Thursday, March 26, 2015

American Idol Season 14 Top 9

Wednesday night was '80's Night on American Idol, and because the one save of the season has already been used, there was a guaranteed double elimination. That meant there would be both a Mondale and a Dukakis!

I will be writing on Thursday, after having watched the show on Wednesday, so I am going to have to rely on memory. It was a pretty weird episode in many ways. The first two featured singers of the evening were David Hasselhoff and Boy George, and they were both horrible vocally. It was a mixed bag for the contestants, some were better than the week before and some were worse. I am pretty sure that only one of them was even alive in the 1980s.

Early in the evening, the 11 kids took the stage and started to somewhat awkwardly sing "Karma Chameleon" before Boy George came out to butcher it further. While some of the contestants had solos that consisted of singing a few words, not all of them did, and thus it really would be impossible to rank them or consider this a formal part of the competition. Boy George really cannot sing anymore. I think did spend a good deal of times behind bars in recent years though.

So, before we get into the Top 9, let's look at the Results aspect of last night's show.

Who should have been eliminated: Daniel Seavey and Maddie Walker
Who I predicted would be eliminated: Adanna Duru and Rayvon Owen
Who was eliminated: Maddie Walker and Adanna Duru

So, one correct prediction and one correct verdict by America. Adanna definitely did not deserve to leave, but for the second time in the Finals, a female contestant who led off the night and did not give a very memorable performance paid the price. I thought a couple of weeks ago that Maddie might be around for a while, but for whatever reason, she was pretty out of her depth and seemed sort of disconnected from it all. Anything resembling a country singer is now completely gone from the show. Additionally, both of the remaining white girls on the show are not exactly traditional pop singer types.  Both Adanna and Maddie were dismissed in a pretty curt fashion before the last performance and they basically disappeared from the stage. There may not be any tribute videos or sing outs in these truncated competition weeks. Good luck to both of them in their future endeavors. With Qaasim having been saved, this means that three consecutive females have now been voted off. That trend in recent Idol seasons is continuing for now, although the remaining three may have larger fan bases.

The Idol directors probably need to be a bit more on their game. Several times last night, they had the camera completely fixed on the person who would advance, including on Rayvon who survived the "Bottom Three", right before Seacrest made the offiicial announcement. It sort of took away from the drama of those reveals.

There was a special performance by Salt-n-Pepa later on in the evening, but no sign of Spinderella. 

Now, on to the most current round and '80s week:

1. Daniel Seavey- "You Make My Dreams Come True"

Please do not tell me he may actually win this show? At this point, he has definitely surpassed Sanjaya Malakar as someone who has stuck around far too long. At least Lazaro Arbos had a stutter. This is just ridiculous. Maybe singing first in the evening will cause it to be curtains for Daniel, who was born in 1999, but chose (probably thankfully) not to sing that Prince song from the '80s.

The kid really does look like he is having fun being on Idol and living the life as a contestant. It's a good thing that he is so happy I suppose, but he really cannot sing. I wonder what David Archuleta thinks of this, if even he still watches the show. I vaguely remember X-Factor USA putting together some 10 teens and pre-teens to do an ensemble version of this Hall and Oates song and my hunch is that all of them are better singers than Daniel at this point in his life. The judges gave him some compliments on his vocals, while saying he is too choreographed. I just remember his voice cracked a bit and it was seriously amateurish in general. The corny dance moves may be the biggest thing he has going for him at this point.

So, how many viewers changed the channel after being subjected already to the Hoff, Boy George, and Little Daniel? 

2. Quentin Alexander- "In The Air Tonight"

Last week, I thought he did the best job. This week, the judges thought he was better than that performance, but I thought it was a significant step down for him. He still had some nice vocal moments and this is an interesting kind of song for him to have put his own spin on, but it does feel like something he has done before. Maybe he should have done something up-tempo instead. If he wanted to do this song, he should have really gone for it more vocally at the point when the drums kick in. I think that a lot of what Quentin has done on stage this year has worked, but the overall theme of his performance this week may have been a bit too creepy to many viewers.

3. Joey Cook- "Girls Just Want To Have Fun"

Girl Joey was very excited to have met Boy Jerry and then took the stage in a get-up she described as "Madonna in Space."

After initially being very annoyed by Joey, the last couple of her performances caused me to appreciate her talents more. This week, I was not really feeling it. This might have been an interesting song to do (as I think someone has in some format) by slowing it down and doing it acoustic style, but that might have been a bit too similar to what Joey has done recently. So, she decided to bring back the cartoon character/alien persona and I felt it a bit too silly once again. While Cyndi Lauper is an example of a very talented singer, who was able to play a stylized character on this song back in the '80s, I thought that tactic took away from Joey's vocals. She did happen to pronounce the word "girl", much in the way my 14 month old niece does and probably danced a bit like her as well.

My niece Gianna is quite musical already though and may one day be a future American Idol!

4. Tyanna Jones- "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" 

Some of the '80s songs have really long titles. I certainly knew every one that was done though last night. This was another very strong performance from Tyanna, after she might have missed the mark a bit last week. It was risky for her to attempt Whitney Houston (as many of past Idol lore have) and garner comparisons, but the song began with sort of a modern club remix of the song which probably was a good thing for Tyanna. They sure are back to rearranging songs on Idol under the musical leadership of the immensely hammy Rickey Minor than they did during the brief reign of Ray Chew Live.

Tyanna did seem to start off a little tentative this week with her vocals, perhaps keeping in mind she may have started too fast last week, but by the end, she was pretty much nailing every note and demonstrating tremendous technical skill.

5. JAX- "You Give Love a Bad Name"

The girl from Jersey kept it in state by taking on Bon Jovi, while totally decked out as an 80s chick. I believe this song has been done the traditional way before on Idol and also with the memorable Blake Lewis remix from several years back, which I did not really like and which generated some backlash on the comments here from one of his fans. JAX put her own spin on the song, playing piano.

I agreed with the judges in thinking the beginning and the end were pretty good, but that she may have went off the rails a bit in the middle. Like Joey, JAX is also pretty stylized as a vocalist and might be tough to listen to for more than 90 seconds at a time, but I thought this was one of her better peformances.

6. Nick Fradiani- "Man In The Mirror"

This was a pretty risky song choice. A couple weeks back, I referred to Nick as a "poor man's Kris Allen", and that former winner I think is maybe the only person to have done this song on Idol (except for that one dude, whose name escapes me that said if he got voted off it would be because America refused to look in the mirror...)

All in all though, I think Nick pulled this off. I would be interested to know if he has managed to just survive with the voters this year or if he has been near the top because cougars like him. We do know that he was not in the Bottom Three last week. Maybe if Nick had played the guitar, this could have been a bit of a smoother vocal, but that might have taken away from the emotional impact which seemed to be what he was going for. Nick's singing is never perfect, but I think he was able to show some passion on this song, which will probably be to his benefit.

7. Clark Beckham- "Every Breath You Take"

This song feels like something that has been overdone on Idol, although it's probably not been sung more than three times. There was some debate at the beginning about Boy George suggesting that Clark take it down a key, which Clark would wind up rejecting afterwards. Probably a smart move.

This was really very good, as Clark usually is, and why he is probably going to win this season. He played piano and did put a bit of his own twist on this very well-known song, including the especially appreciated bridge portion which is the best part of the song. I did not like every musical direction he took the song, but he did sing it very well and the judges had a point in saying he made it sound more like a sorrowful love song than a creepy stalker song.

8. Qaasim Middleton- "Addicted To Love"

I swear, this song used to give me nightmares in the '80s. Maybe it was the music video.

It would have been pretty awkward for Idol if Qaasim, right after being saved, was part of the double elimination, and was gone without even getting another chance to sing. It would have been like a Congressional override of a bad executive action.

The last two weeks, I thought Quentin's vocals were quite shoddy when covering a white British male, namely Paul McCartney, which is why it was probably risky to cover another white British male in the late Robert Palmer. Before that, I thought Qaasim had showed a lot of vocal talent covering black artists.

Certainly, this was a vocal that had its flaws, but it was really a major improvement from the past couple of weeks and Qaasim did manage to redeem himself to some extent, without even needing to bust out the dance moves. In talking with Seacrest, he seemed to be acting deliberately humble, which may not have been overly genuine and there was much discussion about his "mic drop" last week. Not keeping current with other Idol blogs, I am not certain what the reaction to that has been, but it has apparently caused panic in some quarters.

9. Rayvon Owen- "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"

I predicted (as I have a few times already) that Rayvon would be cut, but he did survive, although we were officially informed that he was in the Bottom Three with Adanna and Maddie. He should have just worn an 80's mullet wig for this performance over the balding head he seems to be very ashamed of.

Like all of Rayvon's performances, I thought this had some good moments, but like all of them, something is still lacking. I suppose he did try to show another side to himself by taking on this song, but he does indeed always rely on his falsetto and it's pretty predictable. It was decent but could have been a lot better if he had stronger artistic and competitive skills. He was probably just quite relieved to "survive and advance"  to next week in Idol's own version of March Madness.


9. Daniel Seavey
8. Joey Cook
7. Quentin Alexander
6. Rayvon Owen
5. JAX
4. Qaasim Middleton
3. Nick Fradiani
2. Clark Beckham
1. Tyanna Jones

While the season has not been friendly to the females thus far, I have a hunch that a male may be leaving next week before they can sing a Kelly Clarkson song. Rayvon once again might be at risk, but my prediction is that Quentin will get less votes than he has before, now that Qaasim might be a bit back on the upswing and that Tyanna was very good once again.

Of course, Quentin leaving would not be the best outcome. Daniel finally leaving would, but that just may not be in the cards yet. Hopefully, America will one day do the right thing.

Speaking of of "Doing the Right Thing" (also an 80's movie), I am surprised that American Idol has not made any mention thus far this season that the first of the contestants who sang for America's vote have started to sadly pass away.

Since last year's Finale, Michael Johns of Season 7, a one time frontrunner in the competition died to the shock of many, as well as semifinalist Joanne Borgella, of the same season. They are definitely worth some sort of "In Memoriam" tribute.


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