Recap: 'American Idol' Season 14 - Billboard Hits plus the 'Idol' Save Returns
Odd "American Idol" Season 14 fact: Unless I'm missing something, every single remaining "American Idol" Finalist this season is from the Eastern or Central Time Zone.
Daniel Seavey and Adanna Duru were the only two contestants from the West Coast and they're gone.
Last week, the otherwise dismal Daniel got hosed by the "Idol" Twitter Save, in which his geographic core was disenfranchised if they happened not to be watching an online live feed.
The "Idol" Twitter Save returns on Wednesday (April 8), but with all of the singers' hometowns watching the same feed, nobody can claim that they're being Seaveyed. And, once again, viewers from outside of the ET/CT time zones have been cut out of the elimination process.
Tonight's theme is Billboard Hits, so follow along and chime in with your own thoughts...
7:59 p.m. ET. Has anybody else lost all sense of how many people are still left on "Idol" this season? The answer seems to be "eight" and since the "Idol" Save is in play, all eight will perform. Apparently.
8:00 p.m. So many tears from and about Daniel Seavey's departure last week.
8:02 p.m. Jennifer Lopez Fashion Show Time. It's a little black dress for J-Lo, but not so little that she's as mobility-challenged as is often the case. Plus, I doubt Ryan Seacrest will spend much time leering over her tonight. Some nights he seems to act like it's his responsibility to ogle.
8:04 p.m. Our mentors tonight is/are Florida George Line and Jason DeRulo. I like the hyperbole suggesting country will never be the same after Florida Georgia Line's arrival and that Jason DeRulo's impact would be felt forever. Way to have a sense of history, "Idol."
8:06 p.m. For the first time this season,"Idol" couldn't get a special guest to present the results envelope, so it's just our mentors. Impressive. Florida Georgia Line and Jason DeRulo will both be performing tonight. So. Much. Filler. Plus, Jennifer Hudson and Iggy Azalea will be performing.
8:09 p.m. Tonight's first performer is...
Song: "Poker Face"
My Take: Making familiar songs unfamiliar has been Jax's best quality, but also her periodically downfall. To some degree, this seems like a Joey Cook performance of Lady Gaga. The melody is nowhere to be heard in the verses, but she makes a point to steer into it on the chorus. I'm not sure why Jax stayed away from the piano on this one. It probably would have helped, because her concentration seems to go in an out, standing glued to place in front of an aggressively swirling disco ball (or diamond?) background. There's a little Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man to Jax's "dancing" here, like she's been told if she moves her feet, she'll step in the lava. I like Jax when I can tell exactly why she fiddled with a song and what elements she hoped to bring out. This is perhaps the least invested she's ever seemed in a song's lyrics or musical arc. I'm betting we'll see worse performances tonight and I'll look back at Jax with more fondness, but for now? Minor disappointment.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith calls the arrangement "interesting," but he liked the artistry. J-Lo, who was caught during the performance being distracted an unengaged, also likes Jax's artistry, but she tells Jax that she doesn't want to go so far left that the audience won't relate. Harry thinks Jax has "magic" in her voice, but he felt like she didn't own it. Harry thought she changed the arrangement, but didn't inhabit the emotional space.
Singer: NICK FRADIANI
Song: "Teenage Dream"
My Take: There's an older contingent voting this year and they're obviously getting behind Nick. I think there's a way that Nick could have worked with the lyrics of this song so that there was something more wistful in a 29-ish-year-old guy getting to live a teenage dream again. It's his failure to connect to that side of the song that's much more jarring than the gender switching. I don't like the changes to the rhythm or the new melodic touches. I really just don't get who 2015 Nick Fradiani is. I'm sure that if this were the '90s, he could be Jamie Walters, but I don't know now. To me, he doesn't pull off this poppy upbeat stuff.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo thought that was "amazing" and it was the right way to change a song and make it your own. Really? Meh. Harry liked the energy, but he likes when Nick sings songs that are a bit grittier. J-Lo just keeps cooing how much she liked it and Keith agrees that was a "killer song choice." The segment devolves into a strange thing with Harry upstaging Nick with a rendition of "Teenage Dream" that is, in fact, a perfect cover and transposition, which he seems to have done without any preparation at all. Even if Harry doesn't know the lyrics and hasn't decided what to do with the arrangement, what he's capturing is the youthful invigoration, which is at the heart of Katy Perry's kewpie doll, faux-innocent original. Nick had none of that. He just made it a cheesy pop song.
8:34 p.m. Jason Derulo time. I wonder why we haven't mentioned that he's judging on "So You Think You Can Dance" this season. That's still happening, right? I know he's not engaged to Jordin Sparks anymore and it's a bit odd that he's back on "Idol" this season before she is. If I were Jordin, I'd feel like this was "Idol" taking sides. Of course, I'm not Jordin Sparks and I assume she's a much bigger person than I am.
8:38 p.m. There we are. "So You Think You Can Dance" shout-out. Whew.
8:42 p.m. And a commercial for "So You Think You Can Dance." Silly me, worrying FOX wouldn't plug itself. Now it's time for...
Singer: QUENTIN ALEXANDER
My Take: This isn't a Sam Smith song I know, which is to say that I actually know very few Sam Smith songs. Quentin's channeling just a wee bit of Maxwell tonight, both in style and vocal stylings. Oh. This song. I guess I do know it. Nevermind. I think this is a cover that would work better vocally in a studio version. There are good vocal moments, but then there's also the distraction that comes whenever an "Idol" singer just lets the background singers do the melody on choruses. There are also uncomfortable transitions between the low parts and the falsettos, transitions that would be smoothed out in the studio (or with another few weeks of rehearsal and performing) with ease. That's a better style performance than a musical performance from Quentin.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry loved the way Quentin looked tonight. Keith thought it was great. J-Lo initially worried that that the drums were overpowering. Keith heard something different. I'm not sure what he heard. J-Lo thought there were some rough moments and tells Quentin to weed out the things that don't work in rehearsal. Quentin admits he's a visualist first. I'm trying to think if "Idol" has had a performer like Quentin before. Like Adam Lambert was also a visualist, but he wasn't a visualist *first*. He was a singer and a conceptualist. I still don't fully get Quentin as a singer, but I like the rest of him.
8:55 p.m. Time to go check on today's baseball box scores. Thanks for the break, Florida Georgia Line.
8:57 p.m. Really, Red Sox? Getting one-hit by Aaron Harang? Come on. Back to the finalists. Who's up next?
Singer: JOEY COOK
Song: "Wrecking Ball"
My Take: Tee-hee. Crab-hands. Joey's got a purpose tonight and it's to show that she's contemporary. Vocally, the mission is absolutely accomplished. She sounds fantastic and I like how she's keeping the melody intact, while making the enunciation and phrasing hers in little subtle ways. She sounds quite lovely, even if the chorus is duller in its superficial sameness to the original, which exposes the things Joey's lacking. I'm neither a Miley fan, nor a Miley hater, but when Miley gets to the chorus on this one... The words mean something. I mean, she's singing about being emotionally torn apart and when Miley sings the words, I believe it. The song escalates. With Joey's version, this is a very soft and cuddly wrecking ball, even if there's some emotional expressivity to her face. Still, this was definitely my favorite performance of the night singing-wise. So far. I really need something better.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith liked the verses, but thought she held back on the chorus. J-Lo likes the uniqueness of the roster of artists this season and agrees with Keith on the verses and choruses. Harry thought it was only an OK vocal and he wanted her to step-up in the second chorus and he got bored.
Singer: CLARK BECKHAM
Song: "Make It Rain"
My Take: Wow. Ever single week, I forget Clark exists. I heard the audience yelling a name in previous segments and all I heard was "Mark" and I didn't have a clue who Mark was. Jason Derulo's advice for Clark to get more emotional is a great call and the reason why I think I keep losing track of Clark. The thing is that Clark is trying. Just like he tried to keep his eyes open last week, tonight he's added an upward cast to his eyes, which he assumes will add spirituality. There's just that extra level of intensity that I'm still missing from Clark, but it's getting closer. In fact, at the end of the performance, I think he nearly got it. Here's what I want from Clark: I want to see Clark miss a few notes because he's overreaching. I want him to try too hard at something and to make it sloppy. To me, that's the difference between Clark and a David Cook or a Phillip Phillips. Because I think Clark could be as good or better than those two, but he needs to swing bigger and work in some messing up.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo calls it "so amazing," but she also says that it looks "so effortless." She needs his whole package to be working together, but she sees him making the finale. J-Lo wants him to be just a little cooler. "We need to remember you," she says aptly. Harry thinks Clark has an amazing instrument, but he gives him some rhythm advice that Keith seems to dig. Keith felt like the end was when he became a pro-golfer.
9:21 p.m. Lady Gaga was tweeting about Jax's performance? "I think I peed a little," a giddy Jax says.
9:21 p.m. Say this for Iggy Azalea, she isn't afraid to share stages with women who blow her away. So you get Iggy up there doing whatever generic thing that she does and then J-Hud takes the stage and it's like, "Ummm... Who was that person who was kinda rapping before and can she go away?" Iggy is popular, but J-Hud is truth.
9:28 p.m. Only the Top 5 will be going on tour this summer. Will they be playing coffee shops? Up next?
Singer: TYANNA JONES
My Take: One of these weeks I need Tyanna to be great. There was a "nobody moves" memo tonight, so Tyanna joins Jax and Joey frozen in place. There are very good places in Tyanna's vocal and you can feel the emotion building in her. Of course, you can partially feel the emotion because she's conducting the entire performance. She has no idea what to do with her hands, so every time she's trying to hit a note, she does funny-fingers. That finally becomes distracting and I close my eyes for the second half of the performance and it holds up very nicely. I don't think Tyanna has done a better "big voice" performance and she's tried a few. Tyanna is in tears at the end.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry thought it was extremely touching, calling it fantastic. Keith thinks it would have been a hit song. J-Lo says Tyanna dug deep and "everything just came together in the right way today."
9:38 p.m. So it's down to Qaasim and Rayvon. The Judges saved Qaasim earlier in the season. FOX's Twitter cheat saved Rayvon last week.
Singer: RAYVON OWENS
Song: "Set Fire To The Rain"
My Take: Rayvon was told to sing from the groove, a concept I don't understand, but maybe he does. I had to stop watching Tyanna because of her distracting finger thing. With Rayvon, I close my eyes because I know that there's no chance Rayvon is ever going to do anything different. Rayvon is trying a lot of things here and as we've said throughout the season, he's absolutely a very good technical singer. I don't know that I bought the build of that performance. Rayvon's doing so many things, but I don't think they add up. Runs. Falsetto. Big notes that he tries to pull out of his gut. But I don't know if things ever have a totality with Rayvon. But I like Rayvon more than Nick at this point, not that anybody cares what I think.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith felt like it was a guy singing for his life, but he missed something in the chorus. J-Lo loves the way he sings, but she didn't love the song choice. Harry as what Rayvon's gravy is. He says his gravy is God and moving people. That speech will probably get him some Twitter love.
Singer: QAASIM MIDDLETON
Song: "Hey Ya"
My Take: I love how clearly Rayvon and Qaasim set out their contrasts tonight. You have Rayvon wailing to Adele and Qaasim is going to his sweet spot with Outkast. As a song choice, though, this sucks. It's just not a singer's song, or even a song that can be arranged to make it feel like a singer's song. So it becomes purely about energy and we all know that's what Qaasim brings to the table like nobody else this season. So either you found Qaasim's dancing and smiling and spinning and hair flipping infectious... Or you didn't. Qaasim always makes me grin, but...
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo says that Qaasim owns the stage and wows them with his performances. Harry likes Qaasim's groove. Keith says Qaasim and Rayvon played to their strengths. J-Lo wants everybody to know that Qaasim has a great voice. I wish we'd heard more of that.
9:53 p.m. Me? I'd vote for Qaasim. I appreciate what he brings to the show more than I appreciate what Rayvon brings. Neither of them is going to win, but I'll take a weekly smile over Rayvon's technical proficiency.
9:56 p.m. "It's hard, man," Qaasim says. Rayvon agrees that doing this for a second straight week wasn't any easier.
9:58 p.m. "They're both so incredibly talented," J-Lo says.
9:59 p.m. Staying alive? Rayvon. So, for the second time, that's it for QAASIM MIDDLETON. Oh well. America never loved what Qaasim was putting down and when he tried to step outside of his established comfort zone, he wasn't all that good. I'll still miss him, because with Qaasim gone, it's a Top 7 of people who are allergic to movement.
TONIGHT'S BEST: Nobody was great, but Tyanna and Clark were very good.
TONIGHT'S WORST: Quentin didn't sing all that well, but at least he had performance elements I liked. Nick did nothing for me.