American Idol Season 15, Episode 21 Recap: Then There Were Three

Photo: Michael Becker/FOX.
If you’re just tuning in, American Idol is over forever next week and there are just three hopefuls left! Still in the ring to win the heart of J.Lo Nation are: strong woman La’Porsha Renae, R&B cowboy Trent Harmon, and guyliner expert Dalton Rapattoni. Tween heart surgery survivor MacKenzie Bourg was eliminated in round one, and not a moment too soon because I don’t think his wispy voice could’ve handled two more songs. I liked how he tried to announce his fate before the judges did — boy knows his place and it ain’t anywhere near Mama La’Porsha or Papa Trent, whose baby and puppy stole the show this week, respectively. (Sorry, Dalton, but decent word of mouth for your mom’s ketchup and grape jelly meatballs just can’t measure up to wriggling breathe-balls of vote-grabbing adorableness.)

Idol has been a brutal disappointment on nearly all fronts during this shortened Farewell Season, but at least they did the contestants right by the hometown hero visits, which have always prompted my ugliest cries of the calendar year and tided me over until at least September. This time around, everything seemed clipped, but what else did I expect? Dalton got his tips frosted at his grandmother’s salon in north Texas, while Trent humbly waited tables at his family’s small-town Mississippi restaurant. La’Porsha’s segment was the most powerful, as it was the only one that contained actual audio of her singing at her hometown concert. She also visited the women’s shelter she’d moved into a year ago to escape an abusive relationship and touched all of its hollow-eyed inhabitants with her angel vibes and we-can-all-do-this directives. “Seeing these women face to face just made me wanna go harder,” she wept. “I wanted us all to say ‘No More Drama’!”
Thursday’s show threw three rounds at us: songs dedicated to the top four’s hometowns, mentor Scott Borchetta’s choices, and the judges’ picks. I’ve tried to avoid mentioning Big Machine Records head honcho Borchetta, but he’s this big greasy monster who just oozes evil. It’s very obvious and upsetting and the camera pans to him constantly as if to say “Now does it make sense why we’re burning off this show?” Ugh. Yes. Anyway, he sacked La’Porsha, who’s bravely spoken out about her victimhood, with Lorraine Ellison’s “Stay With Me” — a song about a woman begging her no-good man to stay. Uh, hello? That is NOT how you go with the flow.

“It didn’t feel like you believed it wholeheartedly,” Harry Connick Jr. pointed out after La’Porsha acted her way through that performance because she’d been forced to. “Yeah, ‘cause I don’t,” she admitted. “The only person I would beg to stay with me is God.” Shots fired!

Will La’Porsha’s refreshing honesty in the face of mandated deviation from her values help or hurt her in terms of votes? Is Dalton gonna win this thing on the wings of social media alone?! Here’s how the Top 3 rank after tonight’s uneven performances:
3. DALTON RAPATTONI

Despite his spiky hair and vulnerability, the 20-year-old vocal teacher from north Texas is simply way out of his league here. Harry Connick Jr. said it best: “You’re a good singer in this competition with great singers.” All three judges kept trying to suggest Dalton makes up for this glaring deficit with his emotional connection to the lyrics, but that is Grade A face-saving crap in case the kid makes it to next week’s finale and they have to pretend he’s superlative in some way. His cover of Blue October’s “Calling You” was okay but forgettable, and then Dalton missed a golden opportunity to pull J.Lo up to the stage like Courteney Cox as he breathlessly covered Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark.” For his final act, he senselessly lowered the octave on the judges’ song choice, Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” and lurched around the floor singing directly into young girls’ ears as they barely reacted, then capped it all off with the least convincing “intentionally creepy” face I’ve ever seen on the dramatic final note. Give it up, guy! Nothing about you is dark!
2. TRENT HARMON

Things went downhill for the very superstitious Trent after a solid first round (Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey”), once his family disregarded his wishes to not show up in Hollywood until the finale and surprised him onstage a week early. Whatever, production was paying. Scott Borchetta then pretended he was bestowing the ultimate gift from heaven upon Trent, but it ended up being a crazy countrified mix of Justin Timberlake’s “Drink You Away” that made like the title and totally drowned out Trent’s vocals. He sang beautifully on the judges’ pick, Parson James’ “Waiting Game,” but don’t people usually need to have at least heard the song in order to be inspired to vote? Even Keith Urban didn’t know it. He heard it randomly in public and had a lackey Shazam it! Oh well. Perhaps the smattering of bonus votes he’ll receive thanks to the many loving zoom-ins on his super-hot blonde sister holding the family dog will make up for the meh song choices.
1. LA’PORSHA RENAE

La’Porsha followed a similar trajectory to Trent this week. Her ode to McComb, Mississippi, Common & John Legend’s “Glory,” was practically a coronation parade, complete with huge jewels in her braided up-do, marching band-esque drummers, and a built-to-last vocal explosion. "I feel like I just had a Baptism!” yelped judge Keith. J.Lo lunged at the chance to mention that she, too, is an inspirational artist. “We don’t cure cancer, but we heal the spirit, take you to a better place,” she explained to La’Porsha, who ran with the idea more elegantly and called for social change! “I had a bunch of officials tell me how much I brought the town together,” she reflected on her hometown hero visit. “I just wished they would come together on things like racism and, you know, us being different.” Ryan Seacrest assured her she had a platform for that now that she’s about to be crowned the winner of a dying reality show and ushered her off the stage.

“Stay With Me,” though well-sung, was a misguided blunder message-wise as mentioned above. Then for some reason (SABOTAGE?) the judges chose Adele’s “Hello” for La’Porsha’s third round. Hello! Of all the songs in the world, you had her try and belt the current hit by everyone’s favorite vocal goddess in the world right now? Not to give my girl the cold shoulder or anything, but La’Porsha didn’t come close to nailing that because no one really could. Rustled with vague intrigue that something had finally thrown the frontrunner off, the judges showered her with words made of knives. “It stretched your range a bit,” said Jennifer. “This is the cutest baby of all time!” said Harry, who’d been holding La’Porsha’s nugget and therefore incapacitated from offering much else.

Next week is the official end of the road for the sputtering 15-year production. There’s a retrospective special on Tuesday, the top three face-off on Wednesday, and America’s Last Top Idol will be announced Thursday. WHO! Will be eliminated next?

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