With their last chance to use the save, the judges must choose between the show's strongest voice and one of its most unique artists.
It was a night of showstopping performances and Woodstock tributes as "American Idol" had its Top 6 perform twice each on the night.
That made for a packed night of singing, and we got some great vocal performances along the way. These finalist really are among the strongest voices the show has ever seen, meaning it comes down to other things like stage presence and connecting with a lyric to make the difference.
They were mentored by former "American Idol" alum Lauren Daigle, who tried out for the show three times between 2010 and 2012, never advancing beyond the Hollywood round. Nevertheless, she parlayed that hard work into a successful Christian contemporary career and is blowing up now.
Also returning to prove to the finalists -- and the viewers -- that success can be found on this show is last season's 2nd runner up, Gabby Barrett, who performed her breakout single, "I Hope."
Once again, "Idol" was poised to send two finalists packing, but the judges still had their one save of the season. And this was the last week to use it. Would seem kind of cruel to not use it at all, right?
Only four will survive the night (unless the judges use their save), so we're going to rank the Top 6 from bottom to top in each category to see who didn't make our cut and see if you agree with us, i.e. get it right.
"I Don't Need No Doctor," Joe Cocker
This might be a song choice issue, but Laine started solid and then he just maintained. By the end it was completely boring and totally forgettable. Laine is a solid performer and he was consistent throughout. He hit the notes and it was pleasant sounding and this is the kind of song he can do well, but it lacked in anything for us to latch onto and say, Wow, this is great!
"Piece of My Heart," Madison VanDenburg
This is a song about passion and near reckless abandon. Madison just made it all too cute and treacly. It lost the passion and the anger and pain of the original through her interpretation. She wasn't even as solid in her pitch and intonation as usual because she seemed to be trying to chase a grit she doesn't have. It didn't ring as authentic, but rather a performance of what she thinks Janis was doing in that.
Laci Kaye Booth
"To Love Somebody," Janis Joplin
Laci's gravel fit well with this Janis piece, and she did feel connected to it, but again it never really went anywhere. There wasn't a journey on this piece and she really need to find a moment. Not even a big note, but just a moment of connection. By the end, her own eyes looked disconnected from what she was doing, like she was already thinking about her next performance or something. Solid vocal, just missing that oomph.
"White Rabbit," Jefferson Airplane
In a huge surprise, Alejandro didn't accompany himself on anything, and yet he still managed to home in on exactly the right vibe for this psychedelic classic. His voice was ethereal and surreal, and he actually felt totally authentic in the world of the song. It was certainly a bizarre choice and while it also lacked in a big moment of connection, he stayed right with it and it just felt more real than most of the other contestants.
Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon
"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," Joan Baez
Jeremiah brilliantly took a gospel staple to church which just allowed him to show off over and over and over again his incredible vocal range. This was one Idol Power Note (IPN) after another and yet each of them made perfect sense in this performance. He also built the song perfectly so it ended on a high note, literally and performance-wise.
"With a Little Help From My Friends," Joe Cocker
The perfect song with the perfect voice for it, Wade could have just sang this and it would have worked vocally. But he didn't do that. He poured himself into that performance, emoting and really connecting. Wade is an emotional singer, and that connection is lacking in so many of the finalists. This may have been a bit too obvious, but he still nailed it. Because it was so obvious, expectations were high, so there was even that added pressure.
Laci Kaye Booth
"Open Arms," Journey
This was quite a departure for Laci and it was met with mixed results. She did show a little more strength and power in her voice, and it's always nice to show some variance, but it was only a little more strength and power. She was still a little underwhelming for the arrangement .This could have been stripped down and tailored to what she does, but she opted to go for it, and she didn't quite bring enough until the closing moments. Still, she has a great quality to her voice and a really unique sound that made something special out of that first verse.
"I Surrender," Celine Dion
She didn't need that last moment, but this is definitely the kind of song Madison should be tackling. It shows off the cleanness of her voice as well as her power and range. That said, we never saw that run she practiced with Lauren Daigle, so did she shy away from it? The song has more dynamic range than what she gave us, so it felt a little safe for her. But it was still one of her most connected voices.
"Johnny B. Goode," Chuck Berry
Laine is really, really trying to loosen up but it does not come naturally to him. He's overthinking everything his body does during a performance, and it shows. He's got a cool sound vocally and he's a good-looking kid, so he's just about got the competition on lock. He just needs to use this opportunity to grow as a performer and really learn to cut loose and authentically connect with his audience.
"Poison," Alejandro Aranda
There's still nothing like Alejandro with his guitar. He doesn't even need this show, but it's awesome it's teaching him new ways to express his artistry and hone his voice. The original was a little slow and repetitive at times, but it had a haunted beauty to it. And the guitar playing was once again absolutely sublime. That we could watch forever.
Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon
"Somewhere," "West Side Story"
The opening in falsetto didn't quite hit the mark, but when he got to the meat of the song, it was absolutely beautiful. He needs to work a little on his stage presence and his facial expressions. He sounds like he's really pouring his soul out and yet he sometimes looks a little bored. This one soared all throughout his range and he nailed everything after that early mishap. Another great performance on a great night for him.
"Through the Valley," Shawn James
Once again, Wade poured every bit of himself into this performance and it was stunningly gorgeous. If he had the confidence to go with what he's got vocally, Wade could really do something amazing with himself. Hopefully, no matter what happens on this show -- because we do fear America isn't quite getting him -- he gets a shot at a career in music, because the industry needs unique and powerfully emotional performers like him.
We're pretty sure America loves Madison and Laine more and Jeremiah and Wade less than we do. Not that any of them are bad at this point, but cruel cuts have to be made and where will they be made?
Jeremiah has the strongest voice in the competition, while Wade's is one of the most unique. Laci is another that seems to not be connecting with viewers as much as we might like, and even worse, she had a misfire with the middle portion of her Journey song this week.
As this is the last chance for the judges to use their save, it seems a bit of a no-brainer that they will, so there should only be one elimination tonight. But who will get the save?
Of course, Madison was the first to go through, followed by Laine. Kind of ironic after our opening paragraph up there, written before Ryan read off the first two names. Rounding out the Top 4 were Alejandro and Wade, so America hasn't let us down completely.
That leaves the judges in a very tough spot, though we're not surprised America didn't turn out for Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon and Laci Kaye Booth. They're such different talents, though, who do the judges want America to change their minds about?
The only person more surprised than Wade to make it into safety on America's vote was us and Laci, when the judges used their one save of the season on her. But we're with them. Jeremiah is an amazing vocalist, but he lacks an identity that can break into the music industry. Laci has one and this show is trying to make a star to regain its credibility.
There are only two weeks left of "American Idol" airing Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
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