The format on American Idol this week was a little confusing: the judges picked four singers to automatically advance to the top 10 at the beginning of the show Wednesday. Apparently Dalton Rapattoni, Olivia Rox, La'Porsha Renae and Trent Harmon are so good viewers didn't have to hear them. That left the remaining 10 to compete for the remaining six fan-voted spots. They sang songs they picked Wednesday.
Then on Thursday, the season's first live episode, the rest of the Top 10 were revealed. Gianna Isabella, Lee Jean, Avalon Young, Tristan McIntosh, Sonika Vaid and MacKenzie Bourg made it through on the fan voting. The Top 10 all performed, but they were all overshadowed by original Idol Kelly Clarkson, who made a guest appearance as a judge and to perform a beautiful new song.
This was the end of the road for Jeneve Rose Mitchell, Thomas Stringfellow, Manny Torres and Jenn Blosil. The guys never made an impression on me, but I'll miss Jeneve and Jenn. They brought a quirky energy that the show will lack going forward.
Here are the highlights, both Clarkson and not.
The best part of Wednesday was when hipster cutie MacKenzie Bourg sang his own song, "Roses," an acoustic love song that reminded me of early John Mayer. The crowd in the room loved it, and so did Keith Urban, who enthusiastically shouted "Philadelphia!" even though MacK AttacK (the very stupid nickname I just gave him) is from Lafayette, La. I don't get it. Otherwise, MacKenzie looked great in his glasses and shirt buttoned all the way to the top and sounded great strumming away on his half-size guitar.
Thursday's strongest non-Clarkson performance was La'Porsha. She made Rihanna's "Diamonds" her own by adding a million runs to it. The standing ovation she received could be heard all the way to Sacramento. Kelly Clarkson almost went into labor, she was so excited. "You're gonna win!" she enthused, and she knows about winning.
I loved Kid Denim's choice of Bon Iver's "Skinny Love" for his song. It's a great song! He made it into an Ed Sheeran song, because that's what he does — Kelly even called him out on it. He has his lane, which could be a blessing and a curse for him going forward. Take a chance, Lee!
Kelly Clarkson, "Piece By Piece"
Kelly Clarkson, the first and best Idol, showed why she's been a star for all these years. She premiered an emotional ballad she wrote in tribute to her stepfather, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Keith Urban was sobbing. Even Clarkson had to pause to collect herself a few times. Last night, millions of people across America were crying at once, and it was Kelly Clarkson's fault. The fact that she's pregnant made it even more meaningful. Can Kelly Clarkson be a write-in candidate for this season's American Idol, and also for President? Clarkson/Seacrest 2016!
Excuse me, I have something in my eye...
Next week we cut back to one American Idol a week, and will bid farewell to two more hopefuls.