'American Idol' recap: Top 10 perform
A lackluster evening takes a thrilling turn when Qaasim comes out swinging.
Harry Connick Jr. is mad. Why? Because these damn kids don’t know the first thing about connecting with LYRICS! But we’ll come back to that later.
First things first, a huge thanks to Keertana for filling in last week. (Though, girl, we gotta talk, because I felt you throwing some shade at Clark and I am not okay with it.) What I am okay with is Ryan’s return to proper clothing. He’s looking sharp in a suit/vest combo, and I’m hoping he never attempts casualwear again.
The theme for tonight is Movie Night, which is fun! We’re inching toward our top 10 this evening, and the first to make the cut is Adanna Duru, who sings “I Love You, I Do” from Dreamgirls. It’s a bold song choice because, you know, Jennifer Hudson. But Adanna, who’s looking fab in a shattered-mirror frock, sounds good and has definitely improved her intonation. (Hay Harry!) But she’s being swallowed by the band—we all know she has a powerful voice, but I’m losing her a bit. Throughout this whole process she’s been a little rehearsed and manufactured, so I’m with Jen when she says that she wants more real emotion, more connection.
Well, we all knew it was coming, but it still stings. Daniel Seavey, undoubtedly the loveliest contestant I’ve ever rooted against, is through to our top nine. America, use your ears. We love this boy, but USE YOUR EARS. “Lost Stars” from Begin is a big move for him. It’s a fantastic song, but it’s emotional and has an enormous range. Immediately, he falters. Oh babe, it’s too much. His pitch is all over the place, and his voice, at this very very very young age of 15 does not have the strength to support it. For the record, the judges don’t get it either. We got an “okay” from Jen, a “wasn’t strong” from Harry, and a generous “good performance…but dig in more” from Keith. From Daniel: “I feel like I wasn’t their favorite, but I had a lot of fun!” What a sweetie.
Rayvon Owen is in the clear. “Stayin’ Alive” is ambitious, and per usual, his vocal is fantastic. But when he walks over to sing alongside the quartet of backing vocalists, he blends in with them so perfectly. Like, too perfectly. Like he’s a backing vocalist and not a frontman. Rayvon doll, how you managed to make this song boring, I’ll never understand. Harry basically calls him uninteresting, a sad but fair comment. He wants lyrics, he wants emotion! We need more depth, damn it! Rayvon, we want to love you. Help us.
Nick Fradiani—who I’m calling the season’s dark horse— is the next to get through. I like Nick because he knows that he’s playing it safe, and he wants to change. He doesn’t quite get there with his song choice of “Danger Zone,” which comes as a surprise to literally no one. Am I blown away? No. Am I entertained? Sort of. Is it better than last week? Yes. The thing about Nick is his vocals are killer. He’s more exciting than Rayvon but as forgettable. But he’s working on it. HE’S GETTING THERE. I want him to be fab. Don’t we all have such a shameless, basic crush on him? I do.
Harry, for the 100th time tonight, encourages the contestants to pick deeper songs, with lyrics that actually mean something. (He calls “Danger Zone” “silly,” and my love for him grows.)
NEXT: Tyanna takes a tumble.
The always-surprised Joey Cook gets good news next. Honestly, this girl is so cute and earnest and lovely when she’s not trying to sell this persona of hers, and I wish she would just stick with it. I’m really having a hard time with her affected speech and vocal habits. (I know it’s an unpopular opinion, but I also know that a lot of you are with me. If Harry can scold people for singing with a fake country accent, can we not scold them for singing with a fake whatever-the-hell-this-is accent?)
I’m excited to hear her sing “Mad World,” though, because it’s more dialed down than her recent performances and I’m hearing her voice in a more simple setting. It’s understated and beautiful. But my friend reminded me of Adam Lambert’s performance of the same song, and I just want you all to chew on that for a second. The judges respond positively to the performance, and J.Lo likens the performance to Sia. “Do you guys know who Sia is?” Girl, please. Nice comparison, but COME ON.
Tyanna! Sup girl, so happy to see you. SUPER HAPPY to hear she’s singing “Circle of Life.” (Does anyone remember this amazing version?) The song is, obviously, one of the best ever, and it’s the first time we’ve seen Tyanna slow it down a bit. I hate to say it, but she stumbles with the pitch throughout. Keith actually says “if America votes you through next week,” and I’m in a panic. HEY AMERICA, VOTE HER THROUGH. She’s the winner we deserve. Seriously, vote for her.
J.Lo is the next to take the stage. (Going to show these kids what a true performer looks like.) She’s singing “Feel the Light” from the upcoming animated flick Home, and she obviously looks absolutely stunning, like a fancy celestial angel. It’s not often we see Jen take on a ballad, and to my surprise, the gorgeous oversize skirt she’s wearing is not ripped off and she does not start dancing. Normally I’d be disappointed, but I’m kind of digging this.
QUENTIN. So thrilled (and a little shocked) that Quentin made it through tonight. He does a spooktacular take on “You’re the One That I Want.” Man, this guys knows how to do creepy/sexy so well. (But Grease fans, is this what we want from this song?) Here’s what I’ll say about this performance: Fantastic vocals (sorry, Harry) and total props for doing your own thing, Quentin, but this is a mainstream singing competition on Fox. You have got to sell some records, eventually. And that was theatrical and intriguing and haunting, but I ain’t ever gonna listen to it on the radio. Frustration of the evening: He’s never seen Grease. How old am I?
Maddie—whose appendix did NOT burst this week—is singing one of my favorite movie songs ever, “Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” from Footloose. Her dead-in-the-eyes performance style has freaked me out a lot in recent weeks, and it’s nothing if not magnified tonight. Whenever I watch her perform, I feel as if I’m watching a junior Stepford Wife (of the robot variety). Sorry—I know she’s been sick and has been recuperating, but this was not good.
Ryan asks the judges, most glorious trio ever, to discuss their favorite movie soundtracks.
J.Lo: “The Bodyguard.”
Harry: “Hashtag When Harry Met Sally.”
Keith: “I have this strange affinity for Moulin Rouge, I don’t know why.”
J.Lo: “So romantic!”
Lesson: Keith loves Nicole, and Jen loves Keith.
NEXT: For the season’s single save, how soon is too soon?
My husband Clark Beckham is through, and to my and my friend’s delight, he’s wearing a T-shirt. Here’s why I love Clark Beckham: He’s singing a MAROON 5 song that appears in CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2. If this person isn’t my soul mate, there’s no hope for me. Are Matt Damon and Jeremy Jordan his parents? Honestly, he’s too much.
His version of “Sunday Morning” is beautifully pared down—just old Clarky and his acoustic guitar. The judges scolded him last week because his performance felt disconnected, but this is anything but. It’s maybe the most intimate showcase we’ve seen from Clark, and he’s trying to correct his mistakes: He’s connecting with the camera, the audience, the judges, and is actually emoting. So I will say once again: FRONT-RUNNER.
I’m only now realizing that Qaasim and Jax are the only two left. I’m not really comfortable with either of them going home. Jax makes me insane, but god, she can sing. (Except last week.)
In spite of my logic, I’m devastated to hear that Jax is moving on, and our precious virgin angel Qaasim is likely going home. Admittedly, it’s probably the fair conclusion because Qaasim’s vocals were pretty horrendous last week, but I really wanted a couple more erratic and dance-y performances from him. Qaasim, for the record, I will see you perform anywhere, anytime. Come home to Brooklyn—I’ll be the first in line.
So Jax, dressed like a deranged emo Cinderella, sings “Grow Old With You,” that Adam Sandler song from the airplane scene in The Wedding Singer. Hey Jax, you were barely alive when this movie was made, and the fact that you actually SOUND like Adam Sandler on this song is not encouraging to me. Blergh, the judges liked it.
I love Qaasim so much. He sings “Come Together” for his life—and he sounds a hell of a lot better than he did last week—and J.Lo looks like she might want to save him! It’s too early in the season for a save, though. They’d be foolish to use it so early. Harry will never allow it. (Though he does call it the BEST PERFORMANCE OF THE NIGHT.) But god, I’ll miss this kid.
UNEXPECTED TURN OF EVENTS. Harry loves Qaasim! They use the save on him! This is exhilarating news right now but will be an absolutely excruciating frustration in a few weeks. But tonight, I’m celebrating. Everyone, pour yourself another helping of whatever you’re drinking and raise your glass to Qaasim. See you next week, kids. Seacrest, out.
Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.