Recap: 'American Idol' Season 14 - Top 9 '80s Night and Double-Elimination
We're only two weeks into this season's "American Idol" Finals and The Save is gone.
The "Idol" judges opted to Save Qaasim Middleton last week. Were they protecting the entertainment factor that Qaasim brings to the show? Were they rewarding Qaasim for bringing energy to an episode that had lacked energy? Were they recognizing that America's voting has, thus far, been wonky as heck this season?
Either way, Wednesday's (March 25) episode of "American Idol" is going to be a double-elimination episode, meaning that there are 11 remaining contestants, but presumably only nine are going to sing. This will change the entire architecture of the episode. Plus, FOX is boasting an appearance by Salt and/or Peppa, following last week's big Kenny Loggins appearance. Whee!
8:01 p.m. I think Nick Fradiani should have been the '80s Night mentor, since I'm pretty sure he's the only contestant this season who existed way back then.
8:03 p.m. Jennifer Lopez Fashion Show. I don't know how to describe the material that J-Lo's dress is made of, but it's yet another outfit that guarantees she can only barely bend over to greet the crowd. "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?" Harry Connick Jr's shirt reads. And Qaasim is grateful for having been saved.
8:04 p.m. This week's celebrity results presenter is... David Hasselhoff. Oh. "I don't remember much about the '80s," The Hoff says. Is he about to perform? Or is he just performing a strip tease? No. Thankfully. The Hoff remembers that The '80s were fun. Oh my. Yes. He's performing.
8:08 p.m. Damnit, this isn't "German Idol," FOX. We won that war for a reason. Many reasons. None relating to David Hasselhoff. Sigh. Now I've brought myself down.
8:09 p.m. "It was a decade best defined by Boy George," Ryan Seacrest says. I'm really not sure that's true. I like the glazed looks of confusion the "Idol" Finalists gave Boy George and the generic forced questions they asked him.
8:11 p.m. Boy George joins the Top 11 for a Group Sing of "Karma Chameleon."
8:14 p.m. Harry is so confused by what's happening and why he's there. But at least we're getting down to business. Our first performance comes from...
Singer: DANIEL SEAVEY
Song: "You Make My Dreams"
My Take: There's no point in hating, "Idol" fans. Just because Daniel Seavey was born in 1999 and he's awful doesn't mean that he's going anywhere soon. Scott Borchetta thinks that Daniel chose a "cute" song. Daniel's full-on "Tiger Beat" tonight, with a hat fit for a Cory. He's working without an instrument, which means he's lost on the stage, other than a couple reaches into the crowd and one chicken legged dance move. Vocally, this just excruciating. His falsetto is weak and unsteady. He has no real sense of the lyrics or the rhythm. And the crowd loves his dismalness. "Idol," grant me the serenity to accept the Seavey I cannot change, because it's been several seasons since we had anybody this bad, but also this likely to have a long "Idol" run.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith loves the song. Sure. Because it's awesome. Keith thinks it's enjoyable to watch Daniel. Towards the end of the song, Keith thought he got better. J-Lo loved this for him and claims he sang better this week. "It's just about loosening up up there," J-Lo says. Harry asks Daniel what he likes to do. "Make people happy," Daniel says with a vote-winning smile. Harry thought the vocal was better than last week and tells him to go out and have a good time.
Singer: QUENTIN ALEXANDER
Song: "In The Air Tonight"
My Take: Boy George loves Quentin's fashion sense. I wonder what animal sacrificed itself for Quentin's high-collar jacket. It's awesome. And since it's probably 110 degrees on the "Idol" stage, he must be sweating bullets. I like that Quentin is mostly singing the melody here, but he's given it a strange Quentonian cadence that makes it seem like it's being sung by an alien who speaks and understands English perfectly, but doesn't know our phrasing. He's having some problems with the background rhythm, but I think that's a much stronger vocal than last week, coupled with Quentin's general intensity. Everybody looks awesome after Daniel Seavey. And so, by that standard, that was awesome.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: "That was crazy, the mood of it, the drama of it," J-Lo says. "You are Quentin. You are who you are," J-Lo tells him. "You dig about as deeply as you can into those lyrics," Harry tells Quentin, but he warns Quentin about too many slow songs in a row, hoping that something up-tempo is coming. Keith thought the song choice was "killa."
Singer: JOEY COOK
Song: "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"
My Take: Joey says her outfit is "Madonna in Space." I'd go with "Wearing a five-year-old's JEM and the Holograms costume." Joey, unlike everybody else, thinks meeting Boy George is great and Boy George's advice for Joey's song is good advice. Joey's vocal tendency is to elongate everything, to add drama to everything. That's an odd match with an uptempo song about... well... having fun. She starts off trying to have fun with a big grin and some playful dance moves, but in the middle she seems to forget and almost curls back into herself. She remembers a bit later and smiles and bounces around a bit more. It's confusing, though, because Joey almost always brings a smile to my face. And this didn't. So that's not good. Like I believe Joey had fun meeting Boy George and I believe Joey had fun picking this outfit and I even believe Joey had fun conceiving of this routine, but the effort put into having all of that fun left me cold. Uh-oh.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry thought Joey seemed distracted and something was holding her back. Keith felt like there were moments of inconsistency, but he promises that Nicole Kidman and his kids were dancing in the living room. J-Lo agrees that her daughter will want the outfit. J-Lo felt that the song seemed like a good idea, but wasn't. Joey doesn't care, because she gets to hug Boy George.
8:48 p.m. Joey Cook it 100% unfazed by the critical reviews. Up next...
Singer: TYANNA JONES
Song: "I Wanna Dance With Somebody"
My Take: I was a little bit worried about Tyanna, who overreached last week. Whitney Houston is usually an overreach, but I think this is an OK pick for Tyanna, since it's up-tempo if nothing else. The song starts too low, but it doesn't stay there for long. She sounds better as the song gets higher. But when she sounds better, it's because she's doing an absolutely mannerism-for-mannerism cover of what Whitney did with the song, albeit with slightly different backing. No. Bad idea. Two weeks ago, Tyanna did great Janelle Monae karaoke. This is very good Whitney Houston karaoke. Somehow I had the initial impression she was more original than that, but maybe she just isn't? Or maybe it's too much to expect of a 16-year-old girl to ask for originality every week? It may just be my expectations. Tyanna definitely isn't bad. She's good to listen to and fun to watch.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith thought Tyanna overthought a bit. "You're not gonna be perfect all the time. Nobody is," J-Lo tells her. Harry always feels like Tyanna is in the driver's seat, but tells her to keep working and fighting.
Song: "You Give Love a Bad Name"
My Take: I'm glad Jax is getting to do this theme, because she's young, but she's an old soul. Or maybe she's just an '80s soul, because she also loves Boy George. Jax has rearranged Bon Jovi on the piano. Jersey, represent. I adore the performativity of this performance, the flirting with the camera, the teasing twists of lyric. I think the verses are great. I don't love the shout-y chorus as much, when she's fighting to be heard over the band. But that's my favorite performance of the night, the best melding of personal enthusiasm with execution.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: "You're giving us all that '80s punk attitude tonight," J-Lo says of Jax's style, saying that Jax got lost in the middle, but ended it strong. "Your originality is what brought you here and your intrigue is what kept you here," Harry says, agreeing with J-Lo about the middle. Keith encourages her to make changes in rehearsal if she needs to, loving the pieces, but not the whole as much.
9:09 p.m. Kelly Clarkson isn't just appearing next week. They're doing The Kelly Clarkson Songbook. Chuckle. Up next?
Singer: NICK FRADIANI
Song: "Man in the Mirror"
My Take: Old Man Nick survived to perform on the night dedicated to the decade in which he was born. This isn't the song I'd have predicted for Nick. I don't really buy the performance, but it's an OK vocal. Nick just kinda bores me. He doesn't offend me with his dullness, but I also feel like his much-discussed hotness may be overrated. Oh well. I can accept that Nick isn't an "Idol" contestant for me and that unlike Daniel Seavey, he isn't offending my ears. I can just tune him out.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry thought it was a fantastic vocal and he's figured Nick out, that his strength is in his humility, because he's "a sweet, kind soul." Like I said... Boring! Keith wants more smiles from Nick. J-Lo got caught up in it in the end, suggesting Nick was in his head at first. Interesting to hear Harry being the least critical of the three judges. Lots of hugging with Nick and Jax.
9:21 p.m. Harry thinks Boy George has been a good mentor. And now... Geico Commercial Stars Salt -n- Peppa's here.
9:23 p.m. Harry dancing is funny. J-Lo dancing is terrific. J-Lo spanking Harry makes this five minute interruption worth it. Oh come on! A commercial for "Cinderella" after that performance merely serves to make me miss Spinderella.
Singer: CLARK BECKHAM
Song: "Every Breath You Take"
My Take: Every week I forget that Clark Beckham exists and then I'm not displeased to be reminded. A lot is made of Clark's choice of key. There's no question that Clark starts at the very top of his normal register. Will he still find room as the song rises? Mostly, yes. The very top is a little thin and it sounds like he's out of breath a couple times. But I appreciate the stripped down arrangement and his dedication to the version of the song he wanted to do. The key definitely didn't undo him.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: "You really took me on a journey," Keith says, praising Clark for making the song less about a stalker and more about pain. J-Lo got goosies. Harry is happy.
9:35 p.m. Maddie, Adanna, Qaasim and Rayvon remain in limbo. I'm not ready to lose Qaasim again, but otherwise, whatever happens happens.
9:35 p.m. Scott Borchetta feels that the contestants have raised the bar today. Up next?
Singer: QAASIM MIDDLETON
Song: "Addicted to Love"
My Take: Whew. Qaasim is going to get at least one bonus week from The Save. Why did we watch so much of Qaasim singing for Boy George? I think we've already seen too much of this performance before we begin. This is going to be Qaasim's last "American Idol" performance, I fear. I respect his desire to show that he's not just a manic entertainer and that he's also a vocalist. And this isn't a bad vocal, but it takes a long, long time before Qaasim starts tossing in his own flourishes. I'm not sure that that performance couldn't have been given by four or five of Qaasim's "Idol" fellows and I prefer when he gives performances only he can give.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo loved it. Harry liked that Qaasim proved he could be restrained, but also tells him to go back to entertaining. Keith wants more vulnerability, but throws in an "if you're here next week." We'll see about that.
9:52 p.m. Oh. It's elimination time. This becomes really awkward with two people leaving and no Save, doesn't it? So we're about to simultaneously send two people home, while immediately forcing somebody else to sing well with the adrenaline bursting out of their ears after two hours. After the vote, but last performer tonight is... RAYVON. That means Adanna and Maddie are done. I'm disappointed we didn't get to figure out Adanna's outfit in a little more depth. But with the Save for Qaasim, it means we've now started the season by sending home three girls, which is vintage "Idol."
Singer: RAYVON OWENS
Song: "Everybody Want To Rule The World"
My Take: As ever, Rayvon is smooth and unexciting. He's usually very steady on his high notes, but tonight he's a bit wobbly, which I attribute to the adrenaline. He isn't doing much, performance-wise. It's the same face, the same anxious microphone clutching. I guess this is a bit different because it isn't smiley. But it's still... middling.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry had been waiting for a strong interpretation from Rayvon and he liked the interpretation, though he could do without the "default falsetto." Keith takes time to honor Adanna and Maddie, but urges Rayvon to ease in a bit more. J-Lo suggests Rayvon may want to push outside of his comfort zone.
9:59 p.m. I'm definitely not surprised at Adanna's elimination. I was surprised she survived the past two votes, just given traditional "Idol" patterns. The only reason Maddie's elimination surprises me is that she had the country niche all to herself and wasn't able to take advantage. I think Maddie made a huge mistake not sticking with country last week and doing such a weak version of "Let's Hear It For The Boy." She sacrificed her base and wasn't very good doing it.
TONIGHT'S BEST: I didn't think tonight's show was really better than last week's. Sorry, Scott Borchetta. I'd put Quentin, Jax, Clark and maybe Tyanna in the "above average" category. Nobody was great and given the number of potentially great songs available from the '80s, I'm worried what next week will bring with a more limited theme.
TONIGHT'S WORST: Daniel Seavey may just have this place to himself for a while.
What'd you think? Who stood out? And who's in trouble?