‘American Idol’ lost a winning voice in Heejun Han


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Hopefully the young’uns weren’t watching ‘American Idol’ Thursday night. The show sent the wrong message to today’s youth: Have a little personality, and you’re out.

‘American Idol’ voters last night sent home Heejun Han, whose genuine goofball image made him a downright rebel on the Fox series. This is a show, after all, that criticized homey rocker Phillip Phillips for having the audacity to ignore Tommy Hilfiger’s advice and wear gray on the telecast.


So Han, who last week ran around the stage shouting Billy Joel’s ‘My Life,’ a performance in which he seemed to forget the need to not be out of breath while singing, likely didn’t have much longer to stick around. This sadly brings us one week closer to a battle of the bland between Phillips and Colton Dixon. In such a world, Han’s class clown appeal definitely will be missed, especially since he was actually a good singer.

This week Han stepped up his game and proved he wasn’t the ‘American Idol’ equivalent of a propeller beanie hat. In covering the Donny Hathaway take on Leon Russell’s ‘A Song for You,’ Han delivered one of the week’s most unique performances, his careful phrasing meticulous and intimate. It worked because Han under-sings -- a quiver or a scratch make an appearance but never dominate. The jokester showed he had a vulnerable side.

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My colleague Chris Barton agreed. On this week’s score card looking at performances on ‘American Idol’ and ‘The Voice,’ Barton wrote: ‘warmly sincere without sounding mawkish, Han was so hellbent on being taken seriously that he covered Donny Hathaway, one of the most tragic stories in soul. Mission accomplished.’ And Barton is our jazz critic, so he is by default smarter than me.

‘American Idol’ tracker Amy Reiter said Han going home was definitely a loss. Who, she wondered, ‘will mouth the words on the teleprompter over Ryan Seacrest’s shoulder now? Who will crack Jimmy Iovine’s face into a reluctant smile with a confounding quip? Who will give the camera a sly look whenever he hugs an attractive female contestant or guest mentor?’

Certainly not the here-to-win Jessica Sanchez. The young diva is taking this game seriously, and proving to be a fan favorite, She’s the top vote-getter so far in our reader poll, and judges loved her for slowing down Beyonce’s ‘Sweet Dreams.’ Reiter is also a bigger fan than I. She wrote on the score card that Sanchez ‘again proved she can make her voice do wonderful things, caressing some notes and powerfully attacking others, mesmerizing us as if, yes, in a dream.’

In contrast, it is true that Han’s performances had the risk of sometimes feeling like cold water to the face. But he was always guaranteed to keep viewers awake.


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-- Todd Martens