Alejandro Aranda, Laci Kaye Booth, Wade Cota, Laine Hardy and Madison VanDenburg battle it out over only three slots in next week's season finale.
Fing singers remained heading into Sunday night's "American Idol" semi-finals, but only three would carry on to next week's finale.
Before they got there, they had to sing in three different rounds, with Bobby Bones providing the choices for the first one, Elton John's catalog filling the second and the third being tributes to their heroes.
At this point, America has an impossible choice as all five singers are incredibly gifted. Only one appears ready to pursue greatness, while the others are still on that path of self-discovery. But they all carry the potential to blow us away.
Madison VanDenburg has the strongest voice in the competition, but she doesn't always connect with her audience or song. Wade Cota connects beautifully, but struggles with self-confidence and really bringing the right songs to the stage.
The same could be said for Laci Kaye Booth, who has a wonderful quality to her voice, but can leave her performances a little forgettable. Laine Hardy, on the other hand, might be too much polish and presentation. He's got the look and a solid voice, but struggles still with the performance side.
And then there's Alejandro Aranda, in a class of his own musically and yet his vocals have not been consistent or always strong enough. He's an incredible artist but is he a strong enough singer?
Everyone is pretty great at this stage, so it all came down to which weaknesses America could deal with.
The reason we've been down on Madison throughout the season is because she treats every performance like a vocal showcase rather than a heartfelt performance. She rarely connects with the lyric or tells a story or brings us along on a journey; she's just showing off her instrument. This was more of the same, except she found a lot of bad notes early in that one before settling into her groove.
"You Are the Best Thing," Ray LaMontagne
A little sleepy of a song choice, but Wade has such heart and soul that he pours into each of his performances, he sounds fantastic. This definitely sounded better than it looked, though, as it was recording quality vocals but he looked a little bored and disconnected throughout the performance. It was the most dynamic vocal range he's brought thus far.
Laci Kaye Booth
"The House That Built Me," Miranda Lambert
The song was well-suited to what she does, but like Wade before her, it was a little sleepy overall. Bobby is showcasing their strengths, but is he leaning too far into them. Laci didn't have any standout moments there, so hopefully her next rounds allow her more room. As last week's safe she needs wow moments to advance.
""No Woman, No Cry," Bob Marley
Laine fell victim to the Bobby safe song and failed to really elevate it, either. He has a nice sound, but didn't really push it or make it exciting in any way. The opening without guitar wasn't enough to turn the tide. But he's young and cute, so it may not matter.
"No Woman, No Cry," Bob Marley
Once again, Alejandro just kills it. His voice is so authentic and his accompaniment was divine. He didn't affect an accent or do a karaoke version of it; he just made it real. It was a simple performance, but utter transfixing and beautiful. This was his richest and strongest vocal of the competition.
""Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)," Elton John
This was kind of an odd choice for Laci, who has a gentle voice that would be better on one of Elton's softer songs. Her voice gets buried and lost at time on these dance tracks, and her repeating "Saturdays" started to sound a little grating as opposed to enjoyable. It was a bad fit that became bad karaoke.
"Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long, Long Time)," Elton John
A bit of a misfire for a sentimental favorite, the song was just not well-suited to what Wade can do with it and rather than wrangle it into his vibe, he went for it and largely missed the mark. He sounded solid on the verses but lost his confidence in the chorus, but this was definitely not one of his most confident moments.
"Something About the Way You Look Tonight," Elton John
This one was a little stiff in performance, with Laine reverting back to his more awkward stage presence, even though he didn't have his guitar crutch. Laine is making strides to become comfortable on stage, and he's come a long way, but this one fell flat and was kind of dull as a result. That said, the vocals were rock solid throughout.
"Your Song," Elton John
A huge comeback round for Madison, except we wish she hadn't put those vocal acrobatics in it. Yeah, they were impressive but she had a really nice emotional connection going before those. It was a smart, tactical move, but we've been really hoping for an emotionally connect from start to finish from her, and she can't seem to resist showing off.
"Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word," Elton John
This is the difference between knowing the type of music you should be making and not quite being there yet. Once again, Alejandro brings an authenticity to his performances that makes them feel real. This was absolutely stunning from top to bottom.
Clearly inspired by Adele's take on this Dylan track, Madison really tried and she always sounds great, but we're just missing the connection with the lyric. This again felt like a powerhouse showcase of what she can do. Maybe that's what America wants and Madison will win the whole thing. But you can't build a successful career in the industry on that. It needs some emotion or heart to hang onto.
Laci Kaye Booth
"Dreams," Fleetwood Mac
Stevie Nicks is almost impossible to match, but Laci really settled into her own groove very well on this song. Who knew it would be such a great fit for both her voice and her unique vocal affectations. Laci saved the best for last and really sounded great on this track, but was it enough?
"Hard Luck Woman," KISS
Wade was right in his wheelhouse with this one, a rock ballad that had heart. He sounded really confident throughout it, and actually made it sound more like a Wade Cota jam than a KISS classic. If he were more consistent, he'd have a better shot at winning this, but we really hope he still has a shot at a career, because that voice is one of a kind and magical.
"Hey Jude," The Beatles
The signature look worked well on this Beatles classic, and it was nice to see him cut loose a bit with his stage performance when the song did. This was his last chance of the night to bring the audience in, and he did what he needed to do to get them in. On top of that, it was a confident vocal that really came through solidly.
"Blesser," Alejandro Aranda
Alejandro was jazz on that piano for this original piece. It was exciting and beautiful just to watch him play, and then the song itself proved to have that magical quality. Is it a radio-worthy single, maybe not. But it is an infectious song that is a lot of fun to watch performed live, and it's another win for Alejandro, who is using this spotlight to show his artistry more than almost any other contestant in the history of the show.
We have every confidence that Alejandro and Laine are carrying forward, so the question is which of the other three will join them. If we had to put money on it, we'd go with Madison as she would represent as the only woman in the show and she's got a stronger fanbase than Laci.
But we've underestimated Wade's support before, so maybe both ladies get the boot and the boys battle it out? Honestly, at this point all five are great vocalists with a real shot at winning -- if Laine's pretty-ness doesn't mess it all up and guarantee him the win -- so any result is both heartbreaking and totally fine.
Laine Hardy surprised no one by nabbing that first slot in the finale. He was quickly joined by Madison VanDenburg, of course, leaving three standout performers standing on the stage. That threesome would have made an awesome finale, but it wasn't to be.
The last slot went to Alejandro Aranda, which is about what we expected. We feel particularly bad for Wade and Laci, though we expected this result. America tried to boot Laci last week, and has been overly-impressed with Madison for months now.
If we had to make predictions, we'd give the win to Laine for all the reasons mentioned earlier. As for second, we want to believe that Alejandro's artistry will help him rise up, but we're not so sure it will. So we'll say Madison gets second, Alejandro third and we hope we're totally wrong.
It's the grand finale of"American Idol" next Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.