The final season of American Idol gave us our first real treat. Former Idols, stars and budding stars, came back and performed. No. Not Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood, but between this week and next – oh, and no Jennifer Hudson – but between this week and next, there are some huge names coming back. Now, don’t be like that. Don’t be all, “well, this is now the best they can do as their careers are going nowhere.” Fantasia? She had two huge CDs and a great run on Broadway. Scotty McCreery? I think he just put out his 3rd or 4th CD. He’s got a phat bank account and didn’t need this, but he came back. It’s a testament to the American Idol machine and how it’s launched these kids.

The format was each of the Top-12 (of the top-24) sang a duet with a famous Idol alumnus. Each Idol alumnus sang twice. Then, at the end, the judges would pick 7 of 12 to move on.

Let’s talk about the performances.

Emily Brooke and Lauren Alaina – “Flat on the Floor”

I remember how much I liked Lauren and her season might’ve been the first real injustice on Idol, and some guy with a guitar won. She was soooo young. 15 years old. Oh my how she’s grown. Grown more beautiful and grown up voice. Big, big voice. Harry pointed out that growth and seasoning, but this really wasn’t a song to make Emily shine. Luckily, she might still be able to rely on her overall body of work this season, and there’s enough others who aren’t so good, that they miiiiight keep her around.

Thomas Stringfellow and Nick Fradiani – “Man in the Mirror”

Nick didn’t sing very well, which helped Thomas, even though this song is not the type of song he’ll ever sing ever again if he should put out an album. Nope. Just won’t happen. This performance really reminded me how much I don’t care for Nick Fradiani and how I still can’t believe he won. He’s the reason we’re not voting during this round. We’re being entertained, but the judges, Fox, and Scott Borchetta are cultivating a superstar, and they can’t leave it to us idiot TV watchers to decide and pick them a money maker.

Stephany Negrete and Ruben Stoddard – “Superstar”

These two could have a radio hit if they released this song and people would ask, “is that Luther Vandross and Anita Baker,” if they heard it on the radio and I would say, “no, that’s Ruben Stoddard and Stephany Negrette.” And they’d ask, “who?” And I’d explain Ruben was the American Idol Season 2 winner and Stephany is the girl on Idol, this season, who kinda looks like that chick from the Pussycat Dolls. “Who,” they’d ask. And I’d say, “Nicole ..Sherz …er? Sherzinger?” And then, because the song would still be playing on the radio, I’d tell them to hush and keep listening. It was a cool, smoove performance.

Sonika Vaid and Caleb Johnson – “Skyfall”

These two on stage should’ve been singing something from Beauty and the Beast. Cuz he’s a beast. Get it. Sonika is …gorgeous. I gotta give Caleb credit. He coached her well. He identified right away she’s strong vocally, she’s nice to look at, but Harry pointed it out right away …she’s just so nervous, but he wouldn’t deny her potential. She has a huge upside.

Jenna Renae and Scotty McCreery – “See You Tonight”

There’s nothing exciting about Jenna, and I’m sure Country fans love the schmaltzy Scotty McCreery original, that he wrote for himself and his deep, deep register, which I’m sure rednecks everywhere love. But it didn’t fit her voice. Harry Connick Jr. called it “fun” and “entertaining” and J-Lo said, “you did the best you could with it,” which is also not saying, “you were great.” It wasn’t great and I feel very confident Jenna performed for the last time on our TVs.

La’Porscha Renae and Fantasia – “Summertime”

I forgot how amazing Fantasia was. I mean …wow. How come I don’t have a Fantasia album in my collection. La’Porsha is also good and might, maybe, someday rise to the level of Fantasia (and Jennifer Hudson), but La’Porsha isn’t an American Idol – she’s a future Broadway sensation. The performance was a delight, the genre was right on both their wheelhouses, and it made me smile. It made Harry smile. How could you not? When they pair these people up, this is what the duets should look and sound like.

Mackenzie Bourg and Lauren Alaina  – “I Hope You Dance”

The best thing I can say for Mackenzie is that if he plays his card right, he could sleep with Lauren. She was all into him. Um. His hair looked good. Um. He’s sure a nice kid. Oh. The singing. Well, do we really have to talk about that here? Lauren outclassed Mackenzie. Mackenzie can’t sing this song …with his whispery, soft voice. And the judges didn’t talk much about his singing, but more about how he has no game (with the ladies). I still think he’s got a shot.

Harry was right …it’s staggering the talent that’s come across the Idol stage in these 15 years. The winners are amazing and really, pick anyone from the Top-5 in any season and you’ll be blown away.

Giana Isabella and  Nick Fradiani – “Beautiful Life”

Did Idol write this song for Nick in an attempt to get it played at the Olympics or the World Cup? Because the song sucks, and as a duet, it was even worse. These two should’ve done a tender ballad. Remember when I was writing a song for the finale during that season where they were soliciting songs? It had lyrics about “stars” and “the horizen” and “hope” and “dreams” and … I need to dig that up in my notes. It was good. Except for the fact I didn’t finish it and I can’t write music. Oh. Gianna. She’s good. They like her. The judges will keep her around.

Avalon Young and Ruben Stoddard – “Flying Without Wings”

Avalon continues to wear the stylings of Ellen Degenerous from the late 90s. I like her. But, again, as cool as this idea was to have current contestants sing with famous alums, the song choices could’ve been much, much better. Remember us, Fox? We’re the audience? We want to be entertained. We don’t really want to see Avalon look like a total amateur. We want to believe she has the potential to be the next Ruben Stoddard, and that won’t happen when she’s embarrassingly outclassed. J-Lo actually loved it, but she’s wrong. And Harry and Keith adore her, so Avalon might be safe.

The judges are all being too, too nice. Someone needs to trash the performances. There are a few kids who sucked and/or deserved to be knocked down a peg.

James #8 and Caleb Johnson –  “Gimme Shelter”

This song is so cool, but only when The Rolling Stones are doing it. It’s about Keith Richards riff and crazy Mick Jagger struttin’ all over the stage and straining against his cockney British accent. It never, ever works as a cover. James #8 is …yawn. Fast forward.

Jeneve Rose Mitchell and Scotty McCreery – “Gone”

This was the craziest performance and Keith Urban called it bizarre. It was. She was trying to be funny, while Scotty was trying to be angry-cool, and she just can’t pull off an angry break-up song. Jeneve (or can I call her JRM?) is a judge’s favorite, so she’s another one who shouldn’t have to worry.

Jordan Sesser and Fantasia – “I Believe”

He’s a nice guy. I mean a real, real nice guy and he can really, really sing. He’s good on stage. He played along with, and sang well with, Fantasia. It was beautiful. But at the same time, because this show isn’t happening in the late 80s or early 90s, he’s not right for this competition. Remember when Mister Mister, Phil Collins, and Michael Bolton were on Top-40 radio stations? Um, yes, well, it isn’t the 80s. Oh, and don’t try and out perform a Diva who’s been doing it for 15 years. Sing with her. Poor Jordan. Go home and love your wife and new baby. It was like Fantasia said, when he crossed in front of her and started playing to the crowd, she said, “what the fuck’s up with this idiot? I was gonna hold back and let him showcase himself but fuck this motherfucker …watch me blow!” And then she blew him off the stage.

Then Came the Judges and Judging

The judges made quick work of it and revealed La’Porsha, Sonika, Avalon, Gianna, Thomas, Mackenzie (shocker), and Jeneve. What the what? Not the Pussycat Doll-wanna-be? Wow. Well, if anyone talked about Idol anymore that would definitely be talked about. But, if they really wanna find a budding star, these were the right picks.

I’m not mad. I am entertained. My kids love the show. I’m loving that you’re reading and I’ll see you next week.

Follow me on Twitter at @donkowalewski.

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