American Idol Season 15: March 31, 2016

Top 4 – Hometown Visits: March 31, 2016

1. Mackenzie Bourg – “Hallelujah” (Leonard Cohen) A-/B+
The more cynical will point to just how many times this song has been covered on Idol – Jason Castro, Lee DeWyze, Tim Urban –  and say that its popularity should prohibit its inclusion on the show. But this was a perfect song choice for Mackenzie, who sang Leonard Cohen’s classic like a lullaby. Mackenzie sang it in a Jack Johnson style - lilting, light, gentle – and beautiful.

2.  Dalton Rapattoni – “Calling You” (Blue October) B
A very smart decision by Dalton to pick a song he could truly make his own. It seemed a little bit of a left field choice at first but when Dalton highlighted the line “I can’t believe you actually picked me”, I got it. He came across as humble, self-effacing, and strategic. [Side note: Blue October is an incredibly underrated band and their 2006 minor hit “Hate Me” became a defining song of my college years.] Dalton may not have the strongest voice but he might just be the best performer of the season. He knows how to play to his strengths and to an audience.

3. Trent Harmon – “Tennesee Whiskey” (Chris Stapleton) A
Trent hasn’t had a misfire since his performance of “Counting Stars” and this wouldn’t break his streak. Smooth with a kick at the end, just like a glass of whiskey. His voice has such power but also such finesse, the ability to take an oft-covered song and truly add his own flavors.

4. LaPorsha Renae – “Glory” (Common & John Legend) A-
LaPorsha is not, and has never been, a singer who can just sing beautifully. She brings grit, passion, and overwhelming emotion to every song she sings – it’s a trait that most of our popular starts today lack. “Glory” was the perfect song choice for her.

5.  Dalton Rapattoni – “Dancing In The Dark” (Bruce Springsteen) A-
If only Dalton had kept the slowed down, aching arrangement the song started with. It devolved into a proto-pop-punk jam which was exhaustingly fun. However, I had been so excited to finally hear the song stripped down, highlighting the naked depression of the lyrics, that it disappointed me when the song kicked in to uptempo.

6. LaPorsha Renae – “Stay With Me Baby” (Lorraine Ellison) A
LaPorsha’s voice is so powerful it almost seems effortless at times. It’s important to remember that singing the way she does is unbelievably difficult. Maybe LaPorsha didn’t like this song’s lyrical content – and she’s entitled to her opinion – but she won’t necessarily feel a deep and honest connection to every song she’ll sing for the rest of her life. But someone listening will be moved and it’s her job to ensure they feel moved. And I absolutely was.

7.  Trent Harmon – “Drink You Away” (Justin Timberlake) B
Compared to Trent’s first performance, this one didn’t grab me. The music seemed too loud for his vocals and with two very similar songs, it was easy to draw comparisons between the performances instead of feeling like they were distinct entities. “Drink You Away” paled in comparison to “Tennesee Whiskey” – although Trent certainly poured a little shot of Justin Timberlake into his vocals. Then again, Trent is my favorite contestant this year and I’ve just listened to his studio version of “Drink You Away” on iTunes four times a row…and it’s growing on me, like a fungus.

8. Dalton Rapattoni – “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” (Tears For Fears) B/B-
Starting the performance admist the crowd immediately took the energy out of the performance. While thrilling, I’m sure for the audience members standing directly around him, it looks chaotic and messy on TV and probably didn’t play as well in the studio. Compare Dalton’s vocal take to Rayvon Owen’s smooth-as-butter version from last season and it didn’t quite hold up.

9.  LaPorsha Renae – “Hello” (Adele) A-/B+
This was set up to be an Idol Moment ™ but it underwhelmed just a little bit for me, for you. Maybe its because the song’s ubiquity has led me to only associate the song with Adele’s voice. Of course LaPorsha sang it beautifully but I wasn’t as entranced as I was by her previous 2 performances.

10.  Trent Harmon – “Waiting Game” (Parson James) A
The judges were spot on with this pick for Trent. I think picking an unknown song is always a risk – either the singer makes the song their own or they confuse the audience who’ve never heard the song before. Was there any doubt Trent would shine with this?