By Chaz Lipp
We have our top eight American Idol guys and all our favorites from last week (Adam Ezegelian, Qaasim Middleton, Mark Andrew) made it through. It was Motown week and, for some reason, the show opened with a non-Motown artist performing a decidedly un-Motownish song. Aretha Franklin, the undisputed Queen of Soul, is always a welcome addition but the way the show trotted her out to sing a one-minute version of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” was almost disrespectful.
The system for “disposing” of those voted off was nothing if not efficient. It was also quite impersonal. All 12 from last week were on stage and had to wait patiently as host Ryan Seacrest announced the top eight, one-by-one, with each announced contestant immediately performing after their name was called. The four who were left at the end – Michael Simeon, Riley Bria, Savion Wright, and Trevor Douglas – were rather unceremoniously bid farewell too. It’s a new Idol, super streamlined and without an ounce of wasted space. (I wonder if we’ll even get “goodbye performances” once contestants are eliminated one at a time.)
Onto the performances by the American Idol Season 14 Top 8 guys (in the order they appeared)…
Daniel Seavey – “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)”
Daniel almost seemed to disappear, unable to distinguish himself with a song that was simply too much for him. Whether or not he has the vocal range for this type of material, we certainly didn’t hear it last night. Judges Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez went too easy. Harry Connick Jr. rightly pegged him as too stiff and out-of-step with the band.
Mark Andrew – “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”
The inappropriately upbeat, happy-go-lucky arrangement was the big problem here. Mark has a great, laid-back style marked by an easy confidence that comes from years of performing. For those who remember the intense drama of Alison Iraheta’s powerful season eight version of this tune, this was just too mild. Harry suggested Mark stay away from giving everything a jam-band feel.
Rayvon Owen – “My Girl”
A sweet take on a sweet song, Rayvon was the first highlight. His falsetto was on point, including an impressively high vocal flourish. It was nice to hear someone finally take some risks (albeit minor ones) with the established melody. Harry seemed a bit harsh on the vocal – sounded good to us.
Adam Ezegelian – “I Want You Back”
Another radically rearranged version, probably an attempt to fit in with Adam’s rock-oriented style. It took a little getting used to, but Adam’s vocal was strong. He’s doing a great job of having fun, being a showman, but keeping the focus on singing. The judges all seemed to enjoy it.
Clark Beckham – “The Track of My Tears”
More relaxed than his forced Percy Sledge routine last week, Clark did a very good job with the Smokey Robinson classic. Throwing in a rave-up section to contrast the mostly faithful arrangement was a good choice (even if Harry seemed to dislike it).
Nick Fradiani – “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”
This more or less defined a standard issue, forgettable, unremarkable Idol performance, the type that usually dominates the early weeks of the competition. Next.
Qaasim Middleton – “I Wish”
Qaasim so thoroughly owns the stage each time he performs that he runs the risk of being seen as an over-confident ringer. He’s the one contestant with the most notable professional experience, having been part of Nickelodeon’s The Naked Brothers Band series from 2007-09 and more. He already has such a convincing game face, viewers just might start to wonder if he really needs Idol in order to find success. That said, he’s always incredibly fun to watch. Jennifer might be onto something – she suggested he try to focus purely on his singing. Harry pretty much pegged him as a sure thing to be the last guy standing.
Quentin Alexander – “Master Blaster”
Quentin’s competent take on the Stevie Wonder reggae classic almost seemed like an afterthought following Qaasim’s blast of energy. Keith pointed out that Quentin already has a strong sense of what songs work best for him. Maybe this was too easy of a choice. The band overshadowed him and Quentin failed to leave much impression, though there was nothing wrong with his vocal.