Things are about to get interesting on American Idol, because for the first time in Season 14, the audience will decide who stays and who goes.
And while Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr. determine their picks based on a combination of experience in the business, performance ratings and the ability to recognize potential, America tends to inject a bit more emotion into the mix.
Sure, sometimes the judges’ logic is faulty. I mean, how else can you explain Daniel Seavey sticking around other than because he’s cute (which is a fact I regrettably accept will mean I’ll have to hear him ribbit through another song).
But invariably, 12 will become eight before those still standing hit the stage in another effort to win us over.
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So who’s in and who’s out? As always, there is a disconnect between what should and what will happen, and here’s how I see it.
Nick Fradiani, Quentin Alexander, Clark Beckham, Qassim Middleton and Adam Ezegelian are safe.
That leaves seven people to fill three slots in the Top 8, and while there are varying degrees of fan favoritism, whomever of Trevor Douglas, Riley Bria, Daniel Seavey, Rayvon Owen, Mark Andrew, Savion Wright and Michael Simeon goes home has only himself to blame, whether it’s for song choice, performance, likability or failure to emotionally connect with the song.
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That being said, it’s Riley, Daniel, Trevor and Michael who should be out. But I’m going out on a limb and predicting that Trevor and Daniel will survive, and joining Riley and Michael will be Mark and Savion (gasp!). But if Daniel is ousted, I don’t care who else is sent packing. C’mon, America! Do me a solid.
The Fast and the Furious
The other big change this week is that Idol is finally live, which means the blog is also live. So keep your comments coming, and I’ll do my best to respond when I can.
The Top 12 performances were taped because they had to be crammed into a 60-minute show, and they still felt rushed. I’m not quite sure how four eliminations and eight performances will fit in the same real-time span, so expect the cuts to be quick and painful, like ripping off a band aid.
Only in this case, it’s a band aid that has spent the last week prepping to be used again but instead will be deemed too bloody and tossed in the trash.
The Live Blog Begins Now
We’re back in the Motor City, with Aretha Franklin serving as guest mentor and kicking things off with a hearty rendition of “I Will Survive.” There’s no need for a critique, because it’s sacrilegious to speak ill of legends. But her “This is American Idol” might be better than Ryan’s.
The judges are already in their seats, and Ryan announces that the contestants will be honoring Detroit with the songs of Motown before launching right into the results. And if you’re safe, you’re singing.
Daniel Seavey is Safe
Wow, getting him out of the way right off the bat. He’s singing “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” by Marvin Gaye, and it’s everything you expect it to be. There’s no power in his voice, his movements on stage are incredibly awkward, half the lyrics are indiscernible, and his bow tie reminds me of a how a mom dresses her son for Easter Sunday Mass. Can… we… please… be… done… with… this?
Keith is a fan of the song choice, and he urges Daniel to just keep doing what he’s doing. J-Lo praises his talent and his more relaxed stage presence, but she thinks it was a bit too low for his girlish pre-pubescent register. Harry calls it sweet but doesn’t think Daniel lets the band drive his performances.
Mark Andrew is Safe
His work as a landscaper affects his guitar playing, so he’s going instrument-free for The Temptations’ “Papa was a Rollin’ Stone.” His movements are much more fluid and less abrasive and unnatural-looking than Daniel’s, but it’s still not a great performance for me. There’s some mumbling, and it seems karaoke-ish without anything overly impressive. Decent again, but forgettable.
J-Lo loves his voice but didn’t connect with the song, Harry likes the arrangement but feels like it was too “jam band,” and Keith is happy that America voted for him.
Rayvon Owen is Safe
Rayvon’s only criticism was that his facial expressions didn’t match his song choice, but his gaping ear-to-ear grin works much better on The Temptations’ “My Girl.” His falsetto once again shines, he has fun on stage, mixing it up with some Rayvon original moments, and it’s just an overall pleasing performance. No criticism from me.
Harry thinks it was strong all around and compliments Rayvon’s “nice” presence, but as we go on, he’d like to see the other, darker side. Keith wants to see what he’ll do next, and J-Lo appreciates that he made the song his own.
Adam Ezegelian is Safe
This year’s Jack Black impersonator is looking to show what a true entertainer he is and get the crowd on its feet, and he’s doing a weird slowed-down-yet-rocked-out version of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” I honestly can’t decide if it works for me or not, and I think this is going to be hit or miss depending on individual preferences. It’s definitely unique and creative, but there’s nothing I like about it more than the original.
Keith believes it was the perfect song choice and the perfect arrangement, J-Lo feels like the Motown songs are so strong that they come through no matter what, and Harry says the most dangerous thing about Adam is his wicked voice.
Before we get to the next result/performance, new mentor/record label Scott Borchetta breaks down the guys. He sees a lot of artists, which is exciting. And he should know because he discovered Taylor Swift. Then Ryan asks what Scott thinks of Clark Beckham. Which means…
Clark Beckham is Safe
He’s a big sports guy, having played football, basketball and soccer, but his love for music trumps athletics. I love his song choice, “The Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and this one is much closer to the Hollywood Week performance that I dubbed the best of the season. It’s a great performance even before he jumps into the hopped-up portion of the song.
J-Lo loves him and agrees with Scott that he has one of the best voices in the competition, and she praises his choices but urges him to stop thinking so much and just feel the heart and soul. Harry calls him a terrific talent, but thought the beginning, middle and end were missing and that it just stopped abruptly. Keith would have preferred the guitar without the band, which he believes would have broken hearts.
Wow, that was more words, and more criticism, than anyone else has gotten all season. And for such a great performance, to boot. Strange.
That’s five singers through, with only three spots left for Nick Fradiani, Quentin Alexander, Qassim Middleton, Trevor Douglas, Riley Bria, Savion Wright and Michael Simeon. Which means we’re probably in for at least one surprise elimination.
Nick Fradiani is Safe
Thank goodness, because he won the Top 12. He’s been around music his whole life, and his experience shows through his appreciation for the history of the city’s influence on the art form. He’s doing an original-ish take on Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours).” He’s already developed his own style as an artist, and he gives off a bit of a Kris Allen vibe in that he makes all the songs his own.
Harry loves the arrangement that showed off his guitar skills, but he thinks more smiling would’ve been beneficial. Keith would have lost the guitar, and J-Lo praises the song choice.
Qaasim Middleton is Safe
Qaasim has a relative who has been hooking him up with funky clothes, which he says is good because not only are they free, but his fashion sense is just as far out there as his musical persona. He’s taking on “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder, and he’s once again more performer than singer. His spin moves are entertaining and he gets the crowd going, but it feels like he’s doing the Motown version of “Uptown Funk.”
Keith just keeps saying “so good” over and over, and he praises Qaasim’s showmanship. J-Lo tells him he’s “so damn funky, it’s crazy,” but she cautions him against losing the vocals. Harry disagrees that any of it was “off,” and he says when people ask what the judges are looking for, it’s that.
Only one spot left, and it goes to…
Quentin Alexander is Safe
And so it goes for Riley Bria, poor Savion Wright, Michael Simeon and Trevor Douglas.
Quentin praises individuality before launching into a reggae version of Stevie Wonder’s “Master Blaster (Jammin’).” Talk about Stevie overload. Motown has other peeps, kids!
I feel like Quentin is an acquired taste, though getting the pimp spot will help. It’s energetic and interesting, and it mostly works. He is growing on me, and I like how it’s a drastic break from the somber weirdness he offered last time. At least he’s already trying to mix up the emotion, which many haven’t bothered to even make an attempt at yet.
J-Lo screeches about how happy she is before praising his smoothness. Harry’s favorite part was how Quentin settled into the groove, but he felt some inconsistencies that he blames on Quentin being the last guy picked. Keith likes that Quentin knows who he is and how to move, how to look, how to sing.
And that’s it for the Top 8, guys. It’s clear to me that Daniel Seavey and Mark Andrew are the odd men out, but whether or not it plays out that way is up to you. Who was your favorite, and which two singers do you think have sung their last song? And does that match with who you’d like to see move on? Or did someone disappoint you?
Hopefully more of you will be checking in during showtime now that you know the blog has shifted to the live portion of the competition. I’m just saying, only crazy people like typing talking to themselves. On to the girls!
You can watch American Idol on Wednesday (for now) and Thursday at 8pm on FOX.
(Image courtesy of FOX)