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On American Idol: Take Me Home Country Road

Tonight was another night of lasts on American Idol as the Top 4 traveled home to cheering fans, tearful parade routes, and football field concerts. This night makes me cry every year, no matter how I feel about the show or the judges or the drama. Seeing these contestants experience the outpouring of hometown support and reflect on their journey is one of the things I’ll miss most about Idol.

This was also the last night of performances and critiques from Stage 36 where Idol shoots the live shows. I don’t know if this is the same stage they have been on for 15 years but regardless, it’s sad to see Ryan talk about the moving trucks already lined up outside to move them to the Dolby Theater, knowing they won’t be back. I’ve said a lot of mean things about Idol, and I’ll say some more in a minute, but I’ll miss it a lot.

Tonight was broken up into three rounds. The first was hometown visits where, luckily, we got to follow all four contestants on the road. Suffice to say it was more of the same sappy stuff we see every year. Highlights for me were seeing Dalton’s Grandma again, with her beauty shop buddies, and watching her take care of his hair. Trent Harmon won the award for most matching t-shirts in his hometown. MacKenzie got to do all the sports things we’ve heard so much about. He got to play in an impromptu basketball game and throw out the first pitch at a baseball game. La’Porsha had probably the most emotional visit with a stop at Wings Domestic Violence Shelter where she encouraged women who were in situations that she got herself out of.

First round songs were chosen by the contestants as some sort of dedication to their hometown.

MacKenzie chose Hallelujah (and I don’t really believe he chose that song – for real). Again with the completely overdone Idol songs that I could never hear again and be fine. Aside from my disdain for the song choice, it is a song that is perfect for MacKenzie and he did probably the second best job of performing it on Idol. (Behind Jason Castro of course) Honestly, I don’t know why he dedicated this to his hometown other than maybe Idol didn’t have to pay for the rights because they practically own the song by now. Grade: B+

Grandma Nina(?) fixed Dalton’s hair up real good and he looked every bit his Green Day alter-ego Billie Joe Armstrong as he sang Calling You by Blue October. I’ve never heard of Blue October but they’re from Texas and were very inspirational to Dalton in dealing with his talent and his struggles with his bipolar disorder. I thought the song was typical Dalton, with a lot of stage coverage and an arrangement that felt too fast. It didn’t really live up to his show-stopper last week but it was entertaining. Grade: B

There were more blue “Team Trent” shirts in Armory, Mississippi than I’ve ever seen of any Idol in any hometown. They clearly love this guy in Armory. Trent hasn’t seen his family since the audition weeks so this was truly an emotional journey home for him. He chose Tennessee Whiskey for his hometown dedication and I can’t even begin to imagine why. This should have been a slam dunk for Trent but I felt like he was completely drowned out by the arrangement and the background singers and bad audio. The judges disagreed with me but that isn’t surprising. Keith said it was a bullseye. I give it a B+ final answer.

If La’Porsha didn’t have me with her amazing talent already, I would have joined #TeamLaPorsha tonight for her personality and inner musings alone. After seeing the support and rallying in her hometown, Porsha commented that she just wished they could all come together for something besides “little ole me.” For that reason, she chose Glory by Common and John Legend and it had all the makings of a moment. For me, it fell short just slightly because again, it felt rushed and over-produced. I think it could have been a quiet, powerful moment but instead, it got a little shouty toward the end. Still stellar. Grade A-

At the hour mark, we had to do the deed and my boy MacKenzie Bourg was sent home, or, to a different room anyway. Later, on Periscope, Trent was commenting that he missed his roommate so I can only guess they just kick them right out. Anyway, I can’t agree with this choice America. Dalton was in the bottom two last week and he had one good song for us to vote on. Oh well, didn’t Daughtry go out in 4th place?

Second round song choices were made by Scott Borchetta and, now that we’re almost done, I have to say this guy still bugs me. Does he have to embroider “Music Has Value” on every piece of clothing he owns? We get it.

For Dalton, Scott chose Dancing in the Dark by Bruce Springsteen because, well, I think he is stuck in 1984. The song started out slow and cool and I would have been so happy if it stayed that way because that was interesting. But then Dalton cranked it up to hyper-drive again and it ended on a sour note for me. Eyeliner: A+ Performance Grade: B-

For La’Porsha, it sounds like Scotty pretty much forced her to do a song that she had previously passed on. Porsha declined to sing Stay with Me by Lorraine Ellison during Rock Week, due to her disapproval of lyrics about a woman asking a cheater to stay. Apparently Scotty didn’t care. La’Porsha killed this song but Harry noted that he sensed a veneer over her performance that he hadn’t seen before. I have to think that was a planted comment but I applaud this girl for speaking her peace when it was over. Grade: A

For the first time in Idol history, Justin Timberlake allowed one of his songs to be used on the show. I think I would have liked to bring Sexy Back more than I liked this. Trent was given Drink You Away and maybe they gave lots of drinks away before he hit the stage. The band was too loud, the background vocals were too loud and I didn’t really get the idea that Trent was feeling this song. After the week Trent had last week, two bummers in a row almost seem on purpose. Grade B-

Last round songs were chosen by the judges. I didn’t get the impression they put a ton of thought into these choices but whatever.

For Dalton, because apparently he reminds everyone of the 80’s, they chose Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears. That’s right, you heard me. A song I don’t think we even hear in elevators anymore. This was his worst of the night. He started too low and sang the entire song that way. Again with too much “staging” and poor Dalton was pretty much sat down in 3rd place by these last two song choices. Grade: C

La’Porsha closed her night with Hello by Adele because, as Harry put it, this song is so immensely popular she would have to do something amazing with it to make it her own (or something like that). I would add that instead of picking a song we’ve heard 1,000 times on Idol, they just picked a song we’ve heard 1,000 times in the last week. Whatever. Adele + La’Porsha = Magic. She did just what Harry asked and gave it a little growl and changed it up just enough to make it her own. My guess is they really want her to win. Grade: A-

I don’t know if anyone else knew the final song of the night but it actually seemed like the only choice that was inspired by Trent’s vocal abilities and his wheelhouse. Keith gave Trent a song by Parson James called Waiting Game and it was so perfect for him I almost forgot how stupid his tie looked. I hate an overused falsetto but his was perfect tonight on a song that blended all the good things about Trent’s voice and gave us a perfect final pimp-spot performance. Honestly, I did tear up a bit when Harry closed the show by adding that it was an honor to give the final critique to a guy like Trent.

Next week we start on Tuesday with a clip and interview show called American Dream. On Tuesday, the final three, or two, or some combination of that sort, will take the stage for the final time for America’s votes. On Thursday, I’m just planning to either cry because it’s so sad or throw things at my Panasonic Plasma because TPTB refuse to get this season right.

For what it’s worth, Google just let me vote for MacKenzie. Yes!!

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