‘American Idol’ recap: season 20, top 5

AMERICAN IDOL – “518 (Top 5)” – The Top 5 Idol hopefuls travel to The Entertainment Capital of the World, Las Vegas, to be mentored by eight-time GRAMMY® Award-winning country music superstar and 2005 “American Idol” winner Carrie Underwood from Resorts World Theatre, home of her ongoing REFLECTION: The Las Vegas Residency. Each contestant will perform two songs, leaving it all on the stage in hopes of earning America’s vote and landing a spot in the Grand Finale. GRAMMY and Academy Award®-winning singer-songwriter and producer Finneas will also perform his new single “Naked.” “American Idol” airs LIVE, coast to coast, SUNDAY, MAY 15 (8:00-10:00 p.m. EDT/6:00-8:00 p.m. MDT/5:00-7:00 p.m. PDT), on ABC.(ABC/Eric McCandless)
LEAH MARLENE, NOAH THOMPSON, HUNTERGIRL

Credit: ABC

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AMERICAN IDOL – “518 (Top 5)” – The Top 5 Idol hopefuls travel to The Entertainment Capital of the World, Las Vegas, to be mentored by eight-time GRAMMY® Award-winning country music superstar and 2005 “American Idol” winner Carrie Underwood from Resorts World Theatre, home of her ongoing REFLECTION: The Las Vegas Residency. Each contestant will perform two songs, leaving it all on the stage in hopes of earning America’s vote and landing a spot in the Grand Finale. GRAMMY and Academy Award®-winning singer-songwriter and producer Finneas will also perform his new single “Naked.” “American Idol” airs LIVE, coast to coast, SUNDAY, MAY 15 (8:00-10:00 p.m. EDT/6:00-8:00 p.m. MDT/5:00-7:00 p.m. PDT), on ABC.(ABC/Eric McCandless) LEAH MARLENE, NOAH THOMPSON, HUNTERGIRL

Credit: ABC

At this stage, the cuts are painful but necessary.

With five “American Idol” contestants left, the votes came in and singer-songwriter Fritz Hager and Adele-like Nicolina Bozzo were sent home Sunday night.

Fritz, who was able to get out of quarantine after finding out he had COVID-19 a week earlier, brought a singular verve to his guitar-driven performances that were consistently bracing. Nicolina always had a theatrical flair that may not necessarily have translated into pop stardom but could land her roles on Broadway.

Fritz’s departure was a bit of a surprise in “Idol” land.

For the season finale Sunday, two country artists and a quirky pop singer will vie for the 20th crown on ABC.

Noah Thompson, the last standing male, brings a humble, small-town, blue-collar appeal to his tunes. HunterGirl is more the prototypical brassy country singer with a bit of Reba and Wynonna feel to her. Leah Marlene evokes season 16 winner Maddie Poppe with her quirky cheerfulness with a touch of Catie Turner.

On MJ’s Big Blog’s polling, the “Idol” diehards think Noah is going to win though Leah is the preferred choice.

On Sunday night during the live show, the final five got to sing songs to honor Carrie Underwood, one of the show’s most successful contestants of all time who provided each of them mentoring while she was in Las Vegas. They then got to pick a final song they would sing during an encore of a concert.

Host Ryan Seacrest also noted that ABC renewed the show for a 21st season this week. Given its ratings and the quality of the finalists, that is no surprise at all.

The finale will feature the finalists picking songs from Bruce Springsteen’s catalog. Celebrity performers, besides the three judges, include Thomas Rhett, Michael Buble, Gabby Barrett, Melissa Etheridge, Sara Bareilles, Flo Rida and Earth, Wind and Fire. Carrie will perform as well.

HunterGirl (”Undo It” Carrie Underwood) - She gets to perform a Carrie song with Carrie as the mentor. She is able to inject plenty of energy and confidence as she moves around the stage. She has a strong voice and this former No. 1 hit song by Carrie is an easy layup for her. Grade: A-minus

Leah Marlene (”I’ll Stand By You” The Pretenders) - This was a song Carrie sang during the “Idol Gives Back” special back in season 6. Leah shows off her emotional power and vocal prowess. She is clearly ready to win this. Katy liked how she changed up the song. Luke admired her growth on the show and said she was totally in control. Grade: A-minus

Fritz Hager (”I Want To Remember” Needtobreathe) - Carrie performed this song with the band way back when on “Idol.” Fritz is in the zone. He is clearly enjoying himself and brings the candor and warmth that has gotten him this far to date. Even when his voice sounds a bit rough at the higher end, it comes across as natural, not problematic. Grade: A/A-minus

Noah Thompson (”So Small” Carrie Underwood) - He admits to Carrie he doesn’t always think deeply about the songs he sings. She appreciates Noah because he is from a small town like her and gets teary talking about it. This isn’t one of Carrie’s better songs but he places his own touch to it, giving it a low-key edge while he moves around the stage sans guitar. Grade: A-minus

Nicolina (”Blown Away” Carrie Underwood) - This song is right in her wheelhouse. She brings oodles of drama if not vocal perfection to her take. There are some uncharacteristic shaky notes but she goes all out. Grade: A-minus/B-plus

PART II

The theme for the second half is showstopping songs to end a concert.

Leah (”Separate Ways Journey) - She reshapes this classic Journey song into her own powerhouse performance. She is gunning for votes and just going all out vocally. Grade: A

HunterGirl (”Girl Crush” Little Big Town) - The arrangement is similar to the Little Big Town but she proves yet again she’s radio ready, which she has been almost from day one. Grade: A-minus

Fritz Hager (”Youngblood” 5 Seconds of Summer) - He picked a modern pop song and worked the stage hard minus his guitar. It works well. He brings some big notes and intensity at the end. Katy is all over him, saying he could be in the Strokes. Luke feels dumb for saying no after his initial audition. Grade: A

Nicolina (”All I Ask” Adele) - She smartly picks a song by an artist who she can easily vocally compare herself to. This vocal is far cleaner than her “Blown Away.” It’s a great way for her to end the night and ultimately, her competition. Grade: A

Noah (”Working Man” Larry Fleet) - He is just 20 years old and definitely feels like a fish out of water in Hollywood. The construction worker with a young son could end up winning it all. He brings back the guitar and sings a blue-collar song that fits him to a tee. Grade: A-minus