American Idol 15, episode 23: The Finale, part 2

And there it is. The last ever episode of American Idol (it’ll be back in three to four years, don’t worry). And because of that, it’s more of a sendoff and less of an actual ‘season 15 finale’. Almost the entire length of the show is dedicated to everything that came before. Just three or so minutes are about the finalists, La’Porsha Renae and Trent Harmon.

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The President
President Obama opens the show with a video message, congratulating the show, but most of all telling people to vote. Not necessarily for contestants in a reality competition program, but if you’re doing that already, why not give voting the grown-up way a chance? After the President’s democratic message, episode 23 begins, with a choir of former Idol contestants (and some of them actual idols), all dressed in white. It’s got the grandeur of the Oscars.

Medley
However, as the show goes on, it’s looking more and more like a mashup of The Academy Awards and the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s balancing dangerously on the edge of a dignified evening of song and cheesiness. It’s a show that’s hard to sit through all the way, mainly because it’s just one medley after another. Kelly Clarkson (pre-taped, because she didn’t want to give birth on stage) does a Kelly Clarkson medley, there’s a tribute to David Bowie medley, a country medley, glamrock medley, medley medley medley. O, and guess who don’t participate? That’s right: La’Porsha and Trent.

Stick Dance
Judges Harry Connick Jr, Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban all have their own performances. Lopez sings her new single ‘Ain’t Your Mama’ with a choreography that seems to be heavily inspired by Conan O’Brien’s stick dance. The original jury is there, including Simon Cowell, Ryan Seacrest gets a gift (the American Idol logo), and then it’s on with the medleys again. Until about 4 minutes before the end.

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And the winner iiis…
Finally, after the whole deja vu act, it’s time to get to the results. Who wins this year’s Idol? A shockwave goes through the audience, and the judges, when Ryan announces iiit’s… Trent Harmon!
As I’ve mentioned yesterday, judging solely on episode 22, Trent deserved to win. He had the way better song (‘Falling’, which is the single now) and just sang beautifully all night long. I guess the people at home didn’t take the past weeks into account as well, however, comparing Trent to La’Porsha is just plain crazy. They couldn’t be more different from each other. He does give the credits to her, though: ‘I worked so hard, and she pushed me to do it’. It really was the battle of two giants. No one came close to them and it was the perfect finale. Congratulations to Trent, and La’Porsha has a big career ahead of her, of that I’m sure. And thankfully, she doesn’t have to work with that Borchetta character, who has no interest in who she is, only in making money.

American Idol 15, episode 22: The Finale, part 1

Their work is done. Judges Harry Connick Jr, Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban can finally sit back and enjoy the show. Their three prodigies take the stage in the first half of the final finale of American Idol.

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Falling Battles Match
It’s another hour long show, with three rounds. In the first one, Trent Harmon, Dalton Rapattoni and La’Porsha Renae sing their brand new songs. Only the Idol winner’s song will be released as a single. Trent gives us ‘Falling’, a sort of gospel-esque Barry Manilow song. It does suit his voice very well. He’s a pop- and opera singer and crooner in one, Mr. Harmon. Dalton has a poppier, jump across the stage-ier, Fall Out Boy-ish song, called ‘Strike A Match’. The lyrics kind of get lost because of his gasping for air. La’Porsha comes out with ‘Battles’. Alright, musically, but the song’s filled with open doors, which is a shame. I was hoping for something a little more personal. The writing team of Idol has just put a bunch of generalisations in a basket and thought they’d get away with it. Come on, Miss Renae deserves so much better.

Elimination
The three contestants sing their songs on a big dark stage, without the band visible. It’s a pretty big stage to fill, on your own. It feels way too empty. Less is more? Not this time. After the performances, it’s time for the elimination. First one to go through to part 2 of the final: La’Porsha Renae. Second one: Trent Harmon. It’s hardly a surprise, Dalton Rapattoni’s run ends here. The guy who rose to fame with his personal, daltonization of songs, but hasn’t really done that in weeks, has come up short.

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If You Don’t Know A Chandelier Is Not A Diamond
Simon Fuller, the big man behind American Idol, picked the songs for Round 2. He gave Trent ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’ by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, and La’Porsha ‘A House Is Not A Home’ by Dionne Warwick. Both excellent choices. In Round 3, Mr. Harmon and Miss Renae picked a song they’d sung before on the show. Trent is really outdoing himself tonight. He’s giving La’Porsha a run for her money tonight; he’s an extremely strong contender. He’s singing a pitch perfect version of Sia’s ‘Chandelier’. La’Porsha’s not far behind, though, with Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’. Judging by their performances in part 1, I’d say Trent deserves it the most. However, we’ve been following these two amazing talents for weeks, of course, and there’s never been anyone who’s made me cry as many times as La’Porsha. Whoever will win, it’s clear this has been one of the strongest Idol seasons in history.

American Idol 15, episode 21: From 4 to 3

The Idol Machine has almost come to a stop. Next week, the last ever American Idol shall be revealed (until, you know, the show gets picked up again and will be called an ‘event’). This week, we go from 4 to 3 contestants.

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Hometown Dedications
It may be the least interesting segment of the Idol catalogue: the contestants going home. You see people wave at them, they perform for a crowd full of people all wearing the same T-shirt, but you never get to hear them actually sing. Probably due to copyright, royalties, etcetera. Dalton Rapattoni does Dallas, Texas. La’Porsha Renae does McComb, Mississippi, Trent Harmon does Amory, Mississippi and Mackenzie Bourg does Lafayette, L.A. After the obligatory montages of screaming teenagers, family gatherings and limousines, they sing a song in the first of three rounds: Hometown Dedications.

Calling Glorious Hallelujah Whiskey
Mackenzie sings ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen. A classic, adopted by singing competitions all over the world. One that’s hard to mess up. Dalton sings ‘Calling You’ by Blue October – a band formed in Houston, Texas. Trent sings ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ by Chris Stapleton (a big Idol provider when it comes to songs). Trent’s been superstitious about not seeing his family until the finale, but now that he’s gone back home, he seems better than ever. After this performance, his family walks out on stage as a surprise. The spell must be broken now. La’Porsha sings ‘Glory’ by John Legend & Common. She’s the only one in the show who silences all critiques. Can’t the girl just, for once, not make me cry during her performance?

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Abuse of Power
It’s time for the elimination. Going through: Trent (yes, the spell’s certainly broken now), Dalton and, obviously, La’Porsha. Mackenzie is out, right before the finish line. In Round 2, music producer Scott Borchetta picked all of the songs. He gives Dalton ‘Dancing in the Dark’ by Bruce Springsteen, Trent sings ‘Drink You Away’ by Justin Timberlake, but worst of all, he forces ‘Stay With Me’ by Lorraine Ellison on La’Porsha. She wasn’t too crazy about doing the song last time so didn’t do it. But now that Scott’s in charge, he just tells her to do it. Is this one of his lessons that she should do whatever the producer tells her? This guy’s got ‘abuse of power’ written all over his smug face. I almost feel sorry for La’Porsha. If she wins, and she will, she’ll have to work with this character.

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Hello Wasted World Game
After Keith Urban’s performed his new single ‘Wasted Time’ (another country song where the guitars don’t sound like guitars anymore; every popsong seems to have been Coldplayed nowadays), Round 3 begins. Judges Harry Connick Jr, Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban picked the songs this time. Dalton’s routine gets a bit old. It’s just not special enough. His version of Tears For Fears’ ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ is the least exciting song of the night. La’Porsha tries on ‘Hello’ by Adele. I can’t wait for her to do a duet with Adele, that’d be amazing. Trent sings ‘Waiting Game’ by Parson James. I’d say let the producers, advisors, judges, the public, all take a step back and let the contestants pick their own songs, shall we?

American Idol 15, episode 20: From 5 to 4

It’s only two weeks before the 15th Idol will be crowned, and guess what: all the good ones are still in play. Episode 20 of American Idol says goodbye to the last one before the Top 4 go to their home states, to… well, that’s always a bit of a mystery. Collect signs? Have a burger at that burger joint that they go to every week anyway?

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E-Street Soprano
But before all that, it’s time for each contestant to sing two more songs. Harry Connick Jr, Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban have no more safes in their back pockets, so the one with the least amount of votes has to leave. For the first part of the show, the one and only E-Street Soprano, Stevie Van Zandt, joins the curly salesman I would never in a million years buy a used car from, record producer Scott Borchetta, to help the contestants sharpen their acts. It’s in line with this week’s theme, which is Classic Rock Songs.

Thunderdome Badass
La’Porsha Renae is a cowboy. On a steel horse she rides – even though she forgets the last part of those lyrics. It might seem like a strange choice, for her to try on Bon Jovi’s ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’, but it works. Especially with her hair in dreadlocks (I know it’s called something different, but I’m a complete layman when it comes to hair), she turns into a sort of Tina Turner Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome Badass. That’s a tough act to follow. Poor Mackenzie Bourg. To make matter worse, he’s decided to take the urgency out of the original version of ‘I Want You to Want Me’ by Cheap Trick. It’s not very exciting.

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Ballet
It can’t all be just about the contestants, so to spice things up, the show’s invited the not-so-funny Angry Birds – to promote their movie -, David Cook to sing his new single (meh), and Katharine McPhee (another beautiful version of ‘Over the Rainbow’). In part 2 of the evening, Sia sings ‘Cheap Thrills’. She’s one of those new artists who try to fuse pop music with art. Her performance looks like a music video from the eighties, with three ballet dancers basically doing all the work. But kudos to her, for incorporating a somewhat elite art form such as ballet on Idol. Something its broad but mainstream audience would otherwise never been exposed to.

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Swampy
Moving on with part 1, Trent Harmon picked ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ by ZZ Top. He made it ‘swampy’, and it’s very cool how he, with the little amount of time he gets (90 seconds), has divided the song into three different parts, and tops it off with a great finish. This means this week’s Bottom 2 are Sonika Vaid and Dalton Rapattoni. Vaid is a great singer, but a little too self-absorbed. I never connected with her, and apparently neither did the audience. Rapattoni wanted to sing ‘Seven Nation Army’, but during rehearsals it just didn’t work. He quickly switched to ‘God Only Knows’ by the Beach Boys (a ‘classic rock song’?) and keeps it simple. No daltonization in there, just a pure performance. I wonder if it’s enough for him to last two more weeks.

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Opera
For Round 2, Sia’s the new mentor of the class of 2016. Was it a condition of hers to show up only if everybody sang one of her songs? La’Porsha Renae sings ‘Elastic Heart’, Mackenzie Bourg ‘Titanium’, and Dalton Rapattoni ‘Bird Set Free’. It seems Rapattoni’s voice is perfect when singing behind a microphone stand, but when he starts walking around, his vocals suffer. The best performer of the night is Trent Harmon. He’s on fire. He sings Sia’s hardest song, ‘Chandelier’, almost like an opera singer and it’s fantastic.

American Idol 15, episode 19: From 6 to 5

They’re dropping like flies. Only 6 remain in the last season of American Idol. Trent Harmon, Dalton Rapattoni, La’Porsha Renae, Mackenzie Bourg, Sonika Vaid and Tristan McIntosh. Episode 19 is the last time judges Harry Connick Jr, Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban are able to use their ‘save’.

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Mad Numb Stars
Starting off the show with a ballad – ‘Mad World’ -, brought to you by (past and present) Adam Lambert no less, is a risky move, but American Idol can permit itself anything in its final season. It’s a quiet, too quiet opening. To put the necessary action into the proceedings, Mono Boy, the Singing Madmartigan, Slick Cowboy, Ol’ Idol Falsetto, Elvis Blood; Trent Harmon is taking the stage. He’s doing the best he can with One Republic’s ‘Counting Stars’, but it’s a bad song choice. Not chosen by him, the ‘American public’ is to blame. They’ve also given Dalton Rapattoni ‘Numb’ by Linkin Park to sing. Arguably the least exciting song in their repertoire. It’s not bad, it’s just very monotone. It’s very important for Rapattoni to pick the right song, because it’s starting to show he doesn’t quite have his breathing down when he’s singing. He’s out of breath a little too many times.

Ready for the Wild World
Powerhouse La’Porsha Renae does a beautiful version of ‘Ready for Love’ by India Arie. Not exactly powerhouse in the sense of attitude and explosion (and diamonds and halos), but in a very subtle, emotional, earth-mothery way. The fourth one who’s safe, is Mackenzie ‘cake batter’ Bourg. He sings Cat Stevens’ (and Mr. Big’s) ‘Wild World’. Like many times, Idol puts the contestant’s voice way in front of the mix, with the rest of the music quietly playing in the background. That makes the performances much more karaoke than it has to be.

The Safe
This means that it’s on for country princess Tristan McIntosh and Cinderella’s stepsister Sonika Vaid. Only one of them will survive the night. McIntosh is first and sings ‘Independence Day’ by Martina McBride. A ballad from behind the piano; her strong suit. However, strong suits at this point in the competition might not be the way to go. They do tend to fall flat due to a lack of surprise. Vaid sings Demi Lovato’s ‘Let It Go’. Yes, another Lovato song with an inspiring melody. Despite that, the jury picks her to move on. So the evening’s over now? Not by a long shot.

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The Clear Sound of Simple Billie
It’s time for round 2. Dalton Rapattoni daltonizes ‘The Sound of Silence’ by Simon & Garfunkel, in front of the eye of Sauron. It’s brooding, it’s intense; hey, that’s what the daltonization is all about. Mackenzie Bourg sings Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’, just on a little acoustic guitar. It’s wonderfully simple, and it should get him a lot of young girls’ votes. Trent Harmon takes on ‘Simple Man’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd. A great pick. He makes Jennifer cry, which makes Trent cry, which makes me at home tear up, too. Sonika Vaid sings ‘Clarity’ by Zedd featuring Foxes. Just when we’re all waiting for her to do another Evanescence song – or something like that – she’s giving us an obligatory dance track.

As Good As It Gets
The show’s put La’Porsha Renae at the end of the evening, and that’s a no-brainer. After a heartfelt montage of her explaining what happened to her – meeting the wrong guy – she comes on stage, singing Mary J. Blige’s ‘No More Drama’. Not a song with a big finish or buildup per se, but man, does Renae build it up, build it up and then destroys not just the stage but everything around it. She’s a destructive force of nature. The walls – literately as well figuratively – crumble when she performs. I mean, she can blow up the entire Idol light plan with her voice if she wanted to. La’Porsha Renae is as good as it gets. Amazing.

American Idol 15, episode 18: From 8 to 6

As much as American Idol has tweaked its format, the dreadful duets are still a part of the competition. Duets that don’t count, don’t stand out, really shouldn’t have a place in the show. But hey, there’s time to fill, ads to sell. The reason why the contestants are paired up is due to a flaw in the concept, which should’ve been dealt with long ago, but here we are, in season 15.

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Duets
Harry Connick Jr, Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban don’t expect much, either. Harry’s dressed like a funeral home doorman, Jennifer looks like she planned to go to the beach instead of the judges table, and Keith, well, Keith always looks great. He just needs to put on a T-shirt with a few smudges, so you don’t know where his shirt ends and his tattoos begin.
That said, the first couple of the night, La’Porsha Renae and Trent Harmon, does a great job singing ‘See You Again’ by Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth. A wise choice, to put these two together to open the show, since they’re considered – at least by me – to become the winner and runner-up of Idol XV. Following them, are Avalon Young and Sonika Vaid, with ‘Rise Up’ by Andra Day. They’re great singers, but good voices need to be pushed by strong personalities and conviction. Young and Vaid aren’t the worst ones by a landslide; Dalton Rapattoni and Mackenzie Bourg take on ‘I Want It That Way’ by the Backstreet Boys, one of the most meaningless songs in music history. They try to wink their way through it, but it’s a disaster; they have no idea what they’re singing about. Lee Jean and Tristan McIntosh are even worse, having picked ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’ by Aerosmith. It’s one of those pies you take out of the oven too early and it just completely collapses. Like Harry said, Lee should’ve played guitar and keep it small. They were way too opportunistic about it and we got karaoke.

Come Together
Then it’s time for the 5 people who are definitely safe, to sing. You thought Aerosmith makes a great rock version out of The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’? Think again. La’Porsha Renae has got something in store for you. Commanding the stage in a leather outfit, she tears up the whole place. As powerful as all of her performances are, there’s always such heart in them. She’s got the perfect combination of diva, theatre, grandeur and emotion. So much so, I can’t wait for her to sing the next James Bond theme song.

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Beautiful Eleanor Stands By Me With A Broken Wing
Mackenzie Bourg is next, singing ‘You Are So Beautiful’ by Joe Cocker. It’s nice. Violins. Piano. Basically repeating the title of the song over and over, for 90 seconds. Not exactly sensational, but alright. After Nick Fradiani plugs his new single ‘Get You Home’, Trent Harmon takes the stage. He picked what must be the most covered song of all time, ‘Stand By Me’. I like the edge that Harmon puts in his songs, but this is such a mellow, toothless tune, it’s a little bit of a letdown. Tristian McIntosh sings ‘A Broken Wing’ by Martina McBride. Wheelhouse. Tailor made. The last one in the safety zone: Dalton Rapattoni. He goths up The Beatles’ ‘Eleanor Rigby’. It’s a good song choice, well done theatricality, but his voice barely matches the intensity of the music.

Pretty Young Be Nothing
That means Lee Jean, Avalon Young and her roommate Sonika Vaid are in the Bottom 3. Young’s up first, just like last week. Her version of Michael Jackson’s ‘P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)’ is fine. Lee Jean sings another Beatles song, ‘Let It Be’. Similar to Bourg’s ‘You Are So Beautiful’; not bad, not great. Sonika Vaid’s version of ‘I Have Nothing’ by Whitney Houston is great. And despite her obviously fake reactions to the audience, she deserves to stay. The judges save her – it wasn’t a hard choice – and we’re rapidly moving towards the end now. Only 6 contestants remain. 5 episodes to go. In just 4 weeks time, the 15th Idol will be crowned. And her name shall start with La.

American Idol 15, episode 17: From 10 to 8

Ryan Seacrest presents the final 10 of American Idol, but cuts have to be made, and fast. You at home, have been voting the past week, which has resulted in a safe Top 7 and the excruciating Bottom 3. Of those 3, Harry Connick Jr, Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban get to pick 1, and only 1, who goes through in the competition. That means bye bye to 2 contestants to quickly narrow down the field.

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Intermission
Dalton Rapattoni kicks things off with Imagine Dragons’ ‘Radioactive’, but he’s not quite as inspired as usual. Blowing a lot of smoke on stage doesn’t do the trick. Lee Jean is safe as well, singing ‘Use Somebody’ by Kings of Leon this week. It’s decent, as always. Then, as an early intermission, Demi Lovato comes out, performing ‘Confident’ with America’s possible Idols. After that, she’s singing ‘Stone Cold’, on her own. How she’s able to get away with what she’s doing, is beyond me. Where’s the melody? Are all those runs necessary? Why the rambling? It’s hard to understand what she’s singing about. Let’s just write it off as a lesson for the contestants; an example of how not to do it.

Since U Dance With Halo
Sonika ‘Hollywood Week back stabber’ Vaid is next. She chose to sing Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Since U Been Gone’, even though she never had a boyfriend herself, which isn’t all that surprising. She’s way too self-absorbed. Mackenzie ‘marble teeth’ Bourg takes a crack at Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’. It’s nice how he changed it up, but as Dalton’s a one man-Green Day, Mackenzie is a one man-Coldplay. What I’m saying is: he’d better watch out he doesn’t get too easy going. La’Porsha Renae does another top notch spot on sling shot out of the park homerun performance, with Beyonce’s ‘Halo’. It’s too soon, way too soon in fact, but she’s going to win, isn’t she? She’s in a completely different league.

When A Man Loves A Woman High On That Mountain
Intermission #2: Harry Connick Jr himself. On stage, accompanied by Butch Walker on guitar. Connick does what Connick does best; turning the Idol stage into a riverboat casino groovy entertainment show. It’s going to be fun to see the three judges do a song together again, which is definitely on the Idol schedule. Trent Harmon starts off slow, but he builds. And builds. His rendition of ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ ends on more than one high note. Tristan McIntosh, the 7th contestant who’s safe, sings Vince Gill’s ‘Go Rest High on that Mountain’ perfectly. This is what she should be doing. Play the piano and sing country songs.

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Earned It
This means, there are 3 left who have to sing for their lives. Avalon Young, like McIntosh, finds her groove (or niche) just in time. She sets the bar extremely high, with ‘Earned It’ by The Weeknd. It’s a great performance, spectacularly done. Olivia Rox doesn’t even come close, with Pink’s ‘Trouble’. Gianna Isabella tries on huge shoes. She sings ‘If I Ain’t Got You’ by Alicia Keys. Right before the show she fell into her mom’s makeup purse. Talking about going overboard. The judges unanimously reveal the 8th singer to go through iiisss… Avalon Young. It couldn’t have been an easier choice.