It's down to the wire for American Idol season 14. Tonight (May 6), the top four contestants all went home for their big ol' parades and sang three songs: a choice from mentor Scott Borchetta, a personal choice and a pick from the three judges.
For the top four, some of these performances were just straight up messy and underwhelming. Rayvon Owen, Jax and Clark Beckham all had some major bombs, while Nick Fradiani just kind of kept on cruising in the fast lane to finale land.
After awkwardly sending Tyanna Jones home last week in the middle of the show, Idol fixed its format this week by waiting until the very end to reveal that it was finally Rayvon's time to go after what felt like a million weeks in the bottom two/three. This leaves Clark, Jax and Nick left to battle it out next week in the two-part finale.
How did all of the performances pan out? Check out our rundown below:
Rayvon Owen, "Want to Want Me": Rayvon Owen has never necessarily done his best when he's had upbeat song choices, so why this was Scott Borchetta's choice remains a little bit of a mystery. I mean, actually I get it. We get to hear that falsetto and bring Rayvon into 2015. As far as the execution went, Rayvon has developed quite the little swagger on stage, which was on full force at the beginning. His falsetto was mostly on point, but some of the notes definitely went a little sour. His transitions from the verses to the choruses were really jarring, as well. In the general scheme of Idol, this was fine but it wasn't Top 4 level.
Clark Beckham, "Beautiful Day": Clark Beckham and Scott Borchetta battled it out last week over song choice, so it was interesting to now see who this season's mentor thinks Clark is as an artist. And the answer is... Bono? I don't get those vibes from him, but I'm not the person who discovered Taylor Swift so ignore me. (Just kidding, read every word I write as truth.) In execution, this was nowhere near Clark's best performance - he's always done his best when he's sitting at the piano and connecting to a lyric. He's not so much of a rocker, even a neutered down one. His vocal was a little raw, and not in a gritty way. I worry for his throat. Overall... eh.
Nick Fradiani, "Because the Night": Scott Borchetta didn't even need to finish his first sentence speaking to Nick Fradiani to know that he picked a Bruce Springsteen song for him. Like, the choice was just way too obvious from the start and how did Nick get this far in the show without covering the Boss? There was obviously, then, no real chances taken here, but Nick sang the notes of this classic rock song without flaw. When it comes to this sort of middle ground rock, Nick does well and he executed this fittingly.
Jax, "My Generation": Jax oftentimes seems like a little girl who's playing rock star, so I wasn't sure how this take on The Who's "My Generation" would turn out. The end result was actually one of the better Jax uptempo performances of the year so far. Her voice added a different sort of texture to this "O.G. punk track" that I don't think we've heard much of, and there was something very Miley Cyrus about this. There were some staged dramatics that definitely made Jax feel like a girl trying to be a star - the dropping of the flag, diving down to the floor, running around and slappin' five with the audience. It felt calculated rather than natural but JLo called her the best Scott pick of the year.
Nick Fradiani, "Back Home": This Andy Gramar track was unfamiliar to me but it sure sounded like a natural choice for Nick Fradiani. He really does his best in this sort of middling, easy listening rock 'n' roll. The first performance of his seemed to have a little more gusto behind it, but this was truly Nick in his comfort zone. Each week, it's been really refreshing to see just how much he has grown in this competition, coming from the oldest guy in the game to a real potential frontrunner.
Clark Beckham, "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay": I'm not exactly sure what the song choices for the hometowns were really meant to convey, but I guess it was just artist's choice. So, Clark Beckham went for this old school Otis Redding track. Oftentimes, I think this song comes across as really cheesy and dated, but Clark somehow made me not hate it. Maybe it's because he upped the tempo just a little bit or maybe it's because this is SO Clark's comfort zone that this just felt... right. His vocal was on point, too, and this was a big improvement from his first performance of the night.
Rayvon Owen, "As": Rayvon has been performing this song for years alongside his boy choir, so he took it on like an old pro. This was far and away the most comfortable that Rayvon has been on stage, he was owning that platform like he's been on it for years instead of weeks. The vocal followed suit, with Rayvon tackling the happy emotion of this song with a very notable ease. Like Harry Connick Jr. pointed out, this still could have used a LITTLE more personality with some fanciful footwork, but overall, this was a nice way to see Rayvon.
Jax, "My Immortal": Just by looking at the name of the performer and this song title, you kind of have to figure that this was going to be the performance of the night. And, well, I definitely was. Jax can try and do the crazy punk rocker chick thing but she got onto this show by doing a soft, subtle performance of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and she proved that's really her best sound again with this Evanescence track. It was everything it should have been: vulnerable, powerful, sweet and simply beautiful. Jax is far and away the frontrunner of this season and she showed that very well with this, a true highlight of season 14.
Clark Beckham, "Earned It": The obvious choice would have been to give this Fifty Shades of Grey single to Rayvon, but the judges chose to offer it up to Clark Beckham instead. It shouldn't have worked, but ooo baby, did this. This is a highly sexualized track and Clark has notably been unsexy for much of this season but he brought all of that here. The smoke, the suit, the ruffled hair - it was hot! Clark gave this song his own little lounge-y spin, totally distinguishing himself from The Weeknd, and it was far and away his best performance of the night. It's good to see that something outside of his comfort zone can work out so well.
Rayvon Owen, "You Are So Beautiful": As Jennifer Lopez pointed out, this song has like the same lyric over and over. And while it's beautiful it can get a little boring. That was the main point of this Joe Cocker cover. Pretty but repetitive and boring. Rayvon totally cut through it all, mixing up the vocal as much as possible and bringing the appropriate emotions with it. But, at the end of the day, this wasn't the most exciting or the most raw moment of the night, even for Rayvon.
Jax, "Misery Business": What even was this song choice? The judges felt like Paramore's "Misery Business" fit Jax's personality, and they're not totally wrong with that. What ended up going wrong here was Jax's voice with this song. The baby voice element to her tone does not mix well with the quick pace of the verses, meaning that all of the lyrics got totally muddled and I couldn't understand a dang word. The choruses, which are notably slower, sounded much, much better, and Jax hit the high notes here well. The arrangement, as the judges pointed out, was also this awkward blend of acoustic and plugged in. Ick.
Nick Fradiani, "I'll Be": First off, Keith Urban, everyone knows this song. It was a huge hit in 1998! Once again, this sort of mid-tempo middling rock song (courtesy of Edwin McCain!) is right in Nick Fradiani's wheelhouse. In a strong night for him vocally, this song was the icing on top of the cake. The vocal was perfect and the message in the emotion really clicked. The judges thought he "won" round three - compared to Clark, I'm not so sure but it was the most engaging thing we saw from him all night.