Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya
The final five contestants on American Idol became the final three after a night of live performances on Sunday. Alejandro Aranda, Wade Cota, Laine Hardy, Madison VanDenberg and Laci Kaye Booth all sang three songs on Sunday night, including an Elton John selection, a song chosen by the season’s mentor Bobby Bones and a song relating to Mother’s Day. Booth was the recipient of last week’s save from judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie, and no more saves remain for the rest of the season. Results came in live at the end of the episode.
Cota was up first, singing his Bones pick. He sang “You Are the Best Thing,” bringing some of his signature gravelly tone to the song. He tried to move around on stage a little more often than he usually does, but he did seem a little nervous. Richie and Perry encouraged him to relax a little more.
Bones picked “The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert for Booth to sing, leaning into her country twang. She decided to sing without her guitar, and it allowed her to focus on the vocals. Richie praised her storytelling abilities. Perry pushed her to take more chances.
For Aranda, Bones picked “No Woman, No Cry” by Bob Marley. Aranda tweaked the arrangement and played guitar, making for a performance that felt very particular to him. “You have taken a Bob Marley song and turned it into an Alejandro song,” Richie said.
Bones had Hardy sing “Can’t You See” by the Marshall Tucker Band. Hardy played guitar but made sure to make his voice and performance skills the focus over the instrument playing. Perry pushed him to give even more in the next performances.
Closing out the performances of songs chosen by Bones, VanDenberg sang “What About Us” by Pink. She belted out some big notes and gave the powerful performance that Bones was angling for. Perry thought the end was the strongest.
Getting the Elton songs started, Cota was back up with a performance of “Rocket Man.” He handled the hard-to-sing song well and put some of his own touches on it, delivering a moody performance. Perry praised his ability to be connected.
Booth sang “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” showing off her more uptempo side. She still brought a country sound to this song, and Perry called her a pop star. Richie commended her for making the song her own.
Aranda returned to sing “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word,” accompanying himself on the piano and giving one of his most emotional performances to date. It was vulnerable and it still tapped into his creative artistry that has helped him stand out on the show. “You are taking us on a journey,” Richie said.
Vandenberg sang “Your Song,” giving an understated but lovely performance that played to her strengths. Her runs were solid, and Bryan praised her range and soulful sound.
Hardy finished up the Elton performances by singing “Something About The Way You Look Tonight,” showing off a different side of his voice by slowing things down. Richie said he has the style and sound of a winner.
Cota started off the third round of performances by singing “Hard Luck Woman” by Kiss, dedicating it to his mother. The song choice was perfect for his gritty sound. Perry said she was proud of him.
Booth sang for her grandmother, giving a stellar performance of the Fleetwood Mac hit “Dreams.” She sang with dynamics and emotion, and Perry was moved to the point of tears.
VanDenberg also delivered on the emotions and vocals front with her performance of “Make You Feel My Love,” dedicated to her mom. She told a story and showcased strong vocal choices that seemed effortless. Bryan called her a powerhouse.
Hardy sang “Hey Jude” in honor of his brother, once again doing a slower ballad that allowed him to focus on the vocals. He still added some of his rock sound to the song, and he appeared confident on stage.
Aranda closed out the evening with his moving performance of an original song called “Blesser” that he dedicated to his musical mentor. He played piano and gave an impressive performance that ended the night powerfully. Bryan even said that he doesn’t feel worthy to comment on Aranda’s talent. It was one of the best performances of the season.
With the performances done, it was time for results. Hardy, VanDenberg and Aranda were voted through the final three. Cota and Booth were eliminated.