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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: Top 9 Performances – 80’s Night

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.

After the dramatic finish to last week’s episode where the judges chose to save Qaasim for his performance potential, we came into tonight knowing two of our contestants would be going home and with a talent pool as deep as we have this season and Idol‘s infamous double eliminations often not going the predicted, deserved eliminations route, I didn’t know what to expect. Combine that with the fact that 80’s music, although timeless, has not been kind to Idol contestants in years past and we could be in for a bumpy ride. But let’s not dwell on what may or may not happen, let’s get right down to the results…

First declared safe: Daniel Seavey – “You Make My Dreams” (Hall & Oates) – I think at this point the judges have resigned to pretending that putting Daniel through to the Top 24 wasn’t the biggest mistake they’ve made all season. Even I, objective blogger that I am, have resigned myself to the fact that Daniel may not have the “potential” we all thought he did. This performance was no different than his last few: campy, out of tune and lacking any sort of emotional depth. These are all things Daniel needs to fix in order to even remotely get me to admit he deserves to stick around, but at this point, all ten of his competitors have shown more potential and deserve this spot over him. Rating: D+

Quentin creates drama with his performance. [Credit: FOX Entertainment]

Second safe: Quentin Alexander – “In The Air Tonight” (Phil Collins) – Is Harry right that Quentin’s moody, down-tempo performances are all beginning to blend together? Sure, but this performance still had that mesmerizing, quintessentially Quentin thing about it that hooked me from the start. Quentin knows how to build anticipation and while his vocals aren’t always note-for-note perfection, I think that kind of thing is rare on Idol anyway and giving us everything else that he does might be enough to keep the voters coming. Rating: B+

Third safe: Joey Cook – “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (Cyndi Lauper) – When I saw what Joey was thinking, I really thought this song choice had potential. I expected her to bust out the ol’ “squeezebox” or do something different with it, but instead she kind of opted for the straight-up-the-middle approach and that just didn’t work for her. It hurts me to say this, but Joey’s been so consistent (if not improving) week-upon-week that this felt like a misstep that gave me some doubts about this unexpected frontrunner. Hopefully her fanbase still comes out strong. Rating: C

Fourth safe: Tyanna Jones – “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” (Whitney Houston) – While this wasn’t as uncomfortable as Tyanna’s Lion King related performance last week, it still felt a bit dated and safe for a contestant that has been pushing the edges of modern pop all season. She also seemed to struggle to find her pitch at times, which has me worrying. Tyanna came into this a frontrunner but in order to stay that way, she needs to deal some good performances to snatch up the fans of the eliminated contestants, especially one of the ones who went home tonight… Rating: B-

Jax gets into the 80s rock vibe. [Credit: FOX Entertainment]

Fifth safe: Jax – “You Give Love A Bad Name” (Bon Jovi) – I was definitely nervous when we found out that Jax would be tackling a rock ballad, especially one that had already been famously rejigged by Season 6 contestant Blake Lewis, but Jax did something entirely different with the Bon Jovi track and made it her own. I think this is the first time that Jax’s penchant for breaking away from the obvious and kicking it into high gear shtick really worked. It showed that she owned up to the 80’s theme and for that I give her kudos. Rating: B+

Sixth safe: Nick Fradiani – “Man In The Mirror” (Michael Jackson) – Like Jax, Nick chose a song that Season 8 winner Kris Allen did plenty of justice to during his season, but I thought it was a good choice for Nick. It was the first time we saw a glimmer of emotion and fight from him and the lyrics definitely did him more favors than last week’s kiddie-pool-levels-of-shallow “Danger Zone”. I think this was a step in the right direction for Nick and, despite some oddly harsh feedback from the judges, I hope he continues in this direction in the weeks to come. Rating: B

Seventh safe: Clark Beckham – “Every Breath You Take” (The Police) – I know, I know, we don’t want another white guy to win Idol but come on, if you aren’t digging Clark by now, I think you need to just give in. This song isn’t exactly the greatest lyrically, but what makes it work for Sting is the emotional vibe of it and Clark put his own spin on it by turning it into a heartbroken ballad. Was it a little predictable? Sure. But there’s a big difference between predictable and boring and knowing your voice the way Clark does. The one thing I want from him is for him to be a bit more expressive (i.e. the way Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips was) with some of his performances. If he can give us that, it might come down to who’s filling the other slot in the finale this season. Rating: A-

Eighth safe: Qaasim Middleton – “Addicted To Love” (Poison) – Well, the judges saved Qaasim in hopes that he wouldn’t blow it the week after and… he kind of did?  I mean, this wasn’t the trainwreck that his performance of “Jet” was that got him eliminated, but it did feel uninspired in the same way. I think Qaasim is one of those hit-or-miss contestants that makes him both exciting and frustrating. What he needs to do next week is either give into his over-the-top performance shtick or find the right song to dial it back with. None of this half-way-between those two alternatives stuff.

Which meant our Bottom 3 consisted of Ravyon Owen, Maddie Walker and Adanna Duru. As much as I wanted Daniel to go home, I can’t say I’m surprised he didn’t nor that this is the Bottom 3 that we got. Eventually Seacrest told us that Rayvon would be the one moving on and Maddie and Adanna would be home. Kind of ironic, isn’t it? Considering I said that Adanna was doing what Maddie wasn’t, showing that she could rise above her “not quite there yet” status and deliver performance that convinced us that maybe she was, while Maddie was content to float between the middle and bottom half of the pack and yet, they both get eliminated on the same night. What’s it going to take Idol? Oh right, emotional connection, good song choice and a bit of performance power. Stuff that our front runners Clark, Jax, Joey (and even Quentin) have all been delivering.

Ninth and last safe: Rayvon Owen – “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” (Tears for Fears) – When the American Idol instagram posted that someone would be singing Tears for Fears, I was hoping it would be this song. I was also hoping Jax would be singing Lorde’s version from the Catching Fire soundtrack, but I digress. I still think, however, that Ravyon could have borrowed a bit of the drama from Lorde’s version and just let us focus on his vocals a bit more. We’re all well aware that Rayvon is, vocally, one of the best. But what he’s lacking, as I said above, is the right balance between good singing and all that other stuff – charisma, emotion, good song choice. If he can’t get that right next week, I fear his trip to the Bottom 3 this week won’t be his last.

That’s it for now, let me know in the poll and comments below what you thought about the performances and the double elimination. I will see you next week, where our Top 9 will take on songs by Idol’s first winner, Kelly Clarkson! Should be fun!

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