By Chaz Lipp
It was “Movie Night” on American Idol season 14. Despite momentum killing moments like Jennifer Lopez’s performance of “Feel the Light” from the upcoming animated film Home, Kenny Loggins trotting out “Footloose,” and NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon plugging an upcoming race, American Idol’s Top Ten night was loaded with drama. As the 11 remaining contestants performed, it slowly became apparent that the elimination was going to be a shocker. Late in the show’s second hour, three of the most talented performers remained in “red seats” after some very mediocre talent had already been green-lit.
Adanna Duru – “Love You I Do” (from Dreamgirls)
Wow, Adanna roared out of the gate with a movie song performed by one of Idol’s most successful alums, Jennifer Hudson. She’s really stepped up her game these last few weeks and delivered a powerful performance. Unfortunately it wasn’t a terribly memorable song choice, especially since she was going first in a two-hour show. Despite a good vocal, she may wind up forgotten.
Daniel Seavey – “Lost Star” (from Begin Again)
Daniel has an agreeable personality and smiled in spite of some tough criticism from Harry Connick Jr. This performance was, as Jennifer said, not his best, but it was far from a train wreck. Keith Urban offered some words of encouragement, but in the process help emphasize the feeling that Daniel is perhaps in over his head in this competition.
Rayvon Owen – “Stayin’ Alive” (from Saturday Night Fever)
Rayvon tackled the first iconic movie song of the night by attempting to reinvent the Bee Gees’ classic with a smoother, more modern R&B sound. He sang most of it in a breathy, weak falsetto. Instead of a memorable moment, Rayvon ended up sounding like musical wallpaper. The judges correctly pointed out that he’s in danger of being too ordinary.
Nick Fradiani – “Danger Zone” (from Top Gun)
Nick tried to update a kitschy Kenny Loggins relic and wound up investing too much emotion in a song that never traded on passion in the first place. Harry seemed to regard it as laughable, pointing out that the corny lyrics don’t lend themselves to a pensive interpretation.
Joey Cook – “Mad World” (from Donnie Darko)
If anything kept Joey Cook’s take on the Tears for Fears hit from being a true Idol “moment,” it was the fact that “Mad World” had already served so indelibly as Adam Lambert’s “moment” a few years ago. But otherwise, Joey breathed real life into a heretofore dull night with a dramatic, well-controlled vocal that showcased her singing very effectively.
Tyanna Jones – “Circle of Life” (from The Lion King)
Tyanna has been a judges’ favorite so far, but she went way over the top with a strained, caterwauling take on the Elton John tune. Every year it seems there’s a contestant who becomes a bit drunk on judges’ praise and winds up overplaying their hand. Tyanna looked triumphant at the close of her song, but it was a shrill performance.
Quentin Alexander – “You’re the One That I Want” (from Grease)
At least Tyanna was trying. Fashionista Quentin copied the Lo-Fang ballad version of “You’re the One That I Want” currently featured in Baz Luhrmann’s Chanel No. 5 commercial. This fun, bouncy pop trifle doesn’t work as a dark, moody ballad. Quentin’s high-drama, high-style, zero-substance schtick was wearing thin back in Hollywood week. People can’t get enough apparently, but I hope the inexplicable interest dries up soon.
Maddie Walker – “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” (from Footloose)
Maddie gamely tried to inject some energy into this ‘80s hit but her vocals were, quite frankly, a mess. Reportedly recuperating from an undisclosed ailment, Maddie’s dullness was perhaps exemplified in this forgettable outing.
Clark Beckham – “Sunday Morning” (from Cheaper by the Dozen 2)
For the first time since Joey’s song, the show came to life with Clark’s deeply felt reading of Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning.” Not that musicianship should really be a factor in Idol, but his acoustic guitar playing was a great addition to the minimalist arrangement. The judges loved it. Clark’s vocal was spot on and, like Joey, he scored big by going subtle.
Jax – “Grow Old with You” (from The Wedding Singer)
So it was that two of Season 14’s most notable, headline-grabbing contestants – Jax and Qaasim – remained in “red seats” near the show’s close. Jax had prepared a daring choice, an Adam Sandler ditty that almost qualifies as a novelty song. Visibly rattled by being the last “safe” contestant, Jax mustered just enough emotion to make the song work. Whether it’s enough to re-establish her as a frontrunner, we’ll have to wait and see.
Qaasim Middleton – “Come Together” (from Across the Universe)
Qaasim is so good, so confident, so magnetic, it’s incomprehensible that he received the fewest number of votes. I was wondering a few weeks ago if he was in danger of being seen as a “ringer,” so capable of professional-level performing that he didn’t really need Idol. Maybe that’s what (unfairly) cost him votes. Everybody loves an underdog and, until now, Qaasim has not seemed like an underdog.
Singing for the judges’ save, which he deservingly was awarded, he commanded the stage with a funky, furious, and extremely assured rendition of The Beatles’ “Come Together.” The melody of this song does not present a particular challenge, but Qaasim mined it for every bit of potential he could uncover. THIS is how you “sing for your life,” and the judges correctly recognized it. His performance fairly screamed, “I am not finished yet and will not be dismissed this easily,” punctuated by a performance-capping dropping of the mic. It recalled Season 9’s Todrick Hall, who delivered a jaw-dropping “Somebody to Love” (by Queen) after being voted off. This felt like a real statement of purpose from Qaasim.
American Idol Season 14 Top 10 – Images: FOX