American Idol's judges are playing favorites. After 20-year-old belter Joshua Ledet unleashed his version of the Bee Gee's "To Love Somebody" on Wednesday night's show, the trio of easily wowed adjudicators reacted as if Jesus had returned to earth. (Watch "To Love Somebody" below.) "I've been doing this for 11 years, and you're one of the best singers ever on this show. Ever!" proclaimed Randy Jackson. Steven Tyler called Ledet "one of the two best Idols of all time." Jennifer Lopez, who's 42, defied space and time by declaring him one of the "best singers I've seen in 50 years!" The effusive praise helped move Ledet on to the Final Four round of the competition next week. Idol's birthed the careers of Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, and Fantasia, four singers regarded as among the best of their generation. Does Ledet really belong in their class?

No way: C'mon, MJ Santilli tells MTV. Underwood, Clarkson, Fantasia, and even Adam Lambert and Ruben Studdard are all better singers than Ledet. His flaws are too easy to spot. He has a tendency to push his vocals too hard, to the point that his voice breaks. Unlike past Idol stars, he hasn't even had a perfect track record this season. "His 'gospel' rendition of Billy Joel's 'She's Got a Way' was a hot mess of over-singing."
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He's that good: Ledet's voice is comparable to soul greats like Sam Cooke and Wilson Pickett, says Tiffany Wan at Wetpaint. He's also incredibly versatile, transcending genres and "kicking butt on songs from the likes of Queen and Mariah Carey." And when you look at Ledet's energetic showmanship on Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" or his transfixing renditions of ballads like India.Arie's "Ready for Love" it's easy to understand why he's earned 11 standing ovations already this season.
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But he's too old school: He's a talented anachronism, says Jim Cantiello at MTV. The only pop star to succeed with the sort of Otis-Redding-style R&B that Ledet trots out each week is Bruno Mars, but Mars "injects a modern spin to his retro leanings and has the charisma and personality to back it up." By contrast, the shy Ledet is almost aggressively old school, and exhibits all the charm of a "sedated patient." For Ledet's career to take off, his record label would "literally have to bring an entire genre back to life."
"Is Joshua Ledet the best American Idol singer of all time?"

And the praise could backfire: The "aggressive pimping of Joshua has grown tiresome." Ledet is superb, and has a legitimate shot at winning the whole thing, says Lyndsey Parker at Yahoo, but only if the judges stop heaping such hyperbolic praise on him. Ceaseless fawning over Chris Daughtry in season five led to Taylor Hicks' disastrous win. Frontrunner Adam Lambert eventually lost in season eight. Jessica Sanchez's near-exit earlier this season could also be attributed to overpraise. Other contestants still stand a decent chance of winning, so enough with the favoritism.
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Check out Ledet's performance of "To Love Somebody":