Is MacKenzie Bourg now the current frontrunne to win?
Is MacKenzie Bourg now the current frontrunne to win?
Is MacKenzie Bourg now the current frontrunner to win?

Hey, Idol XV fans! I finally caught up this season…but missed most of these reprisals in their original state so I come with a mostly fresh set of ears as the contestants perform one of their more recent hits from the season for a shot at the Top 10. At the start of the show, four lucky contestants automatically earned a place in the coveted finalist lineup without having to perform. Congratulations Dalton Rapattoni, Olivia Rox, Trent Harmon and La’Porsha Renae for this accomplishment. The judges have quite a lot of faith in this foursome, and I’d be lying if I said America disagreed. In any event, there are only six more spots left, so let’s get to some objective critiquing! Below you’ll find my full performance review of “Wild Card Night” along with my elimination predictions. Enjoy!

10. Manny Torres, “Master Blaster” – Oh man, Manny not only paled in comparison to the great Stevie Wonder on this track but he couldn’t even deliver half the fun or technical prowess both Season 11’s Deandre Brackensick and Season 14’s Quentin Alexander brought to this jam in spastic spades. Manny robbed Kory Wheeler of a spot in the Top 14…and for what? A piss-poor karaoke performance that was just as cheesy and forgettable as all the rest of his performances? That’s honestly what it amounted to. If Manny’s voice was in the least bit special or pleasing to the ears, I’d happily allow room to fail a few times, but his instrument is nowhere near singular enough for second or third chances. Swagger alone does not make an American Idol champion. Manny, you had your fun swaying back and forth like a luau dancer, but the party is over and the real competition must begin…preferably without you participating.

Performance Review: (★★)

9. Lee Jean, “Make it Rain” – I normally really enjoy Lee Jean because his unassuming nature and buttery-smooth voice make for an interesting juxtaposition. You can tell he’s very attuned to his musicianship, but if I’m being entirely honest…this performance felt a little limp to me. I was waiting for Lee to hoist the song up to a more imposing level of significance but it never happened. The entire rendition was anticlimactic and, dare I say, a tad on the lifeless side. I truly expected more from Lee Jean, especially when this performance is the most critical yet. Lee, I hope the rain doesn’t wash you away from this competition because there were glimpses of superstardom spotted these past few weeks. Though playing it too low-key on a night when the majority of singers went big or risk going home means…well…Lee Jean might just be heading home.

Performance Review: (★★½)

8. Gianna Isabella, “I Put a Spell on You” – Big voice, big personality, but Gianna cannot rein in her obnoxiousness desire to constantly please. She’s one of those contestants who drinks their own Kool-Aid before anyone else does, and I’m just not a fan of that type of self-promotion. Her voice skidded off the rails about midway through the song, losing the danger and mystery by replacing it with manufactured glee and sass. I’m not quite sure what the judges see in Gianna other than an impressive set of lungs. If Gianna wants to win America over, she needs to be a bit more humble and relatable onstage instead of the precocious, slightly manic teen she’s presenting herself as.

Performance Review: (★★½)

7. Jeneve Mitchell, “Ring of Fire” – The problem with Jeneve is that she waits too long into a song to show us her best moves. Her serious gazes and believable expressions of anguish when tackling a lyric drew me to her since the very beginning of the season. My issue now is that Jeneve doesn’t know how to properly structure her new arrangements, which then makes her seem less talented than she actually is. Performance-wise, I totally understand the “polarizing” label since she’s wildly inconsistent when it comes to her presentation skills. I appreciate Jeneve’s creativity and boldness to prove to Idol producers that men aren’t the only contestants brave enough to completely deconstruct a song and make it their own. Unfortunately, Jeneve just gets in her own way by losing focus and taking viewers on a horseback ride without a saddle. Jeneve, this may be the end of the road for you on Idol, but you have converted me into a fan after your multi-taskingly amazing “Angel” rendition.

Performance Review: (★★½)

6. Thomas Stringfellow, “Story of My Life” – Thomas got called out by Harry Connick, Jr. about his distinctive performance trademark of squeaking at the end of every note…and honestly I’m not sure how I feel about that reprimand. That’s a pretty personal insult to highlight a perceived fault or “habit” that was turned into a recognizable element of this particular artist. Yes, Thomas’s style and elocution is polarizing…but he got here before of it, not in spite of it, so I think Harry needs to work on his own annoying “idiosyncrasies” before negatively calling attention to someone else’s. My biggest issue with this performance was how unoriginal it sounded coming from a person who’s all about originality. It didn’t veer to far from the original version, and thus it came off a tad on the boring side. Thomas also needs to work on his diction, especially in those opening verses when the audience needs to be in your corner from the get-go. I still believe Thomas will make it through because of a dedicated teenage girl fan base, though Mackenzie is sort of dominating that spectrum so who really knows. All I do know is that Thomas needs to just be himself and not have a care in the world about changing himself to fit the Idol mold. It’s better to be voted off for being yourself than strung along for shedding your identity.

Performance Review: (★★½)

5. Avalon Young, “Yo (Excuse me Miss) – Judging from everything I’ve seen from her, Avalon has a stronger chill factor than Siberia. She was not messing about with this Chris Brown song – she stays true to her “cool school” vibe while giving such effortless showmanship. Does it concern me that Avalon is almost too comfortable in her zone that she no longer has an arc or some growth narrative for viewers to look forward to? It does a bit, I’ll admit. But there is something so endearing about her hipster demeanor that you can’t help but be fascinated by her on a show as uptight and professional as Idol. All I ask is that Avalon not settle for a safety zone to carry her forward – I want to see some dynamics and vulnerability otherwise I’m not going to be moved by any of her upcoming Idol contributions.

Performance Review: (★★★)

4. Sonika Vaid, “I Surrender” – I’m not sure I would have chosen this particular Celine Dion record for Sonika, let alone any song from the diva balladeer’s discography. Sure, songs that build and crescendo highlight the power of Sonika’s tone, but they also paint her in a pageant queen/90s retro singer light that won’t take her far in the competition. I see Sonika as the Hollie Cavanaugh of Idol XV: supremely gifted young vocalist whose nervousness onstage is her own undoing. Sonika needs to learn breath control and to never hesitate letting her voice soar on each lyric. The beauty of her timbre is what sets Sonika apart from all the rest this season. Still, Sonika did well tackling a behemoth song from an equally intimidating songstress to measure up to. Sonika was on the right path with that Taylor Swift track a few weeks back and now just needs to continue putting her own power ballad spin contemporary pop songs. This performance alone deserves to put Sonika into the Top 10, but she’ll need to come up with a strong long-term strategy if she wants to avoid a Pia Tascano 9th place finish – ballad singers are only as boring as they allow themselves to be.

Performance Review: (★★★)

3. Tristan McIntosh, “What Hurts the Most” – A little shaky in spots but overall a massive improvement over Tristan’s last two performances, which threatened to make a mockery of her judges’ pet/producer favorite edit. Tristan was poised, in command of the audience and, more importantly, in control of her instrument. She still needs to work more with her vocal coach to lose her bad habit of singing through her nasal passages (Avalon has this unfortunate problem as well). Yet, overall I am getting a Jordin Sparks vibe from Tristan…someone who always could be a potential winner but getting to that level a lot slower than people expected. Nevertheless, it’s how these contestants finish, and Tristan went from inching dangerously close to the back of the pack to now climbing up to contender status. Her powerfully delivered cover of Rascal Flatt’s “What Hurts the Most” should comfortably propel her into the Top 10. If Tristan wants to climb even further up the improvement ladder, she’ll need to stop reminding viewers that she’s fifteen, which means her voice needs to fake years of experience. Tristan, keep hammering away at that technique and you could wind up the successor of Nick Fradiani’s current title.

Performance Review: (★★★)

2. Jenn Blosil, “True Colors” – Crackly, emotional and lyrically insightful, Jenn finally took us on a full song journey without driving over any vocal speed bumps during the trip. Jenn’s artistry is so quirky and dynamic that I’m willing to forgive quite a bit when it comes to shoddy vocal technique if it means remaining one of the few contestants this season I’m genuinely excited to see perform. Cyndi Lauper would beam in proud ecstasy if she listened to this cover. I felt as though Jenn were making a personal connection to each and every audience member in dire need of acknowledgment that their uniqueness means something positive. I’m unsure whether Jenn is popular enough to make it into the Top 10, but if this season wants someone with mature lyrical attentiveness and stunning re-imaginings of classic tunes, then Jenn must stay alive in the competition.

Performance Review: (★★★½)

1. MacKenzie Bourg, “Roses” – Yeah, I could see MacKenzie Bourg winning this show even if it might be ironically cruel considering he got his huge start from NBC’s The Voice. Still, it wouldn’t be fair to begrudge a talented singer-songwriter for their unfortunate past affiliations. MacKenzie played to his ultimate strength as an artist by showcasing his exemplary original song for the world to delightfully bask in. You can tell from the lyrics that MacKenzie has life experience aplenty, even if it’s primarily feelings-oriented. I was moved by MacKenzie’s willingness to share such an intimate look into his soul as a musician, and I truly believe he’s going to have one hell of a career whether he wins or loses Idol’s farewell season. MacKenzie, as far as I’m concerned, you’re the new competitor everyone should fear.

Performance Review: (★★★½)

Predicted to make the Top 10: MacKenzie Bourg, Avalon Young, Tristan McIntosh, Sonika Vaid, Thomas Stringfellow and Gianna Isabella

Going Home: Jeneve Mitchell, Jenn Blosil (I am preparing myself for this travesty), Lee Jean and Manny Torres

Share your thoughts and predictions below in the comments section, Idol viewers!