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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: Ain’t No Party Like A Top 11 Party

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.

On Thursday night, we got our first glimpse of how America would vote with only one eliminee and let’s just say, it was scary but not entirely unexpected. Usually it’s only a matter of time before America’s (mostly) perfect eliminations derail and get rid of the wrong person, but we’ll talk about that later. First, let’s talk about the people who made it straight through to next week’s show, the theme of which is “Songs from the Movies”:

The Top 12 before tonight’s show. [Credit: FOX entertainment]

First called safe: Rayvon Owen – “Burn” (Ellie Goulding) – I think Rayvon might have taken the judges critiques a little too much to heart. Rayvon has great music sensibilities and most of what he’s sung this far (think Nick Jonas’s “Jealous”) suited him well. (I would have preferred that he sing something like Miguel’s “Adorn”). So I can’t fathom why he chose such an uptempo song where he sounded a bit breathless and a bit lost. It was the first time where I felt like Rayvon wasn’t one of the best, smartest people on that stage and that worries me. Rating: C

Second called: Maddie Walker – “She’s Country” (Jason Aldean) – I think Maddie chose a better song for herself than Rayvon. It was a bit predictable and didn’t exactly align with the party theme, but it wasn’t terrible. The thing I’m worried about with Maddie is that she’s content with being middle-of-the-pack every week. She’s never done something like Janelle Arthur (another middle-of-the-pack country female) where she sang “You Keep Me Hanging On” in a way that had every one talking about it that night. I don’t think Maddie has the same instrumental chops as her, but that doesn’t mean she’s not capable of standing out. This, for me, was just her usual subpar affair. Rating: C+

Third called: Joey Cook – “Fancy” (Iggy Azalea) – Joey, on the other hand, always seems to be trying to push the envelope, and maybe she has to because her voice, look and just about everything about her is different and unique. This spin on Iggy’s rap track was, by far, the season’s most interesting performance to date. It was playful, it was cool and, if anything, it continued to solidify Joey’s status as more than just a gimmick performer. Or at least, if she is a gimmicky singer, she knows how to play into her gimmick well. She’s keep the competition interesting and I definitely appreciate that. Keep doing what you’re doing, Joey. Rating: A

Fourth called: Clark Beckham – “Takin’ It To The Streets” (The Doobie Brothers) – I’ve heard a lot of people start to complain that Clark’s song choices are too old fashioned, but you almost can’t complain when he’s consistently among the best performers of the night. I will say though, that because his unique tone lends itself to soulful, cool renditions of everything he touches, he could probably get away with a more modern song (i.e. “Take Me To Church” by Hozier, anyone?) and still make it uniquely Clark. Rating: B+

Fifth called: Jax – “Blank Space” (Taylor Swift) – This is a song that definitely should have worked in theory, but in execution, feel completely flat and not in the way that Jax’s Motown pick worked for some people and didn’t work for others. This is a well known song on the radio right now and something about it just didn’t feel right on Jax. She’s always been one of the better performers, seeming comfortable in her skin up on that stage and earning her frontrunner status but she definitely had a bit of a slip tonight. Hopefully her fanbase from previous performances can keep her safe. Rating: C-

Sixth called: Qaasim Middleton – “Jet” (Paul McCartney) – Another person taking the judges critiques a little too deeply to heart is Qaasim. They told him they wanted to hear him sing and then he goes and does it and it just wasn’t good. I can’t fathom why, considering we saw him sing with his guitar during Hollywood Week and he sounded good, but Qaasim lost a little bit of his magic in this performance. He slurred his words together and the notes just weren’t there. Part of it might have just been poor song choice to showcase his talent, but another part may just be that he’s better as an uptempo performer. Rating: D+

Seventh called: Adanna Duru – “Runaway Baby” (Bruno Mars) – I think Adanna exemplifies the critique I gave Maddie earlier. Maddie is content with being middle-of-the-pack, whereas Adanna is not. Her last three performances (“Hello”, “You and I”, and this one) have shown that despite not being the most note-for-note perfect of her competitors, she still wants to make her mark on this competition. This performance had the energy and, on a vocal level, was a slight improvement over the last two. I think if Adanna keeps at this, she’ll have consistency and memorability on her side such that she might sneak past a few other people in this competition: Rating: B

Tyanna Jones rocking some Janelle Monae. [Credit: FOX Entertainment]

Eighth called: Tyanna Jones – “Tightrope” (Janelle Monae) – Tyanna, on the other hand, just makes everything look effortless. Unlike Adanna, she’s not trying super hard to be good, she just is. It’s effortless for her and her song choice tonight was perfect for her. I could have told you from the outset that this was going to work for her, but it was just as good in execution and that’s key. Tyanna’s old school, happy-go-lucky likeability makes me think that she might claim the fans of some of the eliminated competitors easier than the others. Rating: A-

Ninth, and last, called safe: Daniel Seavey – “Happy” (Pharrell Williams) – I honestly can’t understand how Daniel is safe every week. No wait, I can. It’s like Daniel himself said in his cringe-worthy pre-performance package. His cuteness is a factor, because his vocals and performance ability certainly aren’t. Every performance of his since the live shows started has felt awkward and uncomfortable and there’s something painful about watching him fumble his way through a performance. David Archuleta, while awkward off-stage, knew how to turn it on when the time came and deliver a good performance. Daniel just doesn’t have that yet, but if he’s going to stick around week after week over his more talented competitors, I expect mentor Scott Borchetta and the judges to give him some constructive feedback and help him improve, not do what Keith Urban has been doing and just keep pretending that everything is okay. Rating: D

Which meant the Bottom 3 was the uncomprehensible combination of Quentin Alexander, Nick Fradiani and Sarina Joi-Crowe. I had a feeling Sarina and Quentin might be there, given that Quentin was a wildcard and Sarina went first and had her first lackluster performance in week’s. But Nick’s presence there shocked me and I honestly couldn’t decide who I’d send home of this group. Fortunately, I didn’t have to…

Tenth safe: Quentin Alexander – “Rolling In The Deep” (Adele) – Again, I’m questioning how this is a party song, but Quentin did put his own spin on this one. It wasn’t vocally flawless and the arrangement wasn’t perfect, but there’s something compelling about watching Quentin perform that makes me want more. I think part of it is that we know he’s capable of greatness, unlike some of his competitors. Another part might just be that reggae hitch to his voice that seems to give every performance something different. Either way, I hope he’s safe after this. Rating: C+

Eleventh safe: Nick Fradiani – “Wake Me Up” (Avicii) – Once again, Nick seems to suffer from just a basic performance. I truly believe the reason he ended up in the Bottom 3 is that the audience just isn’t connecting with him on an emotional level. Compare him to Clark, Jax, Joey and even Maddie and Adanna. What they have going for them is that they make you feel something when they get up on stage. They dig a little deeper and, vocally pristine or not, give you something emotional to take away from their performance. Nick just comes out and sings a straight-up-the-middle cover and I just don’t think that’s enough on this show. Rating: C+

Which meant Sarina Joi-Crowe would be eliminated unless the judges saved her. After two performances that put her competitors to shame (“Mama Knows Best” and “You Really Got A Hold On Me”) and four years trying to get to this point, I couldn’t believe Sarina was the one in danger. She sang “Neon Lights” (Demi Lovato) as her performance of the night, but her nerves got the best of her and the song’s tempo seemed to swallow her normally pristine vocals up. I, personally, would not have even thought twice about saving her, but I knew that for the judges it was far too early and there was far too much talent still up on that stage. I have to admit that I think Sarina’s elimination might be one of the biggest upsets this early in the competition.

Regardless, we move into next week with our Top 11 and lots to think about. Sound off in the comments and the poll below and let me know what you thought about their performances. I will see you next Thursday morning!

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