by Lyn Jensen
Predictably, American Idol said goodbye to Sonika Vaid halfway through Thursday’s broadcast. That left La Porsha Renae, Tent Harmon, MacKenzie Bourg, and Dalton Rapattoni as the final season’s final four. The first half of the show was supposed to be rock night–but nobody rocked. The second half of the show featured Sia as celebrity guest advisor, and she brought more rock cred to the night than the first hour’s performances did.
1/1. La Porsha Renae: Guest advisors for the rock portion of the show are Steven Van Zandt and Scott Borchetta. They don’t think La Porsha’s song choice, “Wanted Dead or Alive,” has anything to do with her–but decide maybe she can sing it anyway. The song may be a Bon Jovi rock song but it doesn’t rock when La Porsha sings it. Harry thinks she sounds like Tina Turner (but she always sounds like Tina Turner). J-Lo gushes about how La Porsha could sing the phone book. (If you’re the final four of American Idol, however, you should bring more to your performance than a singing phone book.)
There’s about 1,000 rock songs that would’ve really rocked–a better choice for her would’ve been the Killers’ “Somebody Told Me.”
1/2. MacKenzie Bourg: This season’s coffeehouse guy has a quirky alt voice that needs quirky alt material. He picks “I Want You to Want Me,” a rock hit for Cheap Trick and a country hit for Dwight Yoakam. The problem is, Yoakam’s treatment would be out-of-place on rock night, and Bourg doesn’t sing the Cheap Trick arrangement, either. As Harry comments, Bourg changes the melody around from double-time to half-time, and he should’ve kept the double-time. Keith says the result wasn’t rocked up and it wasn’t stripped down, it was half-way to nowhere.
A better choice: if he’d copied Pearl Jam’s take on “Last Kiss.”
1/3. Trent Harmon: For some reason Van Zandt, Borchetta, and Harmon all think it’s really cool to give ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” a jazzy Vegas-y arrangement. They call it “swamp” but it’s jazz–and this is rock night. Harmon has the least personality of the field–he can’t really “Harmon-ize” a song the way MacKenzie “MacKenzie’s” and Dalton “Dalton-izes,” and the song can’t make up for it. The judges all love it, however.
A better choice: something that really is “swamp,” like “Born on the Bayou.”
1/4. Dalton Rapattoni: After Ryan Seacrest announces Dalton and Sonika are in the bottom two, and Sonika’s out, Dalton becomes the underdog. The other three just gave weak performances–but so does Dalton. During his rehearsal he wants to do “Seven Nation Army.” Van Zandt and Borchetta try to talk him out of it, rattling off a large number of other suggestions, one of which is the Doors’ “Break on Through.” He refuses but the advisors persuade him to at least consider something else. They were right–at the last minute Dalton decides “Seven Nation Army” isn’t the right choice, so he substitutes the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows How I Feel About You.” Except he doesn’t sing the Beach Boys’ arrangement–he turns it into an intimate ballad. (This is rock night, remember!) Harry says the result’s like a theatrical presentation–a guy just walking along thinking thoughts about a girl–and he liked the way it showed Dalton’s vulnerable side. The fact remains: he had a chance to outshine the others, and he didn’t.
A better choice: Green Day’s “American Idiot.”
Then the final four get together with Sia and suddenly they all start rocking.
2/1. La Porsha Renae: She rocks more on “Elastic Heart” than she did on “Wanted Dead or Alive.” J-Lo loves it and Harry notes how La Porsha sang in her head voice for a change.
2/2. MacKenzie Bourg: He’s talking about singing “Titanium” in different keys, and Sia advises him to hit particular notes even if he has to go into falsetto. He may put on the best performance of the night, because he shows his range instead of his usual scat style. Keith says he made the song into a singer-songwriter moment, and J-Lo liked how he could do more with his voice.
2/3. Trent Harmon: Sia wants Harmon’s small soft voice to sing “Chandelier” in its “usual octave,” and he does hit the right notes. Keith says “beautiful” and J-Lo says “you can sing anything.” Harry says, “How artfully you sang that, just from a vocal technique standpoint.”
2/4. Dalton Rapattoni: Sia tells him to really belt “Birds Set Free.” He gets perhaps the best audience reception of the night, and perhaps the best one he’s ever got. J-Lo says the cheers are for his bravery. Harry thinks it’s the best match between a singer and a Sia song of the evening.
Next week’s final round will feature a top three, not a top two. I voted for Dalton and MacKenzie, assuming La Porsha and Trent could muster their own fan bases. Trent fits most closely the American Idol type, but with the Idol vote being infamously unpredictable, there could be several surprises next week–and the week after.