When it comes to singing duets, some do it better than others. That was clear enough on "American Idol" this week, a show in which the top eight were divvied into pairs to perform and then stepped out individually to sing solos ahead of another double elimination.
The elimination worked the same way it did last week: The singers who had received the greatest number of viewers' votes were summoned to sing, until only three remained – those who had received the fewest number of votes. Then those three performed, and the judges chose one of them to offer the final spot in the top six, sending the other two home.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: Saying farewell to the competition show that changed television
Ultimately, we bid goodbye to Avalon Young, a gifted performer whom the judges had rescued from the bottom three last week, and Lee Jean, a sweet-faced teen who was starting to seem a bit out of his depth. Sonika Vaid, whose vocal tone and pitch are lovely but who has a vacant look in her eyes and a rather blank look on her face when she performs, was saved to sing another week.
But not before the following performances went down:
La'Porsha Renae and Trent Harmon, who are both starting to look like front-runners, teamed up on Wiz Khalifa's "See You Again," singing the rapped parts and blending well vocally. The judges agreed that it was a perfect start to the show. Jennifer Lopez called it "magical."
Avalon Young and Sonika Vaid, who are roommates, we learned, helped up each other's games when paired on Andra Day's "Rise Up." "Your voices are both so angelic, and together it was like you were pushing each other to be better in the moment," Lopez said, adding, however, that she would have liked to see them physically embrace the music a bit more.
Dalton Rapattoni and MacKenzie Bourg, whom the show regards as its two heartthrobs, were saddled with the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way," and then ripped by the judges for a choice that was probably not even theirs. "It's a fine song, but not for you, not tonight, not for 'American Idol,'" Harry Connick Jr. said. "It seemed like the right song, but it wasn't the right song, and once you started singing that, you guys should have recognized that," Lopez said. "So you didn't want it that way," Keith Urban quipped.
Tristan McIntosh and Lee Jean, two cute teens, kind of missed the mark, too, with Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," but the judges didn't blame them. Urban told them they'd done as well as they could have with the song. Lopez thought their performances "could have been a little stronger." And Connick called the rendition "nothing special" and "very boring and very bland," but blamed the arrangement "100%" for that.
Renae continued to establish herself as the one to beat with her take on the Beatles' "Come Together," confidently striding around in a leather outfit and prompting Lopez to admire the way she gives us "full diva" every time she performs.
Bourg did a beautiful job emoting his way through Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful." Connick told him that he had picked a perfect song and done a great job with it. "No matter to whom you were singing, I felt that you were really connected to it and ultimately for me that's all that counts," he said. Urban added that he'd taken an old song and "made it sound brand new."
Harmon turned in a stylish, somewhat stylized version of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me," which Urban felt showed how much he had grown – in terms of his look, manner of dress and movement – though he advised him not to "lean too heavily" on those choices. Lopez said the performance had given her "goosies."
McIntosh did the proud grandpa who has encouraged her even prouder with her soaring performance of Martina McBride's "A Broken Wing." Lopez said McIntosh had a voice that was "perfectly suited" for country music, though she noted a little glitch, and called it a "really, really good job." Urban got emotional about McIntosh's sweet grandpa, saying his own father – who died just a few months ago -- had similarly encouraged him to embrace country music.
Rapattoni sang the second Beatles song of the night (there would be three, in all), "Eleanor Rigby," bringing it his usual theatrical flare on a set awash with fog. Urban said Rapattoni had highlighted the song's "dark undercurrent," adding that "like a good waffle iron," he had "made an impression."
And then the bottom three sang: Young did her usual easy-breezy thing with Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)," leaving the judges to wonder why she hadn't managed to connect with viewers at home. Jean gave an emotional, yet shaky performance of the Beatles' "Let It Be"; the judges told him he was talented, but had to work on pitch. Vaid gave a vocally solid, if emotionally lacking performance of Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing," about which the judges had nothing bad to say, although Urban did advise Vaid to "release and let go" a bit more.
Vaid will have the opportunity to take Urban's advice next week, as the judges offered her the final seat in the top six. Sad to see Young and Jean go, but the "Idol" Farewell Season train must continue its steady roll to its inevitable final stop.
Chugga-chugga, chugga-chugga …