Breaking It Down: They weren’t Kelly Clarkson, but American Idol Top 8 put on a show

Hey look, it's the only person who should be singing Kelly Clarkson songs.

Hey look, it’s the only person who should be singing Kelly Clarkson songs.

On a night seemed destined for disasters, the Idols stepped their games up.

With Original Idol Kelly Clarkson mentoring a group performing songs from her songbook, having three or four disastrous performances seemed to be a lock. That’s not because of the Top 9’s abilities; Clarkson songs aren’t exactly Idol-friendly unless the contestant singing them is Kelly Clarkson.

The other potential disaster was the Twitter Fan Save and while the result was correct, I’m going to back off my original statement and won’t call it a complete success. The West Coast got boned because while AI made an effort to put the sing-off contestants on so the West could vote, how many people were really going to race to their computer at 6:40 to do it? Idol could have done the Twitter save and made the announcement overnight or, as some crazy blogger recommended, do it the following week to start the show.

Either way, it was a night full of solid performances it what was a week about surviving. The performer who was better during the Bottom 2 moved on and all was right in the world.

Let’s get to the recaps:

THE TOP 9

Nick Fradiani
“Catch My Breath”

When Nick said he’d played this with his band, things were looking really good. Even when he performed, he wasn’t looking bad. Then the rest of the night happened and that might be bad for Nick and his FradiCats.

Herein lies the problem with leading off. If you don’t deliver an elite performance you’re forgotten and that’s where Nick lies. He wasn’t bad. I’d put him, Rayvon Owen and Qaasim Middleton on the same level for the night, but Rayvon is memorable because he survived the Sing-Off and Qaasim was so un-Qaasim-like with his performance Nick is just there.

He’s got a chance to be very Kris Allen-like this season. There’s no reason he can’t be Top 6 and if he keeps delivering strong performances, all of a sudden he’s Top 4 and then Top 3 and then has his “Breathless” moment and oops, he wins.

Singing Clarkson this was all about survival and I don’t know if, because of all the circumstances, he did enough to do that. If there’s a Twitter Fan Save and he’s up against Qaasim or Rayvon, I think he can get the job done, so he’d better prepare because my guess is he’ll be Bottom 2 based on luck alone.
IN or BOTTOM 2: Bottom 2

Jax
“Beautiful Disaster”

What was with the diamond in the center of the FaceX? Jax pops out a couple good performance and then goes all big time on us?

Seriously though, she performed about as well as you could have expected. Jax is not Clarkson, but did a hell of a job during a Clarkson song into a Jax song. Jax has been brilliant not overdoing anything; she knows her groove and I’ll be damned if she didn’t do it.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the song choice – Dude only likes what the Dude likes – but I was digging the Barefoot Vampire look. In a week that was about maintaining her position, Jax did just that and coming up on a week where pretty much any song from the last decade is in play, she could make a move next week.
IN or BOTTOM 2: In

Tyanna Jones
“Mr. Know It All”

I’m not going to try and get in the mind of a 16-year old, but the “bullying” thing annoys me because it’s such a hot topic that Tyanna could have been fed the line by someone (producer, cough) to use to make her “story” better. This is going to sound weird, but I hope she actually was bullied because producers need to keep their dirty hands off this kid. I’m terrified they’re going to push false narratives and totally ruin the pure awesomeness that is Tyanna Jones.

Tyanna’s performances tell you everything you need to know and crushing out Clarkson was no different. Producers don’t need to sell us a sappy story or any other thing to promote Tyanna and if they do, that’s going to get America to turn on her quick.

Did you hear the vocal? So good. Did you see the performance? Perfect. I’m waiting for Tyanna do flop because I just want to see what it looks like. I don’t think it’s even possible. Is there a theme she can’t sing.

In a week with a tough theme, the kid gets an A-plus. Going forward, her strategy is going to decide the contest because she make the Top 3 with little effort or take some risks and make a run at Clark Beckham. While safe songs are key for some of the Idols, risky might be better for Tyanna because flat out nobody is singing better right now.
IN or BOTTOM 2: In

Joey Cook
“Miss Independent”

This is going to come out bad, but it needs to be said because I’m amazed: off stage Joey, I’m not trying to bang her. On stage Joey is so fucking hot I can’t stand it.

She’s got this spark and oozes sexiness when she’s doing this jazzy tunes and it’s making me insane. Every week I see her talk and wonder why I don’t hate her – it might be because Lena Dunham really ruined ‘quirky girls’ for me – and then she gets on stage and I don’t get why I find her so damn attractive. It’s a confidence thing and it’s awesome.

But not as awesome as her performances and Miss Independent was no different. The arrangement was awesome and the only reason Harry Connick hated it was because Joey Cook is doing something Connick couldn’t – making jazz sound cool. He sounded like a baseball guy. Baseball guys are the worst at defending their sport because they always sound like complete assholes. Fuck baseball guys.

Keith Urban nailed the critique; Joey’s not changing songs, she’s building new songs. It’s really a game-changed because if she keeps stringing performances together, she’s going to make the Top 5 ve-e-e-e-ry interesting.

Oh, and STRONG move by her boyfriend proposing during the show run. Get that locked up before she gets megafamous and the Hollywood Hunks can get to her.
IN or BOTTOM 2: In

Quentin Alexander
“Dark Side”

If American Idol wanted to be funnier on Twitter, they’d crack jokes about Q’s smoke machine budget or actually tell us how much they spend because it’s bordering on the ridiculous right now.

Loved everything about the performance. Loved the Blanco Prince outfit, loved the glittery dog collar, loved the smoke and really loved the song selection.

For Quentin too come out and execute on an up-tempo song has to be terrifying for the other competitors. He was looking like a one-trick pony – a haunting one – and then he comes out an nails it.

His foray into Stevie Wonder was a little rough and nearly kicked him out of the Idolverse, but this showed he can do a little more.

This should buy him a couple straight weeks of haunting music, which is important because he’s going to need to have those performances with what’s coming up in the next month.
IN or BOTTOM 2: In

Qaasim Middleton
“Stronger”

Wow.

Terrific job by Qaasim doing something different this week. Was the vocal amazing? No. Was it the worst? No.

Here’s the thing – if you lose your vocal during louder performances, you’re going to come off screaming and cracking and it sounds turrible. You play an acoustic guitar and you have way more room for error because the performances sound so more genuine.

Even when Qaasim butchered those high-pitched squeal notes, they didn’t sound bad. His scatting wasn’t terrible and it was great to see him up there singing, even though he extended his streak of dressing up as Will Smith from “Wild, Wild, West.”

Qaasim’s strength isn’t on stage with an acoustic guitar but it’s not screaming and pissing off a mass of voters. He’s got to find the balance between this week and what he’s been and he might do better than we expect. I do know this – there is enough of a Qaasim backlash that if he gets Bottom 2 and just dances like he did early in the season, American will fan vote him the fuck out.

Shouldn’t happen this week though.
IN or BOTTOM 2: In

Clark Beckham
“The Trouble With Love Is”

With him sitting Bottom 3, was anyone actually nervous that CB was heading home? (I think when we hang out I’m gonna call him CB; sounds way more bro-ey, right?) I knew it was a possibility, but I thought I had a better shot of winning Idol than Clark did of having this be his last night.

When confirmation of his safety was announced, now it was just a matter of how good was he going to be and after Kelly Clarkson blatantly stole my joke (in my heart of hearts Fradiani told Clarkson that some blogger dude keeps saying that and she just stole it right there) CB continued to steal me heart.

That performance was soulful, beautiful and had a touch of badassery in there. There’s so much “oomp” in his voice and if you re-watch, he chases an Adam Lambert-esque scream and doesn’t go all the way (because, let’s be honest – Beckham ain’t getting as high as Lord Lambert) but gets it just enough that it made J-Lo squirm with delight in her seat.

Does this kid have a weakness? Or a chance of losing this show? When are we going to hang out?

Hopefully soon. God, am I typing this out loud? Hope not.
IN or BOTTOM 2: In

Daniel Seavey
“Break Away”
Horrible song choice for Seavey. Like I said last week, the Clarkson Catalog wasn’t good for him and “The Trouble With Love Is” didn’t require an incredibly strong voice (although Clark added one and killed it). This song was too big.

Seavey’s potential is higher than we’ve seen out of most of the youngsters the last few years. Chances are in 10 years this kid is a pop star and banging super models, so that’s pretty awesome for him.

I’m glad he went out the way he did because he got beat. He didn’t get the least amount of votes – his performance wasn’t as good as Rayvon’s and to lose like that instead of delivering a better performance and losing on votes should help the confidence a bit, as should the countless number of HJ’s he’ll get the next few weeks back home.
IN or BOTTOM 2: Neither, because GONZO

Rayvon Owen
“Since U Been Gone”
Where in the hell did that come?

Rayvon, who’s been boring the crap out of us every week with not-so-great-live performances that don’t seem to sound good until it’s time for the next performance, came up with his best performance when it mattered most.

It was a terrific vocal and a perfect arrangement and an even better song choice. It was the first time we’ve seen Rayvon look like he’s ready to compete. Wonder if maybe he’s one of those who only brings it when his back is to the wall. Maybe he’s better off being Bottom 2 because that’s what gets him going.

While he’s almost 100 percent certainly singing Jon Legend or Sam Smith for Billboard 100, he might be doing it for his life. I don’t know if his performances since the Top 12 have gotten him enough votes that he can dig himself out of the hole.

Let’s be honest – if we’re ranking Idols, he’s seventh or eighth right now. That means he’s going to have to fight to stay on the show.

If he fights like he did for that last performance? Anything can happen.
IN or BOTTOM 2: Bottom 2

My basis for Bottom 2 is this: Joey, Jax, Tyanna and Clark are safe. I think Quentin should be good as well, but he’s the darkhorse candidate for Bottom 2. I think Qaasim will get an additional boost this week even though it seems the entire internet hates him more (an about face when it seemed I hated him more before switching sides this week).

Nick gets thrown into the Bottom 2 because he went off first. His performance was decent, but Joey, Jax, Tyanna and Clark outperformed him and I’d give Quentin the edge as well. Nick leads off, so that hurts and I think that means he’s Bottom 2.

Rayvon is there because while he was terrific this week, I don’t think it was big enough to put him past anyone except Qaasim. The Bottom 2 will be Nick, Rayvon or Qaasim and since I don’t waffle, Qaasim is safe.

If we’re doing the Twitter save again, I like Nick’s chances, but how people vote will be the deciding factor? Me? In a head to head comp, anything that’s happened in the past never happened. I am voting on that performance only, which is how everyone should do it.

We’ll see how that goes. Can’t wait for Wednesday.

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