The “sing-basically-whatever-you-want” trend continues on American Idol, with the Top 6 set to hit the stage to perform for the preliminary votes that determine whether or not they’ll sing for your real votes.
Can you tell I’m not a fan of the Twitter Insta-Save?
The Top 6 will be performing “Arena Anthems,” which is loosely described as “songs that can entertain a massive crowd and are performed by mega superstars.” Well that narrows it down.
For me, Arena Anthems are “We are the Champions,” “Enter Sandman” and “Song 2.” But for Idol, it apparently means any song that has ever been a hit for anyone. I mean, you’ll never see a baseball player walking out of the on deck circle while blaring The Beatles’ “Yesterday” or Sam Smith’s “I’m Not the Only One.” Ugh.
Soccer Balls and Eye Candy
Going along with the theme are time-filling appearances by US Women’s National Team soccer stars Abby Wambach and uber-hottie Alex Morgan, who will make some sort of announcement that likely pertains to the upcoming World Cup as opposed to anything that might affect the competition (other than results envelope-delivery, of course).
Maybe the Top 5 will perform the National Anthem at a game or something. That’s an arena song, right? And then the rest of the world can be like, huh?
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As for what’s on tap, I fully agree with the opinion of esteemed colleague Jeff Dodge on who will be at risk and who will go home. The only thing I will add is that I wouldn’t be surprised if Clark Beckham is in the bottom two, even though I still see him in the final two.
Both his performances fell into the same old-same old category and were lacking when compared to his potential. I can only hope an appearance down there will serve as a kick in the rear that motivates him to evolve a bit.
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But you never want to go against the Teflon Rayvon when you’re singing for your life, especially when he’s got a wheelhouse song in his back pocket. So there’s always that danger.
The Live Blog Begins Now
After a brief recap of WhackGate, Joey Cook’s untimely departure at the chords of Rayvon and the other events of “American Classics” week, The Crest drops the catchphrase and we’re underway.
Jennifer Lopez is in uber-low-cut-dress mode to go along with Harry Connick, Jr.’s formal attire and Keith Urban’s dive bar-performance wear. Then Abby and Katie bring out the results, less than 50 days before they head to the nation of our American friends to the north.
The big announcement is that the Idol winner will record the official anthem for the FoxSports coverage of the World Cup, so think Phillip Phillips during the Olympics. Just know you’re not alone. I’m gonna make this Canada my home.
Jax is Safe
It means she’s the first one officially on the tour, and then it’s family time. Jax’ parents were told she was a boy after the sonogram, so her room was already painted blue when she popped out sans soccer balls. Her first word was “da da,” and her pops will always be her #1 special guy. Then it’s another trip through his tale of tragedy and the guilt he feels over surviving 9/11.
The tears transition immediately into Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl,” which feels awkward because it probably should’ve been a ballad with that emotional introduction. It’s a straight cover with so-so vocals and not a terrible amount of power. While it’s fun, there isn’t anything special about it and I guess as far as “megastars” go, this is Jet at its biggest and brightest.
“That’s how you open a show!” exclaims Keith, who loved the end even though he thinks Jax had a tough time loosening up. J-Lo says Jax is ready for tour, with the perfect combination of audience awareness and total abandon. She loved it. Harry has been trying to pay extra attention to what each artist would be like in concert, and he reckons he’d have a hell of a time at her show. The excessive praise seems odd, because that didn’t do much for me.
Before we get to the next performance, Harry uses a Telestrator to show how J-Lo’s opening twirl left a dress scratch on his butt. Then they say hi to Taiwan. Hi, Taiwan! What is happening?
Nick Fradiani is Safe
Nick was a good kid who was into a lot of things, like sports and music. The tunes took center stage when the hoop dreams didn’t pan out, and that’s when his dad really got involved. They talk every day, and now papa, who still plays a few shows a week, is riding his son’s coattails to more gigs.
As for the performance, it’s a hard-rock version of Maroon 5’s “Harder to Breathe,” and the arrangement of the intro is abrasive. After that, it’s more or less a cover, but it’s nice to see him out there with band again. It’s a pure rock show, solid but not overly impressive, and he’s giving off a heavy Daughtry vibe.
J-Lo notices that he’s getting more and more comfortable and calls the performance awesome, but he would have benefited from audience participation. Harry believes it was dangerous for the others in the competition, because Nick is evolving. Keith loves the song choice and thinks Nick is finding his lane, but the eyes were darting all over the place and he needs to center himself.
Nick admits that there was a bit of a mix-up in the beginning, and it threw him off. At least that’s not what it was supposed to sound like. And I guess Harry left his sour pants at home.
Clark Beckham is Safe
Clark was born in 1992 and was cute as a button. His grandmother was in a nursing home when he was a kid, and he and his parents would visit and sing for the residents. That was the first time he felt like he brought people joy, and then, after one performance in college, he got the urge to be a star, wondering how he could ever do anything else. And his parents are supportive.
He’s singing the above-mentioned “Yesterday,” and the first thing I notice is pitchiness that pulls away from any emotion in the song. The big notes that ARE on key are mind-bendingly awesome, but overall, it’s disappointing and doesn’t make me feel anything. And the “Why she had to go, I don’t know” transition is quick and almost conversational. Like a “why’d she go?” Shoulder shrug. “I dunno, bro. She wouldn’t say.”
Harry’s favorite part was that the high notes weren’t used gratuitously, and instead, they perfectly matched up with the lyrics. The melody was amazing, and it was terrific. Keith goes with “beautiful” and compares him to Sam Smith, but he urges him not to contain his vulnerability. J-Lo agrees with both of them, calling it a risk that paid off.
Tyanna Jones is Safe
All the natural-born Joneses have names that start with T (sorry, stepdaughter), but having such a large family came at the expense of the finances. They were homeless for a time, and while humbling, it taught Tyanna to work hard and fight.
She’s sporting a new girl-next-door look with dreadlocks and jean shorts, singing Miley Cyrus‘ “Party in the USA.” Maybe it’s just me (a theme tonight, if you will) or the audio on my relatively new television, but it sounds like it’s in the wrong key. It’s fun, but there are very few points that are pleasing to my eardrums. Not a great night so far.
Keith offers a hearty “Woo!” and enjoys seeing this new fun side of Tyanna. J-Lo notes that this is the most comfortable Tyanna has looked on stage, and it was one of her favorites. Harry praises the song choice and says she killed it. What … the … hell … is … happening?
Quentin Alexander Sings for the Twitter Save
Quentin is up first. He grew up in a bad part of New Orleans with his mom and sisters. Because of the neighborhood violence, they all stayed inside and sang. His mom took him to school and picked him up to protect him, and she worked hard to provide her kids with everything they needed. Quentin hopes to turn this experience into something that can return the favor.
It’s The Doors’ “Light My Fire,” with a funky Lenny Kravitz vibe. It’s not the best vocally, but I’m digging it. On a sub-par night, it’s my favorite so far. It’s a safe performance, though, without being dynamic. And the judges don’t look like they love it, with those head shakes and disapproving glances.
J-Lo praises the performance value, but she always wants more vocal “pow!” Harry thinks the song was too big for Quentin’s range, but he thought it sounded cool and appreciated the arrangement, even though he felt like Quentin coasted. Keith calls him “anti-plankton,” which is sure to sway voters and hungry whales, who will no longer be supporting Quentin.
Rayvon Owen Sings for the Twitter Save
Rayvon’s first performances were in church, when he would stare at his mom while he sang. He also had a calendar of outfits so he wouldn’t wear similar things too close together. He was raised by a single mother, and he, too, hopes to someday return the favor.
He’s singing Sam Smith’s “I’m Not the Only One,” and song aside, this means he’s doing the wheelhouse song first and the one that will probably not stack up in the slot that will have the most impact on the Twitter vote. As for this one, it’s Rayvon doing what Rayvon does best. He loses his way on a note or two, but outside of that, he delivers the most enjoyable performance so far.
How ironic that the bottom two have been the top two of the night? Maybe they weren’t the best, but they were the least disappointing.
Harry compliments the vocal performance, and his favorite part was at the end, when Rayvon was at the top of his register and had to breathe quickly. He has Rayvon pegged as a ballad singer (duh), and this was out of the park. Keith calls it a perfect song choice and predicts a longer stay than we all imagine, while J-Lo echoes the sentiment by calling him a dark horse.
Nick Goes the Dolby Theatre
Scotty B and his creepster facial hair are taking the contestants to the Dolby Theatre for some bromance and a glimpse at what stardom will feel like, complete with an “open your eyes” moment like they don’t know where they are. Nick Fradiani is up first, and they talk about how he’s gaining strength like a tropical storm.
Nick’s next Arena Anthem is Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May,” and it’s another solid rock-ish cover. There’s nothing negative to say, as we all seem to have a clear idea at this point who he’ll be as a (possible) professional recording artist. It’s an improvement over his last time on stage, and the level of comfort is evident as he interacts with the band.
Keith compliments the song choice and Nick’s evolving cool factor based on how high or low he holds the guitar. J-Lo agrees with the positive, but at this point, the singers need to figure out how to make a moment, and he can’t be the same every time. Harry asks Nick if he could maintain a two-hour set, which of course he can, because he’s done it before. C’mon, he’s like 30.
Tyanna Goes to the Dolby
Going on tour would mean so much to Tyanna, because she’s been dreaming about it since she was a kid. Which is funny, because she is a kid. And she wants to be the next American Idol because this is what she wants to spend her life doing.
She’s slowing it down with Bryan Adams “Heaven,” and while it’s a bit too contained to be a true moment, there are still goose bumps. At least at the beginning, because then it doesn’t really go anywhere, which leaves a lot of potential on the table. But it’s a beautiful rendition nonetheless.
J-Lo liked it because it was a bit different from what we normally see, and the ability to be elegant is something audiences need. But it was good, not great. Harry asks what type of music Tyanna would record on a record, and she responds that she’s most comfortable with songs like this, but she has more fun when she’s dancing. Keith loves the answer, because not having one is the sign of a great artist. Lucky for me that I have no answers.
A Promo for Snapchat
Before we continue, it’s time for a day spent hanging out with Snapchat artist Shaun McBride. They take funny photos (yaay!), and it’s money well spent for like the 24th most popular social media company.
Clark Goes to the Dolby
Scott talks to Clark about his image, which is key to becoming a superstar. And Clark is going to everyone he can for advice, trying to figure out who he is and who American wants him to be.
It’s time for the bizarro song choice of the night, with a revamped and bluesy acoustic rendition of Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend.” It feels like he’s trying to go for a Kris Allen “Heartless” type of moment, and while the arrangement is way better than the Biebs, it doesn’t have the same catchy appeal or oomph. I’m actually going to need input from the judges on whether I liked this or not.
What makes Justin’s version work for Harry is the sexiness, and Clark did himself a disservice by making it about melody. It was OK, but it wasn’t the right song to do it to. Keith needs it to be felt from the heart, otherwise it’s about being technical, which is not how Bieber intended. J-Lo thinks people are picking songs based on what they think they can make a moment out of, but this is Arena Anthems, and while that one might be big for JB, it won’t make a megastar out of Clark. Yeah, what they said.
Harry then Telestrates Keith’s body movements and J-Lo’s prayer-like stance. But we’re all staring at the cleavage, aren’t we? It’s a gender-neutral statement.
Jax Goes to the Dolby
It’s a scene that gives Jax goosies, and she can’t help but yell an “echo” out to the seats. Scott urges her not to repeat past mistakes, but also to continue taking risks.
Jax is singing Dido’s “White Flag,” which is known to rock areas harder than Queen. She’s back at the piano for a slow and emotional roller coaster ride, but the first half comes across as a cover. Then it turns undeniably beautiful, a moment even, and there are goose bumps for the last 15 seconds. That’s my ultimate judge, if a performance can make me feel, and methinks the Jax who won voters over is back.
Keith loved everything about it, because it riveted him the entire time. Earlier, J-Lo said she needed more gravitas from Jax if she were to have a chance to win, and this reinforces her strength as an artist. Harry makes jokes because the performance was so phenomenal that he has nothing to say.
Quentin Goes to the Dolby … for the Twitter Save
Scott asks Quentin how to take everything that’s happened to him and turn it into a killer show, and he replies that he’s going to take the fire and the drive and smash them up into his performance. Quentin is on the edge of the mainstream, which is where Scott and his yellow snakeskin jacket say most superstars come from.
Quentin is hoping Florence + the Machine’s “Shake It Out” is his savior song, and I don’t want to read too much into it, but Rayvon and Joey each got a chance to go second in the previous bottom two, while Rayvon is getting the pimp spot in both rounds this time.
It starts off with a Gospel feel, and it’s standard Quentin in that the performance element is there, along with the technical flaws. It’s not as good as his first performance, and it lacks the punch and defiant desperation of the original. It’s going to be tough for him after this one.
J-Lo is glued to him the entire time and enjoyed the vocals, and then she says it was a good way for him to finish. Harry asks if Quentin would let himself be autotuned in the studio, because of his tendency to sing off key, and both agree that’s bad. Keith has a clear feel of what a Quentin album would be like, and my guess is “obituary.”
Rayvon Goes to the Dolby … for the Twitter Save
Rayvon can see himself on the big stage, and Scott wants to know what ballad boy can do to get out of the bottom two. Being there for the third time made Rayvon realize it’s about more than just singing, and that audiences want to feel, connect and see the heart. Like a game of “Operation.”
His final song is “Go Your Own Way,” by Fleetwood Mac, and his timing is off right from the start. It leads to an awful first verse, followed by a normal-sounding chorus before he struggles through the rest. His vocal prowess can usually overcome rough spots, but you can barely hear him on this one. I’m not even sure he knows the words. His crazy high-pitched scream at the end is the only saving grace from what I think is the bottom of the barrel. But the crowd goes wild.
Harry has been asking everyone questions instead of critiquing, so why stop now? Will Rayvon soak it up and be guided in the studio? Or does he know who he’ll be as an artist? Both, he replies, as such an ambiguous answer clearly denotes an exceptional artist. Any critique Keith could give would be overshadowed by the screeches of the audience, and J-Lo believes it was a great performance and the perfect way to end the show.
This is definitely the bottom two we deserved, and the only question is if Rayvon’s first performance will overshadow the two Quentin delivered that were both better than what we just watched. It’s clear the judges want Quentin gone, while I’m pulling for him to stay but will be fine with either going home. But what do users of the second most popular social media company want?
Rayvon Owen wins the Twitter Instant Save (again)
Quentin Alexander is eliminated
And so Teflon Rayvon survives again and finishes a perfect four-for-four in save opportunities. That’s because this was the final one of Season 14, which means there will be no more do-over eliminations and America’s first vote will be the one that counts from here on out.
How do you feel about a Top 5 of Jax, Rayvon, Clark, Tyanna and Nick? It will be interesting to see how things play out, because Clark didn’t do himself any favors. It’s a toss up whether he’ll get enough votes to rise above Rayvon, but all signs point to the likely lowest vote getter over the past month once again landing in the same spot. However, Clark may only have one week left to figure it out.
What was your favorite Arena Anthem, and does it really fit into that category? Who shined, and who let you down? And were you pulling for Rayvon or Quentin? The summer tour is now set, but the lineup for the finale remains up in the air. Check back next week to see who is eliminated next.
And for the love of Paula Abdul, somebody watch live and keep me company!
American Idol airs Wednesdays at 8pm on FOX.
(Image courtesy of FOX)
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order