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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 5: Judges’ Hometowns and Your Soul

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.

When we found out the theme’s for this week’s show, I had no idea what to expect, song choice was from the contestants which, in my books, usually doesn’t bode well for the night’s proceedings. Picking a singular song to define the contestant’s soul or picking from likely a very limited list of songs about New York? Was Rayvon’s first song even about a city? Either way, the night’s proceedings seemed to devolve into a very love-it-or-hate-it kind of night and maybe that’s not surprised with a talent pool as deep as we have at this stage in the competition. It’s fairly easy to justify why someone might like Clark, Jax, Nick or Rayvon and not like their competitors. They’re all very different and I think that makes next week’s results all the more exciting (and nerve-wracking), so let’s talk performances and try to figure out what will go down for these four contestants in the coming weeks:

First called safe: Clark Beckham singing “Living For the City” (Stevie Wonder) – While I don’t think the judge’s giving Clark negative feedback for this one was unwarranted, I think the extent to which they decided to make jabs at him this week when they let other far worse performances slide prior to now makes them lose a stitch of credibility in my eyes. To me, this felt like a return to the Clark that sang “Takin’ It To The Streets” and that’s not a good thing. The song choice and performance felt lazy and it was clear Clark wasn’t as comfortable as he normally was while singing it. The song itself is very high and it often strained Clark’s voice and put him in an awkward place. I can only chalk this up to a bad choice from a limited list of songs or, worse, the evil eye of mentor Scott Borchetta not letting Clark do what he normally does. It’s clear there’s an agenda to bring Clark down a few notches so that Scott will end up with a far more “moldable” winner like Jax or Nick. Rating: C+

Second called safe: Jax singing “Empire State of Mind” (Alicia Keys) – In theory, this song seemed perfect for Jax and even the studio version on iTunes sounded perfect, but on stage Jax’s limitations showed with her cold. Her voice cracked and strained in parts and some of her vocal choices felt heavy-handed compared to Keys’ own. While her performing ability has certainly improved week upon week (the rise from the piano felt natural rather than forced), I don’t think this was Jax’s best effort behind the piano. That said, I don’t think it will hurt her by any means though because despite not being all that much better than Clark, she got better feedback from the judges. Rating: B-

Nick channels his inner Rob Thomas on “Bright Lights” [Credit: FOX Entertainment]

Third called safe: Nick Fradiani singing “Bright Lights” (Matchbox Twenty) – I guess I should be relieved that Nick finally just fessed up to the Rob Thomas comparisons and sang one of his songs, but I’m not. I feel like it just follows the trend of Nick’s failure to surprise the Idol audience and that’s what baffles me about Scott & the Judges “peaking at the right time” feedback for Nick. They’re clearing painting the picture that he deserves to be in the finale alongside Jax and while Nick has been consistent, I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing. I personally prefer the risks taken by Jax and Clark and even eliminees Quentin and Joey. That being said, if Nick was going to just do the predictable thing and sing a Matchbox Twenty song, I expected fireworks (and for him to choose a better song from their catalogue, despite the theme). This performance was good, but not memorable and great. It felt like what Nick would perform midway through his set at a local bar and not the kind of performance that drives you to vote him into the Top 3. Some of the notes near the end fell flat and as always, Nick’s reliance on his guitar as a crutch seemed to distance himself from the audience. Maybe it’s too late at this point (it is the Top 4 after all) to hope for more, especially since the judge’s seem to be eating it up anyway, but I’ll keep hoping for more from him. Rating: B-

Tyanna Jones is eliminated after a tearful rendition of “Run the World (Girls)” [Credit: FOX Entertainment]

Which left us with a fairly predictable Bottom 2: Rayvon Owen, for the 5th time in as many weeks, and Tyanna Jones, her first time but and inevitable result with the way her performance trajectory has been going. Ryan then told us Tyanna was going home and she sang one of the songs she was planning on doing this week: “Run the World (Girls)” (Beyonce). I won’t give her a letter grade because it’s clear her emotions had taken over and I, like many others in the Idolsphere, would have preferred that they save the results for the end of the broadcast so we’d get two fully realized performances from whoever the eliminee is. The decision to do it midway through only put a damper on the nights proceedings. Afterwards, Rayvon gave us his first performance of the night…

Rayvon Owen singing “Need You Now” (Lady Antebellum) – As I said, I’m not really sure how this song choice fit the theme, but I’ll try to judge the performance on its merits. That said, I think JLo made a serious point that Rayvon needs to make sure the emotion he puts behind the song is authentic. In other weeks, he’s certainly done that, but tonight on this song it felt forced. Like Nick, Rayvon relies on his buttery, usually pitch-perfect voice as a crutch and sometimes it leads to vacant and, dare I say it, boring performances like this one. I even liked the arrangement and the small changes Rayvon made, but the final few notes kind of stumbled over each other and left me with mixed feelings about this performance. Not a homerun, but not a train wreck either. Rating: B-

That conclude the Judge’s Hometown rounds without a real standout performance and left me wondering if anyone would step up the plate and bring it tonight in the Soul round which, hopefully, would strike closer to the heart for most of the contestants.

Clark and mentor Scott Borchetta butt heads on his arrangement of “Your Man” [Credit: FOX Entertainment]

Clark Beckham singing “Your Man” (Josh Turner) – I had to stifle my laughter when the camera person kept panning to a very straight-faced Scott Borchetta in the audience who, based on the intro package, clearly had a significant disagreement with Clark about the way this performance should be done and while I agree that the end result wasn’t nearly Clark’s best, I can’t say I don’t applaud Clark for defending his artistic vision. It’s strange how that seems to be such a controversial thing to do on this show. I’m a little worried that Clark came across as a little arrogant by not accepting the “expert” (yes, I need to use that word in quotations) advice provided to him, but I also think that the end result of the judge’s negative feedback was so heavy-handed that Clark’s voting fan base will, hopefully see right through it and keep him safe. After all, he is one of the most interesting and talented male contestant’s the show has seen in years. That being said, I hope Clark can make a proper comeback next week because I think he’ll need one to secure a spot in the finale. Even frontrunner Phillip Phillips needed a performance like “Volcano” (Damien Rice) to get him there. But, as for the performance, I think Clark definitely could have benefited from digging a little deeper and maybe finding a middle ground between the country version and a blues version. I’d say keep the sexy, soulfulness of the blues world without sacrificing the warm authenticity of country music. Rating: B-

Jax singing “Human” (Christina Perri) – Jax’s vocal limitations because of her could returned on this performance, but I think the authenticity of emotion and her ability to perform saved the day. Jax tweeted earlier this week about facing some pretty harsh criticism online about her authenticity and maturity and I think this performance was the perfect response to that. Was the drop to the knees midway through a little campy? Sure, but it took the performance to a different place and I can’t fault her for that. (Sidenote: But the backup vocalist on the bottom half of this performance was like nails on a chalkboard, was it not?) Either way, well I think Jax didn’t have a perfect week by any means, I think the emotion behind her two performs will help propel her into the Top 3 pretty easily. Rating: B

Rayvon Owen singing “Believe” (Justin Bieber) – I’m just going to say upfront that there was some serious vocal missteps in this performance which are uncharacteristic for Rayvon, but those aside, the gospel-tinged arrangement that he gave to a Bieber song, of all things, was certainly original and as much as I chuckled when the camera panned to Clark with both hands raised, I have to say that I agreed. I was feeling this and this performance exemplified exactly what I’ve been saying about Rayvon. You don’t need to be vocally perfect to deliver a captivating performance. It’s something last week’s eliminee, Quentin, knew all to well and Rayvon latched on to that tonight in a bid to earn a spot in the Top 3 among three really solid competitors. Rating: B

Nick Fradiani singing “What Hurts the Most” (Rascal Flatts) – If one of the members of RF wasn’t mentoring this week, I might have applauded Nick for a less predictable song choice that usual. The possible “teacher’s pet” jokes aside, Nick finally took my advice and put his guitar down and the result was exactly what I expected: better connection to the song and more emotion. While there were patchy parts in his pitch, I’ll just repeat what I said with Rayvon: I didn’t care as much because I felt authenticity from him. I think, like Kris Allen did several years ago, if Nick can latch onto that part of himself, he might just win enough people over to cause an upset in the finale. Rating: B+

With all that said, next week’s results should be super interesting. I’m kind of the belief that Rayvon’s time will finally be up. Despite a good performance tonight, I don’t think he has the votes to oust any of these three  at this stage. The only possible alternative I can see is Clark being sent home in a (semi) shocker as a result of the judges and Scott’s gang-up style pile-on of bad feedback. Still, from what I’ve seen most of his fanbase feels like the judges were unnecessarily harsh on him tonight so I can’t see it doing more than taking away the casual voters.

Either way, we’ll see what happens next week. Until then, sound off in the comments and poll below and let me know what you thought of the night’s proceedings.

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One Comment on “American Idol XIV – Top 5: Judges’ Hometowns and Your Soul”

  1. joseluisgomez April 30, 2015 at 11:06 am #

    Reblogged this on Arte y Cultura Perú.

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