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Andrew is a staff writer at the “The Hudsucker”. He is a 30 year old lawyer living in Ottawa. Besides legal jargon, his brain capacity is taken up by reality show trivia, video game walk-throughs and room escape strategies. Andrew is also happily in a long-term, long-distance relationship. Follow him on Twitter as @sublymonal.

American Idol XV: Top 6 Performances

To say I was dreading Idol‘s “Most Performed Songs” night would be a gross understatement. I had no desire to hear someone crash and burn on Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” for the 7th time during the show’s run. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned on Idol, it’s that we have about as much control of what happens on the show as we would sitting in the backseat of a clown car. So, strap yourself in, make yourself comfortable and let’s get right down to talking about who drove us smoothly to our destination and who had us rolling down the window and screaming at passersby for help on Wednesday’s night show…

First, Ryan announced that the remaining eight contestants would be teaming up for duet’s before we’d find out any results. Duets on Idol, are one of those “high risk, high reward” (or failure) things that Harry was talking about during the show, so let’s see whose risk paid off…

Arguably the two best voices in the competition, La’Porsha and Trent, teamed up for what seemed like an odd song choice – Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s “See You Again” – but the final product was better than expected. The two of them had great harmonies, were surprisingly delicate with the melody, and even handled Wiz’s rap verse with ease, showing that the two of them are more than just straight-forward balladeers. A promising starting to the night, even if the song choice still could have been more in their lane. But I’ll blame the producers for that. Rating: A-

Sonika and Avalon also chose an odd song with Andra Day’s “Rise Up”, despite both of their R&B leanings, and while I wholeheartedly agree with the judges that the pair could have brought more inspirational gusto to their performance, I was impressed that Avalon could hang with Sonika and really tear the meat off the proverbial bone with this song. All that was missing was the same connection that the previous duo brought. Rating: B

Harry Connick Jr. said it best for me when he said that the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” wasn’t right, vocally or lyrically, for Dalton and MacKenzie. At first I thought maybe they should have switched parts since Dalton sounded flat and MacKenzie was sharp or breathy on his high notes, but then I realized that the pair were just better suited for a less gimmicky, more authentic song. I can’t stress enough how important authenticity is in this competition and Kelly proved that a few weeks ago with her rendition of Piece By Piece. Some contestants, unfortunately, still haven’t gotten that memo. Rating: C

I thought Lee and Tristan would be a good match up because neither one of them had the most powerful voice in the competition, but the contrast between them got even starker during their duet to Aerosmith’s “Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.” Tristan is like a 16-year-old with a Porsche: she’s got a voice in there but doesn’t know how to handle it quite yet. Lee’s voice, unfortunately, felt more like a broken down jalopy during this performance in that he barely made it to the finish line and we were all sort of grateful when he did. As the judges said, it wasn’t just emotional connection that was missing but also just straight-up pitch. The song was too high for Lee and Tristan didn’t have an easy time with it either. Rating: D+

After the duet’s were over, Ryan cracked open that dreaded results card and started announcing the people who were safe and in the Top 6, one by one…

Everything “comes together” for La’Porsha during this rocking performance [Credit: FOX Entertainment]

La’Porsha must have read my review of her performance last week (or heard Keith’s pointed critique about just standing at the mic and singing), because her offering of The Beatles’ “Come Together” this week was everything we needed to remind us that she’s more than just a one-trick ballad-singing pony. In the words of JLo, she went “full diva”, working the stage and infusing the song with new life courtesy of a few note changes and some of that authentic emotion that her younger competition is just lacking. Add in the emotional reunion with her music teacher and we have ourselves one of those “nobodies” with real star potential. Rating: A

MacKenzie also must have heard my cries from last week because his rendition of Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful” actually had that raw vulnerability that was missing last week. Sure, his upper register still struggled with some of the high notes, but as Harry said, sometimes a real connection to the song is what wins the day and for MacKenzie, this was a step in the right direction of finding that perfect Idol moment that he might be on the verge of next week. Rating: B+

Trent is hoping the Idol audience will “stand by” him after this performance. [Credit: FOX Entertainment]

Trent cleaned up and looked sharp in a suit this week and he tackled Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” with the same kind of adept handling as La’Porsha. He brought the falsetto, the runs, the dips into his lower register and none of it felt forced. Was the song the best to do that kind of thing with? Maybe not. Harry’s feedback about remaining true to the groove wasn’t amiss, but Trent still proved that his vocal vehicle has more horsepower than his competition and he’s actually capable of driving it. I’m intrigued to see if he’ll take JLo’s feedback and give us a bit of hipster Trent again next week instead of old school soul. Rating: A-

Tristan was unsurprisingly safe after last week’s performance dedicated to her ailing grandfather, but her take on Martina McBride’s “A Broken Wing” felt vacant on top of being out of tune on several of the big high notes. When Harry asked her what the second verse of the song was about and her first words were “I don’t know”, that told me all I needed to know about her lack of connection to the song. I think she, like some of her fallen comrades, has been straddled with songs that are just too big for her britches and, as popular as country music is, her inability to really be true to what makes the genre great might be her downfall. Rating: C

Dalton was likely miles away from that Bottom 3 this week, but that scare seemed to bring back some of the fire to his take on The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” that his past two performances have been missing for me. I think the verses could have benefited from a toned down, straight forward singing of them to enhance the drama and ensure he stayed on pitch, but he had a good handle on the choruses and was able to finish the song strong. Still, the performance didn’t feel as lazy as his previous efforts, so it was a step in the right direction for me. Rating: B

Which left the Bottom 3. After being there last week, Avalon was somehow still in the Bottom 3 despite her killer version of “Earned It.” The other two members, Lee and Sonika, weren’t really a surprise after lackluster performances last week though.

Avalon proves once again that she’s more than just a “pretty young thing.” [Credit: FOX Entertainment]

Avalon‘s take on Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” was still true to her cool factor. She worked the stage and sang it well, for the most part. Her tendency to fall sharp got the best of her in parts, but otherwise she sounded good. I do, however, think the judges’ discussion about why the audience wasn’t connecting with her was interesting and I agree that her laid-back style might come across as lazy or not really wanting it the way her other, more intense rivals do. Rating: B+

Lee‘s version of The Beatles’ “Let It Be” simply wasn’t the performance he needed to save himself this week. While he had some of the emotional connection required, the judges heard his pitch problems all the way through and with Avalon dominating the relatable part of the Idol equation and Sonika likely to own up to the vocal part of the equation, Lee was just out of his league among these two girls. Rating: D+

Sonika gave Avalon a run for her money this week with her deft wielding of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” I was unsurprised but still impressed that her voice could scale that mountain of a song, but I wish she brought out her alter-ego again and connected to the deep, heart-wrenching lyrics of that song. The most frustrating part is knowing she’s capable of it, but I think if she continues down the “pageanty, pretty singer” road, she won’t make it any further than next week or the week after. Rating: B+

This week, after some deliberation, the judges sided with Sonika and sent Lee and Avalon packing. I don’t blame them, because endorsing Avalon might, at this point, be a fruitless venture if she isn’t getting the votes, but I still would have opted for another week of her. Truthfully, neither her or Sonika should have even been in the Bottom 3, but that’s a rant for another time.

Season 6’s talented group of finalists. Yes, even Sanjaya. [Credit: FOX Entertainment]

Before I leave you, let’s talk about another one of Idol’s past seasons. Back in Season 6, Jordin Sparks also tackled Martina McBride’s “Broken Wing” (to much better success than Tristan) on her road to becoming that season’s champion. Since her victory, she’s released several albums, including her most recent effort, “Right Here Right Now“, which is a bit more gritty and true to her R&B roots. Runner-up Blake Lewis has also released a trio of catchy albums, the most recent of which was crowdfunded and titled “Portrait of A Chameleon.” Lewis has recently announced tour dates in May with Season 5 third place contestant and his roommate Elliott Yamin. Third place contestant Melinda Doolittle has also been keeping busy, releasing albums and playing shows, and also dissecting the ins & outs of Idol on a weekly basis in a hilarious vlog series called “Reality Check” with TVLine correspondent Michael Slezak. Several other alum from the season have also struck out and released original music from 4th placer LaKisha Jonesself-titled album to 5th placer Chris Richardson‘s catchy R&B tracks with label Cash Money, including his most recent single “Rear View.” Even 9th placer Gina Glocksen has been touring with her band and playing her signature brand of heartfelt rock tunes. Oh and who could forget Sanjaya from that season? Even he’s still making music these days, so kudos to him and all of Season 6’s talented alum!

Now, it’s your turn to tell me which performances you enjoyed from Wednesday night’s show and whether you felt the judges’ decision to save Sonika was the right one. Sound-off in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you! Otherwise, I’ll see you next Friday morning with my take on the Top 5 performances.

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