by Lyn Jensen
We now know who the next (and last) American Idol will be: La Porsha Renae, Dalton Rapattoni, Trent Harmon, MacKenzie Bourg, or (least likely) Sonika Vaid. It’s probably the most talented and diverse field since Season 8 at least, and from here on, America votes. The judges used their final save last night to keep the pure-voiced Sonika.
Theme this week was “America’s Choice,” with contestants selecting two songs from requests made by fans on the Idol Web site. The judges heard the final six, then the final five got to perform a second time. No one had a shaky night, which means this is not a Phillip Phillips or Fantasia season:
1/1. Southern-fried Trent Harmon is the first singer who’s in the final five. He’d have fit well on Season 13 where Southern singers were especially dominant. He’s not exactly a country singer, but his pop is Southern-flavored, and Southern guys have won this show more times than not. He sings “Counting Stars,” but the judges complain it wasn’t the right song for him.
1/2. Second singer advanced is this season’s rock showman, Dalton Rapattoni, who sings Linkin Park’s “Numb” (a very different song from U2’s “Numb”) in his theatrical way. J-Lo gushes afterward about how she wanted to head-bang because it had the feeling but the arrangement–something about the arrangement didn’t allow her to head-bang, or she didn’t feel it but wanted to head-bang, or something. (It’s about numbness, not head-banging, J-Lo.) Harry disagrees, in a way, with, “I thought you poured your guts into the lyric.” Keith comes up with how the song was “Dalton-ized” but he wanted a more stripped-down arrangement.
1/3. Third to advance, it’s this season’s black diva, La Porsha Renae. She beautifully sings an India Arie ballad, “Ready for Love.” Harry is who’s gushing now, with words like “feeling” and “phenomenal.” Keith says he was just enjoying the performance, not judging it. J-Lo compares La Porsha’s soul and spirit to Arie’s.
1/4. Last of the top four–it’s coffeehouse song stylist MacKenzie Bourg, who gives Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” a contemporary pop treatment, moving out of his usual guy-with-guitar niche. Harry advises him not to change the melody so much–which is a Bourg specialty–but “just sing the melody.”
For the fifth and final slot, the judges must choose between the ingénue Tristian McIntosh and the slightly more experienced Sonika Vaid.
1/5. Tristian McIntosh sits at the piano and sings roughly half of Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.” (I’m not sure why singers are so fond of chopping up this story song and performing half of it on TV talent contests. There are other story songs that can be told in the allotted time.) She shows her best voice ever–pitch, range, color. Afterwards, however, the judges talk extensively about how young she is and how she needs to grow. They probably should’ve said that during Hollywood Week, and we can tell where this judgement is leaning already.
1/6. Sonika Vaid is left as this season’s Disney-like pop princess, and she shows her range, pitch, and purity on Demi Lovato’s “Let it go” from Frozen.
Ryan Seacrest has barely started talking to the girls before the judges end their little talk and put their chairs forward. The judges want Sonika to come back next week. The top five are to perform one more song, and next week there will be at least one more elimination, probably two.
2/1. Dalton Rapattoni performs his second song, a very theatrical, very Goth-flavored “Sounds of Silence.” It’s about time someone modernized Simon and Garfunkel’s sixties hit. Even if Rapattoni doesn’t win the season, he’s one of its breakout stars.
2/2. Dalton may Daltonize a song but MacKenzie Bourg can upend expectations, too. He takes Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and reconstructs it into an alt-emo ballad. Harry compares it to Ed Sheeran.
2/3. Trent Harmon continues to show his Southern essence with a twisted, folksy and gospel-tinged version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.” (He may have got too Southern, slurring the lyric so much it sounded like “Superman.”) His high notes are so high, Harry says he wants to hear a duet with him and Adam Lambert, with “glasses breakin’ everywhere.” J-Lo gushes about, “perfect song, perfect singer … I felt every single word.” (I’m not sure she understood every word, but she felt it.)
2/4. Sonika Vaid shows off her Disney princess voice again on “Clarity.” J-Lo doesn’t like the song choice, but Keith disagrees. He advises Sonika to “be raw, be real” next time.
2/5. La Porsha Renae applies her dramatic powerhouse voice to a contemporary R&B ballad, Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama.” By the end J-Lo’s in tears and so’s La Porsha. Ryan Seacrest has to support her. Show’s over, and the competition may be, too.
There are three episodes left, counting the finale, I assume. Unless three people are eliminated next week, then the final vote could be between more than two contestants. Sonika’s needed two saves, so she’s most likely the fifth-place finisher but who will finish in first place is still not quite clear.