Recap: 'American Idol' Season 14 - Judges' Hometowns & Soul Performances plus Elimination
Welcome to another "American Idol" night with a confusing theme.
Per FOX, "the finalists will perform two songs – one connected to the judges’ hometowns, and the other a song that defines their 'soul.'"
So the first theme means anything from or related to anything related to New York, New Orleans or Whangarei, New Zealand? Or are we pretending still that Keith Urban's hometown is Nashville?
And the second theme means... Absolutely anything, right?
Fair enough, I guess... Let's get to blogging!
8:00 p.m. The "American Idol" Top 5 singers finished last week's show and immediately they were whisked off to Nashville in Scott Borchetta's private jet. The "Idol" finalists got to visit Borchetta's studio and then they even found a part of Nashville were civilians recognized them!
8:03 p.m. Jennifer Lopez Fashin Show Time! J-Lo is very sparkly today, but if ever there were a day for J-Lo to get down with her fans, this is the one, because she's entirely covered, she's practically wearing a bejeweled romper. But I'm sure somebody with better fashion terminology could tell me what's actually going on.
8:05 p.m. Boo. We're treating Nashville as Keith's hometown. I wanted to hear the Music of Whangarei.
8:06 p.m. Russell Crowe is presenting tonight's results. I couldn't be more confused. I know he has a movie out. He's been riding his bike around town doing Q&As for "The Water Diviner," which Ryan says "Is in theaters soon." Russell Crowe winces. "The Water Diviner" was actually in 320 theaters last weekend.
8:07 p.m. Tonight's first performer is...
Singer: CLARK BECKHAM
Song: "Living For the City"
My Take: In Nashville, Clark got to meet the people who will actually be working with him, maybe. They asked about his style icons and showed him their Clark Beckham "mood board." This is my favorite Stevie Wonder song and Clark does exactly what you'd expect from him, which continues to be exactly what is wrong with Clark. Every time Clark gears up for a note that I'm not sure he can hit, it's been rearranged so that he can drop an octave, or so that he can clip the top of the note. I love when Clark steps away from the mic to noodle on the piano, because it was sloppy. He didn't look quite comfortable and the result was a natural moment, the kind of natural moment Clark avoids like the plague. That was very good and unremarkable.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith thought it was a great way to open the show. He liked Clark on the piano and wished he'd stayed there. J-Lo agrees. J-Lo keeps saying the same things to Clark about involving the audience and he keeps ignoring it. Harry thought it was a solid performance, but says that Clark wasn't quite in the pocket, in the groove.
Song: "Empire State of Mind"
My Take: Yay. I like it when Jax actually sings and enunciates. Shut up, stupid clapping "Idol" fans. Just let Jax sing and play the piano. Jax's voice sounds a bit rough on the upper notes. I wonder if she's sick or worn out from the travel? But fortunately, with her natural rasp, it's an entirely acceptable extension. Yeah, as she gets deeper, it becomes clear that she's definitely fighting something here, but she's fighting through like a talented warrior. She starts well on the piano and then rises and takes center stage for a powerful conclusion. Knowing what we know about Jax, I felt that song. Completely. Jax is the one I like at this point.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo thinks Jax understands that she can win. J-Lo didn't feel the song. Bah. Total disagreement. Clearly J-Lo needed a reminder about Jax's father. Harry dug it, though he asks if she's hoarse. "You just sang through it," Harry says after Jax agrees. Damn straight. Keith loved the song for her and praises her "artistic foundation."
8:25 p.m. So are we mixing up the themes? Clark presumably did a "soul" song, but Jax did J-Lo's hometown? So strange. Up next...
Singer: NICK FRADIANI
Song: "Bright Lights"
My Take: I'm not sure why nobody wanted to just tell Nick "mall tour" when they were discussing how to get him out there. Because "Time machine to 1992 and mall tour" would be my best recommendation. Because middle-brow rock really is Nick's thing, this is a very good Nick performance. In fact, there are a few places where I'm actually kinda getting into Nick's swagger on a Matchbox 20 song that I don't especially like. For me, this is a much truer version of Top Shelf Nick than Clark's first performance was Top Shelf Clark. I liked that. It's well sung and he seems to be using the stage better. The crowd loves Nick. Performances like this have me feeling like Nick may be the favorite at this moment. Not my favorite. But the betting line favorite. If anybody would still take bets on "American Idol."
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry thought it was the most comfortable performance that he's done, by far. Agreed. Keith sees a killer instinct in Nick. "You're peaking! You're peaking at the right time!" J-Lo squeals, referring to the energy in the room.
8:35 p.m. Does this mean Tyanna and Rayvon are the Bottom 2?
8:36 p.m. Oh. "Living For The City" was a song *about* New York City. I got stuck on "But Stevie Wonder is from Detroit..."
8:37 p.m. Sing, Harry! Sing!
8:40 p.m. "We've got the news next," Ryan says, seemingly implying that we're about to have results. If so, I remain confused. Like why do you need to send somebody home in the first hour? It's not hard to fit 10 performances in two hours.
8:44 p.m. And yet, here we go. Tyanna and Rayvon are coming down to the stage. The funny thing is that Rayvon may have had the fewest votes for four consecutive weeks and America may have been desperately trying to get rid of him.
8:46 p.m. The last person in the Top 4 is... RAYVON OWEN. So that's it for Tyanna Jones. Clip package.
8:47 p.m. And now it's just a regular ol' fashioned Wednesday Performance Show from now on...
8:48 p.m. Nope. Tyanna's gonna sing "Run the World" first. And then everybody else is going to perform like normal. Except that Rayvon is going to perform twice. I know that "Idol" had a challenge in figuring out how to combine performance and results episodes, but this season has been a structural disaster and this episode is no exception.
8:50 p.m. Harry tells Tyanna to keep learning and that she's a "spectacular gift." J-Lo promises Tyanna that the rest of her journey will be great. Keith liked Tyanna's last performance.
Singer: RAYVON OWEN
Song: "Need You Now"
My Take: Rayvon's trying hard to simulate the impression of emotion, voice warbling, hands constantly pitching and caressing airborne notes that only he can see. Yeah, this is turned to 11 or 12. I want to tell Rayon to chill. He's not performing for people on Twitter. This is just a performance and that would have been better with just a bit more simplicity and musical consistency. We know he can sing and I'm not going to question that, but if he's going to sell a song THIS hard, I have to buy that he means it and I don't. Sorry.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith loves when people take a song and make it their own. But then he says he would have liked less of the dramatics. J-Lo says that the song has to be real to him, which he didn't do. But she thought the vocal was pretty. Harry loved the delivery of the chorus and says Rayvon sang the pants off it.
9:09 p.m. Martina McBride and the lead singer of Rascal Flatts mentored last week, too. And Martin McBride is even performing now.
9:10 p.m. There's an "American Idol" producer who thought the best way to maintain momentum in this show was with a five-minute performance of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." If I were a viewer, I'd sure as heck change the channel and I wouldn't come back. Sadly, I'm not.
9:18 p.m. "So what has made you so popular?" Ryan asks the YouTube sensation in the audience. This is so sad. And now it's transitioning into a Ford commercial. I repeat again: We've now had an elimination, one performance, an introduction of mentors, a performance from a mentor and a Ford commercial in the last 25 minutes.
Singer: CLARK BECKHAM
Song: "Your Man"
My Take: "Dude, this isn't 'American Musician,'" Scott Borchetta tells Clark. The mentor also hates the song choice and Clark's ignoring of Scott. I like Clark's spine here, even if it's foolhardy. We keep cutting to Scott in the crowd, as if waiting to catch him glowering and stroking his Luciferian goatee. As for the performance? It's definitely exactly what Clark wanted to do. And it's probably exactly what Clark would like a Clark Beckham album to sound like. There's a solid 10 or 15 second guitar solo using time a different contestant might have wasted singing. There are some good falsetto beats and it's generally just another fine performance. Scott stands in the wings, brow furrowed. Will Harry tear Clark to pieces for not listening to his elders and betters?
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo thought Clark sang the song well, but she isn't sure it's a song that shows he wants to win "American Idol." She doesn't know if this was Clark's "gravy" song. Harry thinks this all comes down to song choice and you have to think in terms of the people watching the show. "It was kinda tepid, man," Harry says. Keith wants Clark to think in terms of singles, not album tracks. Clark insists it's his gravy and uses musical terms to get Harry to believe him. "Sing it sexier," Harry replies. Clark stands by the music and by his desire to win "American Idol."
My Take: Nobody thinks Jax is making a bad song choice and Martina McBride had no notes for her. I don't like the presentation: Jax has been made into a human disco ball in a sea of fog and even though there's a featured piano tinkling away, she isn't playing it. And maybe that's why Jax is so rough on the low introductory verse. Then she hits the chorus and everything's better. She close submerged in fog on her knees. You know the annoying part? A little less arrangement and this could have been A Moment for Jax. It's just a bit too overproduced and overcalculating to be entirely convincing. But it's still quite satisfying.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry heard pitch issues all over the place, but he really felt what she was doing. It was a perfect song choice for Keith, because he understood the lyrics. J-Lo loves how Jax connects to the audience. Jax hopes that she was able to touch people in their living rooms.
9:39 p.m. In Nashville, the singers got to meet somebody's scary, lecherous old grandfather. It's Steven Tyler! Awww. Steven Tyler asked to sing with Jax at the finale.
Singer: RAYVON OWEN
My Take: This is much purer and more honest than Rayvon's first performance. I can't shake the feeling that Rayvon is giving this Justin Bieber song much more respect than it deserves, but there are big notes aplenty and if this episode hadn't been so awful, I might be more enthusiastic about that performance. Instead, I've pretty much checked out at this point. Sorry. It's not my fault. If "American Idol" comes back next season? New producers. Please. I'm begging you, FOX.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith loved watching Rayvon's mother loving the performance. J-Lo's face is wet with tears and says this was the connection she wanted the whole time. Harry thinks all 15 people who wrote the song would be thankful for what Rayvon did to it.
Singer: NICK FRADIANI
Song: "What Hurts the Most"
My Take: Nick's doing a Rascal Flatts song, which was mighty convenient, doncha know? Nobody's going to ever tell Nick that he over-articulates lyrics with his face, right? Ever? Like the way he raises his eyebrows on certain words and blinks aggressively, Robert Durst-style, on other words? And flutters his eyelashes in a frenzy on some words? And opens his mouth extra wide when he wants to make a point? I just feel like pointing these things out. Because nobody cares what I say. And I don't especially care about this episode anymore.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo calls Nick the star of the night. Harry can imagine that on Nick's album. And Keith thinks Nick's fans will download that single aggressively.
9:59 p.m. That episode felt like it was 10 hours long. It never developed any pacing or rhythms at all.