The Lord's giveth, and the Lord's taketh away.
All season long, Christian American Idol viewers had supported Colton Dixon, and Colton had openly courted their vote. It looked for all the world like a match made in heaven, one that might have taken the 20-year-old singer from Murfreesboro, Tenn., all the way to the finale.
But bringing in Bad Romance apparently soured the relationship, causing those viewers to hold back their votes Wednesday. On Thursday, Colton was an unexpected elimination, finishing the competition in seventh place.
"I think it was Gaga," Colton said by phone Friday morning. "Nothing against her at all. It's a great song, and she has done well with it. But I think I turned off a lot of my voters by doing it.
"I should have stuck with something I connected more with, just for what I stand for and who I stand for. I think that lost me a lot of votes.
"I should have thought of that while choosing songs. It just didn't cross my mind. I was so concerned with doing another rock song, with the performance and the musicality of the song, that I overlooked the meaning."
Even though Colton changed some of the song's lyrical content and made edits for both his live performance and his iTunes recording, that wasn't enough for some fans.
"There weren't many on Twitter or Facebook, but I did see a few who were concerned that I chose to do Gaga," he says. "Some religious people hear Gaga, and they totally turn it off. I don't know why I didn't think of that, because that's the big majority of my voters. I should have thought of that. That was a bad move on my end. Definitely learned a lesson."
Colton, who nearly made the Idol semi-finals in Season 10, spent his time on Idol this year looking beyond the competition to the career he hopes to build beyond the show. "Everyone wants to win -- that'd be an honor," he says. But he knew the competition was tough.
"I look at everyone who's left in the competition: Some of them can sing circles around me. Their theory and their technique is unbelievable. I think I have a good voice, but it's not one of my crazy strengths. I pride myself on how I can change up a song and turn it into a Colton song. I love that the judges saw that more than not. But that's definitely what I had fun doing and tried to do every week."
After Idol and the summer tour, Colton plans to continue pursuing his career in Christian music. He says a recent dinner with Chris Daughtry helped him see the next steps he needs to take.
"He let me in on so much that we're not aware of," Colton says. "I've got to work my tail off. I need to write till I can't move my hand any more, and see what we come up with. I'm for sure going to be writing, even while on the tour, to get ready for a record."
In his audition segment at the start of the season, Colton came off like a young, bleached-blond Michael Corleone saying "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." He says he had no intentions of trying to get back on the show when he accompanied his younger sister, Schyler Dixon, to her audition before the judges.
"That was totally not staged," he said. "I went to support Schyler when she got her golden ticket, and the judges weren't having it. They told her to go get me, and she did. I tried to respectfully say no, but they just would not have it, so I said OK.
"I'm so thankful they did it. I'm so blessed to have made it this far, especially having not wanted to audition."
He's not sure if Schyler will make a third run at Idol. "She's been back and forth on it," he says. "I hope she does, because she'll kill it next year if she does. But we're going to have to wait and see."
There is an immediate silver living for Colton: His Nashville Predators lead the Detroit Red Wings three games to one in the first round of the National Hockey League playoffs. "They've got a game tonight," he says. "I'm so stoked for that! Can't wait to watch." And he returns to Tennessee next week and hopes they'll still be in the hunt so he can go to a game. "I hope they get to the Stanley Cup this year. That'd be sick."
After his elimination last night, Colton shared his hard-learned lesson with the remaining Idol contestants.
"What they have to realize now is that no one's safe," he says. "And song choice is so important, obviously. They have to make sure they choose the right song and up their game every week. If they don't, they're in danger of leaving. That's just the reality.
"But they're excited, and I'm so proud of them. They're going to do great things, no matter if they stay or go. I'm really excited for them."