And then there were five

American-Idol-2016-top-5It took me a couple of days to finish up my recap this week, so I can’t pretend I haven’t heard the judges’ comments or pretend that I’m writing on deadline. I know who went home Thursday night, and frankly we all know who is going home next Thursday night and who is going to win. In between, though, will be a tremendous battle between MacKenzie, Dalton, and Trent for the second spot.

For fun I’m going to add a short comment on the pre-performance blurbs, just something I think I learned about each contestant. Adam Lambert was great, as he always is. One of these days I need to write about Adam at length. He was the first great Idol singer I wrote about week to week. I was hoping to find a natural fit to write about Idol history in context with the show, but they are rushing it through like they have to catch a plane.

Ok, let’s have it. The singers, the songs:

Trent Harmon “Counting Stars” – One Republic

I never really thought about it before, but it makes sense that Mississippi boy Trent has a little Elvis the Pelvis in him.

I always like how Trent’s voice sounds, but I am not the biggest fan of his phrasing style. I grew up on Elton John, so I always want Trent to just sing the melodies like Elton John used to do… but if I listen to “Philadelphia Freedom” or “Island Girl” I have to remind myself that Elton John was sort of all over the place too, especially early in his career.

Judges: bla bla bla sing better. Trent missed a lot of notes so the criticism was more than fair, maybe even a little bit on the nice side.

Dalton Rapattoni “Numb” – Linkin Park

Dalton went to a high powered, Fame-styled school for a short time before he joined the boy band. I think that was the school group with all the kids holding guitars.

He seems to be aiming his style at Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day vocally almost as much as does mascarally. He doesn’t have nearly as much voice as the others at this point – the other five all have howitzers, his is more of a pellet gun – so he has to be careful to stay within himself. He was mostly in the groove on this song, and I think it was a decent choice for him.

Ok, Mac doesn’t have a howitzer either, but his game is all finesse. He has command.

Judges: Hammered him, fairly in my opinion, for changing the song but not changing it enough to create a true separation from the original. In baseball terms, his changeup was too close to his fastball.

Dalton gave away an Idol secret at the end, mentioning that he had some song choices. The producers were trying to pretend that the songs were chosen completely by the audience.

La”Porsha Renae “Ready for Love” – India-Arie

Beauty queens in prom dresses don’t win Idol. Truck stop waitresses and huge dorks win Idol. La’Porsha’s blurb, I think, demonstrates that she’s got enough dorky truck stop in her – or at least not too much prom queen in her – to win.

There is just nothing to say about her performances anymore, especially her ballads. She is in complete command of the show, performing her own concert within the confines of the show much like Adam Lambert did in season eight, and Crystal Bowersox did in season nine. They both finished second, so word of caution, but Chia Girl is cruising to the finale.

Judges: gushy gush gusherson.

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.

Tristan McIntosh “Independence Day” – Martina McBride

Like Dalton, Tristan comes from a high-powered art school. It won’t be the last thing they have in common tonight.

Also like Dalton, Tristan changed the arrangement of her song but not enough. “Independence Day” is the sort of song that Tristan could destroy with the right arrangement, and I salute her for trying something different, but as changeups go this one was flat, straight, and right over the plate. She slowed it down just enough to lose the power, but not enough to gain any intensity. I think what might have happened was that Tristan found a version of the song done by Gretchen Peters – she wrote it – and tried to translate it to the piano.

Judges: Kissed her goodbye, which was nice – but maybe a little presumptuous considering Sonika hadn’t performed yet.

Sonika Vaid “Let it Go” – Demi Lovato

Sonika has a country club and a cataract and laser volunteer program among her fan clubs. How’s that for diversity?

Not to worry, judges, Sonika delivered a mostly strong performance. She missed a few notes and her low range ain’t much better than Tristan’s, but she was the better of the two.

Judges: Harry was mildly critical, but overall they were pretty positive.

Sonika might be a little better right now, but if I had to bet money going forward mine is on Tristan. She is only 15 and still learning how to do just about everything, while Sonika is already 20 and way too good looking to have to be a singer. Pageant queens in prom dresses don’t win Idol, mostly because they don’t have to.

I actually dunned Tristan earlier in the season for this – she seems like she has a ton of other things going for her besides music – so they might both end up being successful in careers that don’t require a reservation in celebrity rehab.

Dalton Rapattoni “The Sound of Silence” – Simon and Garfunkel

Bipolar isn’t fun, we all know a few people who have to live with it. One silver lining is that the doctors are getting really good at finding a variety of medications to combat it. Onward and upward.

Maybe Dalton should be an actor; he looks like one of the Lost Boys. He may or may not be a national quality singer, but he’s a national quality performer and he knows how to produce a visual effect. I know from other videos that Dalton has a strong sense of moment, and a terrific sense of humor. I would, if he asked me, tell him to pursue acting.

Judges: shilled for votes, in case Sonika sang really well and ruined the mano on mano on mano competition starting next week.

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.

Trent Harmon “Simple Man” – Lynyrd Skynyrd

What is with all the tragedy tonight? Trent plays guitar, but I noticed – and mentioned somewhere in there, on the blog – that he doesn’t sing very well when he’s playing. He’s smart to leave the guitar in the case.

I thought he made a dangerous choice – choosing a song so famously and so beautifully covered recently by Shinedown – but he not only pulled it off, he might have built himself a bit of a legend in the process. He made notes that usually sound painful and difficult seem effortless, and he didn’t leave out the intensity. He sure as hell knew the Shinedown version – his final run was almost note-for-note with theirs – so his choice to nail a different verse, and in an almost off-hand “ok, I guess we need to go here” way, was effective – and impressive – as hell. This was Trent’s moment – back to back moments – something Idol has been doing a lot this season.

Judges:  Jen was moved to tears, and she dammed near moved me to tears. I’m going to miss Idol, too.

Sonika Vaid “Clarity” – Zedd

Her blurb… I’ve seen videos of Sonika playing piano and singing when she was Tristan’s age,  so I’m not sure where the whole “I didn’t decide to do this until last week” narrative comes from. To her credit, she did seem like a total dork when she was Tristan’s age.

I still think Sonika is probably going home next week – she was saved two weeks in a row, so the voters aren’t loving her – but (1) she is female while the other three non-Chias are male, (2) she was good tonight, and (3) she is really, really good looking. I still think she’s going home next week – the guys are all either too good (Trent), too cute (Dalton), or both (Mac) – but she gave herself a chance with a strong performance.

Judges: Mostly positive. They didn’t sell her or dismiss her, so it will be up to a voting public that has been pretty sage this season.

La’Porsha Renae “No More Drama” – Mary J. Blige

Reality shows that feed on tragedy don’t get that intense. I believe La’Porsha – the only thing about her that doesn’t seem a hundred percent real is her name – and I felt the tug of her backstory – even in the middle of a reality show that has been pulling dead people out of every angle iron.

Her moves were really wooden, until she forgot to care about her moves. La’Porsha reminds us, once in a while, that she is still an amateur. Kelly did this, and so did Carrie. David Cook and Candice Glover had backstories that emphasized their amateurism as well. Those kids were special talents, which is the point of the show, but they were also amateurs – which is also the point of the show. The best singers who didn’t win – Adam, Clay, Crystal, Daughtry, JHud, and Katherine – weren’t true amateurs. Maybe the audience was paying more attention than they were given credit for.

Judges: drowned in a pool of their own gush.

It’s hard to keep track of La’Porsha’s moments the way she keeps emoting, crying, and singing like she wants to be Aretha Franklin when she grows up, but there were  at least a couple tonight. I wish that they would take a dammed chill pill – slow the show down and savor it instead of gulping it down like the waiter is trying to take their plate – but it ain’t happening, so we better enjoy the show on the fly this year.

Safe to in Danger

Can she break up Fellapalooza?

5: Sonika – needing back to back saves doesn’t inspire confidence

The best voice left among the fellas

4: Trent – assuming Sonika goes home next week, Trent/Dalton/Mac will spend the next two weeks fighting for a two minute rental of the space next to La’Porsha at her coronation. Fellapalooza will begin with Trent seemingly the dark horse, given the popularity of the other two with every woman I know who watches Idol, but he has the most impressive voice. Since the judges will sit with their chairs facing the contestants, though, looks will likely play at least a peripheral role. Watch the faces, in other words.


dalton rapattoni
The weakest voice left, but the strongest cute factor

3. Dalton – he has by far the weakest voice of the three guys competing in Fellapalooza, but he’s considered the cutest one.

The perfect compromise choice between the Voice and the Eyeliner

2. MacKenzie – he’s riding in the middle seat, between Dalton the Cute and Trent the Voice. Every cowboy knows, thanks to Michael Martin Murphy’s song “Cowboy Logic,” that the best seat in the truck is the one in the middle.

1. La’Porsha – Guess who’s driving?

Just waiting on her finale dance partner

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