This week, “American Idol” fans didn’t just have sway in the final vote to save favorite talents, they took control with votes from among American classics as songs for the seven remaining hopefuls to sing on April 15. Every contestant sang two songs, and displayed far more depth and range than possible in the normal format. Nothing is easy about this stage of the process, and that particularly applies when it comes to the final partings, determined by those fateful 5 minutes of Twitter salvation. It’s never been so close to the very end, and emotions were raw.
There was not a minute to waste, and Tyanna Jones got the welcome news that she was safe, and singing first, leading off the night with “Why Do Fools Fall in Love.” Scott Borchetta gave her valuable advice, reminding her to always be engaged with people she encounters through her journey, and never allow other distractions to disturb personal connection. The judges wanted more personal connection, too, not faulting her vocal, but wanting something more. Keith Urban was hoping for more “edge,” Jennifer Lopez pleaded for “something we can feel,” and Harry Connick, Jr., the professor, encouraged further study, instructing Tyanna to take a look at Frankie Lymon’s original performances of his song, and see that connection for herself, including subtle movements that make all the difference. Clark Beckham came next, and clearly showed that he was taking the panel’s guidance to heart as he performed Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” From his jazzy, scatting opening, through the whole performance, his audience was raving, and he had more relaxed swagger than ever. Jennifer Lopez gushed “you look good,” meaning more like a star, and that “everything is coming together.” Harry wondered if being “pissed off” provoked something special, because his performance was “a whole lot better,” and Keith Urban concurred, calling it “really cool” and offering advice to “drop the guitar down” just so. It turns out that up came a photo of Clark’s dad, doing just that thing, only shirtless. Keith displayed that he thought Harry was cool by wearing his image on his T-shirt, so the feedback was great all around. Harry said that it was a highlight of his career. JAX channeled Janice Joplin for “Piece of My Heart,” comfortable in her element, full of Rock Princess attitude. Harry praised her time, and the way she stayed “in the pocket” of her groove. Keith complimented how well she sang with the band, while Jennifer just celebrated seeing her in such a comfortable place.
No song could’ve been better suited for Nick Fradiani than Tom Petty’s “American Girl,” and the 29-year-old “elder” in the competition is finally feeling at ease. Nick told mentor, Scott Borchetta, that he felt like a playoff athlete, getting hot at just the right time. Keith Urban’s exuberant “Whoo!” certainly spoke agreement. Jennifer loves the arc that Nick’s journey is taking, and the way he is at last letting go on stage. Harry said that the performance was “dead on what you need to do.” Quentin Alexander wasn’t kidding when he said it was time to rock out, and let “Pandora out of the box to do her thing.” He hit dead on with Lenny Kravitz’ “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” decked out like a sexy, silver fox in leather and chain links. Jennifer Lopez “loved the whole thing,” overlooking some “pitch issues.” Harry loves Clinton’s artistry, but urged that he has to drive the band and the song, instead of be driven by them. Keith took exception, saying that “I thought you held your own.” Things got even more emotional, as Quentin looked up at Rayvon and Joey, and said, “This sucks.” That gut reaction got immediate response from Harry, who called it “very disrespectful,” considering all the opportunity the competition affords. Quentin tried to explain that his words referenced the feeling from parting with his friends, not the competition process. He and Harry shook hands, still unsettled.
Harry’s dapper dress in camel colored suit, and Navy blue shirt and tie seemed to signify the seriousness of every night of performances, and Joey Cook had a dressy look, too, as she was taking on her favorite song, “My Funny Valentine,” crediting her mother and her upbringing for giving her a love for all genres of music, and relating how her grandfather still calls her “a country singer.” Her style was that of a torch singer, and she sealed it with a closing look up to divine guidance. Harry wasn’t hard on her this time, calling it “very good, very smart” and overall, “a damn good job.” Keith Urban applauded how Joey always goes to “a place beyond your comfort zone,” while Jennifer voiced disappointment that Joey “didn’t move me.” Joey spilled news that Quentin will officiate her upcoming wedding, so there’s even more reason for their emotional connection. She still stayed happy, no matter her status of being in the bottom two. Rayvon Owen explained that his battling back from the bottom, that began three weeks ago, has brought out the fight in him. He did a lovely job on “Long Train Running,” seeming so loose, and really enjoying the moment. Keith called it “killer from the beginning,” and Jennifer urged Rayvon, “keep fighting” and praising the performance as “the way to step it up.” Harry said he was discovering “so much more to you,” but that he still needs to find the perfect song.
Round two led off with Clark Beckham at piano, doing “Moon River” in admirable style, even with Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers looking on from the audience. Jennifer called it “smooth and creamy” along with very nice, getting teased by Ryan Seacrest. Harry pleaded with Clark to “learn more chords” so he could turn songs more uniquely is a way, and Keith Urban said that it was a “warm and fuzzy” performance, “like an epidural,” in another odd offering of feedback. Tyanna Jones came back to fine, familiar form as a performer on “Proud Mary,” with a special splash of sultry soul. It was a roar of a comeback, considering past weeks, Harry called it “as close to perfect” as she could’ve done. Keith credited that because of her youth now, her improvement as an artist will be “astronomical.” Jennifer encouraged her to always “find songs that do that,” referring to bringing out her best. Nick Fradiani slowed down “Only the Good Die Young,” for his second offering, with mixed results. Keith called it “a 10 out of 10,” and Jennifer loved “when you went up,” but the introspective arrangement didn’t work for Harry. Quentin Alexander took on the iconic ballad, “The Sound of Silence,” by Simon and Garfunkel. With emotion still raw, the performance was impactful. Jennifer Lopez said that it was “dramatic and moody,” and warned that part of being an artist is learning to control feelings. Harry noted how he loves when Quentin “holds notes,” and again, pushed that Alexander has to learn keeping on pitch, as even Keith encouraged, “it’s very doable.” JAX came out blazing with her bold “Beat It” by Michael Jackson. She worked the “Idol” spiral center stage , and the camera, to perfection. Harry loved her static hair best of all. Keith said the song showed a great side of her, and was “contagious,” and Jennifer loved that she makes it all “look cool.”
It was down to the final “saving” performances before the Twitter world vote. Rayvon sang “Always on My Mind” in perfect pitch, but still lacking that lasting passion. The judges felt something, though, As Keith Urban called it “the right song.” Jennifer got her famous “goosies” and Harry said he understood now that Owen was a born “ballad singer.” Joey took Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” to her own place next, and her face showed enough emotion to fill the room! Jennifer Lopez said the song showed “all the colors of Joey.” Harry gave kudos to her “inventiveness,” saying that she gave the song her own groove, and Keith said he felt like he saw what he would see at her live concert.
The five-minute clock started to run, and once again, Rayvon will be moving on, and Joey will be singing songs her own way, somewhere, from now on.
Next week, the “American Idol” theme is arena anthems, as only a half-dozen will survive.