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Andrew is a staff writer at the “The Hudsucker”. He is a 29 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.

3 of the Best Moments From ‘American Idol’ as Top 5 Perform Carrie Underwood Hits

As Ryan Seacrest himself said during American Idol‘s Sunday night broadcast, “it all comes down to this.” From the auditions, to the grueling test of Hollywood Week to the judges’ cuts and live votes, the Top 5 contestants would be narrowed down to just three based on the real-time results of America’s vote and those three will compete in next week’s two-part finale to decide which one of them will become the show’s sixteenth winner.

On Sunday nigh, the contestants sang two songs: one from the prolific songbook of Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood, who also took to the stage to perform her new hit “Cry Pretty,” and the other a dedication to their mothers, given that the show aired on Mother’s Day.

With such a close race between the remaining five finalists, it really came down to who could deliver on the night of and earn the votes necessary to advance.

Girl Power

There’s no denying that the recent seasons of Idol have historically been unkind to it’s female contestants. Since Jordin Sparks won Season 6 back in 2007, only one other woman (Candice Glover in Season 12) has taken the crown compared to 8 men since then. For this reason, it always feels like there is a bit more pressure on the women to go big or go home and Season 16’s remaining two girls — Gabby Barrett and Maddie Poppe — did just that.

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The Top 5 took to the stage to sing with Carrie Underwood herself [Credit: ABC]

Gabby has drawn comparisons to Idol’s Queen of Country, Carrie Underwood, all season so the first theme of the night, which let her show some sass on her hit “Last Name,” was to her advantage.  While audiences might have felt a little underwhelmed by Gabby in that performance, it might be personal tendencies to compare the two. That said, it still feels like Gabby’s country side is less genuine than her R&B leanings, but one can appreciate her diversity. In contrast, Gabby second performance of Whitney Houston’s iconic “I Have Nothing” tapped into that side of her. The song has been overdone on the Idol stage, but Gabby definitely held her own, minus a few strained notes near the end.

Maddie was also firing on all cylinders in an attempt to stake her claim in the finale. Her take on Carrie’s emotional hit, “I Told You So” was a perfect choice for her that allowed her fragile tone to tap into the vulnerability of the song. She made it two-for-two when she dedicated The Beach Boys classic, “God Only Knows” to her mom with the same delicate handling and deft musicality she has displayed all season. While it felt like the arrangement fumbled a little in the middle, Maddie and Gabby are the two contestants with the firmest grasp on who they will be as artists once they graduate from the show.

Growth Arc

With the show’s compressed format this season, it makes it difficult to observe any sort of growth arc in the contestants. In years past, the winner would generally be the one who took the judges’ and mentors’ critiques to heart and really improved week-upon-week. The closest thing we’ve seen is Caleb Lee Hutchinson‘s development as an artist. He came into the competition drawing comparisons to Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery, who often drew criticism for being “one note” throughout the season.

Caleb, on the other hand has taken risks that sometimes have paid off and other times have not, but often the audience can appreciate a risk if the artist still remains true to themselves, as Caleb did on Sunday night. His choice to sing a lesser-known song — Jamey Johnson’s “Stars in Alabama” — for his mother kept him in his wheelhouse to appease his fans who have come to know him for his traditional country sound. Caleb was also lucky to have Carrie on board since his version of her song, “So Small” seem plagued by nerves that meant he lost control of his vibrato, but with a country theme, he seemed safer than the others.

Breakout Performance Needed

Although Ryan Seacrest gave no indication of who was more or less safe during last week’s results, it was difficult to deny that Michael J. Woodard and Cade Foehner might have an uphill battle during tonight’s show. Both of them had major pitch problems with their Carrie Underwood tracks (“Flat on the Floor” and “Undo It,” respectively)  and tried to make up for it with a more solid second performance.

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Maddie Poppe hugs eliminated contestants Cade Foehner and Michael J Woodard after she becomes the last member of the Top 3 [Credit: ABC]

Michael’s cover of Yolanda Adams’ gospel hit “Still I Rise,” which he dedicated to his mother, was true to himself, but it felt like the performance shone a bright light on the pitch and enunciation problems that the young singer has been criticized for in the past. Similarly, Cade’s choice of Lynyrd Skynard “Simple Man” was about as authentic as it gets, but lacked the same emotional punch as past winners’ Trent Harmon and Lee DeWyze‘s covers on the show, especially since Trent himself was present in the audience to promote his new album, “You Got ‘Em All“, out this Friday. Both guys needed a breakout performance to overcome the country fanbase that would be backing Caleb and Gabby and secure one of the spots in the finale.

In the end, Maddie’s ability to deliver consistently good performances were what won the day for her. Gabby benefited from the same high quality, while Caleb’s ticket to the finale may have been punched last week when he delivered the performance of the night with his Prince song and showed improvement. As the only male contestant in the finale, Caleb certainly has the momentum, while Maddie and Gabby have consistency on their side.

For me, as an Idol fan, havinga finale where it feels like anybody’s game is what makes me want to watch. Even if Maddie, Gabby and Caleb might not be my ideal Final 3, I have to respect the diversity of their individual talents and I look forward to seeing who can pull out the win next week.

Did the voters make the right choice? Which finalist is your favorite? And who do you think will win? Let us know in the comments below!

Header Image: ABC
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3 Comments on “3 of the Best Moments From ‘American Idol’ as Top 5 Perform Carrie Underwood Hits”

  1. Todd May 15, 2018 at 9:19 am #

    I have been rooting for Maddie since Day 1, so I am pumped about her making it to the finale. I hope she wins. My favorites (Haley Reinhardt, Jena Irene, Elliot Yamin) never win,though, lol.

    • Andrew Rogers May 15, 2018 at 12:01 pm #

      Funny you should mention Haley, because I feel like this finale is very reminiscent of that Top 3 (male and female country singers up against the dark horse “indie” girl). It will be interesting to see if this one plays out any different than that one, especially given that there is a three person finale instead of just two.

      • t0ddw May 15, 2018 at 1:48 pm #

        You’re right. I thought about how similar it was last night. Even Jacob Lusk and James Durbin, the 4th and 5th place finalists had similar styles to Michael and Cade who finished 4th and 5th this season. I hope we don’t have another Country finale. Come on, Maddie!

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