Breaking It Down: Who deserves to win Season 14 of American Idol? Why was Jax eliminated? Here’s why.
We have to clear something up about last night’s final performances, because people on Twitter and people who have no clue about American Idol are making me crazy.
The WGWG phenomena isn’t new. WGWG generally do well on the show for several reason, one being they’re more musically inclined than your average vocalist and another being they can cover a better variety of songs rather than slam you over the head with big ballad after big ballad.
But two WGWGs is new – and their whiteness, guitarness or hunkiness isn’t why Jax was sent home last night.
This is the first time in the 14-year history of American Idol that we had a WGWG final. Seriously. I looked it up.
I’m more than aware two white guys have been in the final before but you can’t throw the WGWG label on David Archuleta – who was bubblegum pop – or Adam Lambert – who was simply awesome – because they lacked the G (No coincidence those two are the last white male pop singers who have done well on the show).
Everyone was all fired up about Jax getting eliminated last night and I understand why. She was a hell of a contestant, but was she that much better than either Clark Beckham or Nick Fradiani? Things were so close between the three saying that Clark or Nick was that much better than Jax is equally irresponsible. You can’t argue “Jax will be a better artist in the future” because the future doesn’t mean anything; that’s like saying “The Patriots should win the Super Bowl this year because they’re younger than everyone else and will be probably win it again next year.”
Jax was voted off because of bad luck she couldn’t control unless she openly campaigned against one of her competitors. If Rayvon Owen doesn’t survive any of the initial Twitter Sing Offs, he doesn’t build as big a fanbase as he had and after being voted out last week, his votes don’t head to Clark or Nick. That’s why Jax was eliminated – the religious southerns in Rayvon’s corner went to Team Clark and gave him the boost to pass Jax in the standings.
Idol is a competition and part of competition is dealing with the cards you’ve been dealt. Jax caught a bad hand at the worst time. She didn’t lose because American Idol fans have an insatiable appetite for WGWGs and Clark and Nick didn’t make the final because the WGWGs always do. She didn’t lose at all. Clark and Nick won their spot in the final.
What happened happened because this season was so damn competitive. It wasn’t because of WGWGs. It was because one person wins American Idol, not three.
Would it have been nice to see Jax perform? Yep. Didn’t happen. Now she’s going to go on and become a superstar punk/pop princess and wonder why in the hell she followed a billion people on Twitter when she was going through the American Idol process.
As for the two who did make it, well, it was one hell of a night that left us with one conclusion.
On to the breakdown.
“Georgia On My Mind,” Ray Charles
Of all his performances, I wouldn’t have chosen ‘Georgia.’ His version of ‘Every Breath You Take’ was his best of the season with ‘Sunday Morning’ and ‘Make It Rain’ not that far behind (I would have preferred to see a reprise of Michael McDonald). I understand why he’d pick Georgia – it really fits him and his classic style well – but considering the circumstances, I didn’t think it was the kind of choice that wins Idol.
But damn was it good.
It was quintessential Clark. From the homage to Ray Charles (the head bobs) to making his voice the focus as opposed to the baby grand sitting center stage, he bared his soul on the performance and everyone swooned. For a show opener, you couldn’t have asked for more.
Even better was Clark looked confident. During his late-season swoon of bad song choice after bad song choice, he looked frazzled. He was either going way to far out of the box or someone was picking a song that wasn’t really for him. On Georgia, there was none of that. Just a confident, talented performance that was one of the reasons he was a favorite on the show from the start.
“Bright Lights,” Matchbox 20
The song choice was unusual, but when you think about Nick’s performances, it made sense. His standout performance was “Only the Good Die Young” or “Wake Me Up,” but every other performance was pretty much the same.
What made “Bright Lights” a better choice was it wasn’t a sappy ballad opener – and knowing he had his second song coming, it made sense why he’d do Lights instead of OTGDY – and it was his only performance where we saw some actual passion.
Whether it was the song choice or the performance, Nick looked like a god damn rock star. The second go-round lacked some of the flair the first had, but he didn’t look like an American Idol contestant. He didn’t look like some hack in a bar. He looked like a guy I’d buy a ticket and drink $10 Bud Lights to go see (PS I hate summer concerts).
And like ‘Georgia’ was quintessential Clark, this was quintessential Nick. He looked good – again wearing a T-shirt that fits and rocking douchey hipster hair like Julien Edelman or Bryce Harper – sounded good and performed the way he had been all year. Damn good.
ROUND 1 WINNER: I hate to say J-Lo was right, but she was right. Round 1 was a toss up. Clark had the superior vocal performance (Beckham vs. Fradiani in a vocal battle is like me vs. a box of Girl Scout cookies) but with a terrific vocal, great stage performance and enough energy to power my house through a hurricane, Nick deserved to say he won Round 1 just as much. I despise agreeing with J-Lo.
“Ain’t No Sunshine,” Bill Withers
This was either going to win or lose the night for Clark Beckham. If he would have come out with a monster performance, teamed with last week’s gem, it would have been too much for Nick Fradiani to beat.
I don’t think the performance had it.
It wasn’t his vocal. Clark Beckham can’t sing bad. It’s an impossibility, like Batman beating up Superman in a straight up fight. His vocal was inspiring. But the arrangement?
On paper it looked awesome, but I don’t know that doing that acoustic was the best idea because Withers’ version relies so much on the backing music – the sweeping harmonies in the backdrop are sick – and Clark’s didn’t have any building drama within the song.
It’s tough saying someone who sang the crap out of a song wasn’t good, but look at some of the gems Clark has produced compared to Sunshine. He needed a slam dunk and this was a mid-range jumper.
“I Won’t Give Up,” Jason Mraz
I was so binged up on caffeine and booze that when he started playing I knew it was Jason Mraz, but was 100 percent someone screwed up and Nick was actually singing David Gray’s “This Year’s Love.”
I had to rewind the DVR to check and yep, it was a Mraz song. Went to the YouTube machine, found the original and realized Jason Mraz owes David Gray some money because “I Won’t Give Up On You” has the same damn rhythm and tempo. (If Nick sang David Gray, I would have been crying like I was watching the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004)
This was Nick’s Idol moment, his first and only of the season. We hadn’t seen this side of Nick before and it was a cold-blooded, heartless move. He steals Clark’s primary instrument, steals his primary look – white T and a black vest – and makes it the Idol moment of the season. Only way things could have gotten worse for Clark would be if Nick stole his girl.
A few things I noticed during the performance that made me laugh:
-Fradiani stretches his neck to giraffe levels at times when he sings
-He sings out of the side of his mouth
-His head bobs look like small seizures
But what I really thought made this performance good was how it built to a point and then all of a sudden, people went nuts. You saw all his fellow Idols stand up for the man. Why? Because he was in the middle of crushing it. They knew. Greatness recognizes greatness.
ROUND 2 WINNER: Nick. This is Example A of why I say Clark didn’t lose it last night. He performed fine, but Nick was just better. Tough to go out and win when a guy is throwing 98 on the black.
“Champion,” Clark Beckham
So remember the last few weeks of the season when Clark would perform some weird song or have a weird song picked for him?
That was Champion.
That look of uncertainty, the look of someone trying to please everyone and the look of a lack of confidence returned. As I opined last week, maybe Clark is just an awkward dude; that’s a distinct possibility.
However, with what he’s done we’ve seen what Clark looks like when things are going good and how he looks when they’re not. He sang the crap out of Champion, but he didn’t look like someone who really wanted to sing that song.
The judges said as much, albeit a little less direct. Clark won’t publicly trash the song, but it wasn’t right for him at that time.
Now was it fair? I don’t think so. I love the coronation song and letting both performers sing it in their own style. Let’s you see who’s for real and who’s not. Remember when Justin Guarini sang “A Moment Like This?” Of course not, because Kelly Clarkson turned that into her son.
Clark didn’t turn ‘Champion’ into his song because he’s not joining Imagine Dragons anytime soon (or IS HE?!?). He needed something with soul, with passion, something that actually meant something and wasn’t written just to make money.
He needed something that wasn’t going to cost him the American Idol crown because if he loses, that song – not his performance – is why.
“Beautiful Life,” Nick Fradiani
Since I was at the forefront of last season’s SamSpiracy, I’ll be the first to point out that the only way Nick gets a better song is if Jason Mraz and Adam Levine had sex, had a kid and that kid grew up to be a pretty, guitar-playing white boy singer/songwriter and wrote the damn song for him. Idol handed him a perfect track while Clark got something that wasn’t for him and whether or not it was intentional, I leave that to the masses. I don’t think they would sabotage Clark, but based on Idol’s extremely sketchy history with things like integrity and fairness among competitors, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
None of that should take away from American Idol GI Joe’s performance. Nick sang the hell out of it. His consistency with vocals all season was remarkable and things didn’t change. He performs it just right; has enough of a stage presence but doesn’t let it take away from the actual singing.
He closed American Idol right. ‘Beautiful Life’ is going to be a monster hit and will be played as a final song at proms for years (My prom song was Dru Hill’s “These Are the Times,” which includes the line “Swallow you like Reese’s Pieces.” This is what happens when the dumb kids storm a prom committee meeting). It was a perfectly written song for a perfect Idol contestant and it should be enough.
ROUND 3 WINNER: Nick in a landslide. Again, this has less to do with Clark’s actual abilities than the surrounding circumstances; Nick had a song that was perfect for him, Clark didn’t, and when you’re fighting your instincts it shows in the performance.
So who’s gonna win?
It’s Nick. It has to be Nick.
If we’re judging on home runs, Clark wins in a landslide. His big performances were among the best of the season.
My feeling is you can’t just pick and choose performances. Picking the winner, you look at the big picture and what happened on the biggest night of the season.
Nick was more consistent. He was Kris Allen; not amazing, but good every single week with a couple great moments before saving his best for the end. Clark was a superstar at the start, faltered, and really had to pick things up at the end. I’ll say this – if Rayvon hadn’t gone through that run of surviving week after week, I don’t think Clark gets past Jax and gets to the final, which kills me to say because the mancrush is real, y’all.
So you take the consistency of Nick’s performances and a night where he took two out of three rounds, the last rather comfortably, and it has to be Nick.
HOWEVER, Idol voters have proven they don’t care about performance. Adam Lambert won American Idol, but he didn’t win the title. Could that end up being the case tonight? Wouldn’t surprise me.
Nick’s gonna win provided people vote with their heads and not their hearts. Hearts do have a funny way of messing things up though.
Can’t wait to find out.