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Andrew is a staff writer at the “The Hudsucker”. He is a 30 year old lawyer living in Ottawa. Besides legal jargon, his brain capacity is taken up by reality show trivia, video game walk-throughs and room escape strategies. Andrew is also happily in a long-term, long-distance relationship. Follow him on Twitter as @sublymonal.

American Idol XIV: The Top 12 Perform – “Back to the Start”

Our writer and Idol expert, Andrew Rogers is back this season covering the popular FOX reality show, “American Idol“. The pressure is on and the stakes are high as the musical competition searches for a real superstar in its fourteenth year. With weekly recaps discussing the contestants’ performances and choices, Rogers looks ahead at what’s in-store each week in his exclusive Idol recap series.

The judges gear up for another night of performances. [Credit: FOX Entertainment]

The theme from tonight’s show was that each contestant who made it through to the Top 12 would take us “back to the start” and perform their audition song all over again. Some claimed it was too soon to revisit that moment, but I think given that the contestant’s would be performing twice this week and both times right after they found out they had made it into the next stage of the competition, they needed to have at least one of those songs be something they were familiar with. And the results were inconsistent. It wasn’t like they all excelled because of the easy song choice or all left us bored and wanting more, but before I give too much away, let’s delve deeper into each one of their performances…

First declared safe: Sarina Joi-Crowe – “Love Runs Out” (OneRepublic) – While I was thrilled that Sarina was the first one to be called safe, I was not thrilled that the band seemed to drown her out and give her uncharacteristic pitch problems. I wasn’t a huge fan of her audition, but the direction she seemed to head in with this performance was better, if not for the fact that she got lost in the noise and sound. Hopefully America votes based on past performances and not just this one. Rating: C

Second safe: Rayvon Owen – “Wide Awake” (Katy Perry) – I think Rayvon took the judges’ feedback last week the wrong way. When they told him to show them a different side, he chose to wipe the smile off his face completely, leaving him with a dead expression throughout this performance. Sure, it still sounded good but it wasn’t his usual self and I worry that it might rub America the wrong way. Rating: B-

Third safe: Daniel Seavey – “Straight Up” (Paula Adbul) – If I had to swap out any member of the Top 12, it would be Daniel. As the judges bluntly (but rightly) told him after he was finished, his performances to date haven’t shown that same magic that got him through the first few rounds. They’ve felt awkward, sloppy and inexperienced. If he’s going to out last some of his more talented, experienced competition (like I expect he will), he’ll need to pick songs that he feels more comfortable in. Rating: D+

Fourth safe: Maddie Walker – “Suitcase” (Gwen Sebastian) – From her audition and all the way through Hollywood, I resented Maddie, thinking she didn’t belong in this group of talented singers, but after three fairly decent performances, I feel like she’s proving she deserves it. This performance started and ended with the emotional charge that I wanted. The middle fell a little flat, but Maddie’s voice was mostly on point so I can’t say this was a step back for her. It might be more of a step sideways. Rating: B-

Fifth safe: Tyanna Jones – “Wings” (Little Mix) – Tyanna suffered from a few pitch problems at the beginning of the song, but as it went along, she fell right into the groove and kept the energy on the performance high. I applaud Tyanna for, thus far, being the only contestant to consistently deliver uptempo songs and do it well. Maybe tomorrow night we’ll get to see another side of her. Rating: B

Sixth safe: Nick Fradiani – “In Your Eyes” (Peter Gabriel) – This, for me, was a small step forward for Nick. He had a bit more of the emotion I wanted from him and this song suits him well. I’m glad JLo gave him the feedback that he needs to keep picking songs that suit him which, to me, means songs he can deliver on an emotional level. While Nick isn’t my favourite guy of the bunch, it’s hard to argue that he deserves his spot in the Top 12. Rating: B

Seventh safe: Jax – “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” (The Beatles) – I totally 100% agree with Keith that I would have preferred this performance done strictly at the piano. Jax made so many interesting vocal choices when she was there that it didn’t feel like a karaoke rendition of a dated track, but as soon as she stood up, it seemed to slip into the zone. I worry the judges feedback from last week deterred her from being overly adventurous and that’s not what I want at all. Rating: B+

Eighth safe: Qaasim Middleton – “Sir Duke” (Stevie Wonder) – I think this theme didn’t play well into Qaasim’s strategy of showing more of his vocal talent this week. He is a good singer, that I know, but this performance started a little rough. When he got into it and give it his signature energy, it felt more natural and I worried less about the vocals, but I hope tomorrow he can sing something that really taps into his unexpected, sensitive side. Rating: C

Ninth safe: Clark Beckham – “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” (James Brown) – Unlike those who came before him, Clark didn’t seemed to suffer from the same pitch problems. His audition song was a perfect song to give him that moment he needed to propel him back into front-runner position now that the guys and girls were performing together. This song fit his soulful, gritty tone to a tee and, like JLo said, it was the vocal of the night by a mile. Rating: A-

Joey Cook sings “King of Spain” [Credit: FOX Entertainment]

Tenth, and last contestant safe based on America’s votes: Joey Cook – “King of Spain” (The Tallest Man On Earth) – Harry was right back in Hollywood when he said Joey would be the kiwi of the bunch and she still is. Her performance stood alone as one of the most interesting of the night. It was vocally on point, it suited her and it made her seem less like one of the middle-tier contestants and more like one of the upper-tier talents. Rating: A-

Which left Adam Ezegalian, Mark Andrew and Quentin Alexander for the boys and Alexis Gomez, Loren Lott and Adanna Duru for the girls. Quentin was the only shock for me, but the judges immediately saved him and rightfully also saved Adanna after she delivered a pretty emotionally spot on rendition of Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello”. The two of them then sang…

First Wildcard: Quentin Alexander – “Royals” (Lorde) – Quentin’s performance began with some flat notes, but the more it went on, the more we saw all the different colors in his voice. Quentin is capable of reggae, R&B, soul, gospel, rock, pop… this performance felt more like a testament to how grateful he was to be saved by the judges and the tears that came to him at the end seemed more than genuine. I think his deliver on an emotional level overshadowed any vocal problems he had. Rating: A-

Second Wildcard: Adanna Duru – “You and I” (Lady Gaga) – Adanna also suffered from a few pitch issues. She had all the energy I wanted from her though and performed the heck out of the song to both the audience at home and in the studio. I think, like the judges said, if she can dial back some of that energy just a bit to harness her vocal talent, she could buy herself a lot more time in the competition. Rating: B

Overall, I think the Top 12 is mostly right. We have one iffy contestant in Daniel, but the other 11 could all give us a reason to root for them in the coming weeks, with a few having a genuine shot at the title. Tomorrow night, they’ll perform again and one of them will be eliminated. If I had to pick, I’d say Sarina, Rayvon, Maddie and Adanna are most in danger, but we’ll see if I’m right.

As for the performances, let me know who your favorites were in the poll below and leave me a comment with your thoughts. I’ll see you Friday morning for the results of Thursday night’s show.

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