MacKenzie Bourg

bourgA folksy, coffee  house stylist, the skinny little Paul Simon sound-alike/Robbie Benson look-alike is a highly regarded songwriter in addition to his other talents. One talent he definitely does not own is dancing rhythm. When he danced on group night I thought he was having an epileptic fit.

MacKenzie was on the Voice a couple of years ago, and he charted a song in the top 60 on i-Tunes afterwords. Here is the official video.

MacKenzie is long odds to win, mostly because he ain’t gonna out Dalton Dalton, but if something happens to the frontrunner he might slide right into the WGWG slot. I would be surprised if he didn’t make the tour, and shocked if he didn’t make it through the first live round. I have him ranked third but my expectation is that he’ll finish closer to fifth. The higher ranking reflects the high floor expectation.

In English: he might not be as likely to win as a couple of others ranked behind him, but he’s less likely to be an early knockout.

MacKenzie’s showcase performance:


Here’s MacKenzie singing “Call me Maybe” on the Voice:

Semifinal performance: “Say Something” – A Great Big World

The original version of this song is really quirky, sort of like an REM album cut. MacKenzie, who usually makes his versions quirkier than the originals, actually made this song less quirky. I don’t think that’s a good move for a guy who doesn’t really have a deep arsenal of vocal calisthenics he can draw on.

MacKenzie with Lauren Alaina “I Hope you Dance” – Leann Womack

th (8)Not so much a trainwreck as a train sitting in the station, waiting for someone to figure out why it won’t start. The song was in a terrible key for both of them; MacKenzie couldn’t draw any power that low and Lauren had to blast out every note at the top of her lungs to stay in tune. The overall effect was like an old episode of “Mama’s Family” – MacKenzie/Harvey Kormann speaking so softly that nobody can hear him, Lauren/Mama yelling loud enough to rattle the windows across the street.

Of the 12 duets there were three where the past Idol clearly had the stronger voice. In the other two cases the former Idol basically blew the current Idol off the stage, demonstrating better skills, better stage presence, everything. Lauren just made MacKenzie seem small; like he was a high school nerd, on a date with a truck stop waitress friend of his father, enlisted to take his virginity.

Top 14

MacKenzie Bourg, “Roses”

I don’t remember him having breathing issues before; he ran out of breath in the middle of a couple of phrases, and a couple of his high notes could have been stronger…. But don’t get me wrong: This was a strong performance, right there with Tristan as the best of the night. MacKenzie wrote this song; if Idol was still pulling in 30 million viewers this song would get a million Youtube hits by the end of the season. Somebody remind me to check it later, to see how many it ends up with.

Judges: gushed.

Top 10

Mackenzie Bourg “I see Fire” Ed Sheeran


Mackenzie illustrates how far Idol talent has come, in a way. He is a niche singer, on the show more for his style than for his voice – but he has a really good voice. Paul McDonald was a niche singer a few years ago, Phil Phillips even won the show as a niche singer, but neither one of them were as good as MacKenzie. That first guitar lick he played was pretty cool, too.

Judges: gushed

10 becomes 8

Jaya: “Not thrilled at all.”

MacKenzie Bourg “I wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” Whitney Houston

I was entertained, but not impressed. MacKenzie did a good job and I thought the song choice was fun, but at the same time there were just a raft of chances for him to do something cool with his voice and he never really did. He’s a good singer, but a limited one. Still, it was easily the best performance of the night so far. I enjoyed it.

Judges: They pointed out that he should have done more with the song. Harry thought a fully acoustic version would have worked. I agree with him, and with Jen: a good song is a good song, and “I Wann Dance with Somebody” is a good song.

Or, in short: “sing better.”

And then there were 6


2: MacKenzie (with Dalton) – they just sang the melody, which is MacKenzie’s wheelhouse

MacKenzie Bourg “You are so beautiful” Joe Cocker

They are really hammering the sports thing… Mac must be feeling a little small after he sung with Jordin Sparks. As long as I’m listing comps, MacKenzie – who I think sounds like Paul Simon – sounded a lot like Bryan White tonight. I always enjoy Mac’s songs, and I think he’s going to have a nice career whether he wins Idol or not.

Judges: gushed

Audience – went nuts

And then there were 5

MacKenzie Bourg “Wild World” – Cat Stevens

They are really shoving the sports thing down our throats, like they want to make sure we don’t think Mac is some sort of dork. I don’t know why, dorks are pretty stylish.

I’d love to hear Mac sing this song again in a couple of years, after he tours for a while and gets the reps to really lock down his arrangement. He has the right idea, and he knows what his voice is capable of, but he’s still figuring out on the fly how to incorporate everything into all these new songs. I noticed that he toned down the dancing a little. Smart. Bee Tee dubs nobody emotes like Cat Stevens did.

Judges: They like him. Harry mentioned that he needs to work out his melodic departures better, which is pretty much what I was talking about.

MacKenzie Bourg “Billy Jean” – Michael Jackson

If he almost died, why did it take most of two seasons of talent shows for anyone to mention it? I don’t want to make light of it, of course. I just think it’s weird that nobody mentioned it before.

I expect this version of the song to be part of Mac’s songlist for the rest of his life. This was his moment, the song he would close with on tour if Idol still went on tour, his “Bennie and the Jets” (Haley Reinhart), his “Paint it Black” (Siobhan Magnus), his “She’s a Woman” (Chekeze Eze) – but the one I immediately thought of was Casey James’ “Jealous Guy” because of the guitar work. This was Mac’s “Jealous Guy.” Click on the titles to hear what I’m talking about.

Judges: Gushed. My buddy and fellow Idoloonie Fuel (John Veltheer) didn’t like it as much as David Cook’s version in season 7 – which was actually a cover of Chris Cornell – but I thought it was even better because it was original, not a cover of a cover and his guitar work was as sweet as a syrup fountain, pouring itself into a bucket of cotton candy.

MacKenzie “I want you to want me” – Cheap Trick

Mac is what he is, and what he is ain’t a big, ballsy singer or a rhythmically dynamic dancer. He did what he could with the song, but honestly he should have just chucked it and went with something else. Anything else. I don’t know if it will hurt him going forward – he hit the notes and he has another song to sing – but the overall effect of Mac trying to wring some excitement out of this song, with his voice, was like a squirrel trying to wrestle a Saint Bernard to the ground. I doubt the song even knew he was there.

Mackenzie “Titanium”

I don’t know what the hell he was doing with his breathing there, breathing right in the middle of his glory note run all three times. It ruined the effect for me, even though he hit the notes everyone worried about. Mac, who had a tremendous night last week, had a relatively mediocre night this week. We’ll see how strong his fanbase is.

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