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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 6: Arena Anthems

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 Wednesday night’s Idol show the theme wasn’t the only thing misleading as a grand total of two of the performances seemed to actually fit within its confines. But worse yet was the distinct lack of viable feedback from the judges, save a few comments from JLo and the heavy-handedness with which the Quentin “this whole thing is whack” debacle was handled throughout. The night opened with footage from last week that seemed to indicate that show was proud of how candid Quentin and Harry had been and the controversy that spurred through the media from it, but if anything it just reminded the audience before the night’s festivities that Quentin could not be trusted, but more on that later. Let’s talk about the performances first…

First to be declared safe: Jax singing “Are You Gonna To Be My Girl” (Jet) – Jax’s second outing in the land of upbeat rock since last week’s rendition of “Beat It” proved to be more successful. She took Harry’s backhanded advice and toned down the “running around the stage” factor to focus a bit more on her vocals, which was a good decision because this song suited her fairly well, actually. I don’t really know that there was much more that she could have done with it, I think a B is about is good as you can get with a song like this. Rating: B

Second safe: Nick singing “Harder to Breathe” (Maroon 5) – JLo hit the nail on the head for me when she told Nick that this song lends itself to more audience participation. I was confused why he chose to come out with his guitar when the song was too loud to really hear him playing and some of his best, most engaging performances (“Man In the Mirror”, “Only the Good Die Young”) have been when he put the guitar down and just gave into the song. I think his experience playing guitar is translating into a bit of a crutch so hopefully he put it down next week and gives us that other side of himself in at least one of his performances. Rating: B-

Third safe: Clark singing “Yesterday” (The Beatles) – I get why Clark chose this song given that his entire bio was spent telling us about his grandmother, but his actually delivery of it fell short for me for the first time. Harry pointed out that Clark grab the high notes in the song at the right time without making it overkill, but I felt like when he wasn’t singing those high notes, his voice was too timid and the words seemed less than confident. Maybe he hadn’t rehearsed it as much as he usually does or maybe the conviction just wasn’t behind it. Or maybe emotion overtook him. Either way, I think he needs to figure what went wrong and fix it for next week. Rating: C

Fourth safe: Tyanna singing “Party in the USA” (Miley Cyrus) – “Fun” isn’t really words that you ever want to hear the judges say. It general translates to “this wasn’t very good vocally”, but I don’t think that was entirely the case. I do think the song started too low for Tyanna, but it made sense when she went into the chorus and it seemed to be right in her range. JLo, once again, gave the only viable critique of the bunch when she told Tyanna that she needed a performance with more depth if she was going to compel people to vote. Rating: C+

Which meant tonight’s Bottom 2 and the last two people to be subject to the dreaded twitter save were Rayvon (yet again) and Quentin in the wake of last week’s drama. Here’s what they sang first:

Quentin singing “Light My Fire” (The Doors) – While JLo was, once again, right that Quentin seemed a little disengaged at the beginning of this song, I think Harry was right to point out that Quentin’s arrangement had a cool underworld dive bar type of feel to it and I loved that about it. I also noticed that Quentin seemed more relaxed for some reason. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he knew he was going to be in the bottom, but whatever resentment had plagued his performances last week seemed to have dissipated this week. Rating: B-

Rayvon singing “I Know I’m Not The Only One” (Sam Smith) – Rayvon picked a perfect song for himself and, once again, his voice seemed to lick all the right edges on this one. The only thing I wish he had done is felt it a little more. He seems to rely on his voice to inject the emotion into the song and while his voice is technically one of the best, I don’t think it can do all the leg work and this performance just didn’t feel quite as compelling as some of his previous ones like “Since U Been Gone”. As a sidenote, I also found it interesting that we cut to commercial before he got his critiques and then we got to see half of his performance again before the judges gave him “you could win it all!” type of reviews. Interesting… Rating: B+

After everyone had delivered their first performance, Ryan set the stage for the second round and called them up in a different order:

Nick signing “Maggie May” (Rod Stewart) – Unlike Nick’s previous performance, this song did lend itself to him playing guitar and so it felt more comfortable. His voice certainly suited the song as well and while it felt like it derailed a bit near the end, I think the remained felt distinctly Nick. I will say though that I agree with what JLo said and it’s what I’ve been saying all season: Nick needs to have a compelling emotional moment and fast or he’ll be sitting in the audience watching more compelling performers like Jax and Clark sing on that big stage in a few weeks time. Rating: B

Tyanna singing “Heaven” (Bryan Adams) – The judges were right that something about this performance just didn’t quite align with Tyanna. It could be that she didn’t know the song prior to learning it for this week’s show, but I think it was moreso that her voice is bigger and cooler than a semi-stale 90s ballad. Even the silver dress seemed to drag down her normally cool demeanour. That’s not to say that ballads are off-limits for her happy-go-lucky self, because I think she maintain all her cool factor while still killing it during her performance of “Stay”. She just needs to recreate that magic next week. Rating C+

Clark singing “Boyfriend” (Justin Bieber) – The only reason I can come up with for why the judges might have been so hard on Clark after this performance is that they want to level the playing field and make it seem like front-runner Clark isn’t dramatically better than everyone else. That being said, I totally got where Clark was coming from with the bluesy, soulful twist he put on this Bieber track and while the opening bars of the song felt a little disjointed, once he got into the rhythm and start coming at it harder, it hit all the right notes to make it work. Rating: B+

Jax plays the piano for her second performance. [Credit: FOX Entertainment]

Jax singing “White Flag” (Dido) – Like JLo said, just in time Jax busts out her piano and delivers another heartwarming ballad. The kind that compels her diehard fans, as well casual fans and viewers like myself, to vote for her. The song itself was perfect for her and her delivery was light and airy just like Dido’s own, only she made several vocal decisions that helped her avoid such a direct copy of the original. I think given that the next few week’s afford Jax the chance to perform twice, she should be taking calculated risks on one performance while delivering a sure-fire bet like this on the other. That alone would be enough to lock her a spot in the finale, I think. Rating: A-

And then the Bottom 2 performed again:

Quentin singing “Shake It Off” (Florence + the Machine) – Quentin knew he needed something big in the second round to even have a fighting chance against Idol’s infamous comeback kid and he delivered. Shake it Off was his most vocally pristine performance to date and something about it even seemed divine, like he and his backup singers were Greek gods delivering a message. The staging made it all the more compelling and the emotion that Quentin injected into it actually made me both nervous for his fate and hopeful for his future. I don’t know if all that was deliberate, but it’s like the judges have said to him through the competition. If nothing else, Quentin is compelling  and has a very clear artistic vision and often that’s more than enough. Rating: A

Rayvon singing “Go Your Own Way” (Fleetwood Mac) – Rayvon’s second performance wasn’t quite the vocal equivalent of a perfectly whipped meringue the second time around. The rock anthem didn’t fit snugly around Rayvon’s voice and that left a few more sharp edges than usual to the performance. Sure, Rayvon got in his usual glory note at the end, but to me that just felt like a desperate attempt to save a slight misstep of a performance, which is why I couldn’t understand why the judges gave him such positive feedback, but I think at this point the constructive criticism has all but died. Rating: C+

With that said, the final choice was once again in twitter’s hands and, as usual, the Bottom 2 were two different contestants. Quentin was often all performance and mood while sacrificing pitch, while Rayvon’s performance often felt devoid of emotion for the sake of pitch. Put the two of them together and you’d have one superstar contestant, but as it was, the audience was left to choice which contestant had more of what they wanted and, in the end, they chose Rayvon for the fourth time in a row. I personally would have chosen Quentin this week. His second performance and his body of work is what makes me think that he, like Joey, would have made a great part of the tour and would have kept the remainder of the competition interesting. As it is, we’re left with Clark, Jax, Tyanna, Rayvon and Nick fighting it out for the title. Ryan Seacrest gave us no hints as to what the theme is so we’ll have to wait and see.

Until then, vote in the polls below and let me know which three performances were your favorite. As well, leave me a comment and tell me what you thought of the twitter save this season, what you think of who’s going on tour and whether you’re Team #SaveRayvon or #SaveQuentin.

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