American Idol's farewell season has given us solid performances fairly consistently, without making any of the individual singers step out of their comfort zone too much... that was, until this week. Despite having the broad genre definition as "classic rock songs," which could have spanned about 50 years of popular music, the song choices were so off, and the performances heavily reflected that.
In general, this year's top five was really strong, but after last week it was clear that Sonika Vaid was the one to go, and she was. And, with that strong top five, it's been increasingly difficult to rank these performances because everyone was just so good. But every performance this week had at least something a little off. Nothing was straight up bad, but we certainly didn't get any classic Idol moments that FOX will flash back to when this show is inevitably relaunched for the next generation.
But, before we get to those rankings, there were two ~superstar~ mentors on hand this week: Steven Van Zandt and Sia. Little Steven, best known as a member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, helped tweak each singer's performance and song in a way that was supposed to suit them best (to mixed results), and Sia mostly avoided the camera through bizarre camera angles.
But... about these performances...
08. La'Porsha Renae, "Wanted Dead or Alive": Classic American rock songs is not the best sort of genre for La'Porsha Renae to choose from. And while she had the options to go with something with a heavy blues influence, she inexplicably picked Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive." It was, simply put, a horrible song choice, and everyone in the room knew it. I mean, La'Porsha's raw singing talent is undeniable, so her rasp and runs saved this from being a total disaster, but her normal passion was totally absent and she FORGOT SOME LYRICS. This has yet to happen on the live shows this season, and let me tell you, it was not a pleasant viewing experience. La'Porsha, this competition could be handed to you on a silver platter, but you cannot do stuff like this.
07. Dalton Rapattoni, "God Only Knows": Dalton Rapattoni was very nearly eliminated from the competition this week, and it seems like the weight of that knowledge got to him a little bit. He did pretty well last week, performing "The Sound of Silence" like he was reciting a poem, and he tapped into that again with this Beach Boys classic as he walked around the stage pensively. It was a weird thing to watch - he was like half singing to some (lucky) mystery girl and half just sulking? It could have been emotionally effective but there were so few notes actually sung and no like pleading to the camera with those big, blue puppy dog eyes, so this just happened to miss the mark.
06. Trent Harmon, "Sharp Dressed Man": Trent Harmon did incredibly well with the Southern rock classic "Simple Man" last week, and it could have been easy for him to keep on in that direction with another big Southern ballad. Instead, he took ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man." And while it has those Texan roots, the song lacks a big emotional moment, which Trent can tap into ever so well. Instead, he decided to shoot for sexy, which isn't an emotion he pulls off as well. The first half of the song, where he dirtied it up and offered a slow, bluesy interpretation was actually pretty sexy and it felt original. But, when the band kicked in and the tempo ramped up, Trent was lost in the music. A rock 'n' roll frontman he is not.
05. Mackenzie Bourg, "I Want You to Want Me": Oh, Mackenzie Bourg... why couldn't you have just taken this song and performed it as is? Instead of stepping a bit outside of his comfort zone, Mackenzie cut this song's tempo in half and gave it a drippy, emotional makeover. To that end, and the masses of teenage girls who vote for Idol, this was a success. But as a performance and roughly 90 seconds of television, it was incredibly dull. Mackenzie pulled off the cutesy side of this song really well, but he lacked a swagger or confidence that could have bumped this track up a few notches.
04. Mackenzie Bourg, "Titanium": What Mackenzie Bourg does, he does well, and he's not so much one to step out of that comfort zone. He took Sia's soaring David Guetta collaboration "Titanium" and gave it a sweeping, slowed down makeover complete with a small string orchestra. As Harry Connick Jr pointed out, Mackenzie's entire performance was a buildup to whether or not he could hit the high notes. And, once he did, yeah, it was nice to hear but that anticipation was all for naught. It would have been better if he tapped into the inner strength and confidence these lyrics portray and emphasize that over technicality.
03. Dalton Rapattoni, "Bird Set Free": "I don't care if I sing off-key / I find myself in my melodies / I sing for love, I sing for me," Dalton Rapattoni sings, and it really could be as if he wrote those lyrics himself. Emphasizing the passions and the emotions of a song over the technicality (while still sounding technically great) is sort of Dalton's Idol mission statement. Maybe it is the weight of the competition getting to him and that near elimination, but Dalton felt like a different man tonight. He sang with a poignancy that is not unlike him at all, but it was amplified. The tears at the end, I don't know what that was about... American Idol is hard, bro. But you'll be OK in the end.
02. Trent Harmon, "Chandelier": Well, Trent won the game of draw straws to get "Chandelier." And what did he do with it? Took the soaring pop gem and took it down a million notches, turning it into a sappy ballad. His falsetto sounded nice and he handled the ebbs and flows of this song well (making me glad someone like Dalton did not get this track). But, it felt a bit like a wasted opportunity. This could have been a bold Idol moment, and though I get what they were going for, it just ended up being another really well executed piano performance. But, really, Trent did sound very pretty on this at the end of the day.
01. La'Porsha Renae, "Elastic Heart": La'Porsha Renae's performance of "Elastic Heart" opened up with some major dramatics. The tympani drums and her draped black leather jumpsuit offered up some intense musical moments and imagery. When the rest of the music kept in, La'Porsha kept up, still acting as the centerpiece of the song. She's an undeniably a good singer and she offered up the right amount of decorum in her bluesy runs and she injected a good bit of soul into this pure pop piece. As always, La'Porsha tapped into the inherent emotion lying in Sia's lyricism.