On the farewell season of "American Idol," 14 contestants were hoping for a chance to make it into the Top 10. They sang songs representing their favorite moments from the season so far.
* We started out with four contestants selected by the judges, who would make it through without any further action. Harry Connick Jr. announcing that Dalton was making it further. Keith gave a fast pass to Olivia Rox. Jennifer announced that Trent would also be moving on. Finally, Harry announced that LaPorsha was also going through. The four of them would be back tomorrow night.
* First to compete with viewer votes was Manny Torres. He sang "Master Blaster," an odd choice considering they'd already advised him to look for a stronger song choice. That combined with him going first, and he's almost certain to be cut. A bouncy song like this that doesn't allow him to showcase his voice was just not a great move, despite his energy. Keith loves the song but wasn't sure it was the right song for Manny. He said he likes Manny's energy and "fighter's spirit."
* Gianna Isabella sang "I Put a Spell on You," with her hair almost unrecognizable, long and straightened, wearing a black pantsuit. This song was a terrific choice, because she was able to deliver it as well as she had the first time. The big difference was that she stayed behind the mike for most of the song, allowing the focus to be on her smoking hot vocals.
* Singing "The Story of My Life" was the charming young Thomas Stringfellow, wearing a red baseball cap on his curly dark locks and an oversized striped cardigan over a gray message tee. While this song can be seen as a bit lightweight, his tone was lovely and he was very comfortable on the stage. Harry called him very talented and said it was a good song for him but he needed to work on his tendency to crack every note at the end of a phrase.
* Tristan McIntosh sang "What Hurts the Most," wearing a ruffled blue flowery shift, with dramatic lighting. Her voice was stronger on the ends of phrases, but she was often on the verge of being a bit shaky.
* Avalon Young was next, with her hair a little curlier than usual, but still wearing a beat-up outfit. She did a lot of pointing at the audience, but there was a jazziness to her delivery that was infectious.
* Jenn Blosil had weirdly embellished sequined eyebrows and sang "True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper. This was a much better choice for her than last week's disaster. On this song, her breathiness and quirky delivery worked really well. Harry said, "I knew you had it in you." He told her, "That was a flawless lyric delivery."
* Lee Jean sang "Make It Rain" by Ed Sheeran, accompanying himself on guitar and wearing a blue checking shirt and a blue knit cap. It was bluesy and plaintive, perhaps not as strong as the last time, but there was a nice low stepped-down run at the end. Keith praised him for being "chill" like a "shelly eastern beach." He thought Lee was suffering from nerves but "I still liked what you were doing."
* Sonika Vaid sang "I Surrender" by Celine Dion, striding slowly across the stage in a black and floral dress with handkerchief hemline. She did a better job of investing the song with some emotion, although there were a couple minor pitch issues. Jennifer gave her a standing ovation and claimed she got goosies "on my face." Maybe it was different hearing it live in the room.
* Jeneve Rose Mitchell sang "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash, singing it at half time, wearing a big brown cowboy hat, lacey high-collared shirt, brown vest, and loose brown pants. At times, her tempo was ahead of the accompaniment, but there's something captivating about her voice and her presence. Harry said what's interesting to him is that her talent is compelling but also polarizing. While he said it wasn't her best performance -- Keith interrupted to say she needs to let go and she'll hold on. Harry summarized by calling her a "very talented young lady."
* MacKenzie Bourg did the singer-songwriter thing and accompanied himself on guitar while still emoting and showing off textured vocals, feeling the lyrics. Not showy by a longshot, but definitely a show-stopper. Keith told him it's a great song, which is his song, and "it's an amazing thing." Harry chimed in, "You're an original."
In the results show the following night, a montage opened the program, showing selected highlights from the show's 15 years. Then, after introducing the judges, along with special judge Kelly Clarkson, host Ryan Seacrest got started.
* First to get the good news she would be part of the top 10 was Tristan, who joined the other four safe contestants on chairs in the audience. Then, Sonika learned she was also moving on, followed by Gianna and MacKenzie. Joining them was Avalon, and then the last one to make it in: Lee. That meant it was good-bye for Manny, Thomas, Jenn and Jeneve.
* Kelly Clarkson came out to join the judges' panel, in a short black dress.
* Olivia Rox started off the night's performances with "Unconditionally" by Katy Perry, wearing a pale rose A-line dress and a black leather jacket. Her performance had both grace and power, as she seemed to be paying attention to the lyrics, rather than overloading it with runs. Keith said she's on an "artist trajectory," and he loved the song. He told her to keep finding a way to relax. Jennifer praised the song choice and control and advised her to practice the big moments. Kelly liked the softness of the beginning and called her "Little Mariah," declaring herself a fan. Harry said he had nothing to add: he loved it. "You did everything you had to do. Nice job."
* Next was Gianna Isabella, who shared memories of touring with her mother, Brenda K. Starr. She had a crush on winner Scotty McCreery when she was 10. She sang "Listen" by Beyonce, her hair straightened, wearing a glittering sheath minidress. Compared to other performances, she didn't seem as comfortable with this song, sometimes wavering. Jennifer told her that was not her best performance. She liked her power but found her very shaky. Kelly thought it was a bold song choice and "you hit the notes" but she had some pitch problems. She advised her to "just let go." Harry said "It did feel very arranged" and over-rehearsed. Keith urged her to believe in herself, "because the gift is there."
* Lee Jean, also 15, has been watching the show his whole life. He sang "Skinny Love" by Ben Iver, accompanying himself on guitar and wearing an olive-drab zippered jacket, bright red V-neck shirt and faded skinny jeans. The tempo was a little odd. I don't know the song, but it seemed rushed. However, his tone was pleasant, and he threw in one high run before the end. Kelly said, "I love you." She liked that he sticks with what he's really good at, though it might pose a problem competing against his competitors. Harry pointed out that he and MacKenzie are similar, and he will have to think about that. He told him to concentrate on pitch. Keith advised him to tell a story and get vulnerable. Jennifer told her to choose songs that mean something to him.
* Avalon Young had been a Justin Guarini fan during Season 1. She sang "Stitches" by Shawn Mendes, wearing a men's blue shirt, buttoned all the way up, with a brown short wool jacket with no lapels, distressed skinny jeans, and white sneakers. After a slower opening, she found her stride on the chorus. I still would love to see her do something slower. Harry commented that she has a "cool vibe" but wasn't sure about the halftime opening. Keith thought it seemed she was nervous in the beginning but then loosened up. Jenifer agreed it wasn't the right song for her. Kelly declared her "captivating," but remarked that she doesn't usually like the songs she sings.
* Next was Dalton Rappatoni, and he loves previous finalist Chris Daughtry and winner David Cook. He selected "Hey There Delilah" by Plain White T's, wearing a short-sleeved black and white patterned shirt over a white T-shirt and gray jeans. He worked the audience as he sang the bouncy pop tune, turning it a bit harder, more like a rock song. By the end of the song, he delivered much more than I would have expected from the song. Keith loved that he takes a song somewhere different and has confidence. He called it "electric barnyard." Jennifer called him the "cool, cute guy" but said he has a lot of heart. Kelly said he's so comfortable, which is rare. She liked how he was a completely different type of artist. Harry said that so far he's batting a thousand with the arrangements.
* Tristan McIntosh said she will always love previous finalist Jessica Sanchez. Wearing a white gauzy top with spaghetti straps and faded jeans, she sang "Nothing' Like You" by Dan + Shay. The song was a pop song I didn't recognize and felt rushed, with a few pitch problems. Jennifer observed it's a very young top 10, and they're still finding themselves. She thought the song wasn't the best choice or the strongest performance. Kelly wanted to know more about her story. She said she reminded her of Alicia Keys and would love to hear her sing Trisha Yearwood and to hear a song she's felt. Harry advised her to sing country songs with more cross-over appeal. Keith said it's a tricky song to sing and advised her to watch her pitch.
* MacKenzie Bourg used to watch "Idol" with his mom and was highly entertained by the train-wreck audition from back in the day of William Hung singing "She Bangs." For his performance, she sang "I See Fire" by Ed Sheeran, accompanying himself on guitar and wearing a pastel Hawaiian shirt. It was a perfect song for him, and Kelly said that her baby was doing flips inside the womb during that song. She liked that he already knows where he wants to go, calling him talented. Harry said he's very compelling when he sings. Keith liked the comfort he has playing the guitar. Jennifer liked it. She said it will be interesting to see how he keeps up with the other contestants as they start to showboat.
* Next was La'Porsha Renae, who had been inspired by Kelly Clarkson's win, sang "Diamonds" by Rihanna, wearing a flowing black dress with incredible embellishment around the neck. She knocked it out of the park, bringing both Kelly and Jennifer to their feet and making the audience cheer. "That's your critique," remarked Harry. Kelly told her, "If I were you, every time I opened my mouth to sing, I'd say, 'You're welcome.'" Jennifer praised her control. Keith said, "What you just gave was pure humanity. It was beautiful."
* Sonika Vaid had loved the Kelly Clarkson performance of "I Surrender" and longed to be as confident. She sang "Bring Me to Life" by Evanescence, standing at the mike, wearing a black ball gown. She is such a Disney princess, with an adorable little gap between her front teeth! But at the dramatic section of the song, she strode forward, imbuing the performance with more gumption. I would say she needs to work on dynamics: it was at 10 the whole way through, which has less impact than she could have. Keith loved the song, especially the drama. Jennifer told her, "You're dangerous, because you have such an amazing voice. If you wake up in this competition, we have a real competition this year." She told her to believe in herself and live in the moment. Kelly praised her for never being pitchy and for giving La'Porsha a run for the money. Harry praised her for being able to follow a strong act. He liked that she showed us a different kind of angst and passion, which was a great juxtaposition for how she was looking (i.e. the ballgown).
* Trent Harmon remembered living through a tornado when he was in school and thinking, "This tornado needs to chill out, because I've got to get home and watch the 'American Idol' finale." What a great story! He loved David Archuletta's rendition of "Imagine," which he says he sang in the shower and "to the cows until they were tired of it." Love this guy. He sang "Like I Can" by Sam Smith, wearing a maroon button-down short-sleeved shirt with a white egg-shaped pattern, paired with black skinny jeans and a brown fedora, with matching brown leather shoes. He just sang it at a mike stand, rather than playing guitar, and he concentrated on the vocals, putting his all into it, including that "stank face" on some of the high notes. This kind of performance and talent will get him far. Jennifer said, "Seriously, I feel like we have one of the best competitions ever on 'Idol' this year." She called him unique and said he did exciting things with his voice. Kelly called it impressive that he has the natural gift of a voice that stands out. She wanted to hear more falsetto from him, along with softness. Harry said it was fantastic. He advised him if he's going to go for the runs, he will get great audience response. But he advised him not to overdo them, though he acknowledged he hadn't this time. Keith said that everyone was rising to the occasion.
* After giving the voting information, Kelly Clarkson performed her song, "Piece by Piece," showing why she still deserves the title "champion."