Emotions ran high as the Idol Top 4 took on classic rock hits and Sia power ballads

By Justin Kirkland
March 25, 2016 at 02:59 AM EDT
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Here we are, American Idol fans. Tonight we determine the final four that will compete in the last two weeks of Idol competition ever. But as we near the end and see people like La’Porsha and Trent really step up to the plate, the season is really starting to come together as if it’s the good old days. It also helps that we have two former finalists back to celebrate with us. Katharine McPhee and David Cook perform tonight. I’m super happy for David, but honestly, I’ve been wearing the same white blouse and jeans, sit/laying on the floor, waiting on Katharine’s return since the last episode ended.

And then there’s the fact that Steven Van Zandt and Sia are mentors this week. And La’Porsha is wearing dreads. And I dropped my pizza on the floor. To be clear — it’s all very overwhelming. To kick off the night, we start with the classic rock round, which means that Steven Van Zandt will kick off as mentor. In case you hadn’t heard, Steven’s second-greatest claim to fame is being a pop culture icon. His absolute greatest? Being Scott Borchetta’s friend. 

Classic Rock Round

La’Porsha Renae, “Wanted Dead or Alive”

Rank: Third (I don’t even know. I’m sorry)

Oh, Lord. A classic rock-La’Porsha combo sounds like a dangerous mixture, but to be an American Idol, sometimes you have to make the odd choices work. I don’t know who led La’Porsha to Bon Jovi because, to be honest, it makes absolutely no sense. With that being said, it’s in her subdued, gritty moments that (for the first time this season) I not only saw La’Porsha as the clear front runner of this competition, but also as an Idol alum who could actually have a career. Is La’Porsha a cowboy with a steel horse? Nah. Was this her best performance? Absolutely not. But it’s the fact that La’Porsha is so distinctive that makes a mismatched song choice acceptable.

Also, La’Porsha’s hair took 14 HOURS TO DO. For reference, I put on a hat after three minutes of attempting to fix my hair this morning.

MacKenzie Bourg, “I Want You to Want Me”

Rank: Fourth

Guys, I know this sounds crazy, but it seems as if TV Boyfriend MacKenzie Bourg is taking an uptempo rock song, revamping it under a singer/songwriter-guise, and making you feel super trendy for even listening to it. Oh, wait…I love MacKenzie, and this performance is good, but as we draw to a close, I can’t help but to feel that MacKenzie is the captain of the B team. And it appears that the judges agree. They all comment that the energy of his performance is too low to be uptempo but too fast to be a ballad. If we’re sticking with the rock theme, then it only makes sense to say that you got La’Porsha on your left, Sonika on your right, and MacKenzie is stuck in the middle.

David Cook, “Heartbeat”

I know this is about David Cook, but have we heard from David Archuleta lately? I googled him, and it appears that he’s very big in the Philippines, like Kenny Rogers Roasters. I like to believe that Kenny Rogers and David Archuleta have dinner a lot. ANYWAY, David Cook performs “Heartbeat,” with past seasons’ footage playing behind him, and for some reason, I get super emotional about it. “Heartbeat” is the quintessential “end of an era” song and, like a lot of David Cook’s performances, I don’t particularly understand much of what he’s singing but enjoy it.

NEXT: God only knows where Dalton would be without you

Trent Harmon, “Sharp Dressed Man”

Rank: First

I love how they put Trent next to Sonika and Dalton like there was ever a chance he was in the bottom two. I swear on Jennifer, Keith, and Harry, if that ever happened… Anyway, this week Trent sings “Sharp Dressed Man,” which is a departure from what I think any of us expected. I’m super relieved that Trent was allowed to have his showy slowed-down opening before launching into the appropriately paced ending. What’s important to note, though, is that Trent handily beat La’Porsha in this round. The beginning was as strong as the ending, and to echo a sentiment that I said earlier, Trent feels like an alum that could go somewhere after the season is over.

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Before we can continue on, we have to tell either Dalton or Sonika goodbye. Based on past performance, it really should be Dalton in the final four, but Sonika showed up last week harder than she ever had. It seems that the fan base Dalton has built up is stronger, though. And Sonika is sent packing.

Dalton Rapattoni, “God Only Knows”

Rank: Second

Apparently Dalton was going to do “Seven Nation Army,” but in a nod to everything good that I’ve ever wanted, he chooses “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys, and I’m going to be real for a second — I’m not sure if it’s because Dalton at his best is magical or if it’s because that’s my favorite Beach Boys song, but Dalton nearly stole round one by doing the opposite of what we expected. I know this will not be a popular opinion, but the stripped-down, eyeliner-less, simplified Dalton worked better than anything else he’s ever done.

NEXT: Katharine McPhee is back to be your star

Katharine McPhee, “Over the Rainbow”

Katharine McPhee is the comeback champion of the world. She took second place behind Soul Patrol favorite, Taylor Hicks. Then she released “Over It,” which is practically American Idol canon now. And then she starred in some high-end art house films like The House Bunny and Neutrogena commercials. Following that, she starred on Smash and literally begged everyone to be their star. And then she got a second show with Scorpion. In essence, we aren’t worthy of Katharine McPhee because we’ve never appreciated her in the way she deserves. But regardless, she showed up tonight and reprised her show-stopping performance of “Over the Rainbow.” I won’t critique it because critiquing perfection is arrogant.

Sia Round

Next up, we move to the Sia round, which is dangerous. Fact: I broke my foot last year at a dinner party after trying to re-create the “Chandelier” music video after one (or five) glasses of wine. End of the day, Sia is way dangerous, both physically and vocally. One wrong move and you can end up with a Lisfranc injury, or a swift kick to the bottom two.

La’Porsha Renae, “Elastic Heart”

Rank: Second

Sia is a big La’Porsha fan already, so it’s no surprise that La’Porsha is granted Sia’s megahit “Elastic Heart.” She navigates the vocal gymnastics that Sia is known for pretty seamlessly. Surprisingly, La’Porsha’s strongest moment is when she deviates from the norm and takes the bridge on in her own, unique way. Harry says that he feels like he’s in the passenger seat to a NASCAR driver when she sings, which is clearly just product placement, but also a nice compliment.

MacKenzie Bourg, “Titanium”

Rank: Fourth

This song is too big for MacKenzie. He does a plenty fine rendition but not for this stage of the competition. It’s slowed down, and there’s a whole string section accompanying him, and it’s a nice moment that allows me to reflect on all the great times that me and TV Boyfriend MacKenzie Bourg have had. Don’t you remember “Roses”? Me, too. It was so nice. But as he pushes his way through “Titanium” and stretches his falsetto to desperately hit Sia’s high notes, it’s clear that he might have fallen out of popular favor. As far as Sia is concerned, MacKenzie is suited more for “Lullaby” instead of a “Titanium,” but it’s almost as if MacKenzie was set up to fail.

NEXT: Nothing like a nude one-piece 

Sia, “Cheap Thrills”

Sia is pretty much a hit machine, and “Cheap Thrills” will likely follow suit, but I can’t help but thinking it would be fun to see a different gimmick outside of the nude one-piece and the wig that belongs to the love child of Cruella de Vil and Anna Wintour. The best part of Sia, outside of her singing, is the fact that she’s just as awkward as all of us. She tells Ryan that she pictures all of us naked, and then she talks about all of her dogs and how she loves to watch TV…just, you know, through a dense wig.

Trent Harmon, “Chandelier”

Rank: First

CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE THAT TRENT WAS GOING TO SKIP THE HIGH NOTES? Me neither. Thank you, Sia, for pushing our Idols in the right direction. Trent’s rendition of “Chandelier” is slowed down, calculated, and the perfect Top 4 move. His ability to move effortlessly between his vulnerable falsetto and powerful comfortably ranged notes is simply haunting. Trent didn’t need to scream the song. It didn’t need to be uptempo. All that he needed to do was sing it like Trent Harmon would sing it — that’s what he did, and that might just be why he wins this whole season.

Dalton Rapattoni, “Birds Set Free”

Rank: Third

I love that Sia and Dalton bond over having bipolar disorder. I love that Dalton chose a relatively unknown Sia song. And I love that even if Dalton is the likely underdog after this week, he can rest assured that he stuck close to his guns this season and never lost sight of who he is. As the song progressed tonight, his vocal became stronger and stronger until the emotions of the song nearly eclipsed the performance itself. Whether or not Dalton moves on after tonight, his emotional journey has been incredible to watch. If I get my way, Dalton will take his rightful place in the last three. Who knows if that’s how it will play out, though.

So that’s that! In my highly scientific rankings, La’Porsha didn’t take first in either category tonight, which feels kind of crazy, but honestly, Trent dominated the night. With that being said, I don’t think there’s any other option at this point outside of a La’Porsha/Trent finale. It all comes down to which flavor of rock you would rather see join them — folk or punk. Tell me what you think as we head into the final three (!!). Did the right finalist go home? Did I get way too excited about Trent tonight? Hit the comments, or shoot me a tweet @justinkirkland4. Otherwise, I’ll see you next week.

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