American Idol narrowed the top 8 down to a top 6 on Thursday’s hard-fought episode – where one contestant found redemption after fumbling early in the episode.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead.
Idol‘s top 8 started off with duets – and it was a very rocky start for Dalton Rapattoni and MacKenzie Bourg, who got dinged for their choice of Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.” (It’s a bad sign when the first words out of Harry Connick Jr.‘s mouth are, “I do not think that was a good song.”)
But Rapattoni was able to redeem himself during a night full of strong Beatles performances (including La’Porsha Renae’s much-praised take on “Come Together”). He earned rave reviews with a rockin’ version of “Eleanor Rigby.”
“It was a great song choice. It was a great key for you. You pushed it about as high as you could,” said Connick.
Jennifer Lopez added, “I loved it because it was so you. It was exactly what we want from you.”
And Keith Urban said it “was such a great song” for the young singer and praised the “cinematic” elements he brought out.
The judges noted that a younger audience might not be familiar with the Beatles classic, so they were glad Rapattoni was bringing it to a new generation with his theatrical take.
“I picked that song because I feel like it’s about how some people can pass on from this life not leaving a mark at all,” Rapattoni told PEOPLE afterwards. “I mean one of the lines is ‘Eleanor Rigby died in a church and was buried along with her name and nobody came.’ And to me it’s really important that when I’m dead and gone people remember me for a little while and so that’s what I’m doing the show for and I wanted to express that.”
After the episode, Connick told PEOPLE he was impressed by the turnaround Rapattoni had from the duet to the solo performance.
“It has lyrics that gave him a chance to go on a journey and to take us on that journey with him that’s really what his strong suit is,” said Connick. “So I was very happy that he chose ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and did it with that arrangement. I thought he did a great job.
For a look back at all 15 seasons, pick up PEOPLE’s American Idol special collector’s issue, on sale now
Unfortunately not everyone had such good luck. Avalon Young, Sonika Vaid and Lee Jean found themselves in the bottom 3. Despite emotional performances – including Jean dedicating his take of The Beatles’ “Let it Be” to his late brother – Jean and Young were sent home. The judges saved Vaid, and she’s moving on to sing another day
The Top 6 will perform next Thursday (at 8 p.m. ET) on Fox.