American Idol Season 15: April 6, 2016

Finale Performance Night – April 6, 2016

Round 1: Winner’s Single

1.   Trent Harmon – “Falling”   B
It’s always tough to judge a winner’s single – comparing it to more than a decade of winner’s singles before it, both high points (“The Time Of Our Lives”, “A Moment Like This”) and low points (“No Boundaries, “As Long As You Love Me”). This song didn’t grab me as much on first listen as I hoped it would, but overall, in a general sense, I liked the lyrics and Trent’s vocals. The lyrics to this song are very very sexy and I’m not sure that Trent brought that element of it to light. The best part of it was Trent’s falsetto run at the end of the song.

2.   Dalton Rapattoni – “Strike A Match”  C+
The studio version of this is light years better than the live version, but the song suffers from lyrical clichés: “rolling thunder”, “caught in the rain”, “dancing in the dark”, “start a fire”. It sounds like a Boys Like Girls outtake from 2009. That’s not an insult, just the truth. The guitar sounds too fast for the vocals and the whole thing just isn’t my favorite. Was it the sound mix that was off or Dalton’s mumbly, unintelligible vocals? It’s unfortunate that this was Dalton’s last performance on the Idol stage; he had so many more that were exciting, unexpected, and vocally strong.

3.   La’Porsha Renae – “Battles”  B+
Of the 3 Winner’s Singles, La’Porsha’s has the strongest hook/chorus combo, in that I was singing it after the performance was over. Her vocals were strong, although it wasn’t her best vocal performance in comparison to some of her past songs (“Glory”, “Diamonds”, “Come Together”) La’Porsha’s song was the best match for her Idol Journey ™ - it spoke to rising over adversity and not only surviving, but thriving. I’m not sure that I see a place for any of the 3 Winner’s Singles on today’s iTunes charts but I think La’Porsha has the greatest chance for success with this.

Round 2: Simon Fuller's Choice

4. Trent Harmon – “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (Simply Red)  A/A-
Bring it home, Trent. As Randy would say, Trent is “in it to win it”. This was the first time in the night I got up off my couch and moved closer to the TV. This is one of the sweeping Vintage Idol type songs that’s meant to deliver a moment for the contestant. I love how Trent is so passionate about every lyric he sings. There is no artifice in this boy (well, ok, maybe on “Counting Stars”). He has such control of his voice but also the ability to sing with wild abandon; Trent demonstrated both of those talents on this song.

5.   La’Porsha Renae – “A House Is Not A Home” (Dionne Warwick)  B+
I’ve heard this song performed so many times – from Tamyra Gray to Jacob Lusk to Will & Emma dueting on Glee – and it’s never been my cup of tea. Of course La’Porsha can do the song justice, no question about it. She infused this song with too many runs for my taste, but she did leave me feeling the emotion of the lyric – a person in pain, hoping to repair a broken relationship.

Round 3: Contestant's Choice (Reprise)

6.   Trent Harmon – “Chandelier” (Sia)  A+
Trent stunned me with his interpretation of this Sia song the first time he sang it and he gave me chills the second time he sang it. In a lesser singer’s hands this could become just karaoke, or a party anthem, or a complete annihilation of the clever lyrics. But in Trent’s vocal chords, I found everything I had been looking for: the cavalier attitude, slow recognition, and full embracing. Sweet like honey, slow like molasses, woozy like whiskey: Sia’s beautiful song deserves a master class in interpretation to do it justice. And Trent more than excelled in it. For me for you, he’s been my Idol all season, my dark horse since he had to make Idol history by being the first person to compete solo during the Hollywood Week Group Round. If you can make it this far with mono, you can do anything.

7.   La’Porsha Renae – “Diamonds” (Rihanna)  A
There was no doubt in my mind that La’Porsha would select “Diamonds” as her reprise performance – and what a way to close out the very last performance finale of American Idol. Stunning melodic choices infused with a power that Rihanna’s version never had. Rihanna’s version is all speculation and laid-back promises, La’Porsha’s is fierce and instructive. There was a militaristic drumbeat in the background of the arrangement which drove the song to a more intense, deeper place. Even though Trent has been my guy all season, I can’t be upset if La’Porsha is our last American Idol – her voice is beyond gorgeous and her story is inspirational. What a finale!