The theme is party anthems, but not everyone gets the crowd going.

By Keertana Sastry
March 19, 2015 at 05:16 PM EDT
Credit: FOX
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We’ve only been apart 24 hours Idol fans, and already I’m starting to change my tune about a few of these top 11 contestants. Why must consistency be such an issue this season? Are some of these guys and gals suffering from “being too young and green” syndrome or am I just getting old and crotchety way too early in life? Much like Harry Connick Jr.’s T-shirt says, there was a lot of obvious talent on the stage Thursday night, but some of it was squandered by overthinking, over-imitating, and underperforming. Plus, it’s heartbreaking to watch deserving contestants go home well before their time.

Party Anthems was the big musical theme of the night, and the entire venue was filled with balloons (was this cleared by the fire marshal?). But when it comes to these song selections, either I don’t fully understand what construes as a “party anthem” or Idol’s definition is much more lenient than my own. But of course before we get to the performances, the series had to plug Fox’s new hit show Empire approximately 2,3498,523 more times. I love me some Empire, don’t get me wrong, but at this point I can probably recite every word to the season finale promo. Though it is always fun to see Taraji P. Henson popping up in random arenas. Hey Cookie!

The first name called into the top 11 was Rayvon Owen—and understandably so, as his performance of “Wide Awake” still blew me away today while I re-watched over and over instead of working like a productive member of society. I expected a lot out of Rayvon’s performance tonight and while the judges fell for his rendition of Ellie Goulding’s “Burn,” I actually kind of hated parts of it. The song choice felt off, Rayvon actually looked a bit uncomfortable while singing, and overall the performance was “a little pitchy for me dawg.” Also, for some reason, his hats are starting to bug me! I’m actually worried about Rayvon this week despite his great reviews because this is a misstep for a guy who is usually on point. And I do have to share Harry’s opinion that his songs all have the same arc: They all build to a big belt note at the end. And when you’ve got a voice like Rayvon’s, it deserves to be used in more interesting and challenging ways.

Maddie Walker takes spot number 2 and gets some Scott Borchetta praise as he calls her a future “country siren” whatever that means. Maddie performs Jason Aldean’s “She’s Country” and once again Harry hits the nail so perfectly on the head by saying Maddie was imitating rather than emulating the record. She looked awkward and like she was overthinking every single moment of the performance when she should have focused on being confident with vocal choices in the song. Confidence in the voice would have easily brought confidence to the performance. Instead, she came off looking like she was singing “She’s Country” at karaoke.

Then there was Joey Cook. Now I understand that Joey is arguably the most polarizing contestant on Idol this year (along with probably Qaasim and Quentin), but she blew me completely out of the water on Thursday night with the Postmodern Jukebox version of “Fancy,” by Iggy Azalea. For reference, this is what the PMJ’s arrangement sounds like. And Joey completely kills it by doing what Harry says. She uses this arrangement but doesn’t completely copy or imitate it sound for sound, pitch for pitch. She takes a totally original rendition of a totally popular song and still somehow makes it totally her own. I’m sure there are swarms of people who hate this performance, but I am so far on the opposite spectrum. This was easily one of the top 2 performances of the night.

Break time for Empire’s Jussie Smollet and Yazz (a.k.a. Bryshere Gray) to perform their song from the series “No Apologies,” and it’s unfortunate to watch these two together only because it proves that the Idol contestants still have a long way to go before getting this good. Meanwhile Qaasim was really feeling this performance.

Next up is Stephanie Schomer-crowned frontrunner Clark Beckham. But sadly his crown was taken away for the night as his rendition of “Takin’ It to the Streets” by The Doobie Brothers was too safe. The vocals were all there, the piano playing was great. But the song just felt… too easy for the singer. He didn’t really seem to be move beyond the piece. Keith Urban made an astute observation by saying he wanted to still be inspired by Clark. I think he’s capable of it—he did something pretty damn inspiring with Wednesday night’s rendition of “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” so it’s in there. Perhaps Clark made Thursday night’s song choice in his sleep?

NEXT: The judges have a chance to use their one and only save, but ….

Oh Jax. I just can’t seem to fall for you yet. Last week was an okay performance that could have easily been something special if she had just stayed behind the piano. And this week’s performance was even weaker. Jax took on Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” and was, like Harry said, overwhelmed by the band, by the song, by the lyrics and by the strong presence of Taylor Swift in that song. It’s hard to make a song like that your own, but Jax didn’t even really try. She’s got talent, that’s undeniable. But her performances lately have been really hit or miss. She needs to step it up big time, not because she won’t get the votes (I don’t think she’s in danger of going home), but for herself and the progression of her obvious vocal gifts. I understand when people say she can be something special; that something special just doesn’t feel fully realized yet.

I’m genuinely surprised at how underwhelmed I was with Qaasim’s performance of “Jet” by Paul McCartney and Wings. I actually do think his vocal abilities were showcased a little more tonight. There’s definitely a great voice behind the overwhelming stage presence. And seeing him play the guitar was refreshing. But once again Harry gives a perfect critique: His performance didn’t seem to have much to do with the actual song. And this performance was a perfect example of how at times Qaasim can get too heavy-handed with performance over vocals.

Adanna Duru made a vast improvement with Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby” over last week’s mess of a performance. But it just doesn’t feel like enough when compared to some of the other insane talents on the show this season. Case in point…

Tyanna Jones! Not only did Tyana have the perfect song choice, an incredible stage presence and great vocals, she was just a shining light on that Idol stage. As my sister stated while watching, “This girl is a damn star.” YES.

And who follows the amazing Tyanna? The opposite. I hate to be this cruel to such a cute kid, but Daniel Seavey has got to go. Honestly, has he really gained his fair share of the Justin Bieber, tweeny-bopper fans to be sent through so many rounds? His rendition of “Happy” was definitely more on pitch than his “Straight Up” debacle last night and he does play the guitar well, but the performance was just so boring! There’s just nothing there for me to appreciate because every time I look at Daniel, I think about how unfair it is for that kid to be getting insulted this season when if he could have had a few years to practice and perfect, he could have really impressed in the long run. It’s disheartening and a real shame. It’s time for him to go. It just is.

Quentin takes the 10th spot and sings “Rolling in the Deep” with an extra soul, earth mother-y feel to it. The arrangement of the beginning was impressive and the vocals were good. But there just needed a little more of the oomph that Quentin brought last week and last night, but couldn’t quite achieve this week. Harry Connick Jr. is the king of perfect critiques as he once again scores a perfect 10 by telling Quentin he needed to dig deeper into the lyrics of the song rather than play it like a typical party anthem. Seriously someone tell me how “Rolling in the Deep” fits as a party anthem?

Finally, it’s the final reveal of the 11th spot between Sarina-Joi and Nick, with Nick taking the spot. The 29-year-old performs Aloe Blacc’s “Wake Me Up,” and once again his self-consciousness in his presence and vocals was obvious. I do think he has some great aspects to his voice, but I worry how much more he can really progress and rise to the challenges of the competition.

Unfortunately despite Sarina-Joi’s best efforts to get the judges’ coveted save, she’s let go after her performance of “Neon Lights” by Demi Lovato. I am really sad to see Sarina go, not because she was the best, but because I think she still had more to show the country. But of course, the judges are going to wait to use their save for the inevitable almost-elimination of one of the fan favorite contestants. But until that time comes, let’s start really trimming the fat shall we America?

Episode Recaps

American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

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