American Idol Season 15: March 24, 2016

Top 4 - March 26, 2016

LaPorsha Renae – “Wanted Dead Or Alive” (Bon Jovi) B
How can it be lost on Scott Borchetta that “Wanted” is not a literal song about a cowboy? The song is a metaphor about life on the road as a touring musician, comparing it to the uncertain future of a restless cowboy. La’Porsha actually could relate to the song’s message more than Scott, as the only way to make money through music these days is by touring relentlessly. That said, I wanted to love La’Porsha’s rendition more than I did. While her voice sounded powerful, she lacked the emotion and weary desperation of the song’s lyrics. At one point it sounded like she forgot the lyrics “on a steel horse I ride”. I wanted to be jumping out of my seat and running to download the iTunes rendition. Instead, “for me, for you dawg it was alright”.

Mackenzie Bourg – “I Want You To Want Me” (Cheap Trick) D+
There’s not much to “I Want You To Want Me”, not lyrically anyway. It’s the quick, frantic pace of the song that evokes a room dripping with perspiration, full with people jumping up and down in the name of the power-pop chord. Stripping down the song doesn’t add to the melancholy of the lyric, or highlight anything once hidden. It just reveals that the lyrics are repetitive and flat. Mackenzie did absolutely nothing with the song by changing the arrangement and singing it as a midtempo. It sucked the energy out of the room and revealed the weaknesses in his voice. A rare misstep for Mackenzie, but at this stage of the competition, it could prove his undoing.

Trent Harmon – “Sharp Dressed Man” (ZZ Topp) B+
This was to be Trent’s breakthrough Idol Moment ™ - the one we look back at as the turning point of the season for him. And it started that way, gloriously so, with Trent in a suit for the first time, looking every bit the part, slowing down the tempo to accentuate the lyrics, showcase his voice. It was delicious and it was the makings of a memorable performance. Unfortunately, then the sped-up version of the song kicked in and it became something akin – distantly related of course, a second cousin – to karaoke. Trent has always been the dark horse of this competition since his mono diagnosis. He came so close to a moment in my eyes, but fell just achingly short.

Dalton Rapattoni – “God Only Knows” (The Beach Boys) B-/C+
I know that Dalton was trying to have an emotional moment here, but it reminded me of cheese left in the toaster too long – overdone and burnt on the good parts. “God Only Knows” is a song of jubilation, underscored by the fact that a choir sings in the background of the chorus. It’s a song of redemption and rejoicing, not a song of angst and maudlin self-indulgence. Wandering around the stage in a hobo hat, Dalton looked almost uncaring of the moment’s significance. His vocals sounded good, but not good enough to make us feel that he hands-down earned his spot in the Top 4.

La’Porscha Renae – “Elastic Heart” (Sia) B+
This performance showcased a completely different side of La’Porsha from her “Wanted Dead Or Alive” rendition. This felt more authentic and connected. Although I’ve never liked “Elastic Heart” as a song, La’Porsha elevated it to a level that was captivating and intriguing.

Mackenzie Bourg – “Titanium” (David Guetta & Sia) B-
Mackenzie really needed to come back and win the Second Round of the show after failing so badly on the Classic Rock side. The song “Titanium” is all cold steel, a curled lip, and shell casings. Mackenzie didn’t bring the unapologetic power to this song that he needed to. That said, it was a definite improvement on “I Want You To Want Me”, but it seems like one that will land him solidly in 4th place.

Trent Harmon – “Chandelier” (Sia) A
From the second the “Sia Songbook” was announced as one of this week’s themes, I hoped that Trent would pick (or be assigned by the producers) “Chandelier” – my all-time favorite song Sia has written or performed and my #2 Song Of The Year in 2014. He did it all the justice I could ever hoped for. “Soaring, flying, freewheeling through an endless diamond sky”, Trent opened us up to a Whole New World with this song. His vocal control is unparalleled, yet he doesn’t sacrifice precision at the altar of emotion.

Dalton Rapattoni – “Bird Set Free” (Sia) B

Dalton’s voice was more confident and assured on this self-empowerment-with-a-twist anthem than his earlier rendition of third-choice song “God Only Knows”. I still can’t shake the fact that Dalton can come off as gimmicky and over-produced rather than raw and vulnerable. Somehow what seems to others as vulnerability still reads as artifice to me. There is still something a bit cringeworthy about the lyric “I don’t care if I sing off-key” in a singing competition but I’ll give Dalton a pass on this one. Trent’s “Chandelier” rendition should have closed the show to be the song left in our ears, but this wasn’t half-bad.

Best of the night: Trent 
Worst of the night: Mackenzie