American Idol Season 15, Episode 20 Recap: Are They Titanium?

Photo: Ray Mickshaw/FOX.
Two weeks away from the series finale, Idol finally returned to what worked: mentors who actually give a crap. Stevie Van Zandt stopped by to suggest genius tweaks while hunched over on a stool, and singer-songwriter turned reluctant pop star Sia, who pretty much owns current radio, infused the Top 5 with all sorts of “Someone who matters believes in me!” goodness. She even performed her new single “Cheap Thrills” with three bouncy-ball dancers and a giant wig-topping bow to offset her lack of a face. Faces are so last season! What really matters now are ideas. Ideas and tears.

Mid-episode, we bid a blink-and-you’d-miss-it farewell to evening gown enthusiast Sonika Vaid, the only one without a sob story from last week. Beautiful voice you’ve got there, sweetie, but please endure a tragedy before returning to the spotlight in a few years. Maybe it’ll be more like a fluorescent tube in a campus library workspace, and that’s cool, too.

Here’s how the Top 4 ranked, from shattered glass to chandelier:
4. MacKenzie Bourg Despite Stevie Van Zandt’s kind proclamation (or maybe consolation prize?) that MacKenzie has “one of those original spirits” as a singer, the “real” judges kind of soured on the willowy wobbler this week. Keith Urban found MacKenzie’s rearrangement of Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me” middling and maudlin and would’ve preferred it completely stripped down, while Harry Connick Jr. thought the song needed its original double-time beat to energize it. The truth is that unless he’s nestled into the cozy pocket of his limited vocal range with his lucky guitar and no driving beat, MacKenzie is amateur hour bordering on clueless up there. Case in point: his “Titanium” cover, in which he attempted (at Sia’s suggestion) to hit the really high notes but they came out as whispered croaks.

3. Dalton Rapattoni The guylinered emo-monster originally wanted to try the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” for the classic rock round because he found it “empowering,” but Big Machine CEO Scott Borchetta, the creepy uncle type who’s always in the rehearsal studio just ruining everything, encouraged him to try something else. “Spirit In The Sky”? “Break On Through”? “Fortunate Son”? Impossible! Poor wittle Dalton didn’t know any of those. He put the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” in the back pocket of his tight ripped jeans and went with that one at the last minute. I found it incredibly awkward, specifically the verse where he plopped down right next to two teenage girls and sang to a nearby camera instead of them. But the judges loved that part! Jennifer Lopez sympathized with the terrible plight of the thwarted artist: “To have an idea in your head, when it’s so right, and it just does not work — that’s hard to let go of,” she said, possibly reminiscing about Gigli and/or “Louboutins.” The reason I ranked Dalton third instead of last is that his emotional breakthrough/breakdown during Sia’s “Bird Set Free,” although treacherous on the ears and eyes (those were fake tears!), is likely to resonate with viewers who love a vulnerable boy.

“I’d take an inspired attempt over a soulless perfection any day,” said Keith. Was that supposed to be a burn against MacKenzie? It doesn’t even matter, because anyone who’s still watching this mess knows the real competition is between the remaining two contestants…

2. La’Porsha Renae Uh oh! This was the first time the 22-year-old Mississippi call rep didn’t win the week hands-down, maybe because the judges can’t seem to find anything wrong with her anymore so where is the challenge? “Right now I feel like I’m not even doing my job anymore. I’m just watching you be amazing,” J. Lo fangirled out after La’Porsha was forced to saunter around the stage in a tragic trash bag jumpsuit. She covered the hell out of Sia’s “Elastic Heart” vocally, but the charismatic magic we’ve come to expect from the fiery Phoenix was lacking, perhaps hidden inside the jumpsuit. And come on, there’s no excuse for forgetting the lyrics this far into the season, even if the song is Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.” If a fierce black woman with all-new 15-hour dreads is gonna tell me she’s a cowboy, I need to believe she’s a cowboy! I want to believe! Normally La’Porsha can do anything, but this song choice was uninspired. Eh, whatever, the judges didn’t care. “Like, you could sing the phone book and it wouldn’t matter,” J. Lo lazily channeled Randy Jackson, the most useless Idol figurine ever. Sad squared.

1. Trent Harmon The group’s actual cowboy, however, is peaking two weeks before the whole pack’s planned obsolescence, or in other words right when it really counts. His range of visual presentation alone, from the spiffy suit and exaggerated not-quite-dance moves of ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” to the oversize jacket and standstill facial theatrics of Sia’s “Chandelier,” would have been enough to compel an audience. But fill those in with Trent’s perfect, wide-ranging vocals and keen understanding of what his lyrics actually mean and we’ve got a new front-runner on our hands just in time for next week’s hometown visits. (I’m so thrilled they’re following through on those, even though this Farewell Season overall feels like a bad joke. You do not mess with the tradition of haphazard local parades and weepy mayors declaring new town-wide holidays!)

Trent and La’Porsha can only beat each other at this point; the others come nowhere close to even orbiting their intimate planet. Only J. Lo and Keith can do that. Shhhhh. Harry is napping.
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