Tonight for the first time all season, the judges, Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. have no say in which contestants advance to the next round. America has total control of who stays and who goes home. ONE singer will leave the competition tonight, without the opportunity to perform the two songs they prepared for the show. That, according to Scott Borchetta in a chat with Taste of Country.
Another season 15 first: The contestants recorded studio performances for iTunes this week. Each singer chose ONE of their two songs to record. The departing singer’s iTunes song will play as they exit the competition. A parting gift!
This week’s themes are the Sia Song Book and American Classic Rock. Sia and E Street Band member, Steven Van Zandt mentored the contestants, respectively.
Also performing tonight are Season 7 winner, David Cook, set to sing “Heartbeat” from his Digital Vein album, season 5 runner-up, Katharine McPhee reprising her iconic performance of “Over the Rainbow” and Sia will perform her latest single, “Cheap Thrills.”
Rock is up first, with Steven Van Zandt, followed by Sia and her songbook.
After host Ryan Seacrest introduces the Top 5, a video package featuring Steven plays. He seeks out greatness. He’s gonna teach them about charisma and showmanship. Scott does his “wiseguy” impression for his pal, who says it’s the worst he’s ever seen. Heh.
Ryan Seacrest mentions the four who advance to next week will get to return to return home for a heroes welcome. It’s the iconic hometown visit, with Idol cameras along for the ride.
First to advance to the Top 4 is La’Porsha!
La’Porsha Renae — Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi – OY. Scott starts yapping about how the song is wrong for her and Steven defends the singer. “It think she gets away with it,” he insists. Take that, Borchie. She begins the tune sitting center stage. Oh. She changes up her hair with cornrows. And yes. She’s killing it. She growls her way through the first verse like the badass she is. Unfortunately, as she makes her way around the judges platform, she seems to forget the words–moving the mic away from her mouth–and loses the momentum she was building. She recovers to end the song with a huge rock growl. That song is all about the slow build. The song would have had a huge impact without the stumble. Keith loved that she picked an unusual song and that she pulled out the blues undertones. Jlo also thinks it was a “so left” choice, but she can sing anything. Harry also thinks she can cross genres with ease (I agree). Apparently it took 15 hours to fix her hair! The bus is revving up, but Scott is the only one sitting on it. Are you a little lonely dude? – Text 8 to 21523 – 1866-436-5708 – Click to Watch La’Porsha’s Performance VIDEO
Next is a promo for the upcoming Angry Birds movie that has animated critters auditioning for Idol. It’s basically old audition footage cut in with lame animated bits. Too bad the the piggie, voiced by Blake Shelton, didn’t drop by. That would have been A+. In any case… Oh. Synergy.
MacKenzie Bourg – I Want You To Want Me by Cheap Trick – MacKenzie struggled with the song until he rearranged it to suit his style. Stevie calls him “an original spirit.” It might have been better to strip it down. His vocals are swallowed up by the band. This performance lacks the high energy of the original, and I miss that. His hipper-than-thou vocal delivery often lacks dynamics and drama. This was not the right song for him. It was certainly not the right arrangement. Jlo loves the song, but she didn’t care for the way he “MacKenzied” it. Harry would have preferred a double time arrangement (me too). Keith called it a “maudlin” kind of energy. He should have amped it way up, he says, or stripped it down. Exactly. – Text 7 to 21523 – 1 866-436-5707 – Click to Watch MacKenzie’s Performance VIDEO
UGH Jennifer Lopez was referring to the legendary Steven Van Zandt in her critique of MacKenzie AND SHE COULDN’T REMEMBER HIS NAME. Embarrassing and really disrespectful.
Nigel Lythgoe is on camera! He stands behind the judges table with Ryan as he introduces this week’s Ford commercial. Nigel is co-producing the big Idol series finale. Sniff. The spot has the Top 5 meeting with a stylist who helps them find their alter-egos. Or something.
Next, it’s David Cook singing “Heartbeat.” SOBS. clips of American Idol winning moments play on the screen behind him. That was a high energy, passionate and flawless performance from David Cook. Ryan asked about his marriage. It’s the first time David says out loud “I am married” to major media. His little brother is getting married this summer. Ryan mentioned his sister asked him to be the “Man of Honor” for her upcoming nuptials and David quipped, “You’re going to look good in a dress.” Heh. David says he’s so grateful for the American Idol platform.”It’s been a blast.”
The remaining three contestants are center stage. Trent Harmon moves on to the Top 4!
Trent Harmon – Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top – Swampy! Swampy! Steven and Trent cook up a version of the song that just might work for Trent. He’s excited because it’s different from anything he’s ever sung. Trent calls Steven the “Cool uncle that I never had.” The intro is slow and swampy before kicking into a higher energy southern rock jam, with the swamp still knitted into the song as an undercurrent, giving him ample room to play with the melody. I was having trouble imagining Trent pulling the tune off without coming across silly, but this soulful arrangement is suiting him perfectly. Jlo calls the arrangement “fungal.” Harry was satisfied with the intro but felt the song got even better when he sped it up. “That was so freaking good!” says Keith. “Ten out of ten.” Jlo has been “waiting” for him to have this performance. There’s general joking about Jlo’s “new” word, which sounds slightly dirty. Harry tries to get her to say it “sexy.” And…now I’m tuning out… – Text 10 to 21523 – 1866-436-5710 – Click to Watch Trent’s Performance VIDEO
Sonika and Dalton are bottom two. ONE of them has to leave…after the break. We’re back and it’s time for KIERAN to DIM THE LIGHTS. And it’s Dalton Rapattoni who advances to the Top 4. Sonika Vaid is eliminated. “Loved me Back to Life” by Celine Dion (by way of Sia) plays underneath Sonika’s goodbye package. Sad she’s not going to sing AT ALL after spending the week preparing. Sonika tearfully thanks her fans and her family. I feel for her, but this was definitely her week to go. – Click to Watch Sonika’s Elimination VIDEO
Dalton Rapattoni – God Only Knows by The Beach Boys – He was going to sing “Seven Nation Army” (Is a song released in 2003 old enough to be considered classic?) There is some back and forth with Steven and Scott about which song he could choose–they aren’t feeling The White Stripes. In the end Dalton goes with his back up song and EVERYBODY is happy. It’s the Emo version of “God Only Knows” and he’s making it work for him. A little over dramatic, but he’s so sincere. The arrangement accommodates his vocal abilities. In other words, the wobbly moments work to make the performance affecting and sweet. Keith thought it was a perfect song choice. Jlo felt he won with that moment. Harry felt the arrangement really showed his vulnerability, but it was appropriate. Ryan asks him how he is. “A little shook up, but I’m OK,” Dalton answers. – Text 5 to 21523 – 1866-436-5705 – Click to Watch Dalton’s Performance VIDEO
Next, is a clip from the Top 5 trip to Fontana over the weekend to sing “God Bless America” before the Sprint Cup NASCAR race. The Top 4 will head to their hometowns tomorrow morning.
Next, season 5 runner up, Katharine McPhee takes the stage to reprise her iconic performance of “Over The Rainbow.” She’s wearing shoes AND standing up! This performance happened TEN years ago, people. TEN YEARS AGO. Some staff member comes out on stage to recall his 7th grade campaign to get his middle school classmates to vote for her. Yes, he works for Idol now.
Scott comes out to say how proud he is of the job the Idols did recording in the studio for the FIRST TIME this week.
Next, a video package featuring Sia. She explains why she covers her face. She simply wants to protect her privacy. Sounds like the best of both worlds to me. She meets the kids in her get up. She brings wigs! After she shares how moved she was by the kids’ performances. – Click to Watch Sia Perform Cheap Thrills VIDEO
La’Porsha Renae – Elastic Heart by Sia – Sia complimented her “Diamonds” performance from earlier in the competition. “I was totally blown away,” she says. La’Porsha was drawn to the “hopeful and empowering” song. Sia is so moved during rehearsal, she tears up. Two big drums flank La’Porsha on stage. She indicates to Harry after the performance that she’s not used to singing in her head voice, and it’s obvious. Those are her weakest moments. Not as powerful or assured as her “Diamonds” performance, but she brings her exquisite phrasing to the proceeding for some unexpected moments. I wish she had let loose a little more, though. She seemed a little distracted. Jlo remarks on how she’s blossomed into a “fully realized artist.” Harry wonders if she sings in her head voice much. Not really, she says with an eye roll that says, “yeah…that made me a little uncomfortable.” He thinks she did a great job. Keith felt like he was watching an awards ceremony performance. Ohhh. They got to see Sia’s face! “She’s beautiful,” says La’Porsha. – Click to Watch La’Porsha’s Performance VIDEO
MacKenzie Bourg — Titanium by Sia – MacKenzie calls the song way out of his comfort zone. He’s nervous. Sia’s thinking he can hit a high note! She’s pushing him. “Trust yourself,” she says. I’ve got to say it. MacKenzie is the dullest contestant left. He sticks to the original arrangement here, but once again his whispery soft vocal is overwhelmed by the band. He kinda sorta hits the notes Sia was talking about, but it’s anti-climatic, because he brings so little to the performance in the way of dynamics. His voice lacks the necessary heft. Harry thought it was “nice.” He disagrees with Sia. It’s not about the note! Don’t worry about the note! It’s not the Olympics. Keith liked the way he turned it into a singer/songwriter moment. Jlo is glad Sia pushed him. – Click to Watch MacKenzie’s Performance VIDEO
Next, Sia takes the stage to sing “Cheap Thrills” from her album This Is Acting. The singer stands in a box while a signature trio of dancers act out her id. Typical Sia. But damn, she can sing. She can stick her head in a bucket if she wants, I’m easy. Sia describes the contestants as “so sweet.” They are like anyone looking for love and validation, “I wanted to give it to them!” She’ll be performing Coachella later this year.
Trent Harmon — Chandelier by Sia – Trent says meeting Sia is like meeting a Unicorn. She’s all about the high notes. Bring the goosebumps, she says. “Miss Sia knows what she’s talking about!” says Trent. I LOVE what he’s doing with the verses. He punctuates the chorus with a painful mewley falsetto and it’s both strange and haunting. But when he completely lets loose near the end, I’m sold. Sia was right about him hitting the high notes. Beautiful, oddly moving–that was like nothing else I’ve ever seen on the Idol stage. Trent sings Sia by way of Thom Yorke. Now I want him to cover Radiohead. Keith thought it was “exquisite.” Jlo is amazed he’s an entirely different person from the first half. She’s wowed by his versatility. Harry felt it was phenomenal, particularly the way he told the the story. – Click to Watch Trent’s Performance VIDEO
Dalton Rapattoni — Bird Set Free by Sia – When Sia reveals that she is bi-polar just like him, Dalton’s eyes light up. Now he understands why he connects to her music. “I don’t care if I sing off key…I sing for me…” says the song. Is that a message sent to his haters? Heh. Dalton gives the song EVERYTHING he’s got, until he completely breaks down when he finishes. The performance is Emo with a capital EEEEEE. But Dalton sincerity keeps the performance from coming off completely and ridiculously over the top. I prefered the simplicity of his “God Only Knows” performance, but there is an audience for what Dalton does. Scott is short sighted if he’s not OK with a Dalton win. Jlo says the crowd is cheering for his bravery. “You are such an artist…you touch all our hearts…especially tonight,” says Jlo. Harry calls it powerful. It’s one of his favorite Sia songs. It was a perfect match up. Keith loves how he pushes through his limitations. “I’ll take an inspired attempt over soulless perfection any day,” he says. – Click to Watch Dalton’s Performance VIDEO