Thursday, March 12, 2015

American Idol Season 14 Top 11

I watched the episode live tonight, so my comments may be briefer. After years though of reviewing American Idol episodes on here, all these format changes are really causing me to think on the fly as to the best way to present everything.

Tonight, the 12 finalists sat in electric chairs of sorts, that were red, but lit up green when they were put through to safety of the Top 11, based on the votes of the performances that aired last night. I have no idea when those performances really occurred, but they must not have been that long ago. Then, the lowest vote getter would be called forward last to sing for the save. I do not believe there was anything mentioned about getting closer to a Top 10 or an Idol tour this summer. Those days for the franchise may be over.

So, before we take a look at the first performance, based on last night:

Who should have been eliminated: Daniel Seavey
Who I predicted would be eliminated: Quentin Alexander

Tonight, the theme was "party songs" and there were balloons in the audience, reminiscent of a political convention. I am not exactly sure how some of these songs qualify as "party" tunes.

1. Rayvon Owen- "Burn"

He continues to skate by, although leading off the evening of a two hour show could prove to be dangerous. Honestly, I was a bit distracted during this performance and do not remember a ton of details. Rayvon always does some nice things with his voice, but I felt like maybe he sounded a bit overly shrill with his falsetto. It may have been a good move for him to try do something "youthful" and the judges seemed to like it. His bread and butter in this competition will be to try to appeal to older viewers though.

2. Maddie Walker- "She's Country"

The only country singer in the competition was next and she tried to cater to that audience by doing a Jason Aldean song, complete with some sort of cowboy hat choreography that this Taylor Swift associated Idol mentor of the season suggested. I have thought Maddie was good the last two performances when she did not sing country. I did not like when she did country the first time and I thought she sounded fairly lousy tonight as well. Harry said she was trying to mimic the record, but I find it hard to believe she sounds exactly like Jason Aldean. I do not know the song and found it terrible of course.

After she sang, Seacrest announced that Maddie had not been feeling well (those sort of things keep getting mentioned on the air more and more in recent seasons) and instead of joining the rest of the contestants on the side of the stage in their electric chairs, it was said she was off to see the doctor. Whatever was going on, she did not appear on camera for the rest of the evening, missing out on some good exposure to America at the least.

3. Joey Cook- "Fancy"

I almost hate to admit this, but Joey may be growing on me somewhat. I thought this was easily her best performance. To be sure, I really continue to not get her genre or whatever it is that she tries to do, but I could see her as a successful novelty act. The way she re-interpreted (although it was apparently borrowed from some group) of a recent rappish chart topper was interesting. She seemed quite confident on stage, although I detected in all her speaking parts on the broadcast, she seemed to have eased up a bit on the cartoon/sitcom like character that she often appears as, and maybe more of her real personality was shown. She is clearly still alternating between them though and that could confuse some people.

4. Clark Beckham- "Takin' It To the Streets"

I thought he was great last night and whatever he did this evening might have been tough to live up to that standard. As he has done before, he sang a song done on Idol by Taylor Hicks, and in much of the same style. However, he did it seated at the piano and thus did not do the showman theatrics that made Taylor's performance so memorable several years ago. Vocally, I still thought this was pretty good, but I guess I sort of agree with the judges saying that the emotion does not come through enough, as strong as his voice is. Clark is easily one of the better singers this season, but for reasons that are hard to explain, it does feel like something might be missing.

Also, I realize now that he and everyone else knew his name was about to be called, based on the fact a piano was on stage.

5. JAX- "Blank Space"

Some of Jackie's (that is her real name right?) performances have been pretty good, but I did not really like this one. It felt odd, as if Ke$ha was trying to imitate Taylor Swift. There may have been a moment or two that sounded interesting, but this was not the right song for her, and while her strategy of trying to appeal to more mainstream music appreciating Idol fans could have been wise, this may have been taking it too far and was a missed opportunity.

6. Qaasim Middleton- "Jet"

I had never heard of this Wings song before and I do not think I would enjoy it. This was a surprising and disappointing performance for me from one of the early frontrunners. It was like he was exposed vocally in a major way. He is such a talented performer and while he has mostly been known for a lot of high energy dancing and vocal tricks, his pure singing in parts this season have sounded good as well. This had some pretty bad moments and I was quite surprised. Maybe it just was not the right kind of song, as Qaasim sang it, while also playing the electric guitar and it still felt pretty frantic. I was quite surprised the judges were not more critical. As talented a performer as Qaasim undoubtedly is, he better hope this was just an off night vocally and that he will be able to show that he deserves to be on the show because of his singing.

7. Adanna Duru- "Runaway Baby"

Having been the last to be put thru via wildcard last night, Adanna is the first who I thought might have been in danger of being eliminated to make it. She has shown that she is a driven and passionate stage performer over the past three weeks, but her excitement has caused her to sing off pitch as well. That happened in parts tonight as well, but it was an improvement and I thought she had another impressive performance. The fact that she lives so much on the edge vocally, while clearly putting her heart and soul into her performances is probably going to be a net positive with many.

8. Tyanna Jones- "Tightrope"

Last season, the once highly touted Majesty Rose sang this on the Idol stage, and it was really the only performance of hers that got a lot of praise. This season, Tyanna is also considered a front-runner, but unlike Majesty, she clearly knows what she is there to do.

I do not know if I would give this performance a "10"as Harry said he would. I thought the last couple of notes were maybe a bit too screamy, but still, this was another extremely strong vocal from Tyanna. Even more than just her singing, she absolutely worked the stage like a pro and even showed off some dancing. This is the first Idol season without Randy Jackson, so in his honor, "she is in this to win it", and she comes across as such a sweet person, that it may be easy to root for her. She was overwhelmed by emotion at the overwhelming praise the judges gave her, but I think they made some good points about her appeal. There is always room for improvement, but Tyanna is doing a lot right at this time.

9. Daniel Seavey- "Happy"

Of course, he made it through. Oh well. I will say that this was Daniel's best performance and that his effort on stage was apparent. Give him credit for that, but still, even with some minor improvement, he is way out his league with everyone else, including many who never survived the Hollywood cuts (and even before that perhaps.) If he continues to work at this song though, he might reach the quality of a strong High School Talent show performance.

10. Quentin Alexander- "Rolling In the Deep"

I am glad to be wrong and to see him advance, because he deserved to. As soon as they called his name, the contestants immediately seemed to started to console Sarina-Joi Crowe, as it seemed like everybody realized that the racial demographic component would have her finishing behind Nick Fradiani for the final spot.

How is this a party song? In any event, Quentin was decent sounding, but this was probably his weakest vocal. The Adele hit was arranged to have it be a bit more techno in a way, but that sort of took away from the power of the song. I think Quentin might have done a better job if he just attempted to sing it as it was written, but he was clearly trying to do something artistic.

11. Nick Fradiani- "Wake Me Up (Acoustic)"

At 29 (and looking it for the most part), I sort of feel sorry for Nick having to compete with these younger kids. I think he realizes he is not going to win the show and there is a hint of desperation to his performances and demeanor. However, nobody can fault him for doing all he can to make the most out of this opportunity.

Parts of this I really liked, and parts of it sounded weird. There is something about the television cameras and the judges sitting there that is causing him to not be as effective as he could be. Still, it was stronger than many others were tonight.

Who was eliminated: Sarina-Joi Crowe

This has been quite a journey for SJC. She is someone who had auditioned a few previous times before making it to America's vote. However, unlike the last two Idol champions who had similar experiences, her run on the show would be fairly short-lived.

That might not have been expected up until this week, as she may have owned Detroit to some extent. J Lo even declared she was the best singer in the competition. The trip to California did not work out well for her however. I suppose she will always have Michigan.

On Wednesday night, she had to sing first and gave a middling and somewhat forgettable performance, not up to her previous standards. It certainly was good enough to advance in my view, but as mentioned, the fact that half of these kids are black means that it was a numbers game as to which would receive the lowest number of votes this week. I said last night she was a real possibility to go, and I felt that was the second most likely outcome. Based on the performances that evening though, I felt that Quentin and Adanna were better.

The save is back this season. As I say every year, I wish it was not. This year, the lowest vote getter is going to sing something new, that they had been working on that week obviously, and will apparently not be able to resurrect an old crowd favorite.

So, Sarina-Joi sang "Neon Lights" by Demi Lovato. Since it theoretically could have been up to America to vote on for next week, I might as well rank it, as long as the Save is in effect.

She sounded a bit nervous, which is to be expected in the situation and did not have a great performance. It was better than some of what we had heard earlier but it was clear that the save was not going to be used, regardless of how strong SJC had been in Detroit and how much praise she received there. So, it was the end of the line for her, based on unfortunate circumstances and a majorly divided black vote.


12. Daniel Seavey
11. Maddie Walker
10. Qaasim Middleton
9. JAX
(8. Sarina-Joi Crowe- ineligible to advance)
7. Joey Cook
6. Rayvon Owen
5. Quentin Alexander
4. Nick Fradiani
3. Adanna Duru
2. Clark Beckham
1. Tyanna Jones

Never in a million years would I have expected to rank Joey higher than Qaasim. I will be more disappointed if I have to do so again this year. I am also starting to think that Clark vs. Tyanna for the title in May could become a reality.

Who will leave next Thursday? That is really tough, especially since we are unlikely to know moving forward who is in the Bottom Three or Bottom Two. This is such a different kind of season, so the prediction game is going to be tougher.

Based on the demographics, it may very well be another African-American such a Rayvon, Quentin, or Adanna.  I hope not though. Obviously, Daniel should leave, but I think he has not worn out his welcome with his fanbase types yet. Maddie could maybe be in trouble, but she is the only somewhat country artist and could get some sympathy for whatever illness or injury she was dealing with.

While I assume that the JAX Pack might have some decent numbers, I have a hunch that JAX's performance tonight will cause her to get less votes than expected, especially since Joey may have won some of those people over.


At 6:42 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Corey, I seriously DOUBT we're going to see a girl win the Idol crown this year!

The teenage girl voting bloc is too strong, which helps the guys!


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