By Chaz Lipp
Right off the bat, Jax is eliminated as we begin part one of the American Idol Season 14 finale. Jax is far more interesting and original than Nick Fradiani, but at some point the Bland One became a favorite to win so it was no surprise to see him make it through. It’s great that Clark Beckham made it though – here’s hoping he wins.
Round One: Contestant’s Choice
Clark Beckham – “Georgia on My Mind
This was a very conservative choice, but Clark delivered one of his strongest vocals of the season on this evergreen standard. His voice was tightly controlled and built perfectly to a climactic finish. The judges all loved it, with Keith Urban coming up with a silly simile (“like a whole mess of flapjacks drenched in syrup,” – that was dumb, Keith, really dumb).
Nick Fradiani – “Bright Lights”
Wow, Nick – way to stretch, buddy! As if anyone had forgotten (since it was just a few weeks ago), Nick reminded everyone that if he wins he’ll make a great Rob Thomas sound-alike. Just what the world needs, right? The Bland One has a winning, bright-eyed smile and he knows how to work the crowd. But that doesn’t make him anything more than a good-natured non-entity.
Jennifer Lopez declares round one a tie. Even when she’s repeatedly harangued by Harry Connick Jr. to make a choice. But really, it was Clark who won (in my opinion).
Round Two: Simon Fuller’s Pick
Clark Beckham – “Ain’t No Sunshine”
Clark receives a conservative Fuller pick, with another song frequently performed on Idol. He performed unaccompanied, backing himself on acoustic guitar. It was another tightly-controlled performance. He sounded confident and comfortable. The judges all loved it, with Keith cracking a joke: “How do you turn a duck into a soul singer? Put him in the oven and turn up the heat until his bill withers.” Funny, but not very constructive.
Nick Fradiani – “I Won’t Give Up”
I think Clark’s conservatism – picking songs everyone knows and loves – might go a long ways in the voting. Not as wide of an age range will know this Jason Mraz song that Fuller chose for him. The judges all loved it (notice a pattern?), but honestly this was just another overly earnest, but undeniably characterless performance by Nick. It might sound more “modern,” which admittedly might help with votes, but it doesn’t make it better.
Harry reveals that he felt Nick “unquestionably” won the first round, while Clark “unquestionably” won the second.
Round Three: Winner’s Single
Clark Beckham – “Champion”
Upon first listen, this song strikes me as pretty strong as far as Idol winner’s singles are concerned. The problem is it doesn’t play to ANY of Clark’s personal strengths. He does a very solid job with it, but he seems to have a hard time really making his mark on this one.
Nick Fradiani – “Beautiful Life”
On the other hand, Nick’s song totally plays to his strengths – Harry even points out that it sounds like it was tailor-made for Nick. Both JLo and Keith are ga-ga for it, too. And of course, Nick got the audience to wave their arms in time with the song. Big deal. Again, cheap, clichéd “rock star” theatrics. Nick will benefit from having a song that suits him, but that doesn’t mean he sounded great singing it.
Keith goes out on a limb and predicts a Nick victory, “by a small margin.” Let’s hope he’s wrong!
American Idol Season 14 Images: Fox