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'American Idol' Season 14 Recap & Review: Nick Fradiani & Clark Beckham Battle for the Title

by Carolyn Menyes   May 12, 2015 22:09 PM EDT

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American Idol only has one episode and one season left, so it has a job to do this week... crown a winner, even if America picked probably the two most dull guys to compete.

At the top of this show, we had the elimination from last week, down to just .4 percent. And the one sent home was... Jax. W-w-wait? Wh-what? How was that even possible? Jax? The lone person with a personality left on the show? The girl who seemed like she had the biggest fanbase with her own "Jax Pack?" How was that even possible?

The announcement was not just shocking, it was awkward. There were a few boos audible and then just silence. Because the stage had not yet been revealed behind a curtain, the only people to applaud Jax off stage were the band, her fellow contestants and Ryan Seacrest. Let's never remember this misstep in judgment again.

Thus, we started the most boring finale ever, between two WGWGs, Clark Beckham and Nick Fradiani. If Vote for the Worst were still a thing, that website would be having a huge heyday.

How did the rest of the performances stack up? Could we care really, even, after every last interesting performer was stripped away from this show? Watch us try.

Clark Beckham, "Georgia On My Mind": Honestly, so much of this performance was overshadowed by what had just happened a few minutes ago (I couldn't wash of the discomfort and impending boredom for what was to come) that I couldn't fully focus on Clark's song choice. It wasn't until Nick Fradiani performed that I even realized this was supposed to be a retelling of their best performance of the year quite yet. That being said, Clark gave this what he had, which is at the end of the day, a beautiful rich voice and plenty of emotion. But, sorry, this whole thing was awkwardly times and I just couldn't focus.

Nick Fradiani, "Bright Lights": We cut to commercial and the dust finally settled, just in time for Nick Fradiani to break his Rob Thomas impression back out and perform this Matchbox 20 hit. When he performed this for the coach hometown choice just a few short weeks ago. Like his original take, Fradiani's own vocal similarities to Thomas helped this to standout as well as his confidence. That's been the best part of this Idol journey for him... seeing him turn into a real performer in just a few short months.

Clark Beckham, "Ain't No Sunshine": If Simon Fuller's choice was to give Clark nothing but his own voice and an acoustic guitar for this performance, then well, it secures why he was the creator of this show. This was everything that we know and love from Clark: it was soulful, emotional, intense and filled with nothing but raw artistry. It was the vulnerability of this song that helped for Clark to break through and really let us all feel something. In the last verse, he really blew this all up to an 11, and I only wish he had started that sooner. The repeated "I knows" at the post-chorus of this song have so much potential to show frustration, longing, love, anger... and Clark kind of sang it straight. Can't get around that waster opportunity.

Nick Fradiani, "I Won't Give Up": I'll be frank... this is one of my favorite modern love songs and I have a real soft spot for this Jason Mraz number. So, Nick could have either blown me away or underwhelmed me completely with this. What he wound up doing was the latter, unfortunately for me and Nick, he wound up being really lackluster on here. There was an emotional connection that was really missing here from him, which was heard primarily through the overly staccato way he sang the notes all throughout. In a night filled with epic and vulnerable moments, this one flew by the wayside.

Clark Beckham, "Champion": So, here we are, with the coronation singles for American Idol season 14. Clark was up first to perform his inspirational little number, the potentially fittingly titled "Champion." As Harry Connick Jr. pointed out later during the critiques, there was something a little uncomfortable about this performance, with Clark looking less at ease on stage than he was just 10 minutes ago, singing the emotional crap out of "Ain't No Sunshine." That sort of lack of confidence made this performance feel like less of the moment than it should have been, even though Clark's vocals were fittingly on point.

Nick Fradiani, "Beautiful Life": For as uncomfortable onstage as Clark seemed for his coronation song, Nick was living it up for his performance of "Beautiful Life." As he said super well, this song blends together the sensibilities of fun. and '90s alternative soft rock that make this the perfect choice for Nick. It was sing-songy, swinging and it got the audience feeling the groove. Nick was feeding off this energy, bringing together his whole Idol experience to this moment where he was really soaking it all up while delivering an assured performance full of big highs. I've never been his No. 1 fan, but this definitely seemed like a winning moment.

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