American Idol Top 8: La’Porsha puts the ‘sing’ back into singing competition, or something like that

Sanging her way to the top

Sanging her way to the top

American Idol is back.

When the show started, it was about two things – who could sing and who couldn’t. Once David Cook came along, everything changed. Idol became a show for talented performers who could sing, not singers who could perform. We got David Cook. We got Kris Allen. We got Phillip Phillips. We got Adam Lambert (who was equally awesome at both).

But now we have La’Porsha Renae, who should win Idol because of her voice that’s been passed fown from the hand of god and touched by Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Otis on its way down.

La’Porsha’s performance Thursday night was so far above and beyond the rest of the field it was a surprise Ryan Seacrest didn’t just walk the trophy to her as she finished of the final note of Beyonce’s “Halo.” She nailed the song, her makeup/wardrobe combo was – as the kids say – on fleek and even though the pre-performance hair anecdote seemed something pushed by producers, her appearance on Thursday’s Idol was a godsend because it gave a real hint that whoever wins the final season of American Idol might actually be who has the best voice, not who’s the most marketable.

Vocally, La’Porsha’s playing a different ballgame than the rest of the field. Sonika Vaid has been terrific so far; her Evanesence cover last week was incredible and she took on the Idol OG this week and while it wasn’t A+, it was better than what we saw on the Idol stage. Trent’s the best male voice and his range is great, but when Idol is won on voices it comes down to runs and La’Porsha’s Usain Bolt. Watching her perform is watching magic; it’s the same as watching Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jordin Sparks and, probably the best comparison because of the field she’s against, Candice Glover from Season 12.

The lone disappointment with La’Porsha is fans are being outright robbed of how good she actually is. It’s tough to draw comparisons to her from the rest of the field because she’s so much better; there’s no voice that can touch her because all the other big voices were booted from the Top 24. If producers would have thought about the Idol product as a whole instead of who could win, they could have set this season up as the most competitive in years. The show is only as good as the competition and with La’Porsha singing like this, there ain’t much competition.

How can she keep this up? Really depends on what camp you’re in. Her voice is so good I think she can survive mediocre performances the next couple weeks, but if she starts nailing songs week in, week out, this thing is over. She’s a black Adele so there’s not much she can’t sing, which means she has to sit down with whoever is advising her and figure out the difference between a calculated risk and a bad one. I’d love to hear her sing Led Zeppelin or Gnarls Barkley or OutKast or any Motown; something that makes everyone’s jaw hit the floor. She can go out there and sing straight covers because she’s just as good as any artist who sang the original, but if she does a cover and crushes it? Well, if that happens, we can start the coronation early.

All told, a pretty solid night of Idol. Things got off to a rough start, but I’ll say this – it might have been the best night as far as song selections go. Just because Idols don’t sing a song well doesn’t mean it was a bad choice; there are such things as selective risks and I think we saw some tonight.

As far as the ending, well, I think everything resolved itself. Based off last week’s performances I don’t particularly agree with America’s choice to send Olivia Rox to the bottom three while keeping Tristan McIntosh, but she didn’t do herself any favors to save herself. Avalon Young hit a great song and I had her ahead of Gianna Isabella on my card, but if you had it the other way I can’t hate ya for it.

The only real downside to the night is we can’t vote off Harry because if all the performances we saw, his was the worst of the night.

On to the recaps:

THE TOP 10

Dalton Rapattoni
“Radioactive,” Imagine Dragons

This was the most Daltonest of Dalton performances. Smoke machine, overplayed electronic beat, emo tones – this was peak Dalton. It was awful. I loved the song selection. Radioactive is terrific because it takes you on a journey from calm to excited; it toys with emotions and, when done right, melts your mind. Dalton didn’t do any of it. I was hoping he’d take a Jenn Blosil look at it, slowing it down and doing something where Ricky Minor played piano and he just sang it. After hearing this it occurred to me why he didn’t – Dalton might not actually be a good singer. I’m not talking as an entertainer; I think he can clearly lead a boy band or be a rock star. But on pure vocals, he might not be good. I’m not going to completely judge him on this performance because we’ve heard him sing well in Hollywood, but this wasn’t anywhere near that. J-Lo nailed her assessment of Dalton – he’s overthinking the performances. He probably has a bunch of advisers (#IdolProducers) telling him how awesome he is and doesn’t realize these types of performances ain’t gonna get it done.
SAFE or BOTTOM 2: He’s safe because there isn’t a more popular contestant on the show. Even with a bad performance out of the death spot, I don’t think Dalton can be touched. I don’t want him to be either; I had him as one of my Top 4 and I you can miss once or twice when you’ve earned it. If this keeps up, we’ll part ways.

Lee Jean
“Use Somebody,” Kings of Leon

Loved this song choice because it was going to prove the one thing I’ve been saying all season – Lee can’t sing big. You need to be able to hit huge notes. You need to be Clark Beckham, Josh Ledet, Jacob Lusk and if they’re too big, what about Nick Fradiani, Phillip Phillips or Kris Allen? As much as Lee wants to sing Ed Sheeran, give all respect to the British Ginge – he can still get his voice up there. Lee hasn’t shown that and singing Kings of Leon have him that chance. He just didn’t do it. In his pre-performance montage, he talked about not being like someone but I think it did more harm than good; that was the first time I noticed he was Ed Sheeran and he was MacKenzie Bourg. I’ve said all season this kid has gobs of talent and is probably gonna end up being a superstar, but trying to be a WGWG (minus the first W) isn’t going to win him Idol. Lee needs to find an identity. He needs to do some funky coverts, hit some New Jack Swing songs or basically anything by someone who isn’t a white song writer because I’m not the only one who’s noticed he’s singing white dudes songs. Great song choice, did it’s job, but now we know where Lee stands and if it doesn’t send him home, it might help him going forward.
SAFE or BOTTOM 2: He should 100 percent be bottom two because nobody who followed him was worse. I think he’ll survive a Bottom 2, but he needs somebody to say “Listen Lee, you’re not good enough to sing this so how about you wreck a cover of ‘No Diggity’ and blow people’s heads out of the water?”

Sonika Vaid
“Since You’ve Been Gone,” Kelly Clarkson

Here’s why I hate straight covers – fairly or unfairly, you’re gonna get compared to the original artist. If you did it as good as the original, great; if you did it worse, you’re going to get killed. Sonika was coming in on a high note (ugh, what a horrible unintended pun) but she really lost steam with this performance. She started slow but didn’t hit that big note in the transition from verse to chorus. She hit it, but she didn’t HIT it, ya know? She tried to do a Kelly Clarkson cover and it didn’t work, which left me wondering, especially with a voice like hers, why not have Ricky Minor sit there and play acoustic guitar and just SANG the hell out of the song? She’s got the No. 2 or No. 3 voice on the show (depends on how you feel about Trent) but she’s in a tough spot because if La’Porsha’s gonna sing like this, she’s gotta bring the heat or she’ll be heading home early instead of in the finals. She can sing the legends, but she’s got to sing them different. Tonight wasn’t bad. It was decent. That’s between meh and great, right?
SAFE or BOTTOM 2: She should be safe. My only worry is, after the poor vocal performances we had from the first two, Harry got super fucking technical with Sonika’s performance. That makes me think one thing – producers want her gone. I don’t. Producers do. Sonika, if you’re reading this, watch out. Producers don’t want you on the show and you’ve got to be aware of it.

MacKenzie Bourg
“I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” Whitney Houston

Mac seemed like a slam dunk finalist, but whoever gives him advice sucks. If that’s my man Scott Borchetta I feel bad, but they’re training him to be a recording artist, not an Idol winner. I loved this week’s song choice – a reaccurring theme – but despite what MacKenzie said, it really was a singer/songwriter song. Kinda cliched, seeing how there’s so many acoustic covers of 80s hits/90s rap songs that they don’t work on Idol they way they used to. I still loved the choice – although not as much as when Tyanna Jones sang it and blew the fucking roof off the building – but didn’t like the way he sang it. It was a little too poppy and not enough coffeehouse cover for me. It was also the first time we really noticed how loud the backing band was, which only pointed out the obvious – the louder the band, the worse the vocal. In pure singing, MacKenzie had a monstrous lead on Dalton and Lee, but he needs to stop trying to be the cute singer/songwriter and just sing. He’s got it. He’s not going to David Cook the season, but he can definitely do enough with arrangements than he can find the right song and do the right cover that’ll make it work for him. When Harry delivered his critique, nearly had to do meth because it was the first time Harry’s said anything that resembled my opinion on a performer; had MacKenzie gone all acoustic, he would have gotten all the female votes. ALL THE VOTES.
SAFE or BOTTOM 2: Safe. I think he’s finding his way and figuring things out and I think we’re two or three weeks from MacKenzie delivering a “holy shit” moment. When that happens, he might end up against La’Porsha in the final.

La’Porsha Renae
“Halo,” Beyonce

Stunning. That’s the only word to describe what La’Porsha did. First off, it was stunning how producers talked her into the hair convo piece – the ultimate “white people love black folk hair” thing ever – but after that, stunning described her look. Makeup? My wife was so impressed with her makeup she did the typical woman thing where she went from love to jealousy to vile hatred in like 10 seconds. Her hair? Perfect. Wardrobe? Glamorous. Headband? Fleek. Staging? The angel wings were a 10. Vocally La’Porsha is so much better than the rest of the field its embarrassing. They can’t touch her runs and they can’t touch her soul. She comes out singing big songs week in, week out, this thing is over. She could sing “Take On Me” next week and it won’t matter. La’Porsha’s biggest challenge is going to be finding songs to sing because there might not be one she can’t. She’s going to be picking between singing stuff that will make her sound awesome and singing stuff that will make her sound awesomer. With the pure heart and soul she has, I really want her to challenge herself like Adam Lambert did. Go big or go home. She’s gonna deliver at least one performance that’ll make me redo my Top 30 of all-time and there’s a 100 percent chance she’s gonna hit one song that makes me cry. Maybe two or six.
SAFE or BOTTOM 2: If America doesn’t keep her safe I’ll vote Trump.

Trent Harmon
“When a Man Loves a Woman,” Percy Sledge

Don’t get why anyone would pick on Trent’s face and not his dancing. When he dances it looks like he’s having a diabetic seizure but his faces are no different than the ones Phillip Phillips made. Ever hear of him? When he came out singing WAMLAW, I was worried because this is a crooner’s song and Trent isn’t exactly a crooner – except when he comes out clean shaved and pimp-suited up. This was nasty. This was Trent standing there just sanging, and he sang. It wasn’t Clark Beckham good – Trent doesn’t have that bass Clark had – but good god it was close. Trent’s the guy to beat. There’s no need to pretend like any guy left in this contest can compete vocally with him. Trent’s problem is going to be picking songs because tonight wasn’t good until he made it good. If he doesn’t pick the right songs, he’s cooked. If he starts picking songs that fit him and the audience that will vote for him, the finale between him and La’Porsha is going to be AWESOME.
SAFE or BOTTOM 2: Safe. Super pumped he dumped the 1980s Southwestern patterned clothes Ralph Lauren tried to make popular last year. If he dresses like Beckham did last year – dressing up, not down – he’s gonna be alright, alright, alright.

Tristan McIntosh
“Go Rest High on That Mountain,” Vince Gill

Knew this was going to be a great performance because Tristan’s hair was flowing and when her lettuce has been free, she’s killed every performance. I had her ranked last last week – and for that she blocked me on Twitter, before coming to her senses – but this performance was terrific. She showed a complete lack of emotion last week and this week it dripped from her face. You felt every note. I didn’t know the song but I felt it Thursday night like everyone else. There was genuine emotion and confidence coming from Tristan and maybe the video with Scott Borchetta helped her. There’s a good chance Tristan’s the kid who’s never been told she’s bad at anything and when I ranked her last and Borchetta told her that stupid song she wanted to sing sent her off the deep end. Maybe then she realized she needs get at it. This performance was her at her best. Her vocals weren’t 15. Her attitude wasn’t 15. The only thing that’s going to prohibit Tristan is her and her advisors’ attitudes. She’s not the best singer in this contest. She’s got to beat La’Porsha, Sonika and try and get past the WGWGs because they always fare well. But tonight? Tonight showed she can sing and sing with actual emotion, not that pretend stuff she tried to pass off last week. Sing from the heart, success. Sing a from the heart, earn the country vote, you just might find yourself making a bid at the whole damn show.
SAFE or BOTTOM 2: I think she ends up bottom two but I don’t think she deserves it. This performance was well behind La’Porsha but right on the heels of Trent. Tristan’s success is going to come down to song selection, which is always tough when everyone around you is just gonna say what you want to hear.

THE BOTTOM THREE

Avalon Young
“Earned It,” The Weeknd

The intro totally ruined Avalon’s street cred. She’s been preaching how she’s a tomboy and doesn’t need to look glamorous, but as soon as Hollywood got her hands on her she’s all aboard the beauty train. Why? She’s a chick and girls all hate what they don’t have. That wasn’t much of a surprise and neither was Avalon covering a pop song by a dude. What was surprising was Avalon covering The Weeknd, a singer whose vocal range makes him the best male vocalist in the world. Good call? I didn’t think so, and then Avalon performed. She didn’t look the part – think her being all made up wasn’t helpful; this song called for the Timbs, leggings and Cosby sweater – but good god did she sang. She can’t get the deep dirty soul in her voice, but she can hit the others like a pro. The song couldn’t have worked any better because she’s got that attitude for it. It’s that “I don’t care about you but I’m probably gonna slit your throat” kinda thing that you really need to sing a song like that. As far as competition goes, Avalon’s performance couldn’t have been timed any better. It did prove one thing though – she needs to keep picking great songs or she might be in trouble sooner rather than later.
SAFE or BOTTOM 2: That was so damn good that might have bought Avalon two weeks of safety. She’s the kind of contestant we need on the show because she’s got a little more attitude than the other girls.

Olivia Rox
“Trouble,” Pink

I’m not gonna clown Olivia for her flu because my 2-year old had some virus last week where she couldn’t stand up because it gave her pains in her legs and she didn’t eat for a week and it’s only now she’s back to eating three bowls of cereal at breakfast and telling me “daddy, I poop” as we try and get her potty trained. I was surprised Olivia was Bottom 3 because I didn’t think she was that bad last week and I thought Idol would push her more, but as far as elimination performances go I don’t know if Olivia could have been worse. Her vocal was OK, but it was a horrible song. Olivia’s too talented to do a straight cover of a song and singing for her life, she did a straight cover a fairly boring song. Olivia probably had the third best voice (behind La’Porsha and Sonika) but there aren’t many songs she could have picked worse than the one she did. If you want to show off your range, pick a song with range; don’t pick one where you have to force the range. The song wasn’t the right choice and it really made the decision to not pick her an easy one. That sucked because if she had someone telling her what songs to pick, she had a chance to win.

Gianna Isabella
“If I Ain’t Got You,” Alicia Keys

Damn shame to see one of the Top 5 performances of the night get sent home. Wasn’t a surprise to see Gianna in the bottom three after last week, but she caught a bad break when Avalon was there with her and Avalon answered by crushing her performance. Gianna didn’t go out there and sing; this was grown woman shit and she just killed it. Makes me wonder who was helping her pick her songs because whoever helped her last week cost her an opportunity on American Idol. That’s the person to blame. Not America. Not the band. Not the judges. Literally whoever said “Gianna, this is a good song for you” should be fired ASAP because they are stupid. Gianna didn’t lose American Idol; she got beat. I thought Avalon was a little bit better and liked the decision to take her over Gianna, but if you want to sit there and defend Gianna over Avalon, I see that side as well. Win-win, really. If Gianna and her camp is gonna hate on anyone, it’s whoever figured out how to get Tristan above Gianna in the voting because that should have been the fight for who was going home this week.

Pretty good night of Idol and with one week to wait, I’m going to try and fill those hours with entertaining blogs, namely when I pick songs for contestants because they’re horrible at it. Next week’s song category is “Idol Memories,” or something like that; basically, the contestants have to pick a song from past Idol competition. Lotta great options, should be a good show.

So who’s going home next week? My guess is the Bottom Two will be Lee and Tristan and I think Tristan will go home. Even though she performed last, Avalon might be in trouble because she wasn’t the normal final performer. If I was picking, Lee and Dalton are the Bottom Two and Dalton is going home, but my picks mean nothing. Dalton’s too popular and the rest of the cast performed so well I can;’t see it not being Lee and Tristan.

We’ll see when Idol comes back for two hours next week.

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