Breaking It Down: The American Idol Top 4 sees three Idols get on the gravy train, leaving one in the station

The two people in this pic I thought were headed to the final might both be gone next week.

The two people in this pic I thought were headed to the final might both be gone next week.

So what makes me qualified to write about American Idol?

I’m sure some of you have wondered as much. Here’s the thing – I can’t sing, don’t know much technical stuff about music and can’t play an instrument. So why am I more qualified as a judge than Harry Connick, Jennifer Lopez or Keith Urban?

Because I’m a dude. I’m normal. I know what sounds good and what doesn’t and, thanks to my background in journalism, I’m able to distinguish between “I don’t like it because it sounds bad” and “I don’t like it because it’s not my favorite genre but it’s still being performed well.”

So with that said, if you are a judge who constantly compares Idols to yourself and how you perform and you go up there and do this, you need to Joey Gladstone it.

I don’t care if a judge can’t sing. I do care if a judge acts like they know more because they think their vocals are the standard all should be measured by. Say what you want about J-Lo, but she hasn’t once compared an Idol’s vocals to something she does. J-Lo knows she’d have a zero percent chance to win Idol on voice, which is why when she comments on performance, she actually knows what she’s talking about.

So I can’t sing, can’t dance (that’s not true; I’m an AWESOME dancer after several cocktails) and can’t perform (also false; stage presence like Qaasim dreams about) but I can tell you what sounds good and what doesn’t without sounding like a pompous douche.

So on that, let’s get into the breakdown!

THE TOP 4

Clark Beckham
“For the City,” Stevie Wonder
“Your Man,” Josh Turner

I wasn’t thrilled with the first song choice. My feeling with Motown songs is unless Motown is the angle you’re going with, you should stay far, far away unless you’re going to do something so totally different with the song it’s gonna make heads explode.

This performance wasn’t different. It was very Taylor Hicksian, minus the gray and the soul, but it was leaning closer to “cover band on a cruise” level.

Vocally, it was masterful. There’s no doubt the dude can belt, but he looked like he was trying a little too hard here. Idols are at their best when things look natural and this didn’t look like a natural start.

The good news was it was the opener and if he crushed out the second performance, all would be forgotten.

I don’t think the second performance could have gone worse in terms of damaging my man’s chances of winning this show.

For starters, he picks a song that probably shouldn’t be done again because Scotty McCreery sang it a dozen times with that bass line that became a bit of a joke by season’s end.

Then he gets into it with SCOTT BORCHETTA. YOU DO NOT TALK BACK TO THE CEO.

Borchetta’s opinion was dead on. If Clark loses, it’s because he is doing the wrong things and singing a song like it’s a soft rock classic is a good way to get your ass booted from Idol because nobody young likes that music and the older people who do only like the songs they’ve already heard – Hall & Oates, McDonald, Loggins, etc. We don’t need a country song turned into a Yacht Rock classic because, while I love Yacht Rock, the demo watching Idol isn’t exactly a fan.

Clark’s response – “If this loses me the competition, then I don’t want to win” – reeked of arrogance, which isn’t what we’ve seen or heard from Clark and it, rightfully so, set SCOTT BORCHETTA into a GD tailspin.

Borchetta was right because he’s telling Clark what he needs to know to win the show.

This song wasn’t it. It was cheesy. I’m pretty sure I heard some guy do a similar version outside a wine bar on my honeymoon.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with the vocals. Clark can saaaang. But the performance as a whole was lacking and the interaction isn’t going to play well.

If he survives – and I don’t know that he does – he needs to get back to singing songs people not named Clark Beckham like and putting some soul behind that. Win Idol, then be an artist.
IN or BOTTOM 2: Bottom 2

Jax
“Empire State of Mind,” Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys
“Human,” Christina Perri

I have never been so excited for a song because I’ve been bringing this up for weeks in “The Dude Abides” blogs about how this song is tailor-made for Miss Jax. She’s a hell of a contestant so I’m sure it was on her list of songs to try if it fit, but I’m gonna ignore reality and keep going with the thought that she got the idea directly from me. BOOM.

Performance was about what I’d thought it would be. Awesome. She sprinkled just enough Jax dust on the song that it wasn’t an Alicia Keys ripoff and she wisely chose not to spit Jay’s bars. The transition from playing and singing to singing was terrific.

This performance showed why Jax moves ahead of Clark in my standings; she sang an iconic song – old people can argue all they want, but “Empire State of Mind” has replaced Sinatra’s “New York, New York” as the song of the city – that everybody loves, did it in a style that’s popular and still made it her own.

Jax’s second performance was better and that’s coming from someone who hates that song because I’m pretty sure it’s in some cheesy TV show/movie my wife watches and it drives me nuts.

Vocally, brilliant. Jax staged herself perfectly, from the sparkly dress to the smoke machine and when you throw in the power she showed singing, there’s no doubt this girl is a superstar.

But she ain’t winning an Emmy or Oscar anytime soon.

Girl is smart and knows what she’s doing, but Jax’s “emotion” was 100 percent contrived (that means faked). I know this because watch her face.

I’m not gonna hate on her too bad. She oversold it on stage and I think when that moment happened she realized, “what the hell am I doing?” She realized how cheesy her acting was and how it probably looked with the smoke and the singing and the falling to her knees and wanted to laugh.

To her credit, she didn’t. She went along with the performance and finishing beautifully.

Now say what you want about how emotion should be real when they’re performing, remember that it’s not that easy. Jax knows she’s playing a game and she’s playing it really damn good right now.
IN or BOTTOM 2: In

Nick Fradiani
“Bright Lights,” Matchbox 20
“What Hurts the Mosts,” Rascal Flatts

How many moms desperately googled searched “American Idol Tour Dates” the second Fradiani finished Wednesday? All of them?

Love his opening performance. He takes a cheesy band that no one under the age of 25 really likes and sings the hell of their song. He put his Fradiani twist (that sounds like an app at TGI Friday’s) on the song and got his core audience jacked to drink wine and plan a night away from the fam.

My favorite part of the song was when he’d hit the chorus. That oomph on “for god sakes turn around” showed he meant business. Those are the moments you need in a performance because they’re memorable. I’m not saying the performance as a whole was something I’ll tell my grandkids about, but those few transitions to the chorus? Won him the night.

So as if his first song choice wasn’t Lite Rock enough, he comes back with Rascal Flatts for Round 2 and did a hell of a job with the song, even after a slight stumble at the start.

His vocals are consistent and that’s a good thing. He can’t go chasing big, big songs like Clark, but unlike his partner in hunkatude, he knows it. He picks a song in his wheelhouse, sings the crap out of them and wets the audience.

What else I loved about the performances? The v-neck T that was appropriately sized unlike the GapKids Boys M he wore last week (I’m going to abuse that joke for eternity). If Fradiani really wanted to make the ladies go cray cray, he would have rocked a V that went down to his belly button. Prediction for next week? Flannel shortsleeve for one and definitely gonna give us a shirt and tie. Then a shirtless performance, just for kicks.

Now I read a couple blogs that said he hasn’t had his moment and he’s skating by. Here’s the thing – this is exactly what Kris Allen did. Solid every week, then oops it’s the Top 3 and here’s one of the best performances in Idol history.

We’re gonna find out next week if Nick Fradiani can win American Idol and as of now, there’s no reason to think he can’t.
IN or BOTTOM 2: In

Rayvon Owen
“Need You Now,” Lady Antebellum
“Believe,” Justin Bieber

I’m just gonna keep doubting Rayvon because it’s working well for him.

Dude is playing Idol better than anyone – Nick included. If this was NBA Jam, every note coming out of his mouth would be on fire. He’s like Bill Belichick and Tom Brady rolled into one – a genius game-planner and a master at executing the plan.

Need You Know is pure schlock and he turned the damn thing into a listenable R&B song, which I loved. Gonna hear that on the wedding circuit among non-white folks for sure because it had hair on it.

The question with Rayvon has never been his voice; it’s been song selection, which I hammered him on early. So what in the hell changed? Why has his song selection suddenly gone to, as the kids say, a hunnid?

So as if his first performance couldn’t have been any better, he comes out with a Bieber song next and crushes it. I’ve never heard it (Bieber’s not in my kid’s playlist yet) but as far as I’m concerned, that song now belongs to Rayvon.

This performance was the first time I think we’ve actually heard Rayvon. There was emotion – and not the fake kind Jax had – and heart and soul and voice and my god it was so good. That’s how you connect with a song. That’s how you dominate on stage. That’s how you get the guy you’re eliminating next week to stand up and give you props mid-song.

Rayvon was awesome. I’m not gonna say he’s one of my favorites, but if he put on 100 pounds by next week’s show he would be. I’d say he’s Top 2 of the night, but I can’t see him gaining enough votes on Fradiani and Jax, but if I’m betting I’d say he’s Top 3 and if he comes up with one more big moment, he might win the damn thing.
IN or BOTTOM 2: Bottom 2

THE DEPARTED

Tyanna Jones
“Run the World (Girls),” Beyonce

I was a big Tyanna guy, so I wasn’t pleased when she got kicked off.

After seeing her performance vs what Rayvon did, I felt better about it.

The song selection was bad. That’s a super popular song, but not really a great American Idol song.
That said, she sang the hell out of it because singing the hell out of songs is what Tyanna Jones does. Her voice is amazing and for her, all of 16-years old, to go up there after having her heart ripped out of her chest and sing like that? Well done kid.

If you ask me to throw down cash on which one of the Final 5 is going to be the most famous, I’m betting heavy on Tyanna. The voice, the look, the awesome mom? She wins. She’s a younger Jennifer Hudson.

My guess? She cuts an album that doesn’t do so well, ends up as a cast member on Empire, sings some songs that goes bezerk on the charts and boom – movies, platinum album, Oscars, Grammys, Tonys, etc.

Not a bad prize for not winning Idol.

So who’s going home?

I said it Wednesday night – Tyanna’s elimination is playing a huge role. Her votes are going to Jax and Rayvon and with Nick getting a huge portion of 30-plus women and everyone else who finds him hunky, they’re safe.

Which means I can’t believe I’m writing this, but Clark gets booted next week.

DAMMIT ALL TO HELL.

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