Every year, the judges and guest stars and everyone else on American Idol claim the current crop of contestants is the strongest ever. It's the sort of statement that is hard to believe, no matter how great a group may be. But in the show's farewell season, which was narrowed down from eight to six singers on Thursday night (March 10), calling this group unbelievably strong may just be accurate.
The final fat from this competition was finally trimmed this week. After the outrage of Olivia Rox being sent home over Avalon Young last week, Avalon and Lee "Ed Sheeran" Jean were finally edged out, making the way for an top six that is so solid, it's hard to decipher who was the best.
Because, really, at the end of the day, all these performers are much improved from week one (let alone their auditions) and all of these performers could have a shot at winning. Some people have more hype surrounding them or a more dedicated fanbase. But, each singer has their strengths. Could you honestly be mad at Tristan McIntosh or Trent Harmon or La'Porsha Renae taking home the final Idol title? Really, any of these singers could have a major path to success in front of them.
But, it's my job to try and rank these performances. So, let's try...
06. Tristan McIntosh, "A Broken Wing": Tristan McIntosh auditioned strong and then sort of continually fell flat week after week, presumably getting the country voting block pushing her along. But, last week with her performance of "Go Rest High on That Mountain," something finally clicked. Her country tone is becoming more pronounced, she's connecting more with the lyrics of a song and starting to break out as a potential force to be reckoned with. Tristan continued that momentum with this Martina McBride song, sounded clearer and more classic country than ever before. Though she still has some major issues with her range (which failed her at the end with a major blown note), when she's in her comfort zone, she's a really strong singer.
05. MacKenzie Bourg, "You Are So Beautiful": This is the first time that we've seen MacKenzie Bourg play without his guitar in a solo performance, and while that was a refreshing thing to view, he definitely seemed to lack a little bit of stage presence without it. His cover of the heartfelt classic Joe Cocker track "You Are So Beautiful" helped to solidify his stance as this season's sweet heartthrob (the dangerous cutie title goes to Dalton Rapattoni), especially as he truly connected to the lyrics. Vocally, this song is incredibly repetitive, so it doesn't make for the most interesting performance. MacKenzie did what he could with this track and he sounded just as beautiful as the object of affection in these lyrics, but in a night of big performances, this tender take got a little swept to the side.
**04. Sonika Vaid, "I Have Nothing": When Sonika Vaid was announced to be in the bottom three against Lee Jean and Avalon Young (for the second week), it was always pretty clear who deserved to stay in this competition... and that was Sonika. She had to step up her game, because the judges love Avalon for some reason, but she did it by taking on this notoriously difficult Whitney Houston single. Though there's still a little bit of an amateur side to her voice (especially when compared to the likes of Trent and La'Porsha), Sonika's range and raw tone cannot (and should not) be denied. That was on display here. While this bold song choice led to a few moments that could have packed more punch in theory than they did in final execution, Sonika sang for her life and career and definitively proved why she deserves to be in the top 6.
03. Trent Harmon, "Stand By Me": Frontrunners like La'Porsha and Dalton should be really, really scared of Trent Harmon. With each week, this good Southern boy grows as a singer and tweaks his performances to become a real seasoned stage presence. Long gone are those goofy (although very passionate) faces. Instead, Trent has swapped those exaggerations for more subtle nuances, and they're only making him more engaging to see on screen. His vocals for this Ben E King classic "Stand By Me" fit in with this newfound ease on stage. He was calm, collected, engaging and in total control of his tone and range, which continue to be unique and mind-blowing. Trent is the kind of singer who has fared really well on Idol in recent years (think season 14 runner-up Clark Beckham), so don't be surprised to see him in the finale.
02. Dalton Rapattoni, "Eleanor Rigby": Dalton Rapattoni may get appearance comparisons (rightfully so) to 5 Seconds of Summer's Michael Clifford, but something about the dramatics of this thrashing, string-filled arrangement of the Beatles' "Elenor Rigby" was very Panic! at the Disco. After stumbling last week when tackling Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" straight on, Dalton went back to his unique arrangements, adding some pop-punk theatrics to this already intense track. As Keith Urban noted, Dalton brought out the brooding darkness that lies within these lyrics and amplified it to 11. Though he sometimes clipped notes before their natural ending, Dalton's boldness culminated in a scream ending that leaves the sort of impression one needs in a competition this fierce.
01. La'Porsha Renae, "Come Together": La'Porsha Renae may have established herself as the kind of diva who can nail a ballad (look at her tear-inducing performances of "Halo" and "Diamonds"), but she's not looking to pigeonhole herself. La'Porsha was one of three contestants to take on a Beatles song this week, and she opened the show with a foxy take on this bold classic. As she is wont to do, La'Porsha injected so much soul and confidence in to this song, far exceeding her 24 years in age. Jennifer Lopez said that La'Porsha makes everyone watching her performances feel cooler by proxy, and she's not totally wrong. It's boring to consistently rate La'Porsha at the top of the pack, but damn, she's an unbridled performer and an unmatchable talent.