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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 8: Kelly Clarkson Week

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.

Last week, Ryan teased us with a potential added twist to Idol‘s show this week and, throughout the week, the contestants themselves revealed more about the “Idol Fan Save” that would be coming into play on Wednesday night. Ryan would, as per usual, announce the 7 contestants who are safe and singing again next week then the remaining 2, who had received the lowest number of votes from America, would each sing and fans could vote on the social media site Twitter to save one of them within a 5 minute span. It was a concept that followed the format of The Voice’s Instant Save which has had some success with avoid those ill-fated shock eliminations. But would the same take place tonight as the Top 7 took on Kelly Clarkson’s catalogue, one which, prior to tonight, did not have a good reputation on the show. Hopefully this talented crop could turn the tables on that stigma. Now, let’s see who Ryan declared safe and who got to belt their Clarkson track worry-free…

First declared safe: Nick Fradiani – “Catch My Breath” – Nick realized he had the right idea with last week’s performance of “Man in the Mirror”, but I don’t think this week’s offering struck the same chord. On paper, it looked like it had the same potential for some good vocals, but I don’t think Nick’s intentions aligned with the message in a way that came across to the audience, so while it was still in the right vein, I think it was a step back from last week. Nick’s still figuring himself out and that’s okay, for now. Rating: C+

Second safe: Jax – “Beautiful Disaster” – Jax’s song choice was another one that, on paper, made the most sense for her. It was light and airy and let her tone take hold, but I definitely think Keith gave one of his most astute comments in week’s when he said that Jax would have done better to stay seated and just focus on the song. By treading down from the piano, it was clear Jax was focusing on not stepping on her outfit or tripping in her shoes, which took away from the simplicity of this song. Next week, I think Jax just needs to focus on the logistics. Rating: B

Third safe: Tyanna Jones – “Mr. Know It All” – In stark contrast to Jax, I wanted Tyanna to move around more. After she prefaced her performance with a backstory about being bullied, I expected her to throw herself into this one and deliver it with a little sass and attitude, but instead it felt vacant at times and while I still enjoy her voice, I think some of the life has been sucked out of her in the past few weeks. She needs to get her spark back. Rating: C+

Joey Cook is Miss Independent. [Credit: FOX Entertainment]

Fourth safe: Joey Cook – “Miss Independent” – Joey did a good job of giving this performance the same spin as “Fancy” without making it feel like a total rehash. I do, however, feel like Harry’s comment about keeping jazz modern was spot-on. Joey has to avoid aging herself and making it seem like her type of music isn’t current enough to make it on today’s radio because I think it is and her performance of “Mad World” proved that she’s more than just that. She needs to find that balance next week. Rating: B+

Fifth safe: Quentin Alexander – “Dark Side” – Harry might have seemed unnecessarily harsh on Quentin after he deliver a pretty stellar vocal without sacrificing much of the mood of this song, but I think Harry’s critiques are mostly to help Quentin reach his full potential. Quentin did, indeed, pick a great song for himself and deliver a good performance of it, but with the right amount of practice, Quentin is capable of more than just good, like he’s delivered the past few weeks. He’s going to need great to beat some of the frontrunners in the competition right now, so I’ll be interested to see how he takes Harry’s feedback and rolls with it into next week. Rating: A- 

Sixth safe: Qaasim Middleton – “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” – Finally Qaasim found that sweet spot where he wasn’t singing a campy song that didn’t really showcase his vocal range. This performance felt like the same authentic and cool Qaasim who’s capable of delivering performances like “Uptown Funk”. I’m glad he dialed it back a little and while I still think he’s near the bottom of this pecking order in terms of straight-up vocal talent, I think he did all he could to try and get people back on board with him this week. Rating: C

The Top 9 sing Kelly Clarkson tunes. [Credit: FOX Entertainment]

Seventh safe: Clark Beckham – “The Trouble With Love Is” – As I said last week, Clark is kind of on a roll and when Clarkson herself stated that she might be pregnant again after hearing Clark’s rehearsals, I think we all knew to brace ourselves for something good again this week. Kelly did give Clark a good critique: to avoid closing his eyes and really connect with the audience, either at home or in the studio. I think Clark’s attempt to change his performance style showed a little bit, but the actual vocal and delivery of this song made me forget Clarkson’s version entirely and showed that Clark really is the right combo of soul and talent that really draws people in. Rating: A

Which left the season’s youngest contestant Daniel Seavey and the technically proficient but lacking in emotional Rayvon Owen to sing it out for the Idol Fan Save. Daniel tackled “Breakaway” but his laryngitis-afflicted rendition left much to be desired with flat notes galore that had me begging for it to end. (Rating: D-) Rayvon, on the other hand, learned from his mistakes and injected Clarkson’s power-pop anthem “Since U Been Gone” with some slowed down angsty emotion. (Rating: B-) It was a definite step in the right direction and while I don’t think it was the homerun we’ve been waiting for from him, it definitely set up the stark contrast that he needed to compel people to vote to save him via Twitter over Daniel. In the end, Rayvon triumped over Daniel and left us with a pretty solid Top 8 for next week’s Billboard Hot 100 show. I think, if I were to make a prediction, Rayvon may unfortunately find himself singing for the Idol Fan Save again alongside Qaasim.

That said, let me know what you thought of the nine performances we got tonight. Which were your favorites? In the comments, let me know what you thought of Clarkson as a mentor or the newly implemented Idol Fan Save.

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