By Chaz Lipp

AI Top 5 Judges

In the wake of back-to-back losses of the most interesting, least predictable contestants (Joey Cook, Qaasim Middleton), American Idol Season 14 has become a very bland place indeed. Top Five week was “Arena Anthems” night, which meant it was another week where the contestants could do pretty much anything they wanted. The producers apparently issued a directive that the judges refrain from doing any actual judging. Perhaps in light of the “controversial” exchange between Quentin Alexander and Harry Connick, Jr. last week, the judges avoided saying anything even mildly critical (for the most part).

AI Top 5 Jax

Jax – “Are You Going to Be My Girl”

1/5

The Judges Spoke:

Keith Urban: “That’s how you open a show. I thought you did great. It took a while for you to get loose and get into it.”

Jennifer Lopez: “I feel like you’re so ready for tour.”

Harry Connick, Jr.: “For the last couple of weeks I’ve been getting a sense for what it would be like to see you. That was strong.”

Our Take:

Jax’s pseudo-rock on this Jet hit was actually worse than her take on “Beat It” last week, which was previously her worst of the season. Her voice is too wispy for rock and her pitch was all over the place. The judges ignored all those problems, setting a tone for pure cheerleading that would last the entire night.

Nick Fradiani – “Harder to Breathe”

3/5

The Judges Spoke:

JLO: “It was pretty awesome. That song lends itself to audience participation. That was a missed opportunity.”

Harry: “I think that was really scary for the other people in the competition. You’re getting better every week. That was terrific.”

Keith: “I think it was a really good song for you. Vocally it was good. Now for me it is just about the performance.”

Our Take:

Harry nailed this one: Nick is getting better every week. He’s not particularly original, but he is remarkably steady week after week. With Nick, what you see is what you get – and that has been working very well for him. Objectively speaking, there was nothing wrong with this performance. It just didn’t move me.

AI Top 5 Clark Beckham

Clark Beckham – “Yesterday”

4/5

The Judges Spoke:

Harry: “You didn’t use high notes gratuitously. I thought it was terrific.”

Keith: “It was beautiful. It would be like if Sam Smith did it now, it was current and fresh.”

JLO “At the end of the day you sang it beautifully.”

Our Take:

Easily one of the best of the night, Clark’s deeply felt take on the Beatles classic offered more evidence that he is this season’s greatest interpretive vocalist. He took some chances with the bridge, slowing the tempo for dramatic effect, which made this adventurous.

AI Top 5 Tyanna Jones
Tyanna Jones – “Party in the U.S.A.”

1.5/5

The Judges Spoke:

Keith: “Fun! That’s a side we haven’t seen before. I would have preferred a song that has a little more weight to it.”

JLO: “You are 16 and you should be having fun. That came through in this song.

Harry: “That was so smart to choose that song.”

Our Take:

This was not a smart choice, nor was it especially fun. At this stage in the competition, Keith has it right: a singer of Tyanna’s skill needs to choose more challenging material. There were rampant pitch problems that prevented Tyanna from out-singing Miley Cyrus on this. The “fun” felt forced.

Quentin Alexander – “Light My Fire”

3/5

The Judges Spoke:

JLO: “I always feel like I want more vocal power.”

Harry: “What I really dug was that you sang it conservatively. I dug it.”

Our Take:

Harry, when has Quentin ever NOT sung conservatively? He approaches every song basically the same way. At least the arrangement of this Doors classic had a slinky, sexy groove. Quentin actually sang this as well as anything he’s done and he looked like he was having fun for a change.

AI Top 5 Rayvon Owen

Rayvon Owen – “I’m Not the Only One” (Sam Smith)

4/5

The Judges Spoke:

Harry: “My favorite part, aside from the fantastic vocal performance, you know when to breathe. I thought you did a great job. You knocked that one out of the park.”

Keith: “If you were the first to record it, it would have been a hit.”

JLO: “Vocals like that, it just might happen.” [Eds note: ‘It’ meaning, make it to the Top Two]

Our Take:

Rayvon’s best performance so far. Actually, the judges’ collective hyperbole was right-on this time. We’ve heard Rayvon deliver technical excellence, but he has sometimes struggled to make an emotional connection. He did with this.

AI Top 5 Nick Fradiani

Nick Fradiani – “Maggie May”

3.5/5

The Judges Spoke:

Keith: “That’s a good song for you.”

JLO: “I thought it was a really good song choice for you. It’s about making moments, think about that when you’re picking songs.”

Harry: “Do you think you could sustain a two- or three-hour show on the road?” – Nick: “I know I can.”

Our Take:

Harry once praised Nick for having “humility,” but that wasn’t really in evidence tonight. Actually, it was nice to hear such unwavering confidence instead of the more typical second-guessing and waffling we often hear on Idol. I couldn’t sit through two hours of a Nick concert (let alone three; who does Harry expect Nick to be? Springsteen?), but this was another solid performance.

Tyanna Jones – “Heaven” (Bryan Adams)

2/5

The Judges Spoke:

JLO: “I like this for you. I didn’t feel like it was perfect, but I felt like this was something different that people needed to see. I feel like it was a good job.”

Harry: “I thought you sang it very well. What type of music would you perform if you were making a record?” – Tyanna was pretty wishy-washy with her answer, saying it would be a mixture of different styles.

Keith: “It’s a fusion thing. That’s the sign of a great artist.”

Our Take:

Tyanna had never heard the song before this week, that’s youth for you. This wasn’t a good week for the talented Tyanna. This performance felt ripped right out of a high school talent show. She sounded fine, and it was an improvement over her Miley act, but it was lacking pizzazz. Never mind Tiara or T’Shane, Deep House Dish’s DJ Dynasty Handbag would say, “Tyanna, how can you be so dull?”

Clark Beckham – “Boyfriend”

2.5/5

The Judges Spoke:

Harry: “I think you have done yourself a disservice by setting the bar so high. That was not the right song. It was ok. It was just one giant blues scale.”

Keith: “You’ve got to feel it from a different place.”

JLO: “For this, for you, I’m not sure it was the best thing. I don’t know that was the right thing.”

Our Take:

Wow, the judges actually played hardball on this one. Or softball, at least. The point is, they took Clark to task for doing something way below his skill level. Even though he admitted this is more the kind of music he hopes to do (*gag*), it isn’t how he built his fan base on Idol. This didn’t sound bad, but it didn’t raise his stock at all.

Jax – “White Flag”

2.5/5

The Judges Spoke:

Keith: “That was a great song for you. I was completely riveted.”

JLO: “That was exactly what you needed to do right now. Everything about you is ready to be a recording artist.”

Harry: “It was phenomenal.”

Our Take:

A big leap forward from the fake rock Jax offered earlier, this Dido rendition was still lacking in everything that makes for a truly distinctive Idol moment. It was conservative and tasteful, but I don’t think DJ Dynasty Handbag would’ve been any more excited by this one than Tyanna’s Bryan Adams ballad.

AI Top 5 Quentin Alexander

Quentin Alexander – “Shake it Out” (Florence + The Machine)

2.5/5

The Judges Spoke:

JLO: “I’m such a fan of yours. I want to go watch you. You’re riveting. It was a much better vocal performance than the last one.”

Harry: “I thought it was pretty good. What happens when you go into the studio, would you let them Autotune you?” Quentin – “I would not.” [Cue obligatory audience applause; an audience no doubt largely comprised of people who’ve bought plenty of Autotuned vocals]

Keith: “You’ve got your own thing. You’ve got good artistic instincts.”

Our Take:

Quentin fights for the save by reverting to his usual dour poseur tactics. Resident Idol mentor Scott Borchetta called Quentin “edgy.” In what way? His nose ring? Or maybe his pissy attitude when he doesn’t like who’s in the Bottom Two? Whatever the case, his support bottomed out this week.

Rayvon Owen – “Go Your Own Way”

2/5

The Judges Spoke:

Harry: “What kind of guidance would take from the producer? Do you have a clear vision?” – Rayvon – “I think of it as a collaboration.”

Keith liked the high note. That was pretty much his feedback.

JLO: “You are such a fighter. You want to be here. It was a really good performance for you.”

Our Take:

Rayvon followed his best performance with one of his worst on with this Fleetwood Mac hit. But it didn’t matter. Rayvon got the Twitter “fan save” and sent Quentin packing. Rayvon is nothing if not resilient. It’s getting harder and harder not to root for this guy.

American Idol Season 14 Top 5 Images: FOX

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