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'American Idol' notes: finale tonight, Trent Harmon, Kelly Clarkson


Posted Monday, May 21, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk

Caleb Lee Hutchinson won my unscientific polling last night while over at MJ's Big Blog, fans of Maddie Poppe predominated. And GoldDerby readers preferred Gabby Barrett 51 percent to Maddie's 36 percent and Caleb's mere 13 percent. As I noted last night, I don't think our respective readerships necessarily correlate to actual vote totals.

MJ thought the three finalists were tired last night and felt Gabby and Caleb were surprised they weren't uniformly praised as the judges have been wont to do. She also believed the hometown visits might have taken away time for them to prepare their original singles.

It was shocking last night to see Luke Bryan provide (gasp!) negative feedback, which he has not really done since the live shows began. Katy, who began to "get tough" a bit last week and often seems to be the only judge even trying, called the original singles portion a "disaster." Wow. What a strange time for them to suddenly get tough! Clearly, they heard the social media complaints about being too nice and Luke and Katy responded accordingly. The third judge Lionel Richie clearly doesn't care. He remains impressively useless as a live judge, throwing out a steady succession of boring bromides, then telling the singers "congratulations." Really? Is that all you got?

What has disappointed me about the judges to date is their inability to provide clear, concise constructive criticism. It can be done out of love and doesn't have to be mean at all. Just watch the "Dancing With the Stars" judges. The goal here is to make them better performers and singers, not just make them feel good.

Gabby needs to pick an identity and embrace it, something she has struggled to do to date. Caleb has to get more comfortable moving around on stage and needs to just loosen up, which he did a bit last night doing "Folsom Prison Blues." Maddie's problem is her consistency might come off as predictable. She needs to change things up once in awhile and surprise us. Honestly, I miss the super technical vocal critiques that Harry Connick Jr. was capable of pulling off. And go on YouTube and listen to Keith Urban from his time on "Idol." Keith has a much richer vocabulary that makes his critiques more compelling than those of Luke Bryan.

The show, by the way, starts later than normal tonight at 9 p.m. because of "Dancing With the Stars" and the results won't happen til very close to 11 p.m.. EST.  (Locally, it's on WSB-TV Channel 2.)

The biggest names for tonight's finale include Bebe Rexha, Nick Jonas and Darius Rucker. All three judges will perform as well. I'm looking forward to the Kermit the Frog duet with Maddie Poppe on her audition song "Rainbow Connection." If you want the entire set list, it's here. I've been a fan of hers from the moment she appeared:

Of the three original songs by each artist on YouTube last Friday as of Monday at 1:55 p.m. EST, Maddie's has been seen 72,000 times, Caleb's 67,000 times and Gabby's 53,000. That is good news for Maddie and the commercial viability of that particular song.

But the live "Idol" performances on YouTube shows Gabby with a wide lead of 181,000 views vs. 145,000 for Maddie and just 114,000 for Caleb.

"The Voice," which airs its performance finale tonight, will have its season finale tomorrow with guest stars Jason Aldean ,  James Bay ,  Florence + the Machine ,  Halsey featuring Big Sean ,  Dua Lipa  and season 13 winner  Chloe Kohanski. 

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During the Billboard Music Awards going up against the "Idol" performance finale Sunday night on NBC, host Kelly Clarkson did an amusing montage of hit songs from the year because she is truly the Queen of Covers, as she's known during her concert tours. The medley featured "My Church" by Maren Morris, "Too Late For Goodbyes" by Sam Smith," "HUMBLE" by Kendrick Lamar, "Thunder" by Imagine Dragons, "Young, Dumb and Broke" by Khalid, "Finesse" with Bruno Mars and Cardi B, "Shape of You" by Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift's "Look What You Made Me Do."

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"American Idol" drew more viewers last night than the Billboard Music Awards but the awards show had a younger audience. Final numbers are not in but "Idol' should end up a just over 8 million while the awards show will end up probably just shy of that. "Idol" will end up around 1.4 18-49 while the music awards will get around a 2.3.

Since it's a season finale, I expect 'Idol' will get close to 10 million viewers. The "Idol" series finale on Fox two years ago drew 15 million but only 8 million for the season 14 finale.

Locally on Atlanta's Channel 2 WSB-TV, "Idol" beat WXIA's "Billboard Music Awards" in the 25-54 demo 3.7 to 3.2.

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Season 15 "Idol" winner Trent Harmon took his time getting an album out after winning: two years to be exact.

“I wasn’t ready,” he tells PEOPLE. “But once I started down that process, I realized, oh, I have songs. I have a message. I know what I need to say. I know who I need to say it to.”

Here is his first single "You Got'Em All."  He is being pitched to country radio. The song is hovering on the edges of the top 40, according to Mediabase, falling to 41 from a peak of 39 but still gaining spins.

Clay Aiken Tweet of the week

Clay watched the Royal Wedding and enjoyed it:


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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.