Idol Worship

'American Idol' Recap: Farewell Season Contestants Return to Their Hometowns

American Idol top 4 2016
Michael Becker/FOX via Getty Images

Top 4 contestants MacKenzie Bourg, Dalton Rapattoni, Trent Harmon and La'Porsha Renae backstage at Fox's American Idol Season 15 on March 24, 2016 in Hollywood, Calif. 

The farewell season of American Idol is nearing its close. The top four contestants returned to their hometowns in the past week, and viewers got glimpses of those trips throughout the episode. For the first round of performances tonight, all four artists sang songs dedicated to their hometowns. After that, Ryan Seacrest announced the results of last week’s voting and American Idol said another emotional farewell. The remaining top three artists then sang two more songs: one selected by mentor Scott Borchetta and one selected by judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban.

MacKenzie Bourg was up first. He traveled home to Lafayette, La., where he once was a star athlete before being sidelined by serious health problems that eventually led him to a life of music. Bourg sang “Hallelujah” as an homage to his hometown. The song has been sung on Idol many times, but Bourg’s performance sounded distinctly like him. The simplicity of the song allowed him to really showcase his unique, enchanting tone. “That was just superb,” Urban said. “It almost seemed like you’ve become completely full circle,” Connick added, saying that the performance reminded him a lot of what they saw in Bourg when he first auditioned.

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Dalton Rapattoni returned home to Sunnyvale, Texas to visit his fans and family, get a touchup on his hairdo at his grandmother’s salon, and meet with some of his students at the music school where he gives vocal lessons. As a dedication to his hometown, he sang “Calling You” by Blue October. It was a strong song choice that really encapsulated who Rapattoni is as an artist. “I really liked the arrangement that you picked,” Connick said, adding that he appreciated that Rapattoni once again was really thinking about the lyrics.

Trent Harmon went back to Amory, Miss. He returned to the stage where he got his start in musical theater and rode through the main street of town in a tractor, greeting fans. He noted that playing a free concert in his hometown in front of a huge crowd was something he had been dreaming of doing since he was a little kid. For his hometown song, he sang “Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton, going more country than we’ve seen from him in recent weeks. Similarly to the first two performances of the night, it felt very personal and representative of the artist. “I thought it was a fantastic performance,” Connick said. “You’re kind of getting your stride at the right time,” Lopez added.

La’Porsha Renae traveled home to McComb, Miss. in the final powerful hometown journey tonight. Renae gave an empowering speech at a domestic violence shelter and shared that she has had many women reach out to her after she shared her own history as a domestic violence survivor on the show earlier in the season. Renae sang John Legend and Common’s “Glory,” which was made for the film Selma and won Best Original Song at the Oscars and Golden Globes in 2015. It was another spectacular performance from Renae. “I feel like I just had a baptism,” Urban said. Lopez said she always chooses great songs that really mean something to her. Connick said the performance was in the “critique-proof” category.

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After the hometown songs, it was time for Seacrest to announce the results. American Idol said farewell to MacKenzie Bourg.
For the next round, Borchetta picked all the songs. He gave “Dancing In The Dark” by Bruce Springsteen to Rapattoni. It was a great performance that showed a more upbeat and energized side of him than his first performance did. Together, the two performances gave a very complete look at Rapattoni’s strengths. The judges loved it—especially Lopez, who bounced along for the full duration of the song.

Borchetta had Renae sing “Stay With Me.” Her vocals sounded amazing, and Renae admitted to the judges that she didn’t really believe the words she was singing but that she got into character for the sake of the performance. Connick remarked that he could definitely see that she was playing a character but that it ended up working well, especially since she didn’t choose the song herself. Renae has proven to be so authentic all season, and the fact that she was straightforward with the judges about how she felt about the song further proved how much she thinks about lyrics and their meaning.

Harmon sang “Drink You Away” by Justin Timberlake. Borchetta was excited to get the song, as it is the first time Timberlake has cleared a song for use on the show. Harmon did it justice, giving another fun country performance. Harmon has become a lot more confident in his stage presence in the past couple of weeks. “That’s singing to win,” Lopez said.

After Urban gave a performance of his new single “Wasted Time,” the competition resumed with the judges’ song choices for the contestants. First up was Rapattoni, singing “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by Tears For Fears, which the judges deemed to be in his wheelhouse. Indeed, Rapattoni put on another great performance. No matter what, Rapattoni is always an entertainer. Rapattoni lowered the song a bit, which Lopez didn’t love. Connick appreciated that Rapattoni reharmonized the song, but he didn’t feel like it was Rapattoni’s best performance of the night. Urban also wished Rapattoni had kept it in the original key.

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The judges had Renae sing Adele’s “Hello,” hoping that she would shake it up a bit to make it her own. Renae definitely did that, transforming the melody in some instances and executing some really beautiful and precise runs. Renae had a stronger emotional connection with the song than the Borchetta pick, and it showed. Renae undoubtedly has the best voice in the competition, but she’s also an incredible storyteller and performer, making a very compelling case for why she should be the final American Idol.

Harmon gave the last performance of the night, singing Urban’s pick for him: “Waiting Game” by Parson James. It was a much slower and stripped-down song than the other two Harmon sang tonight, but it allowed him to really focus on the vocals and give a strong technical performance while still tapping into the emotions of the song. “It was the perfect song,” Lopez said. “I thought that was a beautiful performance,” Connick said.

The two-part series finale of American Idol airs next week, starting with performances from the top two on Wednesday before the final results are announced on Thursday. Who has your vote tonight?

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