This week’s trashy theme was Most-Performed Songs From Past Seasons, a brutal reminder of how far the quality of Aerosmith covers has fallen, and a wonderful chance to force contestants into time-hogging duets no one wanted — or even understood — how to do. Case in point: Dalton Rapattoni and MacKenzie Bourg’s tired, paint-by-numbers rendition of the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way,” after which Harry Connick Jr. badgered them to explain what exactly they’d just been singing about. “I don’t know if you guys have studied lyrics, but… like, what does that mean?” They couldn’t win! Those guys were phoning in that performance and that song doesn’t make sense! In a similar lose-lose situation, viewers had no choice but to stare agape at Jennifer Lopez’s confounding Barbie dominatrix costume, basically a shiny bra with an exaggerated bib. Overalls? Booberalls. Was she dressed as a sex toy or a baby? Do we really want to know? Those distractions somewhat helped numb the pain, but it’s so sad to see Idol burning off so quickly, ushering contestants from the stage two by two before we really get to know them. Production could have done so much more with the final season, but obviously no one cares. Well, no one except the crafty intro packaging editor, who stamped the top eight with three easy signifiers in HUGE TEXT to help us remember exactly who we should think these kids are. So this week, we bid farewell to the darling Ms. Sneakerhead, Hustle, R&B Jamz (21-year-old Avalon Young) and Mr. Baby Face, Skateboarding, Vertically Challenged (16-year-old Lee Jean). Sonika Vaid joined them in the bottom three, but was saved by her sparkle. Here’s how the top six ranked, from nothing to no way:
Family, Medicine, Indian (Sonika Vaid): Not too long ago, the 20-year-old academic broke the silence during a road trip and insisted with all her church-mouse might, “Mommy, I wanna sing!” And now look at her, draped in a glittery blue evening gown, belting the most exhausted song in Idol history in a competition that doesn’t even give a shit anymore. Truly, anything is possible. Girl was so shaken by her placement in the bottom three, it’s no wonder Sonika wavered througout Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the band had to pick up the pace against her will. After all, this is live TV, and a zoom-in of the judges conferring to determine who’d get their precious save at the end was much more important than a finalist getting the chance to catch her breath.
Country, Bookworm, Mama’s Girl (Tristan McIntosh): The super-emotional package about her dying grandfather had me in tears, but I’m pretty sure that’s the only reason this paper doll’s performance resonated whatsoever. After she hit most of the notes on Martina McBride’s “A Broken Wing,” the judges came to the same important consensus they’ve arrived at every week: Tristan is a country singer. Then Professor Connick Jr. badgered the poor 15-year-old to decipher what really happens at the end of the second verse — “to the girl, in the story, when she leaves a note and the curtains are blowing?” Um… “I think she just kind of left the whole situation…” Tristan trailed off, basically describing Idol’s “dip it in the trash like a flaming pair of booberalls” approach to the farewell season. Harry had to corroborate: “She couldn’t deal with it anymore. Yeah, nice job.”
Neurotic, Eyeliner, Black Sheep (Dalton Rapattoni): This guy thinks he’s Chris Martin, but he also thinks he’s punk rock? You know what, though? Chris Martin probably thinks that, too. Maybe Chris Martin doesn’t even know Chris Martin. None of this makes sense, and normally I’d say it’s difficult trying to keep up with the latest iteration of Dalton’s contrived personality. But this week’s hard-rocking rendition of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” was a spectacle for sore eyes. His voice is still nothing special, but there was tons of blue smoke, and he was all-out vamping the whole time…in a cardigan…I don’t know. It was funny. Or maybe the rest of the show was so boring that I was willing to pretend? Let’s not overthink this. “Like a good waffle iron, you made an impression,” Keith Urban said. Mmm. Waffles.
Athletic, Four Eyes, Songwriter (MacKenzie Bourg): “If it had a ball, he was gonna compete,” MacKenzie’s dad said. And in that spirit, the wispy 23-year-old launched into a dreamy cover of Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful,” that dirge-like Idol mainstay that’s been batted around for years. MacKenzie gave it his typical “soft diminishment” treatment and didn’t do anything new with the song, but at least it was in tune and totally pleasant. He uttered the sweetest little sigh of relief at the end, and I got crushed all over again at how stressful this whole “You’re safe, NOW SING!” episode structure is. “We really feel like you’re singing to us,” said J.Lo, confirming that MacKenzie’s master plan of showing up must have worked. Whew! Mississippi, Farm Boy, Soul (Trent Harmon): Trent kicked up the lyrical wrenching big time on Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me,” opting for “crahhhh-ahh-ha-hah” instead of “cry,” and adding an “Oh wow wow wow wow, reach out your little hand!” just for the hell of it. I’m not mad at that; I always appreciate a spectacle in the face of so much grey. Speaking of which, it’s getting difficult to suss out Trent’s true identity as a colorful Mississippi mudslide due to his recent string of spiffy suits and zero hats — and the judges can no longer tolerate such blatant sophistication. J.Lo demands more scarves! Fix it, farm boy. Pretend you’re a horse.
Strength, Mother, Southern (La Porsha Renae): Her booty-wiggling stomp-along of The Beatles’ “Come Together” was thoroughly convincing in a “WTF just happened?!” sort of way, which, again, is pretty much all we can hope for as we near the end of The Great American Idol Burnoff. Even Harry understood what the lyrics meant after they streamed out of La Porsha’s magical, trembling mouth, and everyone knows those lyrics are nonsense! To be fair, she did not hit all of those notes, not even close, but I have to keep putting her first based on vocal horsepower alone. “Diva!” yelped J.Lo in appreciation of her own kind. She felt cooler just from watching La Porsha. Well, either that or there was a draft, and she’d been sitting there in her underwear. Either or. See you next week for More Songs We Dug Out of the Gutter!