and knew everything … I moved to Los Angeles …. I've
been homeless; I've had times when I didn't have any money.”
The redeeming thing was music. He sang
at church when he was 5; the first concert he went to had modern
gospel stars Kirk Franklin and Yolanda Adams. Later, he joined a
gospel group, InNate Praise.
Even when singing mainstream music,
Lusk said, those roots help. “You can't take the gospel out of you
…. It just oozes through you.”
That was clear during his key
Hollywood-round performance, an epic “God Bless the Child.” One
judge, Randy Jackson, called it the best “Idol” performance ever.
Others have praised him. Steven Tyler
called him “baby Luther,” referring to the late Luther Vandross.
Country star Dierks Bentley said Lusk was his favorite: “That kid
has the touch of God in him.”
But does that help win? Jackson wanted
more gospel touches; Jimmy Iovine, the mentor, wanted less.
“I definitely got some contradictory
advice … but it's up to me and I've got to be myself,” Lusk said.
He feels he didn't do that on
Wednesday. “I was the only one who wasn't in my element. I was
trying to do something different and this wasn't the time for that.”
So Lusk was ousted Thursday. He had his
final moment onstage, singing a soaring, uptempo song. After the show
ended, he stayed there and sang some more. The tears would come