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'American Idol' Season 15 Recap/Review: Top 8 Performances, Ranked (And Two Go Home)

by Carolyn Menyes   Mar 3, 2016 22:15 PM EST

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And then it was down to eight. American Idol's truncated 15th season has led to double eliminations, narrowing the field from 10 to eight, which felt particularly rough on Thursday night (March 3) when an early favorite was sent home.

The way the elimination worked was like this: the top seven as voted by America get through to next week just like that. The bottom three (this week, Olivia Rox, Avalon Young and Gianna Isabella) perform and one is saved by the judges. After performing "Trouble," "Earned It" and "If I Ain't Got You" (respectively), judge favorite Avalon was saved after giving her best performance of the season.

Gianna's departure was not (and should not have been) a surprise, but seeing pop rocker Olivia, who has a range like whoa, go home so soon was pretty shocking, especially after she offered up a performance better than some of those who stuck around for the next week. If there was only one elimination (as per Idol's usual schedule) or the choice was 100 percent America's, I can't help but feel like she would be safe.

But, that's not to fault Avalon - her performance was one of the better of the night.

But, before that whole drama unfolded, there had to be a full show. Between performances from the America-voted top seven, judge Harry Connick Jr. performed his new single "I Do (Like We Do" and Demi Lovato popped up to offer up some "Stone Cold."

But, how did the top eight show up? Check out our ranking below:

08. Lee Jean, "Use Somebody": If performing Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody" is out of your comfort zone when you're an acoustic rocker, well, maybe you don't have much range. That has been a problem for Lee "Ed Sheeran" Jean, so this week he's moved a little bit out of his comfort zone. This was the most I've liked Lee so far this season - he did some really interesting moves with his voice, and it was refreshing to see him do something beyond singer-songwriter. But, "Use Somebody" is a huge rock ballad, and Lee sounded and looked more like a kid playing rock star than an actual frontman. He's just young.

07. Sonika Vaid, "Since U Been Gone": Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" is not only a Grammy winner, but it's one of the most popular karaoke songs of all time. So, Sonika Vaid took it on. After fully losing herself and slaying "Bring Me to Life" last week, Sonika couldn't quite get there with this. Vocally, she slayed this notoriously difficult to sing song, but she couldn't connect to the passion, anger and freedom that "Since U Been Gone" expresses. But she just couldn't lose herself, and she needs to. A great voice will get you far in this competition, but it won't let you win.

06. MacKenzie Bourg, "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)": Like a lot of the song choices tonight, Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" is pretty played out, but at least MacKenzie Bourg didn't play it straight. He gave it a little acoustic makeover, injecting his own personality into this pop classic. The judges wished he took the arrangement a little farther a la Dalton, but this was just enough for me. Vocally, he was solid, doing nothing particularly memorable (for good or for bad), which is a downgrade from his last two performances, which were notable.

05. Dalton Rapattoni, "Radioactive": Did you know that before American Idol, Dalton Rapattoni was in boy band IM5? Despite his pop-filled past, Dalton has always managed to make himself unique, and he's never sounded like a boy band singer... until this. Though Dalton has done best in this competition by totally rearranging songs and morphing them into something new, he took Imagine Dragon' "Radioactive," which is already an Idol staple from Hollywood Week, and peformed it totally straight. His voice somehow sounded more poppy than ever before and the music behind him was overwhelming. He nailed all the notes and sounded fine (albeit a little whiney) but for a contestant who has always been an outsider, this was an oddly inside performance.

04. ***Avalon Young, "Earned It": Avalon Young chose a cool R&B song by a modern day male. Surprise! But, this week she was able to show off more of her range with the recent Grammy winner "Earned It" by The Weeknd. While looking cool as ever sitting on a stool, Avalon was able to show off her high range, falsetto and vibrato - things that have been slightly more hidden in past song choices. It was very on #brand and very pretty, but does Avalon have the chops and charisma to by the final Idol? Eh...

03. Tristan McIntosh, "Go Rest High on that Mountain": Tristan McIntosh has definitely faltered a little bit over the last few weeks, so it was surprising to learn that she made it into the top eight via America's votes over more talented performers like Avalon Young and Olivia Rox. But, in her performance of the country/gospel song "Go Rest High on that Mountain," she reminded viewers why she's on this show in the first place. Sitting behind the piano, she gave this song a pretty, simple makeover and actually shined for once as a country artist.

02. Trent Harmon, "When a Man Loves a Woman": Trent Harmon's whole package is so unique. From his voice to his facial expressions, it is 100 percent original. So, yes, they're a little goofy, but why try and tone back the facial expressions? They're earnest and passionate and endearing. Ignore the haters, Trent, you do you. Visuals aside (which were lessened this week, resulting in a slightly stiffened performance), Trent gave this Percy Sledge classic its dues, with a connection that many in this competition fail to reach.

01. La'Porsha Renae, "Halo": The first four performances of Idol were only so-so, so it was really refreshing when queen La'Porsha Renae took the stage to rescue us from monotony. She took on Beyonce's "Halo," which could have been a tall order for a lesser contestant, but she gave this song its fair due. Despite a new hair color, La'Porsha is fully comfortable on stage and on TV, and she gave some nice ol' winks at the TV audience to just ham it up a little bit. Like La'Porsha (and Beyonce), this was flawless. The critique that she is the one to beat is not underrated.

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