AI Top 3 Judges

By Chaz Lipp

The final season of American Idol nears its conclusion as the top three did their thing. Three rounds – no judging. Almost literally. Keith Urban said it again, “I doesn’t feel like we’re critiquing.” That’s because he, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick, Jr. haven’t been doing much more than cheerleading all season long.

Round One: Hometown Dedications

AI Top 3 MacKenzie Bourg Hallelujah

MacKenzie Bourg – “Hallelujah” The only real problem here is that this Leonard Cohen song has become something of an unofficial Idol anthem. In other words, it’s one of the series’ most OVER-used songs. But MacKenzie sings it well, throwing some real heart into it. It winds up being his best since “Roses.” Grade: B+

AI Top 3 Dalton Rapattoni Calling You

Dalton Rapattoni – “Calling You” (Blue October) The judges all love this “Daltonization” (Keith’s word), but maybe choosing a relative obscurity from an alt rock band wasn’t wise. It’s more fake rock from a, sorry to say, fake rocker. One of the least memorable performances of the night. Grade: C

AI Top 3 Trent Harmon Tennessee Whiskey

Trent Harmon – “Tennessee Whiskey” (George Jones) This is more like it. Trent’s path from goofy outlier to bona fide frontrunner continues with an outstanding take on a country classic. Harry: “Fantastic.” Keith: “Bullseye.” JLo: “It felt so easy for you.” Grade: B+

AI Top 3 La'Porsha Renae Glory

La’Porsha Renae – “Glory” (Common with John Legend) This is even more like it. La’Porsha had an off week last time. She’s back. It’s a commanding performance, one that justifies (for once) Harry’s declaration that it’s “critique-proof” (he ought to still at least try to do his job though!). La’Porsha comes off like such a seasoned pro here, it feels like we’re watching an established guest performer and not a contestant. Grade: A

Elimination time: first, Trent’s safe. Second… Dalton?? So that makes the bottom two, criminally, MacKenzie and… LA’PORSHA. To his credit, MacKenzie enthusiastically volunteers to announce who’s safe, to Ryan’s slight consternation. Good for him, MacKenzie seems extremely accepting of his fate and genuinely happy for La’Porsha’s safety. But seriously, could this actually mean more people are voting for Dalton than La’Porsha?

Round Two: Scott Borchetta’s Picks

Dalton Rapattoni – “Dancing in the Dark” (Bruce Springsteen) Interesting choice for Dalton – he ends up doing a lot more with it than Taylor Hicks did when Clive Davis chose it for him (that season five take devolved into a recreation of the video, with Paula Abdul standing in for Courtney Cox). But Dalton’s out of his league at this point, even though the judges mindlessly cheer him on. It’s kind of a cool arrangement though, with a moody, slow start followed by a spikey, New Wave-type rave up section. Easily Dalton’s best showing of the night. Grade: B

La’Porsha Renae – “Stay With Me” (Lorraine Ellison) Woah. La’Porsha definitely sounds uncomfortable with this one. She’s all over the place – over-singing in places and, worse, woefully off-key on several “big” notes. The judges, shamefully, ignore this completely – though Harry does suggest it sounded as if she “was playing a character.” La’Porsha didn’t win any points by dissing the song itself (she doesn’t agree with the lyrics). Good thing she has one more tonight. Grade: C

AI Top 3 Trent Harmon Drink You Away

Trent Harmon – “Drink You Away” (Justin Timberlake) Honestly, this gets off to a slightly rough start but I think it had more to do with a poorly-balanced mix than Trent himself (seemed like the band was overpowering him). Regardless, he’s still got his game face on and his unanimous praise is well earned. Grade: A-

AI Top 3 Keith Urban

Time for Keith Urban to plug his new record. He does his song “Wasted Time.”

Round Three: Judges’ Picks

Dalton Rapattoni – “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” (Tears for Fears) The judges focus on Dalton’s decision to lower the song’s original key. It seems like their way of saying “I wasn’t feeling it,” but as nicely as possible. In fact, Dalton’s vocal did nearly disappear as he tested the lower end of his range. It was okay, like so many of Dalton’s performances. But it’s not “top three” good. I’ll shoot the TV if Dalton makes it to the top two next week. Grade: C

La’Porsha Renae – “Hello” (Adele) Not an adventurous pick by the judges – and not a particularly adventurous performance by La’Porsha. But whatever it lacked in inspiration, La’Porsha makes up for in terms of professionalism. It’s not an exciting take on the song, per se, but it’s still excellent. Harry says they picked it for her “to stretch [her] range.” Really? La’Porsha has displayed great range from the very beginning. Grade: B+

Trent Harmon – “Waiting Game” (Parson James) Wow, the judges go deep for this obscurity. Often that’s a risk, but not when you get a vocal performance like Trent’s. Folks, we have ourselves a real competition. Even in this scandalously truncated Idol season, a terrific underdog story has emerged. If it’s not Trent vs La’Porsha next week… Grade: A

American Idol Images: FremantleMedia; 19 Entertainment; FOX

Chaz Lipp

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