Proving that Sunday night can also be alright for fighting, American Idol pit its final five contestants — Wade Cota, Laci Kaye Booth, Alejandro Aranda, Laine Hardy and Madison VanDenburg — against one another, setting the stage for a Sophie’s Choice of a season finale.
The episode kicked off with a round of performances chosen by everyone’s favorite Dancing With the Stars winner Bobby Bones…
WADE COTA (Ray LaMontagne’s “You Are the Best Thing”) | Well, this was a
boring fine way to kick things off. Don’t get me wrong, he sounded great — but after some light Mother’s Day drinking, I would have preferred something a little more exciting to start the show. My only question about this performance was Perry’s claim that it took Wade out of his comfort zone. Color me crazy, but was this not the definition of his comfort zone? Let’s not forget that he already performed a LaMontagne song a few weeks ago.
LACI KAYE BOOTH (Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me”) | Though Booth didn’t do anything particularly groundbreaking with this rendition of Lambert’s new country classic, it served as an excellent showcase for the smoky vocals and storytelling abilities that have made America fall in love with. (Well, some of America, at least.)
ALEJANDRO ARANDA (Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “No Woman, No Cry”) | Ironically, I feel like the energy of Sunday’s show didn’t really pick up until Aranda’s sleepy, soulful performance of this reggae jam. I normally get annoyed when the judges have little to no criticism for the contestants, but in Aranda’s case, what could you possibly tell him to do differently? I’ve been hopelessly under his spell all season, and my infatuation continues.
LAINE HARDY (The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See”) | If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching Hardy’s performances this season — including this first song tonight — it’s that you can’t force charisma out of a performer. Hardy’s got the talent, he’s got the teeth and he’s got the merchandise… but he just doesn’t have the excitement. I’m so sick of the judges telling him to give us more “attitude.” He. Doesn’t. Have. Any.
MADISON VANDENBURG (Pink’s “What About Us?”) | At this point, you pretty much know exactly what you’re going to get out of a VanDenburg performance: high energy, impressive vocals and an overall professional attitude — all of which came through in her delivery of this Pink ballad. Most importantly, VanDenburg is still listening to the judges’ (admittedly tepid) critiques and growing as a performer week after week. Brava.
Narrowing the scope a bit, the second round of performances on Sunday were plucked from the Elton John songbook, following a special video message from the legend himself.
WADE COTA (Elton John’s “Rocket Man”) | Maybe it’s those Mother’s Day mimosas talking, but was this performance… sexy? I think so. It was certainly a welcome departure from the same old song and dance we’re used to getting from Cota. There was something unexpectedly sultry about his interpretation of the song, and I dug it quite a bit. (That said, I agreed with Luke Bryan when he told Cota that he should have kept the glasses on the whole time.)
LACI KAYE BOOTH (Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”) | Here’s the thing… I love Booth, and I like this song, but I wasn’t a huge fan of this performance. She powered through it, but she never owned it. I agree with Bryan that Booth livened up the crowd, but I was kind of shocked when Perry called her a pop star and encouraged more performances like this one in the future.
ALEJANDRO ARANDA (Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word”) | What does Aranda have to do to make us love him? After that performance, absolutely nothing. His versatility never ceases to impress me, and I feel like he revealed yet another one of his infinite sides with this stunning piano ballad. I also always appreciate the thoughtfully blank expression on his face when he listens to the judges’ critiques. Talented and humble.
MADISON VANDENBURG (Elton John’s “Your Song”) | Did Perry forget to have dinner before filming this episode? That metaphor about how VanDenburg “brought the ketchup and the mustard … and maybe some Thousand Island” was bonkers — almost as bonkers as VanDenburg’s performance of this song, which absolutely blew me away.
LAINE HARDY (Elton John’s “Something About the Way You Look Tonight”) | First of all, kudos to Idol‘s wardrobe department for putting Hardy in that slammin’ silver suit. He may not have exhibited the “attitude” the judges asked for earlier in the episode, but at least he dressed the part. (In other news, I’m questioning my value as a human being after seeing those $4,000 shoes.)
Sunday’s third and final round found our finalists singing songs inspired by their personal heroes:
WADE COTA (Kiss’ “Hard Luck Woman”) | Holy emotional gut punch! It may have been buoyed by that beautiful tribute to his stepfather, but there was something undeniably powerful about Cota’s final performance tonight. I’ve always been a fan of his growl, but I felt privileged to witness the raw intensity he exuded with every note.
LACI KAYE BOOTH (Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”) | This. Was. Stunning. I didn’t think it was possible to relate to Perry more than when she dressed up like a cheeseburger at the Met Gala… but then I saw her cry during this performance, and in that moment, we were all Perry. America may not have voted her through last week, but Booth is a star, votes be damned.
MADISON VANDENBURG (Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love”) | Another beautiful ballad? OK, I could really get used to this. There was no doubt in my mind that this killer performance would secure VanDenburg’s spot in next week’s finale.
LAINE HARDY (The Beatles’ “Hey Jude”) | I’m not sure we need to start throwing words like “snack” around, but this was definitely my favorite performance of Hardy’s tonight. Not only did it have a hint of “attitude,” but it showed off his range nicely. (Side note: I’m starting to think Lionel Richie was secretly replaced with a robot that only speaks two phrases: “You took that from my closet!” and “Vote, America!” If anyone can prove otherwise, please do.)
ALEJANDRO ARANDA (“Blesser”) | After those first two performances, I was wondering what Aranda could possibly have up his sleeve to top himself at the end of the show… and then he pulled out “Blesser,” yet another studio-ready original song. The talent that effortlessly flows out of this human is beyond words.
OK, time for the results! After America’s vote, the following singers were put through to the season finale: Laine Hardy, Madison VanDenburg and Alejandro Aranda. That meant, sadly, it’s the end of the road for Laci Kaye Booth (again) and Wade Cota.
Video of tonight’s performances will be added when they become available. In the meantime, vote for your favorite performances below and drop a comment with your thoughts on Booth and Cota’s eliminations.
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