The Top 10 became the Top 8 on the final season of "American Idol" on Thursday. Beginning the once-a-week format, the singers performed as they were declared safe, rather than devoting an entire show to results.
• Dalton Rappatoni was the first declared safe. He performed a foot-stomping version of "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons, wearing a maroon shirt over black T-shirt and distressed black jeans, marching around on a stage suffused with dry ice, green lights flashing. Keith Urban said he's talented, hungry and passionate, but he didn't think it was a great song. Jennifer Lopez said he understands the show, but it's about trying to top himself every week, not the other contestants. Harry Connick Jr. praised his sincerity and said he reminds him of Billy Joe Armstrong (from Green Day). He thought, though, that Dalton was too much in his head tonight, not present in the performance.
• Next was Lee Jean, who sang "Use Somebody" by Kings of Leon, wearing a purple T-shirt, a dark blue and purple plaid wool jacket, and dark jeans, accompanying himself on guitar. The romantic pop song was a little lightweight, and though he has a nice tone, I'm not sure it was enough. Jennifer liked the song choice but urged him to let go more and stretch himself more, practicing outside his comfort zone. Harry also liked the song. He asked Lee if the song was about being away from home. Lee looked a little confused about that idea, though. Keith didn't like the song choice but thought he should have done something different with it. He liked that he ripped the mic off the stand and moved around the stage near the end.
• In a group performance, Demi Lovato sang her song "Complicated" with the girls, and they had some pitch issues, except for Sonika Vaid and La'Porsha Renae (now with her large fro dyed black). Then, after a video interlude, Demi sang "Stone Cold" by herself, a real torch song fraught with emotion.
• Sonika Vaid sang the Kelly Clarkson song, "Since U Been Gone," despite the fact that she's never had a boyfriend. She wore a glittery gold top with black pants and boots. This song was a poor choice for her, especially since viewers got to see the real Kelly Clarkson last night. She couldn't match the intensity if the original. Harry called her supremely talented and gave her some arrangement suggestions and told her to pay attention to the lyrics. Keith wanted more fire and more "angry girlfriend." Jennifer said the performance didn't feel the same as last week. "You've got to get lost in the character of what you're doing."
• Then it was McKenzie Bourg's turn, and he chose the Whitney Houston song, "I Wanna Dance with Somebody," because it was so different. He stood center stage with his guitar and performed it singer-songwriter style, wearing a tan suede jacket, pastel pink T-shirt and faded jeans. On the chorus, a backup vocalist jumped in, almost overpowering him. Keith thought it was a great song and loved the arrangement, as well as McKenzie's voice. Jennifer said, "That switch-up really worked." She liked the airiness. She advised him to stretch his voice a little bit and "create those moments." Harry thought it was an amazing song choice, but he could have gone even further with the arrangement.
• La'Porsha Renae sang "Halo" by Beyonce, wearing a floor-length glittering steel-gray gown and a sparkling headband, with light forming wings on the wall behind her. For this much simpler song, she showed she can both play the audience and show different textures in her voice, just standing at the microphone. Jennifer loves watching her coming into her own, and called her "the one to beat." Harry said every time she sings, he considers the song from a completely different perspective. He called her a master at arcing a song, giving it a beginning, middle and an end. Keith called her a phenomenal singer and complimented her on becoming comfortable with some of the production elements, such as a large dress with a train.
• Then, in a bit of a break, Harry Connick Jr. performed his song, "I Do Like We Do," dedicating it to his wife. It had kind of a country feel, or maybe a Louisiana vibe, because there were brass instruments, like trombones. Actually, more than that, it reminded me of Randy Newman's song-writing. I've heard better vocals from him, but it was still fun.
• Next to perform was Trent Harmon, singing "When a Man Loves a Woman" by Michael Bolton, wearing a charcoal suit jacket, black button-down shirt (no tie) and jeans, his hair visible for once, with no hat. He put more soul into it than the original, including rising up to a well-controlled falsetto at times. Surely, he's a contender. Harry told him he looked great. He loves his voice, especially on high, sustained notes. He told him he'd been worried about his jaw vibrato, because it can damage his voice. He could tell that Trent's been working on it. Keith advised him not to think so hard about what his face is doing when he sings but focus on emoting. Jennifer told him the faces and vibrato are him, and she could imagine him and La'Porsha at the end. She told him "not to change a damn thing."
• Then it was down to four contestants, brought onstage to hear that Tristan McIntosh had been selected to make it through. She sang "Go Real High on That Mountain" by Vince Gill, accompanying herself on piano and wearing a violet sequined sleeveless top, her hair smooth and long beside her face. It was very gospel-infused in terms of her soaring vocals. Keith and Jennifer gave her a standing ovation. Keith thought this was a great song choice for her. Jennifer said, "I believe that is the Tristan America fell in love with." Harry said he loves when she signs country songs. He asked if she had someone in mind, and she said that it was dedicated to her grandfather, who just broke his back. She was a little emotional over revealing that, and covered her face a bit, as if shy.
• Host Ryan Seacrest announced that Avalon Young, Gianna Isabella and Olivia Rox were in the bottom three. Each would perform, with only one to be saved by the judges. The others would be cut.
• Avalon Young sat on a stool at the microphone to perform "Earned It" by The Weeknd from "Fifty Shades of Grey," her long hair braided down her back, wearing a sporty black jacket, olive polo shirt buttoned all the way up and dark pants. Sitting on the stool was a good choice, because instead of bouncing around the stage, she focused on the lyrics. You could see the judges watching her intensely. Jennifer told her that's what she needed to do. When she's in her comfort zone, no one compares to her. Harry thought she couldn't have chosen a better song to perform. In response to her anxiety over wearing makeup, he said that if it makes her uncomfortable, she shouldn't do it. She is beautiful just natural. Keith liked that she took her own take on it, including steering away from the falsetto in the hook.
• Next was Olivia Rox, who had been suffering from the flu the last week and even made a trip to the hospital. She did "Trouble" by Pink, sitting on a low black stool, wearing a shiny red-violet leather jacket over black shirt and pants. She kicked around the stage, rock star style and threw in a lot of runs. Something just didn't connect for me with this performance, though, although she was trying really hard. She finished on her knees. All very stagey. Harry liked that she gave it 100 percent. He liked her energy, vocal ability. The problem was that she's competing against someone who picked a song with more lyrical depth and "I didn't see any vulnerability, because the song didn't call for that." Keith said her vocal range is insane. "It's not easy." Jennifer said, "Everything about that performance said 'I want to be here.'" But she thought something didn't come together, that she needed to seem troubled if she was singing, "I'm troubled." (Although the lyric was actually, "I'm trouble.")
• Last to perform, Gianna Isabella sang "If I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keys, wearing a floor-length red pant suit with a train and a bedazzled waist. She also wore bright red lipstick. She sang it at a microphone stand, and she seemed a little weaker than previous performances, and she had a couple pitch issues. Her sad face at the end showed she knew it hadn't been her best. Keith called her voice gorgeous but his heart felt hungry, wanting more feeling. Jennifer called herself a fan and said she has a "truly blessed voice." She said she should be proud. Harry told her she's adorable but she did not recognize her, with her hair. He said she has an incredible vocal gift.
• Ryan talked to the bottom three as the judges conferred, and then Ryan had the lights dimmed for the results. Jennifer said she'd never seen a bottom three with this much vocal ability. The last person to make the Top 8, she announced, was Avalon.
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