A Move-by-Move Divanalysis of Jacob Lusk's 'American Idol' Performance

by Jay Caspian Kang

This happened last night, on TV. Let’s just get into it.

1:39: Pinch your pointer finger against your thumb, bend out your elbows and shake those hips.

Also known as the “gettin’ loose” move. Used by pretty much every female singer who ever sang a Motown song. Perfected by Aretha, who uses it in the following clip, at 0:16.

Old people and nostalgics might be crying foul, saying that Jacob stole that move from Aretha. But if those people would just take the time to watch all 8032451 videos of soul singers on youtube, they’d know that pinching your pointer finger to your thumb and shaking your hips is just how everyone gets loose. Ma Rainey did it. Now Jacob Lusk does it.

Also, please cross-reference: wearing-fucked-up-hats, Aretha Franklin.

1:48: Turn partly to the side, slowly punch the air.

Classic Temptations/Four Tops move. If you don’t think Jacob did that as a nod to those dudes, you probably also think that Invisible Man was an accident involving a typewriter and a bottle of gin.

Meaning, fuck you.

1:51: Jazzhands sunrise

Pretty standard move. Diana Ross did this well. Teddy Pendergrass somehow made it seem extremely dirty. Click here for an example.

2:00: Point, shimmy hips, turn to the side.

0:28 is an example of when this happens. But really, just watch this video and most of what Jacob did will reveal itself.

2:11: Palms towards the audience, arms on the up elevator.

Easily confused with the Celine Dion deodorant commercial move, but very, very different. Celine does that move to show that the world is a good place. When the palms are out, it indicates that We are all Family. One is silly optimism, the other is gritty optimism. Perfect use here to indicate that he will, indeed, be there to push you up that hill. Cause you push with your palms out….

If you go to the earlier Aretha video at 1:15, you’ll see she does a similar move, but she sort of punches at the air. This would’ve been more appropriate if the lyrics were, “I’ll be there to climb up that hill.” Or “scurry up that hill.”

2:12: Cross your wrists above your head to indicate an X and then throw your hands to the side to indicate that you’re through with this bullshit.

Used a thousand times by Mary J. Blige because she’s tired of this bullshit drama. One of the three greatest moves ever. Level of difficulty is very high, especially when performed right after the “push you up that hill” maneuver.

Lusk gets a 9.5

2:14–2:23: Standard, understated mincing around.

A sleeker version of what the Pips were always doing behind Gladys. Also, reference Tops, Four for other examples.

2:25: Cock your head slightly, get that head wobble going, lift up your eyebrows and pour out some falsetto STANK.

The quadruple axle of diva performances, and Lusk nails it. Sorry to pile on Beyonce again, but she has tried to do this move about 8000 times in her career, most notably in the “Irreplaceable” video. Give it up, B. Miley Cyrus doesn’t try to rap. Take a lesson.

2:33: Fists to hips, shimmy, square shoulders and hop.

I’m pretty sure Corky St. Clair did this at some point in Waiting for Guffman.


Perfectly executed again. At this point, Scott Hamilton’s head has exploded and the other girls in the skating competition are screaming incoherently into their cell phones. It’s called respect.

2:56: NO MAS!

For this to work, you really have to snap your arms, so that there isn’t a soul in the audience who doubts whether or not we’ve got the right foundation. This is actually a Britney Spears move!

2:57: I know I’m killing it, so I’m just gonna make a face and pour out some more stank. Also known as “getting stupid with it.”

This was the point when my head exploded last night. Only Etta James could really pull this off, although, to be fair to the Queen of Stank, she was much less theatrical and about 100 times cooler about it. But you know what? Being 1% as good at “getting stupid with it” as Etta James is pretty goddamn good.

She does it throughout this video. And, after I analyzed Divas, a very thoughtful commenter directed me to the following video. I watched it about 5 times a day for about a month and still revisit at least once a week. It’s the epitome of “getting stupid with it,” and if you haven’t watched it yet, direct all your thanks to a commenter named “Reappraising Stank.”


Unprecedented, except at middle school dances.


That video is really just a five-minute string of that move over and over again. And you know what? It doesn’t just work, it reinvents R. Kelly. Pee or no pee.

Jay Caspian Kang’s debut novel, The Dead Do Not Improve, will be published by Crown in 2012.