By Chaz Lipp
It was an emotional night as American Idol Season 14 revealed its Top 12 contestants. The hour-long episode, the first live show of the season, was tightly-paced in order to squeeze in performances by each of the dozen chosen ones. Ten were voted in by the public, but Idol couldn’t resist screwing things up by giving two of the choices to the judges. Nothing against Quentin Alexander or Adanna Duru, but instead of leaving it to Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick Jr., the entire Top 12 should’ve been America’s choice. Quentin and Adanna may or may not have earned their spots via votes – we’ll never know.
There were definitely some folks left on the bench that should’ve been in the Top 12, most notably Adam Ezegelian, who was a consistent highlight up to this point. I’ll miss him, for sure. Mark Andrew would’ve also been better than some of the guys we’re stuck with (more on that later). On the plus side, it was truly a great moment to see the eccentric, unpredictable Joey Cook make the cut. She was the final reveal prior to the judges’ choices, and the tension of sitting in the “lounge” for so long was clearly getting to her.
It was weird hearing the judges sometimes calling contestants out for bad song choices when this week no one had a choice: they had to sing the song they auditioned with.
Sarina-Joi Crowe – “Till the Love Runs Out”
I’m absolutely thrilled with Sarina-Joi’s inclusion in the Top 12 as she earned it via outstanding vocal performances and her dynamic stage presence. At the same time, I’m concerned because this was not her strongest night (and she went first, always a hindrance in terms of being remembered during voting). Maybe it was the nerves associated with such an important week in the competition, but Sarina-Joi was singing consistently out of tune. Good energy though, as usual, and I hope it’s enough to carry her through.
Rayvon Owen – “Wide Awake”
Rayvon has a nice voice but I’m pretty neutral about him overall at this point. He’s consistent and I can understand why people are voting for him. Personal preferences always play a part in assessing Idol favorites. Objectively I have no problem with Rayvon’s singing. Stylistically, I’d rather listen to someone else. He just doesn’t excite me. That said, this was another decent night for him.
Daniel Seavey – “Straight Up”
Come on, people, this is just getting ridiculous. Daniel seems like a really sweet-natured kid and his voice and overall style is thoroughly inoffensive. Harry Connick Jr. showed obvious displeasure with his advancing to the Top 12 (“Your inexperience is showing,” he said, though to be fair past experience doesn’t really count in Idol, it’s all about the here and now). This rendition of the Paula Abdul hit had nothing on Andrew Garcia’s signature moment from Season 9. I hope Daniel doesn’t keep skating by based on his “cuteness.”
Maddie Walker – “Suitcase”
Perhaps the dead horse no longer needs beating, but the fact remains that Maddie doesn’t belong here. The judges were ready to put the far superior Rachael Hallack through and had a last-minute change of heart (cementing what might just be Idol’s most egregiously unfair moment of all time). Maddie is boring and kind of lifeless. I’ve never been excited by a single performance she’s given. Including this one.
Tyanna Jones – “Wings”
This is more like it. I haven’t been that into Tyanna up to this point, but she finally won me over with this powerful, commanding performance. She sounded great and held the stage confidently. No doubt she earned her spot in this group and I’m looking forward to hearing more from her.
Nick Fradiani – “In Your Eyes”
This is a surprise because I really thought Nick would’ve fallen off voters’ radars by now. It’s not that he’s bad, just not memorable. And his blasé treatment of the Peter Gabriel classic was another lukewarm addition to his growing list of forgettable numbers.
Jax – “I Want to Hold Your Hand”
I like Jax a lot and was glad to see her advance, but I’m hoping we get a true breakout vocal performance soon. She has charisma to spare, but tonight the vocal was just sort of okay. I liked the piano ballad treatment of this Beatles hit, but by transitioning to a bouncy, full-band arrangement it felt like it was shortchanged overall. The breathier parts of her vocal sounded a bit off too, but I think we’ll be seeing good stuff from Jax in the weeks to come.
Qaasim Middleton – “Sir Duke”
No surprise that Qaasim made it through, though this was not his greatest vocal. The guy can flat-out perform like a madman and he’s always fun to watch. Somehow he seemed to have dialed by the intensity a little tonight and I’m not sure it worked in his favor. It was a still good performance though and I can’t wait to see more.
Clark Beckham – “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”
Best vocal of the night? Definitely out of the guys, at least. Clark has been consistently strong so far and seems to be getting better each week. I’m still concerned his still is more based on aping the style of others too much. He is still seeking that defining Idol moment that most of the top contenders achieve from season to season. He’s a little bland, personality-wise – which, in a perfect world, shouldn’t count against him, but we know in this show that it can.
Joey Cook – “King of Spain”
The other best performance of the night came from this quirkily endearing contestant who, if I had my way, would cruise right up to the top two. I was so happy to see Joey snag a spot in the Top 12 and she backed it up with an outstanding vocal. She appeared to tone down the vocal affectations that Harry cautioned her about last week and I think a perfect balance was struck.
Quentin Alexander – “Royals”
I don’t get the appeal of this guy, honestly. He is a real drama queen, for one, milking every moment as if it was the most important of his life. Someone (Keith Urban?) called this limp take on Lorde’s hit “spiritual.” Really? I get a very self-absorbed feeling from Quentin and it seems like he’s more interested in being a fashion model who sings on the side (rather than the other way around).
Adanna Duru – “You and I”
I can take or leave Adanna but I liked her performance tonight. The judges, particularly Harry, took issue with her pitching – but with such an impassioned reading, I didn’t particularly notice those problems. She really owned her moment, being the last of the two judges’ choices and the final reveal of the Top 12. Great emotion, looking forward to more from her.
Congrats to the American Idol Season 14 Top 12 – looking forward to hearing more!