Perhaps the Idol gods thought we needed a week off from the show after Kelly Clarkson left her heart and soul on the stage with her gut-wrenching version of her new single “Piece By Piece“, but the by-product of having to wait a week for the results of a double elimination with a fairly stacked Top 10 created the perfect storm of drama coming into Thursday night’s show. And when Ryan announced that the results wouldn’t be revealed until the end of the show and that the judges had the final say, the tension seemed to mount. Were we really going to trust the judges? The same judges who have been forcing Brenda K Starr’s talented-but-not-ready-for-this-jelly daughter Gianna Isabella and “country diamond in the rough” (who is still more like a piece of coal at Christmas time) Tristan McIntosh upon us all season over better talents? Apparently so. But allow me to talk about the performances before getting to the results themselves…
First announced safe: Dalton Rapattoni. I’m willing to bet that Dalton took one look at the list of Grammy winning songs and settled on the safest one he could: Imagine Dragon’s “Radioactive”. The problem is, as much as the pop-rock ballad is probably as close to his own style as you can get, it did him no favors to start the show without asserting some kind of creative dominance over his competition. The judges urged him and the other to find their unique thing and use that to their advantage. Dalton’s is creativity and the element of surprise, two things I feel like he’s been sorely lacking these past few weeks. Rating: C
Second announced safe: Lee Jean. I can’t fathom what the voting public saw in Lee’s mumbled performance last week that made them come out in droves to put him into the Top 8, but he’s there, so let’s talk about him. In contrast to Dalton’s song choice, Lee stepped out of his wheelhouse a bit and gave us a more uptempo rock ballad with Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody“. It would be a gross understatement to say that the song was far too big for Lee’s limited range, but I appreciated his efforts to try and do something different. I think the way for him to go, though, is to strip a song down to its bare bones instead. Rating: C
Third announced safe: Sonika Vaid. I have to admit that Sonika’s intro package about having an alter-ego when she comes out on stage was endearing and made perfect sense after last week’s surprisingly edgy offering. The judges were right to point out, though, that this week’s version of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” was missing that same scorned ex-girlfriend conviction. Vocally, there were also a few places where Sonika was uncharacteristically off her mark, but that tends to happen when anyone tries to scale Mount Clarkson on this show. Rating: B-
Fourth announced safe: MacKenzie Bourg. The judges and Scott Borchetta were surprised by MacKenzie’s decision to sing Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” but I wasn’t. When I urged MacKenzie last week to show us some of his artistry and live up to the Kris Allen comparisons, I expected him to pull a trick like this. The problem is, it’s nothing new on this show and it wasn’t the best version of it nor, did I feel, was it the best MacKenzie has in him. It was, no doubt, a step in the right direction and MacKenzie continues to navigate the limitations of his voice better than most of his competition, but it didn’t grab me on an emotional level the way I wanted it to. Keep searching for that perfect song, MacKenzie. Rating: B-
Fifth announced safe: La’Porsha Renae. It seemed almost natural that La’Porsha, eventually, would wade into the waters of Beyoncé’s songbook and this week she tackled “Halo”. Like Harry said, she latched on to the dynamics of the song and really let it build until she finished strong, with a big, transcendent ending that almost could have benefited from a choir if we were at that point in the competition yet. Either way, La’Porsha brought the fire again this week and upped the game for her competition. I would just like to see her do something unexpected next week, like tackle another uptempo song. We know she’s got the voice for it. Rating: A-
Sixth announced safe: Trent Harmon. Like last week, the gauntlet had been thrown down after La’Porsha took the stage and Trent, with his freshly groomed look and minus his face-pulling picked it up and took it to heart. Sure, Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves A Woman” was a predictable song choice for the most soulful male contestant left in the competition, but unlike the other predictable choices tonight, he sang the heck out of it, tapping into his falsetto and all while avoid those facial tics that, apparently, some people don’t like. I found it funny that his fans, JLo, and even Season 8 winner Kris Allen all came to his rescue afterwards, saying that he could pull whatever faces he wants if he continues to sing like that. Also, I wouldn’t be too distressed if JLo’s prophecy about a La’Porsha/Trent finale came true based on everything we’ve seen so far. Rating: A-
Last announced safe: Tristan McIntosh. I’m not going to lie that I was a little appalled when Tristan’s safety meant both Avalon and Olivia were in the Bottom 3 this week and the judges could only save one of them, but I will get to that in a bit. Mentor Scott Borchetta had a heavy hand in picking Vince Gill’s “Go Rest High On That Mountain” for his young prodigy and Tristan delivered it in typical “manufactured moment” fashion, playing the piano under a single spotlight and, for the first time in a while, hitting all the right notes when it came to the big moment in the song. As I’ve been saying all season, that’s her sweet spot. Despite all that, I would have liked a bit more emotion from her given the song’s subject matter and the fact that she dedicated it to her injured grandfather. Although Tristan’s run on the show so far is one of the weakest, don’t expect her to land in the Bottom 3 next week after this one. Rating: B
Which left us with a Bottom 3 of Olivia, Avalon and Gianna. Like Ryan said, they each sang in turn and then the judges would choose to save one of them by majority vote.
In her intro package, Avalon Young said she realized the error of her ways last week and was hoping to return to her style this week with the Weeknd’s “Earned It”. The judges high praise of the song choice was justified and her execution of it was spot-on. Avalon tapped into the real R&B singer in her and gave a vocal worthy of playing with the big guns in this competition. After her performance, it was hard to see how the judges couldn’t save her considering she literally “earned it”. Rating: A
Olivia Rox went a different route with her performance, choosing the uptempo Pink track “Trouble” and adding a few big runs to show off her vocal ability. When she wasn’t doing the runs and just performing the song as is, it was good and authentic to her style, but I felt like the vocal acrobatics detracted from what could have been a solid, true-to-the-original performance. I think maybe Olivia just made the wrong song choice to save herself this week because she’s undeniably one of the most talented members of the Top 10. Rating: B-
Gianna Isabella had the benefit of singing last, but her take on Alicia Key’s “If I Ain’t Got You” was another example of a song that was just too big for her, both emotionally and vocally. She needs a few more years of life experience, dating and having her heart broken, to really connect with that song and a bit more practice singing to nail it the way Alicia does. Rating: C
In the end, the judges made what I think was the right decision and endorsed Avalon as their pick for the Top 8. It was painful to lose Olivia so early, who showed so much potential when she got one of the judge’s four fast passes, but given the three they had to choose from and the way Avalon performed, it was the right decision. Hopefully America doesn’t pull the same stunt with next week’s Bottom 3…
Speaking of pulling stunts, it’s time to take our weekly dive into Idol nostalgia and talk about one of the shows past seasons. Specifically Season 7, when David Cook triumphed over David Archuleta.
Since Season 7 aired, arguably one of the shows best with it’s epic David-vs-David showdown and deep pool of talented contestants, there’s been some major shakeups among the cast. Chief among them is the loss of eighth place soulful rocker Michael Johns who tragically passed away back in 2014. I, personally, definitely miss his personality, his charm, and his extraordinary musical talent and our editor-in-chief wrote a touching and poignant article about him at the time of his passing.
As for the other contestants, both Davids have released their share of albums, with Cook’s most recent one “Digital Vein” having been funded via pledgemusic and which he is now touring North America to promote. The younger David (Archuleta), most recently released an album back in 2013 entitled “No Matter How Far” but is rumored to be working on another. Third placer Syesha Mercado has spent her fair share of time on broadway, while fourth and fifth place acoustic artists Jason Castro and Brooke White have each released albums. Sixth place contestant Carly Smithson took up the helm of a gothic rock band called “We Are the Fallen” with ex-Evanescence musician Ben Moody and released an album, while 7th place contestant Kristy Lee Cook has made a name for herself in country music. It seems the talented cast of Season 7 did not disappoint when it came time to make a name for themselves in the industry.
With that said, I’ll leave you to contemplate this week’s results. Did the judges send the right people home? And who delivered this week on the promise to make the final season the best? Vote in the poll below and leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts. Until then, Idol’s Top 6 show airs next Thursday and I’ll be back on Friday morning with my thoughts!