Sunday, May 12, 2019

American Idol Top 3

For this Mothers' Day episode, I spent some time with the family watching the show live. During the commercials, we watched the first place Chicago Cubs extend their division lead and I tried to keep up with Game 7 of the Eastern Conference NBA playoff game, although I missed the buzzer beating shot. For Philly fans, Kahwi Leonard must feel like the new Joe Carter after this visit to Toronto.  Now, I am back home and will attempt to recreate my thoughts about the episode and the Idol landscape moving forward into next week's finale. At least I will not be running into any spoilers this week.

This week, the Final Five sang three songs each, although the performances felt truncated in the first round. To start things off, Idol mentor Bobby Bones made the choices.

1.  Wade Cota- "You Are The Best Thing"

After having said he was initially reluctant to sing another Ray Lamontagne song, Wade came away feeling good about this choice. I think he had a pretty strong performance. There may not have been any "wow" moments, but it suited his voice nicely and you can never saw that Wade is not committed to his performances on stage.

2. Laci Kay Booth- "The House That Built Me"

She is a very likable person but I cannot help but thinking that her voice is not American Idol worthy. This country ballad was something considered in her wheelhouse, but to me it was a bit boring and her vocal defects were on display. Laci was lucky to be saved last week over Jeremiah. The Idol Powers That Be were either thinking she was more marketable than JLH or they wanted to not just have one female and four males. My mother was very disappointed that Jeremiah was cut and this week would wind up agreeing with me again on most of these performances.

3. Alejandro Aranda- "No Woman No Cry"

Nonetheless, my mother just does not understand Alejandro at all and is not approving of him still being around. Of course, I am somewhat of that same mindset, but being a bit younger at least can see another perspective. I actually think this may have been AA's best vocal. This Bob Marley reggae tune seemed to fit his voice and at least he actually sang it regularly instead of in all falsetto.

4. Laine Hardy- "Can't You See"

On this Mother's Day, my mother made it very clear that she thinks Laine is "cute" and that she would like to "adopt" him.  I did not want to tell her that the combination of those two things would probably raise a red flag to adoption authorities, but I guess she can read that here.

I have been hoping Laine would do something a little less "partyish" or straight out of the oldies book and instead do something with more emotional substance to it. This was a bit more in that direction, although the song was still midtempo and he still played the electric guitar. Somehow though, there was no jacket. Vocally, Laine sounded pretty good as usual. In some ways, his voice is like Wade's, but being nearly a decade younger, not as pained sounding.

5. Madison VanDenburg- "What About Us"

Pink (or is it P!nk now?) is a good choice for Madison, although I think there are better Pink songs to sing. I was thinking Alyssa did this song this season already, but it looks like that was back in Hollywood. While perhaps not a perfect vocal, Madison still proved her talent is undeniable and more than did justice to this cover.


5. Laci Kay Booth
4. Alejandro Aranda
3. Wade Cota
2.  Laine Hardy
1. Madison VanDenBurg

Next, it was time for songs from the Elton John (and Bernie Taupin) songbook. I was sincerely hoping that Laine would not choose to sing "Crocodile Rock."

1. Wade Cota- "Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long, Long Time)"

I had no idea this song required the official extra-lengthy title. What is the point of that?  Wade missed out on appealing to many in the pro-Trump Idol viewing audience by not dedicating this performance to Kim Jung Un.

Vocally, I thought Wade was once again pretty solid, but I thought it was a bit dumb in an Eddie Island sort of way to have Elton John glasses on for parts of the performance. It was feeling like a strong night for Wade, perhaps due to increased confidence or a planned strategy of holding less back towards the end.

2. Laci Kay Booth- "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting"

Credit has to go to Laci for attempting something different and bold for her. She has shown a willingness to do this on occasion. I suppose covering "The Bitch is Back" might have been a step to far though.

This performance was definitely not boring, and country elements were added to the arrangement, but the vocals were lacking. She tried to show versatility, which is a good thing, but this is not a style of singing she can readily pull off.

3. Alejandro Aranda- "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word"

It definitely is for some politicians. This was perhaps the best possible Elton John choice for Alejandro though. I believe he played piano, a la Sir Elton, and managed to sound pretty good. It could be that he is also increasing in confidence the longer the competition goes on.

4. Madison VanDenburg- "Your Song"

For one thing, I do not believe I have ever heard a female sing this particular song, so it seemed a bit different to hear it sang as high as it was. I really liked what Madison did with it though. I seem to recall some vocal gymnastics at the end, which probably was suited. There's not really much else I can say, except she continues to be amazingly consistent. I still wonder what Kelly Clarkson thinks of Madison.

5. Laine Hardy- "Something About The Way You Look Tonight"

No guitar here if I recall correctly. That is a good move. Laine was dressed like Elvis Presley meets a wrapped baked potato. Vocally, it was good, although I did detect that he might have been a bit tentative. Clearly, this was nothing to cause Laine to lose any fans, but I think he might have had more of a "moment" if he sang, "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues."

Rankings- second round, same as the first:

5. Laci Kay Booth
4. Alejandro Aranda
3. Wade Cota
2. Laine Hardy
1. Madison VanDenburg

Last season, at this point in the competition, also on Mothers' Day, all the remaining five dedicated songs to their Moms and we saw video packages of them sitting with their maternal units tearfully reading emotional letters. This year, was a bit different, in which they could dedicate a song to anyone. We have "met" all their mothers already, except for Alejandro. His parents have never been mentioned in any way and the only relative we have seen is his heavily tattooed nephew. I think Alejandro is the reason they broadened the scope of the dedication thing.

1. Wade Cota- "Hard Luck Woman"

Wade went first all three rounds and Laci will have gone second all three round. Ok, then why did the other three kids have their order changed up for all three rounds?

Early on in the auditions, we learned about the story of Wade and his family being physically abused by his father and then having to escape him. What was not mentioned is that he has a step-father who is very close with and whom he considers his real father. It was a pretty emotional package showing Wade with his mother and step-father, whom we also learned a few weeks back was having serious health problems.

I had no idea this particular Kiss song ever existed. When they said he would be covering Kiss, I wondered for a second if he would attempt "Forever" which would have been incredibly interesting. For some reason though this worked. To me, this was easily Wade's best night, although he was clearly at risk of being eliminated.

2. Laci Kay Booth- "Dreams"

Her dedication was to her grandmother, who might be nearly as close in age to me as I am to Laci. This was probably the best possible kind of song for Laci. She can at least be credible in pulling off the Stevie Nicks sort of thing (although Stevie is already on record endorsing Alejandro and believing he will change the world.)

Based on her past performances, I liked what Laci did here. It does not change the fact that her voice is her voice.

3. Madison VanDenburg- "Make You Feel My Love"

I do not associate this song with Bob Dylan. It was interesting seeing Madison talk about her relationship with her mother. It seems like there might be a bit of a backstory there and that her mother Denine might have lived an interesting life. Her mom looks like she is totally out of the 1980's, with huge blonde hair. If Madison is trying to sound like Kelly Clarkson, it seems like her mother is trying to look like Lita Ford. I wonder if she ever wanted to be a singer herself.

While my mother, who also ranked Madison as the best of the evening said there were some "pitchy" notes, I once again felt that the young performer accomplished her goal once again. I always find her very impressive vocally and do not think she has made any sort of major misstep in this competition whatsoever.  I was wondering though if Madison might actually be at risk of being eliminated tonight because of emotional moments already had by Wade and Laci.

4. Laine Hardy- "Hey Jude"

When they said he would be doing a "Beatles anthem", I knew it would be this song. He dedicated this song to his older brother (and I cannot help but wonder if they come from the same mother).

It is tough to abbreviate "Hey Jude" into 90 seconds, as we have seen in past Idol seasons. The performances are still usually highly praised though and this would be no different. Wade showed off his strong vocal skills and then his performance talent in getting the audience involved as well. He is definitely playing a strong Idol game, but if he was going to do the Beatles and wanted even more focus on his voice, he maybe should have tried "Let It Be."

5. Alejandro Aranda- "Blesser"

A third original for Alejandro.  He is probably going to have a least one more next week. He is steadily rising in the "original performer" database on the "What Not To Sing" website.

Here, we saw Alejandro talking to a musical mentor named Twin Shadows or something whom he apparently only met a couple years ago. I do not know what the situation with his parents might be or if he was told to not have his family around the cameras, because they do not speak English or something like that. Will some assume they are illegal? I get the impression that Alejandro has lived in the U.S. for many years, if he was not born here, and I have no idea actually where he was born.  As mentioned, the blue states seem all in on Alejandro while I detect a lot of dislike among older viewers in the "heartland"

He sounded vocally competent enough on this song I suppose, although I thought it was weird that it seemed to have a classical piano theme of sorts to it. Like his other originals, after a few seconds, I wound up finding it a bit boring and underwhelming. Nonetheless, he is the most "current" out of all these kids. I want the best singer to win though, not who is most musically "woke."

Rankings for Round Three:

5. Alejandro Aranda
4. Laci Kay Booth
3. Wade Cota
2. Laine Hardy
1. Madison VanDenburg

My only alteration was flip flipping Alejandro and Laci for the final round.

Composite rankings:

5. Laci Kay Booth
4. Alejandro Aranda
3. Wade Cota
2. Laine Hardy
1. Madison VanDenBurg

Who should have been eliminated: Laci Kay Booth and Alejandro Aranda

Now, during the final commercial, I had to officially "predict."  I was seriously a bit concerned for Madison here. After all, Jeremiah getting cut last week really surprised me, although perhaps it should not have.

Who I predicted would be eliminated: Laci Kay Booth and Wade Cota

I can confirm that my mother agreed with me both on who should be cut and who would be cut. She thought there is no way Madison would be lost this week and expressed her belief that Madison will win the show.

Who was eliminated: Laci Kay Booth and Wade Cota

Ok then, at least I called it. I think Wade had a strong night and Laci had some positives on the evening as well. I also think Alejandro has gotten a bit better the past few weeks and that Madison and Laine are consistent as it comes.

Alejandro is current and I will have no interest in anything he does after the show. I can envision Madison singing and in fact competing with Kelly Clarkson for the same kind of songs. As for Laine, the kind of music he is mostly doing on Idol may be popular with the viewers, but he is never going to put out an album of originals that sound anything like his party-time oldies vibe. So, he is either going to have to go in a more genuine direction towards the kind of music he was doing at home, or he can get an act in Vegas, just like Taylor Hicks once did. We already know Laine's flashy jacket game is strong.

Next weeks' Finale should be interesting. We will see "Homecoming Visits"  I will rank the performances when the time comes. I wish it was the traditional format though of there being just a final two, but the last few years have seen three make it to Finale night. Last year, on the first season of ABC, all three sang on Sunday, and then one was cut on Monday night about halfway through.

I am thinking is quite possible Alejandro will win now, although I will almost certainly not want him to. That is a distinct possibility though if Madison and Laine are splitting the "red states" and older voters. In some ways, it would be most similar to last year's Maddie Poppe surprise victory.

Other outcomes are possible to. Madison can win, as the last remaining girl, if the female/cougar vote is split two ways. Last year's perceived frontrunner Gabby Barrett had to share votes both with another female and another country performer.  Madison might at least have a bit of an advantage as compared to that. I expect to find that she will be the strongest vocally yet again, with Laine in second.

As of now, I think Laine is probably still slightly the most likely to win, being a guitar playing (mostly white) dude from the South. He is perhaps in the role that runner-up Caleb Lee Hutchinson was in last year, although I think more Idol female fans want to marry and/or "adopt" Laine than they felt about Caleb last year. Also, I would be shocked if we find out on the finale that Laine and Alejandro have been secretly dating for months.


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