Talented Marine should be voted next American Idol
By: Cindy Park

If you're a long time reader of my column, you have probably come to find that I have at least two definite obsessions: the Backstreet Boys and American Idol. Add a third one to the list.

The second season of FOX's American Idol began on January 21st, pulling in record-breaking ratings for the network. Millions of viewers tuned in to see horrible "singers" and the brutally honest Simon Cowell tear them apart. Though the show was cluttered with hilarious lost causes, in my opinion the best part of the show was when raw talent was discovered and displayed for all of the American public to see.

The first night of American Idol 2's huge season premiere was entertaining, but it wasn't until the next night - January 22nd - that I was truly impressed. Enter LCpl Joshua Gracin. The young man marched out in front of Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson, saluting the now-infamous panel of judges before introducing himself as a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps, "reporting" for his American Idol audition. He had immediately grabbed my full attention.

My dad has been in the Marine Corps for almost 20 years, so to see one of our own on my favorite TV show was unusual. We hoped that this man, representing the whole Marine Corps, wasn't going to be named "The Worst Singer in America" on one of TV's most popular reality shows.

Luckily, the exact opposite occurred. Gracin serenaded America with O-Town's 2001 hit, "All Or Nothing," never hitting a flat note. I was definitely hooked, and it seemed the judges were impressed as well. The Marine, stationed in Camp Pendleton, would be making the short trip to Hollywood.

The media was quick to pick up on Josh's story, hounding his family (out of Westland, Michigan, Gracin's hometown) and pegging the American Idol 2 hopeful as a coward. An article printed in the NY Post suggested that Gracin's unit had been given orders to deploy to Kuwait, and that the Marine Corps was granting the Idol hopeful special treatment so that he could participate in the show. This was completely false, and it wasn't long before the Marine Corps released an official statement, denying the media's erroneous reports and announcing their support for the talented Marine.

Though the controversy has seemed to die down, the hype surrounding Josh Gracin has only increased. On last Wednesday's show, the judges sifted through the 234 wannabe Idols they had invited to Hollywood. They were forced to endure the off key, the squeaky, and the guys with hangovers because they had partied the night before.

Then there was Josh. Okay, so maybe there is other talent on the show (i.e. Frenchie Davis, Kimberly Locke, and Ruben Studdard), but can you blame me for being a bit biased? The Marine blew me away every time he opened his mouth to sing, nailing every performance he's done on the show thus far. As you can imagine, I was thrilled when he was announced as one of the thirty-two chosen to move on to the next round.

The fact that Josh is a Marine sets him apart from the "usual" Idol contestant in that while every contestant on American Idol has their family back home to support them, LCpl Josh Gracin has the support of even bigger family, the Marine Corps family. We can only hope that the American public will recognize his talent and put their all-important votes toward Josh Gracin, who, in every sense of the name, is already an American Idol.

American Idol 2 airs every Tuesday and Wednesday night on FOX. For more information on contestant Josh Gracin, visit fan site http://www.joshgracin.com.