Was this the first time that American Idol went into an episode with what seemed to be a very clear agenda? Because, man, someone did NOT want Quentin Alexander to go on the top five tour. Tonight (April 22), the top five of season 14 were established, and well, it went down pretty predictably, even with the arena rock anthems thrown into the mix.
"Arena rock" for American Idol can range from everything from Dido to Jet to Maroon 5 and Sam Smith. So, it was a diverse setlist with diverse capabilities. Some people finally had their "moment" this season, with Clark Beckham and Jax leading that pack. Others fell flat when they tried to go outside of their comfort zone.
How did it all play out? Check out a song-by-song rundown:
Jax, "Are You Gonna Be My Girl": Jax was a pitchy mess last week, but the fan favorite still managed to be the first called into the top five. She took on a gender-bended version of Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl." Off the bat, it always annoys me when Idol switches up the gender of a song just to fit into heterosexuality. It just never sounds right, especially with fan favorite songs like this one. So, what about Jax's performance? This fit her personality and her vocal range well, but I still don't feel like she has enough of a real gusto and power behind her to really screech it out. She may want to be a rock star, but she's still a little too soft around the edges.
Nick Fradiani, "Harder to Breathe": It's continuing to be nice to find Nick Fradiani in his groove. After weeks of not knowing who this guy really is, we find out he's basically just a 2015 Daughtry. That has never been more clear than this week, when he chose Maroon 5's "Harder to Breathe" for his first song. Right off the bat, Nick had a real sour note that seemed like it should have been impossible to get over, but he readjusted himself pretty quickly. From there, this was alright. It still needed a little zest and some more passion, which Adam Levine is always really good at projecting. But, overall, this was a solid showing at the end of the day.
Clark Beckham, "Yesterday": One week, Clark Beckham just came out of the gate and broke out and he hasn't looked back since. Somehow, he tied the ultimate Beatles slow jam "Yesterday" into arena rock, but the performance was sweet, simple and powerful. He decorated the melody in just the right ways, embellishing the melody in all the right ways. As Harry Connick Jr. pointed out (and BOY does he love Clark), he didn't overdo the high, powerful notes. That could have been an easy way to get cheers. Instead, Clark went subtle, and it was definitely effective.
Tyanna Jones, "Party in the USA": Wow. What a poor song choice. If Tyanna Jones really was in the bottom three (do they call them up in order?), this was not a way to redeem herself. Tyanna does best when she's determined and concentrated, and while it was actually really refreshing to see something pure and light and fun on Idol, this did nothing to show who she is as an artist or vocalist - all it did was remind us that she's 16. Her vocal was actually solid. I think she went a little sharp in the chorus, but that could just be my forgetting how "Party in the USA" goes. The judges thought this was all brilliant, but eh... Not so sure.
Quentin Alexander, "Light My Fire": After his controversial speak out last week, it's really no surprise that Quentin Alexander wound up in the bottom two tonight. It seemed like he always knew that's what was going to happen. So, you think he would have done more than just phone it in. The Doors' "Light My Fire." His vocal was solid, though, but this was a little out of his range for the chorus. I still loved the performance element to this - Quentin is a natural, even if his vocal isn't always 100 percent.
Rayvon Owen, "I'm Not the Only One": First of all, we need to talk about the complete and total malarkey that the Idol producers pulled in the battle of Rayvon Owen and Quentin. The show CLEARLY wants Quentin out of the show and off the tour, so they gave Rayvon nothing but praise and a replay, which is basically the first time this has ever happened in this show's history. It was really just an incredibly transparent way to swing the Twitter save votes. Really, truly just disgusting.
That being said, on his own merits, Rayvon really knocked this new Sam Smith classic out of the park. It was emotional, pretty and he put the jazz and decoration on all the right notes in all the right places. It's just too bad Idol made this all feel rigged.
Nick Fradiani, "Maggie May": Nick Fradiani seemed really comfortable on this Rod Stewart classic. It was an easy song choice from him, but it worked out well. His vocal was effortless, with an equal amount of grit and this really nice vibration that added a really pretty texture. Nick seemed really comfortable on stage, but he almost seemed a little too at ease. Maybe that means he's just a total professional, but that also feels like he was just playing it a little safe.
Tyanna Jones, "Heaven": Tyanna Jones has always had a little bit of a Beyoncé quality to her voice, and that came out in full force for this take on the Bryan Adams classic. Simply put, this was very straightforward, stripped down and beautiful. Tyanna may have the most fun when she's rocking out to Miley Cyrus, but she sounds the best when she does something like this. This was one of the big highlights of the night.
Clark Beckham, "Boyfriend": There was no swaggy in this. No swaggy at all. Missed lyric aside, Clark Beckham's take on this Justin Bieber staple was literally very one-note. As in, he sang the same note throughout the entire duration of the verses. It was so uninteresting to listen to. When he went into the choruses, there was more vocal variation, and I appreciated that. His falsetto was nice and smooth and in the second chorus, Clark really went gritty for it. However, I was missing the attitude (swaggy, if you will) and the texture of this song. I like what he tried to do with it, but in the end, Clark missed the mark.
Jax, "White Flag": How does a Dido song classify as an arena anthem? And who knew Jax could play the piano? After trying to be really crazy and high energy for the past few performances, I was really relieved to hear that Jax would be performing Dido - it seemed to really fit with her tone. The show really wanted to try and make this performance a ~moment~, with the white flowing dress and piano, and for the most part, this succeeded. It was quiet, captivating and emotionally beautiful. Jax did a great job and she's a shoo-in for the top four (and probably even finale).
Quentin Alexander, "Shake it Out": In the continuance of American Idol wanting to send Quentin Alexander home, the producers had him sing first again instead of Rayvon. I almost give up on calling this anything near a fair fight.
That being said, Quentin's first performance wasn't without flaws, but I think that this song was a better pick for Quentin's whole ~thing~ and his range. He seemed really comfortable and really peaceful and beautiful onstage. Harry seemed to indicate that he was out of tune the whole time, but I didn't totally hear that. This was a redeeming performance.
Rayvon Owen, "Go Your Own Way": If Rayvon wanted to be the most effective, he would have swapped his performances. Because this was just a big ol' mess. The notes were all over the place, the pacing of the song and the energy wasn't matching Rayvon's persona, and whereas everyone else on the show reserved the decoration and high notes for just the right time, Rayvon just belted out this really high thing for no real reason. Whatever. This was never a fair fight.