We’re down to our top five, and by the end of the evening, we’ll be left with just four. And we all know what that means: We’ve officially reached the point in the season when everything starts going wrong.
Everyone gets two songs tonight. The theme for the first song is Judges’ hometowns. (Keith, you’re still not from Nashville, just FYI.) The theme for the second song is “their gravy song,” which makes absolutely no sense.
Clark, no to your outfit, sweetie! No to the shiny shirt, no to the skinny jeans, no to the boots. You took the advice and took it one too far, kiddo. Go back to your Dockers, my love. But Clark and his weird outfit move to the top four. We’re talking about style tonight with a style team, and Clark says he’d like to channel Justin Timberlake, stylistically. This is literally the last artist I would ever think he wants to embody. His first song is “Living for the City,” by Stevie Wonder. Man, it’s a little high for Clark, right? I hate to say it, but he sounds strained. He knows it too, and it’s freaking him out. He recovers when he runs over to the piano and kind of gets it back after that. But still, oof for me. Good, but I will not listen to this one on Spotify.
Jax’s chair is the next to turn green, and we see her meet with Scott’s head of A&R. Jax is so brilliant and well spoken in this meeting. Forgive my Randy Jackson reference, but she’s in it to win it, this girl. “Empire State of Mind,” is her first song. She’s back behind the piano, which reminds me of how incredible her performance was last week. And this week? She doesn’t disappoint. Not her absolute strongest vocal, but she’s the most engaging performer left on this stage, by a mile. J.Lo notes that Jax has positioned herself to win the whole competition, and I’m glad to hear this. She drove me nuts in the beginning of the season, but she’s behaved like such a pro over the past few months and has grown so much. My loyalties may be shifting.
Nick’s through next. Which is good news, I think, but I’m starting to get nervous. Because this means that Rayvon and Tyanna are our bottom two. And Idol fans, we’ve been in this for enough seasons to know that America never votes the way we want them to, especially not when we’re down to the top five. I’m worried about Tyanna. Real worried.
But back to Nick, who’s singing “Bright Lights” by Matchbox Twenty, possibly the most brilliant song choice of the entire season. 1. Fantastic song. 2. How have we never discussed how much he maybe sounds like Rob Thomas? J.Lo’s into it, her high pony bouncing along with the song. I feel a little bit of redemption with this performance. Finally these haters that I watch this show with every week nod and say, “Hey, that was okay!” Nick, you did it, kid. You won over all the horrible people in my life.
Quick break for Harry to perform! I mean, obviously we love this. Such a sucker for his crooked little face and his perfect intonation. The song is for sure too sleepy for this Idol crowd, but I’d watch this man behind a keyboard any day of the week. Love.
So we join Tyanna and Rayvon on the stage, and you know who’s safe? Yup, my worst fears are confirmed. Rayvon gets a hometown visit next week. Tyanna, our early frontrunner and arguably most talented vocalist, is out. Well. Damnit. Somebody give this girl a record deal, please? I desperately want to hear more of her. This feels like Latoya London all over again. The poor teenager now has to perform her final song, which, painfully, is “Run the World.” Tears are streaming down her face. But like the 16-year-old pro that she is, she struts all the hell around that stage with her head held high.
NEXT: Everything we thought we knew changes.
And here we are with Rayvon. He’s singing the always-thrilling “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum. (In all seriousness, I’m obsessed with this song but just am so far from surprised to hear him sing it.) His vocal? Great. His performance? He’s honestly really selling it, it just does not connect for me. I’m sorry to sound so bitter. I just don’t see it with him. I am relieved to hear the judges kind of call him on his theatrics tonight. They all tell him to cool it with the drama and try to actually connect emotionally.
We have a too-long conversation with Ryan about how Rayvon has been in the bottom two for five weeks. This, to Ryan and Rayvon, is something to celebrate. I don’t understand this logic.
Round 2 tonight. The “Soul” round. The “Gravy” round, as Ryan says. Let’s see.
Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts and Martina McBride appear—as if from nowhere—to mentor the kids last minute. I’m not sure that I respect anyone’s voice more than Martina McBride, truly. Her performance of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” is fine, but I really wanted her to sing “Independence Day.”
Gravy time. Clark’s second song is “Your Man” by Josh Turner. (Remember?)
Whoa, Scott gets mad at Clark during his session! He actually says “Dude, this isn’t American Musician. You keep throwing all these chords, all this stuff. You’re on the fast track to a Holiday Inn.” Is that the meanest thing that’s ever been said on this show?! Probably not.
His performance is fine, I clearly dig it, and though the delivery felt slightly harsh, Scott’s got a point. Jax is coming for you, man. You’ve been fantastic all season, but that just means that you now have to knock our socks off every damn performance or you’re going to be eclipsed by the kids who weren’t as good as you from the beginning.
Clark then makes a fantastic speech about how he desperately wants to win the show, and that he never wants to forsake the music. It’s basically the opposite of what Quentin did two weeks ago. He won people over with that. We love an earnest declaration of commitment on this show.
For her second tune, Jax selects “Human” by Christina Perri. It starts out crazy strong (and in her session with Scott, it’s clear that he’s dying for her to win this show) and gets really emotional. She disappears in the floor of the stage in a crowd of fog. Slightly dramatic, sure, but a hell of a lot more memorable than Clark. (Forgive me.) After the judges compliment her emotional performance, Jax says: “I really hope I was able to touch somebody in their living room.” Hay girl.
Steven Tyler appears, also as if from nowhere. They’re at a recording studio, and he asks Jax—in front of the other contestants—to sing with him at the finale. Fantastic. I kind of miss Steven Tyler as a judge. He was so kooky!
Rayvon’s second number is Justin Bieber’s “Believe.” Definitely his best performance of the season. He dedicated it to his mother, and he’s genuinely emotional. It’s a bit of a breakthrough. Wow. I’m speechless a little. Gorgeous, gorgeous performance.
Nick takes on Rascal Flatt’s “What Hurts the Most.” Nick is also pretty emotional during this performance. We’ve had some big moments tonight! (Worried about Clark.) At this point, next week is a total crapshoot.
So it was a rough, kind of fantastic night. It was a surprise, which is a welcome change of pace. We lost Tyanna, which is going to sting for weeks to come. But the competition seems to have really found some heat tonight, which means we’re in for a treat the next couple of weeks. I’m officially changing my top two predictions after tonight: Still Jax and Clark, but I’m going to say Jax will take it all. What do you guys think? Have you changed your bracket? Let the nail-biting begin. Seacrest, out.