The top four returned to their hometowns tonight, and the contestants sang three selections.
Season mentor Scott Borchetta chose their first songs of the evening, the judges picked their second songs and the artists chose their own third songs, intended to be musical tributes to their hometowns. The results of last week’s voting were saved for the end of the episode, so all four artists still had to sing tonight.
Richmond, Va.’s Rayvon Owen sang “Want to Want Me” by Jason Derulo for Borchetta’s pick, and it was one of his more exciting performances to date.
Borchetta’s choice suited Owen’s voice and energy. For his song dedicated to Richmond, Owen sang Stevie Wonder’s “As,” and his smooth vocals made it a charismatic performance. Keith Urban thought Owen won the second round of performances. The judges chose “You Are So Beautiful” for Owen’s third song, and his voice sounded beautiful.
Borchetta’s pick for Clark Beckham was “Beautiful Day” by U2. Jennifer Lopez thought it was another perfect song choice from Borchetta, and even though she thought he brought a rock-star quality to the performance, there must have been a disconnect between what she and the other judges saw and what was captured by the camera. Beckham seemed to get swallowed up by the band, and he never looked totally comfortable.
For his hometown tribute, Beckham returned to the piano and sang “The Dock Of The Bay” by Otis Redding. Harry Connick Jr. said he felt like he was getting the first real glimpse of who Beckham is with this second performance. For Beckham, the judges chose “Earned It” by The Weeknd, hoping to hear how he could handle something a little more modern. It was undoubtedly his personal best of the season.
Nick Fradiani sang “Because the Night” by Bruce Springsteen, and it raised the bar for the evening as one of his best performances. In honor of his home of Guilford, Connecticut, he sang “Back Home by Andy Grammer for his second song. It wasn’t as strong as his first performance, but Fradiani continues to be on an upward trajectory. The judges had Fradiani sing “I’ll Be” for his final performance, and all three thought it was perfect. Connick thought Fradiani won the third round.
For Jax, Borchetta picked “My Generation” by The Who, rounding out a solid night of picks from season 14’s mentor, who really knows these artists and their strengths. Cole rose to the occasion of singing such a huge rock song, working the stage masterfully. It was Connick’s favorite performance of hers to date. Lopez said the first round belonged to Cole.
In honor of East Brunswick, New Jersey, she sang “My Immortal” by Evanescence, and it was a stark contrast in tone to her first song. But it was yet another stellar performance from Cole, who is really proving she has what it takes to win it all. The judges gave Cole “Misery Business” by Paramore and acknowledged that it’s a very difficult song to sing. They didn’t love her arrangement, but all agreed that her vocals sounded strong. It was her weakest performance of the night, but the other two were so solid that she remained the evening’s standout.
After the 12 performances, it was then time for Ryan Seacrest to announce who will advance to the first part of next week’s two-part Idol finale. Owen was voted off, with Fradiani, Cole, and Beckham still hanging onto a shot at becoming the next American Idol. Of the three, who are you hoping to see win?
This article originally appeared in THR.com.