Tonight marked the first night of the American Idol farewell season finale, with the top three contestants all singing the singles they will release should they be crowned the winner tomorrow night.
After the performances, the results were announced, and the top two artists went on to sing two more singles. Fittingly, Trent Harmon, Dalton Rapattoni and La’Porsha Renae opened the episode by singing Kygo’s “Stole the Show.”
Harmon was up first with his single. “I have worked so, so hard to get to this point,” he said in the pre-performance package. All of the artists’ singles are already available for download on iTunes. During this first round, Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban did not offer critiques. Harmon’s song is titled “Falling,” and it was a soulful ballad, reflecting the recent direction he has taken with his song choices. Harmon initially began the season as a country singer, but his single shows how much he has grown beyond his initial comfort zone. It was a smooth and emotional song, but it didn’t sound that radio-ready.
“I was always a fan of American Idol, and I always wanted to audition,” Rapattoni said ahead of his single performance, adding that his dad was the one who really pushed him to go for it in the farewell season. His single is called “Strike a Match,” and it definitely sounded like the kind of pop-rock that Rapattoni should be singing, but the key didn’t really seem right for him. He gave an energized and passionate performance, but the song wasn’t as strong as it should have been.
Renae talked about how she drove 28 hours with her daughter in order to audition for the Idol bus tour in Providence, R.I. She told herself that if she didn’t make it that time, she would go to the next city, which is exactly what she did. She also had a message for Kelly Clarkson: “A woman started it, and a woman’s going to finish it.” Her single is titled “Battles,” and it was a powerful song that showcased her personality and her incredible voice. Renae told Ryan Seacrest that the experience of singing in the finale was “breathtaking,” which is exactly what her single was, too.
After the singles, Seacrest brought the artists to the stage to announce the results of last week’s voting. Renae and Harmon became the farewell season’s final two contestants, and Rapattoni was eliminated. A montage revisited some of Rapattoni’s top moments throughout the season, highlighting his unique artistry and ability to “Daltonize” any song.
In the next round, the two finalists sang songs picked by American Idol creator Simon Fuller. Harmon sang “If You Don’t Know Me by Now,” which fit his voice well. He was confident in the performance. His showmanship has improved so much over the course of the season, and the judges were very impressed by the rendition. “You are giving La’Porsha a run for her money,” said Urban.
Fuller had Renae sing “A House Is Not a Home,” and it was another moving and captivating performance from the powerhouse singer. Renae nailed her runs and ad-libs, making the performance feel so natural and effortless even though she was pulling off really complicated vocals. Connick praised her lyric delivery as well as the technical skills she put on display. “That’s the most complex piece of music you’ve done all season,” he said. “I don’t even smoke, and I need a cigarette right now,” Urban added, describing the performance as “smoldering.”
For the final round of the night, the artists re-sang songs that they performed earlier in the season. Harmon returned to Sia’s “Chandelier.” The song choice gave him the chance to show off his head voice. It was an even stronger performance than the first time around, and he didn’t shy away from the high notes. “You should be very proud of that,” said Connick. Urban praised Harmon’s vocal transitions from chest into head into falsetto. “You could not have sang that more beautifully,” Lopez added.
Renae revisited “Diamonds” by Rihanna and, like Harmon, she somehow improved upon her original performance. It was a powerful and beautiful take, and Renae really did shine bright. She changed up the melody and added some other fun twists including a bit of a growl and some extra runs, making it seem like a completely new and evolved performance from the first time around. The crowd chanted Renae’s name as she teared up following the number. “Beautiful job, La’Porsha,” said Urban. Lopez added she couldn’t wait to one day go to a show of La’Porsha’s. “I have nothing to say,” said Connick. Once again, Renae’s singing was above critique.
Tonight is the last opportunity to vote for who the final Idol should be. The farewell season winner will be crowned in a two-hour finale event tomorrow night. Who do you think should be the final Idol?
This article originally appeared in THR.com.