Hometown visits and the fleeting adoration of thousands of people screaming, “Hey, I live near him/her!” are on the line as the Top 5 becomes the Top 4 on American Idol. But the big news is that the Twitter Instant Save — henceforth known as simply as “The Rayvon” after Mr. Owen rode his one-trick pony to victory in all four fan votes — is no more.
That means the results are based solely on last week’s performances, and the recipient of the fewest number of votes is gone, with no chance for reprieve. It’s bad news for the ballad master, who has been on the brink of elimination dating all the way back to the Top 11.
It’s unclear how the absence of The Rayvon will impact the wildly popular (can you feel my enthusiasm?) Season 14 format, as it was previously the only justification for the bottom two to both tackle the week’s theme.
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Letting the departing contestant sing his or her way off the show is fine, but two performances seems excessive and could also cloud voters’ minds with a pair of songs they can’t even vote for. But it’s a two-hour show, so I’m sure they’ll figure out a way…
Judges and Soul
Lloyd Christmas: Excuse me, Flo? Uh, what is the Theme Du Jour?
Waitress: It’s the Theme of the Day.
Lloyd Christmas: Mmmm. That sounds good. I’ll have that.
I honestly don’t know why Idol is even bothering with themes this season, as every week brings a new sing-whatever-you-like faux topic. This time, it’s judges’ hometowns and the contestant’s own soul. Yes, you read that correctly.
So for their first song, they’ll take on a song representative of one of the judges’ hometown locales. But of course, there are three judges and five contestants, so I’m assuming the fourth and fifth get Ryan Seacrest and Scott Borchetta. I feel bad for who draws the latter, because he or she will be forced to sing something from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
And for the second song, they’ll sing something that represents their soul, like when Demi Moore played with her, uh, pottery wheel while The Righteous Brothers narrated her post-life coitus with the ghost of Patrick Swayze. So yeah, your choice. Just don’t pick the Divinyls or Clarence Carter.
Who Stays and Who Goes?
I am 100 percent on board with the esteemed Jeff Dodge that Rayvon is finally on his way out, but I have one major disagreement on who is at risk.
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It was a mundane week at best, save for Jax’s “White Flag,” and yet Clark Beckham still failed to stand out from the pack. He was somehow able to perform Arena Anthem favorite “Yesterday” without making anyone feel anything, and then made Justin Bieber look amazing by comparison.
I still expect to see Clark in the finale, because he out-potentials everyone in the competition, but it is maddening that he continually turns in bland performance after bland performance. He is this season’s Katharine McPhee, with all the talent in the world but simply unable to pull it all together.
So at worst, we’ll see him on an hour-long drama about geniuses in a few years. But I would not be surprised if he made an appearance in the bottom two. You heard it here first, folks.
The Live Blog Begins Now
After Quentin’s untimely departure, the Top 5 took a private jet to Scott Borchetta’s Nashville stomping grounds, with the former resident of the Island of Misfit Toys taking time to explain exactly how fast the plane was going. “Proof that hard work pays off,” he tells them as he shows off his home and Big Machine Records before a night out on the town.
Ryan informs us that one person has a one-way ticket outta town (possibly without performing?) before dropping the catchphrase and introducing the judges. Jennifer Lopez’s outfit has more glitter than a kindergarten art project, while the embattled Harry Connick, Jr., is again rocking the suit. Keith Urban has spruced up his T-shirt combo with a jacket of sorts, but he could just be chilly.
Jax, Clark, Rayvon, Tyanna and Nick make their entrances, and then Russell Crowe brings out the results envelope to plug his directorial debut, because once again, the Hoff was busy. Man, that dude has come a long way from Gladiator. And he rode his bike to the show, so kudos to being green.
Clark Beckham is Safe
Just forget everything I wrote earlier. The singers are meeting with record label execs this week, and Clark gets the creative team. It’s led by a senior VP who I can only assume is Scott’s wife due to the shared last name, and they find Clark to be quite dashing and desire to push the envelope of his heartthrobbery.
Clark is singing Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City” to honor the Big Apple, and it’s underwhelming from the get go. First of all, Stevie? Again? It’s absolutely fine, but I’m not even nodding along. He tosses in some crowd interaction and piano solo, and his screamy part is on point. It’s good, I guess. But I still want to love something. Powerhouse, sure, but bland once again.
Keith calls it a great opening to the show and loves when Clark plays and sings at the same time. It sounded really good to J-Lo, but she thinks Clark needs to get better at being comfortable without an instrument. Harry welcomes him to the big leagues and says it was a solid performance, but he wants Clark to sync the timing better and nail the groove.
Jax is Safe
Jax gets to meet with the VP who matches the songs with the talent, and this Jersey girl wants to be a pop artist. It’s a brief meeting.
For Jax, it’s Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind,” another ode to J-Lo’s hometown. Guess there’s no love for Ryan OR Scott (or any of the other judges, for that matter). It’s a good combination of straight cover with a touch of Jax uniqueness, and she gets up from the piano halfway through to belt it out to the audience. Much like Clark, it’s good, but I’m not raving about it. Anyone else think she could’ve killed “New York State of Mind”? I get goose bumps just imagining it.
The good news for Jennifer is that Jax understands that she can win the competition, but the bad news is that it wasn’t the best song choice and J-Lo wasn’t feeling it. Harry really dug it, calling it a mini showcase of what Jax does. He also noticed a bit of hoarseness in Jax’s voice, and he appreciates that she just shut up and sang through it. Keith praises the song choice and Jax’s artistic foundation.
Nick Fradiani is Safe
Nick scored a meeting with the PR department to talk about career building. Just a few months ago, his band was struggling to fill a bar, and now, if he wins, other people will take care of that for him. He puts his lessons to use, taking a selfie to post on social media. #WastingTimeIsFun.
Nick is singing Matchbox Twenty’s “Bright Lights,” also choosing New York, and it’s another one of those performances that we’ve come to expect. He’s certainly emerged as the exact type of artist he will be as a professional, but it’s been several weeks since he tried to break his own mold. He has settled into his high-energy comfort zone, and this one rocks, but will the song choice help or hurt him? Do people need to see more out of him to keep voting?
Harry calls it Nick’s most comfortable performance by far and compliments him for singing the hell out of it, while Keith thinks he’s been going up, up, up through recent weeks. Jennifer says he’s peaking at the right time, and she loves the energy in the room.
A Harry Connick Interlude
It doesn’t make much sense to toss in a judge performance, but hey, somebody has to sing about New Orleans. So Harry gives his tribute to NoLa, “City Beneath the Sea.” I get the distinct impression he’s half-assing it, because it doesn’t feel as polished as I’d expect. But maybe no one really cares anyway. If I were including this in the rankings, I’m not sure where it would wind up.
Rayvon Owen is safe; Tyanna Jones is Eliminated
Wow. It’s the end of the line for Tyanna Jones after a week of pointless rehearsing. At least she’ll still be on the tour, but man, my predictions have been way off. I had her pegged for the Top 3, but then again, I also had Joey Cook taking fourth place.
She gets the first departure montage of the season, which used to be a mainstay (with an annual parting song), and it’s a tearful affair. She gets to pick one of her songs for a final performance, and it’s Beyonce’s “Run the World,” which I imagine was supposed to be her soul song.
I’m not sure it would have been a moment for her anyway, because it’s a tough song to talk-sing, but these last performances are so emotionally overwhelmed that they’re rarely great. Still, it’s sad to see her go, and she deserved better. Teflon Rayvon fights on, always living on the edge. If you’re counting, that’s seven of his nine lives, so it looks like the best he could finish is second.
Again, Rayvon Owen is Safe
So this guy gets to sing with two meaningless performances separating him and anything that matters? OK, that’s fair. Rayvon got to meet with sales and marketing to talk the business, and everything is about being vulnerable and showing personality. He talks about it every week, but yet that’s not his weakness. He can’t do anything BUT that.
He’s mixing it up by heading to Keith’s hometown for Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now.” First off, the dude is way too emotional and whiny. It’s a sad song, but take it easy, bro. It’s not a suicide song. The mixed up arrangement doesn’t lend itself to Rayvon’s ballad strengths, and he’s super pitchy on everything but the huge notes. He overplayed his hand and is too vulnerable, but c’mon, he’s destined for the bottom two anyway.
Keith gives him props for making the song his own, but he wanted less dramatics and more heart. J-Lo didn’t buy the acting, saying it didn’t appear to be real to Rayvon, and it lacked a connection and believability. It seems like Harry is also about to call Rayvon out for over-dramatizing the lyric, but he instead heaps praise on the performance. Bizarre.
Filler, Filler, Attention Span Killer
So now we’ve got a full hour for four performances, proving that that this might be the most DVR-able episode of the season. Before we get back to the show, Harry explains what soul means and that gravy tastes good on pork chops.
Scott also brought in one of the Rascal Flatts and Martina McBride to act as celebrity mentors, and Ms. McBride is taking the stage for her unique take on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Is that Russell Crowe playing guitar?
Is it just me, or is Martina pitchy? I’m certainly in no position to judge a consummate professional, but I think Katharine McPhee did this one better. Either way, I’m bored. But maybe that’s because we’ve had exactly one performance the meant something in the past hour or so. I don’t even remember what Clark sang.
Then some dude named Destin, who does physics on YouTube, breaks down Scott’s hair before a cutaway of him schooling the contestants on the forces that direct how stuff happens on earth. Yaay science!
Clark Bares His Soul (And Punches his Exit Card?)
Clark is singing “Your Man” by Josh Turner, A.K.A. the “Lock them doors” tune Scotty McCreery put on the map. And boy, is it tough love for Clark. The Rascal Flatt tells him he can sing the crap out of the song, but he needs to see Clark’s soul, and Scott chimes in that if Clark loses, it’s because he’s doing the wrong things. Clark retorts that, “If this loses me the competition, I don’t want to win,” and Scott shoots back that Clark is on fast track to a Holiday Inn. And while the Rascal appreciates the resolve, he doesn’t see it working out for Clark.
The performance is good but a bit screechy, but it doesn’t matter how it sounds. This one is now all about Clark and his rejection of the process, and whether or not voters are sufficiently turned off by his unwillingness to accept advice from people who really know what they’re talking about. If Quentin screwed himself over with WhackGate, looking like such a prima donna might really hurt Clark’s chances.
J-Lo is focused on the controversy regarding the song choice, and even though she thinks he sang it well, it is not his gravy song. So which direction does he want to go? Harry says at this point, it boils down to being hyper-sensitive to song choice. You have to question that if this is the only song you have, can you win with it? And with this one, no. Keith likens it to the selection of singles off an album chock full of songs. These singers need singles now, not album tracks.
Clark is defiant to the end, calling this song and performance gravy if he’s ever known it. Then he literally begs for votes.
Jax Bares Her Soul
Her soul song is Christina Perri’s “Human,” which on the surface appears to be the absolute perfect song choice. She makes a good first impression on Martina McBride, who has no notes, and she applauds Jax for knowing who she is as an artist. I expect goose bumps.
There’s no piano this time around, and Jax opens clutching the mic with both hands. It’s not vocally perfect, and I could’ve done without the dramatic fall to her knees, but it’s easily the best of the night so far. The screaming background singers are also a bit of a distraction, but overall, it is a valiant effort.
Harry calls it a perfect example of the technical versus the emotional, and despite “pitch issues all over the place,” he felt everything she did. Keith says she killed it, and J-Lo loves the way she connects with the audience.
Before the next performance, we flash back to Scott introducing the Top 5 to Steven Tyler. (Cause this is filler, filler night, and no one’s gonna save you from the boring beast about to strike. You know it’s filler, filler night. You’re fighting for your life inside of filler, filler. Ow!)
Rayvon Bears His Soul (And Believes He Can Win)
His soul song is “Believe” by Justin Bieber, and this has to be the first time we’ve had two Biebs numbers in the same season, let alone back-to-back weeks. He’s dedicating it to his mom, and the Rascal feels the strong emotional connection.
It’s a gimmie song for Rayvon, whose vocal prowess is on full display, complete with raw emotion and an audience connection. It’s right up there with Jax, if not the best of the night, even though he continues with the pitch issues that have plagued this entire night and over-runs everything in a way that is almost disrespectful to music. But they said it when Jax sang, that emotion trumps technical flaws, and everyone seems to love this one.
Keith calls it a phenomenal and beautiful performance, and he loved Momma Rayvon’s reaction. J-Lo is moved to tears and calls it perfect, and Harry thinks all 15 people who collaborated to write that song would be proud.
Nick Bears His Soul (in the Pimp Spot)
Nick is singing Rascal Flatts’ “What Hurts the Most,” which could absolutely be a moment for him. And he’s rehearsing with the guy who performs it on a regular basis. Scott believes they finally found a song that Nick connects with emotionally, and the Rascal recommends Nick ditch the instrument and make it about the vocals.
He’s visibly less comfortable with just a mic, but holy crap, Nick Fradiani just gave me goose bumps for the first time. On this night, this is the perfect song choice and the perfect performance for him. Applause and praise all around.
J-Lo calls him the star of the night, Harry could see it on Nick’s album, and Keith predicts this version will climb the iTunes charts.
The Final Four is set, but I’m nearly willing to go out on a limb and say the Top 3 is set too. Not only was Clark Beckham the only one to not have a killer performance, he also alienated viewers who are apparently more invested in American Idol than he is. He still has the highest ceiling, but will that be enough to save him? Does anyone else actually deserve to be eliminated more than him?
Did his antics rub you the wrong way, or do you believe he’s right to stick with what he thinks works best for him? Who won the night for you, and were you disappointed with anyone else? Should Tyanna have been sent home, or did she get a raw deal?
I’m not exactly sure who stays and who goes, but one thing is for sure. Next week is going to be interesting.
American Idol airs Wednesdays at 8pm on FOX.
(Image courtesy of FOX)