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.
Tonight we finally saw a shift that I, personally, have been waiting for since about Season 9. The focus seemed to shift back on the contestants, giving them a chance to act out imaginary movies and give us a bit of their personality. I think little segments like that go a long way to getting people to actually invest in contestants. The question is, are any of them worth investing in? As Harry Connick Jr. said tonight, most of them seem to be performing at a subpar level such that even average performances are enough to get a contestant through. I think he has a point, but I think a few things tonight might rectify that problem next week. Before I get to that, let’s talk about the “Movie Night” performances in the order they happened…
First called safe: Adanna Duru – “I Love You, I Do” (Jennifer Hudson) – It was true what Keith said about this song having some major range and JHud makes it look easy, but for Adanna, the low notes at the beginning were a bit of a struggle. In her higher register, though, she maintained the control she’d starting working on last week, I just wish (like JLo) that she had been a little bit more flirty with the performance since it called for that. Rating: B-
Second safe: Daniel Seavey – “Lost Stars” (Adam Levine) – Once again, Daniel’s safety ensures that one of his more experienced competitors is going home in his place. And his performance, if possible, was even worse than last week. I’m not sure if he ever hit a note and Keith’s lukewarm “I liked what you did with it” praise just isn’t going to cut it. This kid needs to get better fast, or get off that stage. Rating: F
Third safe: Rayvon Owen – “Stayin’ Alive” (The Bee Gees) – I grew up listening to the Bee Gees thanks to my parents, so I’m hyper-critical of any cover of their songs, but I think Rayvon did a decent job with it. He injected the song with a bit of soul and he hit all the right notes, but I couldn’t help agreeing with Harry that it needs more. Rayvon has one of the best weapons in his arsenal and the last two weeks of song choices haven’t let him show it off at all. Rating: B-
Fourth safe: Nick Fradiani – “Danger Zone” (Kenny Loggins) – I feel like every week Nick just confirms how I feel about him. He’s just a basic cookie cutter “hot guy with a decent voice” at this point. His tone is reminiscent of Season 5’s Chris Daughtry, who delivered some epic performances without the “looks” to back it up. I think Nick, like Daniel, needed the bit of harsh feedback Harry gave him this week to realize that he needs to take his talent in a different direction and pick songs that he can sink his teeth into. Rating: C
Fifth safe: Joey Cook – “Mad World” (Tears for Fears) – I wasn’t as into this performance as the judges were. I think because I was unfairly comparing Joey’s version to Adam Lambert’s of years past. I do applaud her for, once again, toning back the quirk factor and showing a different side of herself. Joey has, in the past few weeks, solidified her front-runner status. She’s a smart contestant and while this wasn’t my favourite offering from her, it was still a step forward, rather than sideways or back. Rating: B+
Sixth safe: Tyanna Jones – “Circle of Life” (Elton John) – I think Harry jinxed Tyanna before her performance by saying she hadn’t had a bad one this far. This performance was, well, bad. Jennifer Hudson slayed this song before her untimely elimination back in Season 3 and since then no one has dared to touch it, until tonight. And for good reason. As I said before, JHud has killer range and Tyanna, while talented, just couldn’t latch on to those notes on the way up to her higher register, which left us with more than a few cringeworthy parts to this performance. Hopefully the voters will forgive her. Rating: D+
Seventh safe: Quentin Alexander – “You’re the One That I Want” (John Travolta and Olivia Newton John) – I’m glad Quentin was safe after a bit of an odd performance last week, but this performance seemed to bring him back on track. Was it as memorable as “I Put A Spell On You”? No, but did his interpretation bring out some of the best in his voice and emotions, I’d say so. I think if Quentin’s voters are looking for “more of the same”, he delivered tonight, but I want to see a bit more of the guy who sang that Foxes song back at the House of Blues… Rating: B+
Eighth safe: Maddie Walker – “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” (Deniece Williams) – Like Harry said, there was a lot of subpar performances tonight and Maddie’s “pageanty” rendition of this track which doesn’t really go anywhere definitely left me fearing for her spot in this competition. Like I said in my last review, Maddie has been content with her middle of the road performances and I think tonight she strayed a little too far from the centre line by not giving us anything substantial to go buy with this one. Rating: D+
Ninth safe: Clark Beckham – “Sunday Morning” (Maroon 5) – Thank god for Clark, who heard Harry’s cry and delivered the saving grace of Thursday evening’s telecast. His sweet, syrupy version of this Maroon 5 classic was everything I wanted and more. This is one of my favorite songs, so I was fully prepared to be super critical, but he took it to different places and, like Harry said, that’s what made it work. It was a good return to form for him tonight. Rating: A
Tenth, and last, safe: Jax – “I Want To Grow Old With You” (Adam Sandler) – A second return to form happened when Jax picked a rather unexpected, but cheeky and therefore somehow perfect song choice for her. As the judges like to remind us, this competition really is all about song choice and this song let Jax show off her infinitely beautiful tone while still playing up her personality, which is what made people like her in the first place. Well played Jax. Rating: A-
Which meant resident performer Qaasim Middleton would be singing “Come Together” (The Beatles) for the one save of the season. After his hot mess of a performance last week and the judges’ reluctance to use the save on general-flawless Sarina Joi-Crowe, I didn’t expect them to bite tonight either. It was too early and unless Qaasim knocked it out of the park, it would be hard to convince all three of them.
That being said, Qaasim rocked his performance. The risk of going home seemed to light a fire under him and he gave us attitude, performance and quality vocals. Even though I, personally, wouldn’t have used the save because of the risk that other bigger players (like Jax, Clark, Joey or Tyanna) could find themselves in danger, I can’t really fault the judges for responding to what Qaasim put on the table tonight. I’d give his performance a solid B+
Given the use of the save, there will be a double elimination next week where I think Maddie is a sure bet to go home. The second elimination could be either Adanna or Rayvon (neither of whom deserve it), but I’m hoping it’s Daniel. I also think that after Harry called all the contestants out for being “subpar” and now that the save is off the table, we should see a bit of a step up in the contestant’s game, if they know what’s good for them…
And with that, I turned it over to you. What do you think? Did Qaasim deserve to be saved? Who had the best performances tonight? Let me know in the poll and comments below.