Male contestants covering female artists' songs on "American Idol" is nothing new: David Cook, Kris Allen, and Adam Lambert all had breakout moments respectively performing hits by Mariah Carey, Donna Summer, and Yvonne Elliman, for instance. But when Season 13 Hollywood Week hopeful Keith London took on a Beyoncé ballad on "Idol" this week, there was a real message behind his song selection. It was actually his way of coming out, in the most high-profile way imaginable.
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Keith first wowed the judges at the Boston auditions, when he covered Katy Perry's "Roar." However, when he tried to gender-flip Beyoncé's "If I Were a Boy" in Hollywood this Wednesday, it didn't go over quite as well. "It doesn't impress me; it's bizarre," Jennifer Lopez said of Keith's "distracting" song choice (although she and her fellow judges hadn't minded other male contestants covering Britney Spears and Lorde this week).
"OK, we get it. You're trying to be cute," added Harry Connick Jr. But Keith was trying to do more than that. This had nothing to do with being cute.
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When asked why he'd picked the unexpected Beyoncé song, keeping all of its original pronouns intact, Keith told the judges: "I had a really good reason for singing that song. I think it's a general message for everyone not to judge anybody else, because nobody knows where you started from."
When the still-perplexed judges asked him to try a different tune, Keith then belted the Mary Lambert-penned chorus of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's gay marriage anthem "Same Love," which made his message a little more clear…although it wasn't until he took to Twitter Wednesday night, after the East Coast broadcast, that it all made total sense.
Wait, did I just basically come out on National TV? Oh well cats out of the bag! I truly can say I sang from my heart!
— Keith London (@KeithLondon_) February 6, 2014
Keith ended up advancing to the next round, despite the judges' mixed feelings about his performance. Will he make it to the live shows…and if so, will voters get behind him, or just act confused, too? Well, Keith is already receiving a ton of support from fans on Twitter, so whatever happens next, he probably already feels like a winner.
@KeithLondon_ From someone who hasn't done to anyone what you just did on TV, thank you, things like that give me hope, and that means a lot
— Nick Beck (@NickBeck_13) February 6, 2014
Props dude @KeithLondon_ they handled it badly, but you threw it in their faces. Kill em with your talent
— Babyface (@lorkcotic) February 6, 2014
@KeithLondon_ loved how you stuck to your song and I don't understand why the judges could have a problem with that
— ☯Emma☯ (@impossibletorn) February 6, 2014
@KeithLondon_ If I Were a Boy was stunning, knew right away you were trying to make a point. Disagree w/ the judges, I got it and loved it.
— Stephy Rose (@Depalie_1D_LG) February 6, 2014