As if the hopes and dreams and yearnings of their whole young lives, and those of their families, all at stake for the six sitting hopefuls on “American Idol” weren’t enough pressure for April 22 ‘s “Arena Anthems” theme night, there was the added stress of knowing that only the top five will be going on this summer’s tour. A surprise announcement by FIFA ambassadors, Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan that Season 14’s winner will sing the official anthem at the 2015 Women’s World Cup opened the night with another heap of hoopla. That kind of performance will capture a truly global audience, further propelling an already auspicious career launch.
Jennifer Lopez channeled the American spirit in her red, white and blue against black gown, while Harry expressed his true feelings about being dressed in recycled items in honor of Earth Day. Nothing was rehashed about the performances, though, as JAX started things off with “Are You Gonna Be My (Guy)?” She already had the audience cheering, and her story of sharing the tune with her firefighter father, and the soul they share post his 9/11 injury, only grabbed more hearts in her emotional chokehold. The panel praised every smidge of her emotion and energy, with Keith Urban saying “that’s how you open a show right there,” and Jennifer praising that JAX is prepped for touring already, as Harry added that he knows what her performances would be like onstage. Nick Fradiani was called up next, lit in green, and getting more gregarious with his roaring fans as he gets looser on stage. He did “Harder To Breathe” respectively enough to impress any Adam Levine lover, but there never seems to be in need of his own unique turns in performances, no distinctive personal imprint, and that leaves them lacking. JLo dubbed the performance “pretty awesome,” but wished that Nick had created a moment by letting his audience jump in with song. After asking his Jennifer would throw a party for him, Harry remarked how Nick is continuing to get “better and better” every week. Keith told Nick that he had found his lane, and just needed to find ways of keeping centered through performances. Harry had a little too much fun showing off his telestrator thoughts, being in sports mode, so it’s a good thing that Clark Beckham took the crowd to a moving place with “Yesterday,” only truly an arena anthem if done by the Beatles at Shea Stadium, but still, Clark did an admirable job of showing more than his surface, and the judges all noticed. Jennifer Lopez called it a risky choice, pulled off well. Keith said. It was beautiful, but wants Clark to break loose emotionally, while Harry appreciates how Clark doesn’t throw in high notes just for the heck of it.
Tyanna Jones’ mom spoke movingly of their large family’s struggles, and playfully of their humor, unity, and names all beginning with T! Mom also went with the public‘s choice to put her daughter in braids for style points this week, and they fit perfectly with her choice of Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA.” There was so much youthful playfulness and energy, so fitting for the young lady of 16, and showing off her fun side. Keith Urban called it a “new side” for Tyanna, and Jennifer Lopez proclaimed that singing “should be fun” for someone so talented and young. Harry said that she “killed it,” and that the little girl he was looking at a few minutes ago must have only been from a year and a half ago. Only Quentin Alexander and Rayvon Owen were left, designating them as the bottom two in votes for the week. The mothers of both young men eloquently reflected on the sacrifice to support their sons’ dreams, and keeping them safe to reach them. Quentin came on passionate and stylized with “Light My Fire,” his unique look incorporating a “tower” of hair this week. The crowd felt him. Jennifer Lopez told him that she always wanted more “pow” from him, wanting to pull it out of him, but realizing that he had to give that. Harry really liked the arrangement for the song, and how the band “brought the stank” this time. Keith Urban said that Quentin always swam in his own direction, and was never floating with the current, like plankton. “You are the anti-plankton,” Urban proclaimed. Rayvon seemed to almost be trying too hard to pack emotion into the already charged song, “I’m Not the Only One,” and the audience responded with roars of emotion of their own. Harry loved the breath Rayvon took while at the top of his range. Keith said the performance was so strong that the song could have been his own hit, and Jennifer said that it could come down to Rayvon being the only one, after fighting back for all these weeks.
Nick came along with another crowd-pleasing favorite in “Maggie Mae,” with a touch more of a raw edge, and praise from Keith for following his guitar strap wisdom, hanging it low this time. Jennifer cautioned Nick to look for opportunities to create moments again, and Harry asked if Nick could sustain a full show, and supported his affirmative answer. Tyanna trod on hallowed ground, musically speaking, choosing “Heaven,” and looking angelic in her white gown and up swooped hair. The panel praised her performance and her selection, and she confessed that she had no idea the song existed before this week! Clark made another bold choice, choosing Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend’’ as his second selection. The choice missed the bar for the panel, Harry saying that the song was “not right,” and Jennifer noting that it was not right “for this” as an anthem. Keith said there was no heart, and no raw edge to the performance. Harry was even disappointed in the audience’s “boo,” encouraging them to give it their all if they disagree. JAX was another vision dazzling in white at her piano with Dido’s “White Flag,” completely disarming and utterly moving. She showed what Jennifer Lopez called “perfect gravitas” after her first performance, and Keith praised “you held me” through the whole song. Harry said. It was beautiful, and he “loved it.”
For the first of the final two performances, Quentin selected “Shake It Out,” rich with pulsating emotion, as he asked the song’s question, “What the hell?” declaring the message to own one’s feelings. Jennifer declared that “I always want to watch you,” and that his vocals were much stronger this week. Keith said he had a very clear idea of the kind of record that Quentin would create, and Harry asked if Quentin would allow himself to be Auto-tuned, which he, of course, declined. Harry respected that choice. Rayvon closed with “Go Your Own Way,” before the live Twitter vote. He was energized and looser than ever with the crowd, and they responded with uproarious approval. Harry said they were “eatin’ it up,” a Keith expressed that the judges’ comments were “Blah blah” compared to the audience shriek. Jennifer Lopez said. It was a great performance, and Quentin made it clear that he said “I give it up,” to his friend, and not “I give up” in the competition!
As the tally came up, it was farewell to Quentin, but assuredly not a farewell to a musical career that is only beginning. One has to hand it to Rayvon, for outlasting yet another bottom vote to secure a save. In the next three weeks, things only get tougher.