American Idol

American Idol XIV Top 3 Revealed + Performance Recap (VIDEO)

Welcome to the live blog and recap for American Idol XIV, “Top 3 Perform”! Tonight, the finalists compete for a spot in the final 3, and a possible berth in next week’s finale!

But which singer will be going home tonight?

As of press time, Rickey.org readers predict that, once again, it will finally be the end of the road for Rayvon Owen. He topped the poll with a staggering 56.45% of the vote. However, the real surprise here is in his Bottom 2 mate, as Clark Beckham is predicted to be in danger, perhaps due to his argument last week with Scott Borchetta. The Season 14 frontrunner polled with 23.78% of the vote! Will Clark’s defense of his artistic choices really cost him this week? Or will it be curtains on Rayvon’s incredible underdog run? Or could it even be Jax or Nick in danger? It’s not too late to vote in the poll, so head on over and add your prediction!

Keep it locked right here as I’ll be updating with commentary, analysis, and videos of tonight’s performances!

American Idol XIV Top 3 Revealed + Performance Recap (VIDEO)

Credit: FOX

Let’s get this show on the road!

RECAP

-So after introductions, Ryan reveals that we won’t find out who’s eliminated until the end of the show, making last week’s mid-show elimination of Tyanna all the more perplexing. No green chairs tonight, just everyone performing one-by-one. Round one will be Scott Borchetta’s choice, round two will be Hometown Songs, and round three will be Judges’ Choice. And up first is…

RAYVON OWEN opens the show!

-Scott has given Rayon “Want To Want Me” by Jason Derulo, and I’m actually surprised it’s taken Rayvon so long to do a song like this. He actually seems pretty stoked to receive this song, and Scott insists he’ll knock this one out of the ballpark. I’m not a huge fan of Jason Derulo’s music, but I think Rayvon can make this work for him.

-Okay, maybe I spoke too soon. While this is arguably one of Rayvon’s best performances from a showmanship perspective, the vocal was all over the place. He spends WAY too much of this performance in falsetto, to the point where it actually sounded painful. I like Rayvon’s performances WAY more often than not, but this was one of those times where I just couldn’t get on-board with it.

-Keith praises the song choice, and Rayvon’s killer falsetto. J-Lo agrees, saying Rayvon’s tone is gorgeous and he came across as a star. Harry, meanwhile, feels that while he sees Rayvon as more of a ballad singer, this was his best uptempo performance. After the performance, Ryan asks Rayvon what the toughest round will be, and he says he feels it will be the Hometown round, since it moves things away from being an individual performance to more of a team effort. He wants to do this for the people back home.

-We keep things moving right along…

CLARK BECKHAM is up next!

-Scott admits that he and Clark have gone back-and-forth on what’s best for him in this competition, but he recalls Clark saying that he wants to be pushed out of his comfort zone. So Scott has given him a three-time Grammy-winning song, believing Clark will be able to really dig into it. It’s “Beautiful Day” by U2, and he’s actually really excited to get this song.

-Clark’s voice is a little raw on this, but I love this, as it shows a different side of him. Honestly, I think Clark should have been dabbling in rock earlier than now, since it displays a measure of versatility that he’s badly needed to show. In particular, I love his killer closing note, using the full power of his upper register.

-J-Lo felt the song was really suited to Clark’s voice, and that Clark channeled his inner rock star. She stresses the importance of letting loose and connecting with the lyrics of the song. Harry felt Clark was pretty good and the band was exceptional, but warns Clark against passing over the meaning of the lyrics during the verses. Keith agrees, saying it didn’t really pick up until 3/4 of the way through the song. But he still praises Clark for that awesome 1/4 that worked. After the performance, Ryan notes that the last person to perform that song on this show won. It’s kind of sad that Lee Dewyze’s name didn’t get ANY kind of reaction from the crowd whatsoever. I still love ya, Lee! Your song on The Walking Dead last year is still my favorite music moment in the history of that show.

-Back from break with Ryan chilling in the audience with the eliminated Top 12 contestants from this season. Noticeably missing are Joey Cook, Daniel Seavey, and…actually, I can’t remember if Qaasim and Tyanna were there or not. I was too busy missing my girl Joey.

NICK FRADIANI is up next!

-Scott feels he’s picked a song that will help Nick unlock the artist he’s trying to be. Nick is thrilled to learn he’s been given “Because the Night” by Bruce Springsteen, since it’s actually one of his favorite songs. I’m actually not too sure about this song, but Nick has been scarily consistent in this competition, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s another homerun. Or, at the very least, if it’s yet another song choice that speaks directly to his suspiciously large fanbase.

-This didn’t exactly fill me with loads of excitement, but I think Nick’s fans are REALLY going to like this. There wasn’t a single false note in the entire performance, and the hard rock arrangement made this feel very lively. Maybe it’s a bit of a safe song choice, but I also think it proved to be the right one for him. Nick has a very specific style, and within that style, he’s quite good. Maybe I don’t get why he’s made it this far without ever being in danger, but I do get why he’s still here.

-Harry thought it was fantastic, and feels he’s seeing more and more of Nick with each passing week. He notes Nick’s onstage tics and says he feels it’s helping him get to know Nick better. Keith loves that this is the song Nick has on iTunes right now, since it was an excellent choice for him. J-Lo loved it, but can’t stress the importance of connecting with the lyrics enough. After the performance, Nick talks briefly about how great it was to go on hometown visits, as we cut to his father in the audience. It’s rare that any Idol contestant looks as much like their parent as Nick looks like his father.

-Back from break with Ryan and judge banter, as they credit Scott with going 3-for-3 on song choices so far, and questioning if he can go four-for-four. Ryan’s attempt at a hip-hop accent is somehow amusing and cringeworthy at the same time.

JAX is up next!

-Scott loves the songs Jax has picked for herself this season, and it’s helped him narrow down song choices for her this week. He’s picked “My Generation” by The Who, and Jax is ecstatic about it. “You get me,” Jax tells Scott, and I believe her. This seems exactly like the type of song Jax would do, and it should help her tap back into that Janis Joplin-esque vibe she’s got going on.

-This is a wonderful performance. She’s draped in a British flag cape, and rocks out all over the stage, even sitting down and singing it to the audience members in the pit on the edge of the stage. She then does a sort of call-and-response with the band, reacting to their performance. And throughout it all, the vocal never suffers. “American Idol! This is our generation!” she shouts, and while that might play as cheesy to some, I think it’ll help make this memorable. Not that she needs loads of help in that regard.

-Keith thought it was a fantastic performance, while J-Lo notes just how comfortable Jax is on that stage. For Harry, this is Jax’s best performance overall. After the performance, Ryan congratulates Scott on getting all four picks right, saying if he keeps it up, he might have a future in music.

-Ryan then asks who won Round 1, and J-Lo gives it to Jax. We then get a promo for the summer tour, as cities scroll across the screen. Yeah, I’m not holding out much hope for this being an arena-filler.

-I should note that for as much as I appreciate that they aren’t eliminating someone midway through the show, like they did last week to Tyanna, I hope next Tuesday’s Top 3 elimination + Top 2 performance show reveals the result at the start. I feel the finale will be less powerful if all three get to perform. It has to be [Blank] vs. [Blank], and we need to know it before the first not is sung. But that’s just my opinion.

IT’S NOW TIME FOR ROUND TWO, BABY!

-Up first, it’s the pride of Guilford, Connecticut…

NICK FRADIANI opens round two!

-Nick returns to Guilford, Connecticut, and he gets to do the weather on his local news. And he does a hell of a charming job with it. Upon returning to his home, his family greets him, with his mother noting that the amount of support for her son has been amazing. She says she gets chills every time she sees a “Good Luck Nick” or “Vote for Nick” sign, since he worked so hard. Nick plays a little basketball, and visits his former school, where he gets to talk with Ted Kennedy, Jr., who hopes Nick never chooses to run for office. His hometown parade brings out an INSANE amount of people, with one police officer noting that, with over thirty years on the job, he’s never seen anything like this. Nick’s dad gets to perform with him, and it’s one of the most beautiful moments of the season, as he notes how proud he is to be Nick’s father. Nick calls it the best day of his life, and adds that he wants to win this not just for himself, but for his friends, family, and Guilford. Back in the studio, J-Lo wipes away tears. Yeah….so….Nick is winning this, isn’t he?

-Nick sings “Back Home” by Andy Grammer, and I think this is a brilliant song choice for his Hometown Dedication. Hell, at this point, I think it’s a brilliant choice to get him into the finale, since this sounds like a coronation song. Seriously, this could easily be his winner’s single, and I wouldn’t bat an eyelash in surprise. I actually liked his vocal on his first song better, but this is still a very good performance, particularly in how he works the stage and connects with the audience. I’m really impressed with how far Nick has come.

-J-Lo says it was another great song, and wonders how America is going to choose between these four finalists, since they’re the cream of the crop. Harry recalls Nick’s background story, and notes how close he came to not auditioning. Keith praises Nick and his father, with Nick noting that his dad is actually a big Keith Urban fan. This descends into a conversation about how good-looking Nick’s parents are, and honestly, they’re a handsome couple.

-And we keep things rolling along…

CLARK BECKHAM is up next!

-Clark arrives at 3rd and Broadway, and sings “When a Man Loves a Woman” for the crowd on the streets of Nashville. Much like Nick, Clark does the weather in his hometown, then visits his former school, noting how surreal this all is, considering his life has been Idol for the past several months. He plays soccer and meets a mob of people, telling them to come to the concert. He gets a video sent to him while in the limo, a shoutout from his old chorus group. They can’t be with him tonight, but they send his love. Clark visits his childhood home, and then thanks his parents for raising him the way they did. Clark recalls watching hometown visits when he was young, and imagining being up there. In the parade to his concert, Clark’s father is overcome with emotion, and Clark himself is similarly overcome when his choir surprises him (did anyone think they WEREN’T going to do that?). He says his dream is to do music for the rest of his life, and he thanks everyone for their support, hoping that he’ll be able to see this journey all the way through to the end. Another touching video package, but then, these things always are.

-Clark sings “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding, and it’s another solid performance. Not my favorite of his, but I like that he sat at the piano and just sang. His voice gets iffy in its upper register, but not so much that it hurt the overall feel of the song. He’s still a soulful guy, and his performances are compelling even when he’s just sitting there, playing the piano.

-Harry loves seeing Clark behind the scenes like in the video package. He feels it’s one of the first time he’s felt he knows who Clark is. “It was nice to see! Nice performance,” Harry adds. Keith wishes Clark added a little bit of struggle and humanity to his performances, noting that he’s a really great singer, but he wants a little more from Nick. Keith gets a very light, borderline nonexistent boo from the audience, causing Harry to get jealous about how much worse he gets booed than Keith. But this is all shunted off to the side as J-Lo declares that Clark did a beautiful job.

-You know, with all these hometown videos airing before eliminations, it’s going to make the results even more heartbreaking, in a way they’ve never been before. We see them visiting their hometown and carrying with them all the hopes of their friends and families, and the dream of reaching the finale. Then, instead of having a full day to process the possibility that they’re going home, they’re going to have the dream crushed before 10 o’clock eastern. That just plain sucks for them.

RAYVON OWEN is up next!

-We get a clip from Rayvon’s viewing party in his hometown as he’s declared safe last week, and his fans absolutely go NUTS! Dude is far more popular than I think we might be giving him credit for. He arrives home to enjoy “that sweet Virginia breeze” before heading to his local news station. He sings “Lean On Me” at the anchor desk, and it’s honestly one of his best vocals. Seriously. Rayvon goes to his childhood home, and is greeted by family and neighbors, before heading off to his old high school, which looks frighteningly like mine. As he heads to meet the Mayor of Richmond for his special dedication, Rayvon is downright mobbed by an influx of supporters, to the point that Rayvon himself can’t believe it. But what I can’t believe is the arrival of ELLIOTT YAMIN! He’s a surprise guest, congratulating Rayvon for making it this far, and recalling getting to go on hometown visits himself in Season 5. Yes, Elliott’s teeth are still on-point. As for his concert, Rayvon performs “Believe” for his mother, and she breaks down in tears. Later, in the limo, she notes how proud she is of her boy, and I’m trying not to get choked up. CUT IT OUT, IDOL! IT’S HARD TO BLOG THROUGH A FOG OF TEARS!

-Rayvon sings “As” by Stevie Wonder, one of his favorite songs, and one he’s performed for as long as he can remember. His familiarity with the song is evident from how comfortable and smooth this vocal is. This might be Rayvon’s most effortless performance in the competition. Hell, even his dancing looks natural. He did a great job here.

-Keith loved it, right down to Rayvon’s pants, which he has no idea how Rayvon is pulling off. J-Lo loves Rayvon’s silky vocals and smooth tone, while Harry loved seeing Rayvon move more, particularly in his high school gymnasium. After the performance, Harry decides to take over the show again by asking Ryan if he’s ever been booed, and then getting the audience to boo him. If this show wasn’t going at such a great pace tonight, I’d be far more annoyed by this.

-Back from break, as Clark, Rayvon and Nick make a Ford-themed Vine video with magician and Vine personality Zach King. It’s actually pretty amusing, with Zach pulling them out of the car by ripping it away like a tablecloth.

JAX is up next!

-Jax is eager to see her family after landing in New Jersey, and she even gets a police escort to accompany her home. She fights tears upon visiting her family at home, and her father gives her a pep talk about how proud he is of her, comparing her to Seabiscuit in how she refuses to lose. She returns to her high school, and is met by the second biggest crowd of the hometown visits. She starts crying while in the middle of the crowd, and struggles to keep it together, and now I’m starting to get choked up. THE STRUGGLE IS SO REAL, YOU GUYS. In the auditorium, Jax asks her fans if they think she can win American Idol, and they SCREAM for her. In the parade, Jax’s dad drives the convertible while Jax chills in the back with her brother and her incredulous mom, who is already in tears to see how people are responding to her daughter. At the concert, she sings “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” and it’s absolutely gorgeous, by virtue of just being a simple piano ballad. The fans chant her name, and Jax can’t believe it, saying they didn’t even know her name before, and now they’re going crazy. Back in the studio, Ryan notes that he has chills, and notes that Jax’s brother could probably get used to riding shotgun in the limos. Jax responds by saying that her brother actually promised to wear a suit from the Ryan Seacrest collection if she makes the finale. For once, Ryan seems genuinely taken aback, in a pleasant way. I kind of loved that.

-Jax sings “My Immortal” by Evanescence, a song I’m surprised more people haven’t done on shows like this. She plays the piano, and while this is far from my favorite performance of hers, considering there are a few pitch problems, I think there’s a rawness and emotion here that is stunning. I just love Jax’s artistry and her emotional connection to each and every song, and this was no different. The sequins/lights under the piano were a bit distracting, but the performance was a real moment for Jax, I thought.

-J-Lo feels there’s a humility and confidence in what Jax does that is integral to being a superstar. Her restraint is beautiful, even when going “against giants.” She could have done the biggest song in the world, but she remained true to herself, and J-Lo thinks she’s amazing. Harry says he doesn’t know how to praise Jax any more eloquently than J-Lo did, so he’s passing his time to Keith. Then he does a mock bit in which he gets mad at Keith for interrupting him, which has the ironic side effect of leaving Keith with no time to speak. Who will win American Harry XIV?

-Ryan asks who won Round 2, and Keith actually gives it to Rayvon. And, believe it or not, I agree with him.

IT’S TIME FOR ROUND THREE, YA’LL!

-Clark is up first, singing a song from the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack.

CLARK BECKHAM opens round three!

-J-Lo reveals her choice for Clark: “Earned It” by The Weeknd, and honestly, this is a song I wish Clark had done sooner in the competition. I think it’s current in a way that doesn’t compromise his soul stylings.

-This is one of Clark’s best performances. He just dug right into this, showing grit and passion in ways he hasn’t before. I was just so impressed with what he did here. It also helps that he looks the part, wearing a dapper, Christian Grey-like suit, which I’m certain is intentional. His falsetto was killer, and while it probably could have stood to be less intense, I thought this was a brilliant performance.

-Harry liked it, but feels Clark needs to find a way to dial back on the intensity, to find a way to deliver that same passion in a subtler, quieter fashion. Keith agrees somewhat, but notes that he actually really liked Clark on this. J-Lo feels there’s a huge difference between The Weeknd’s version and Clark’s version, and she liked both for different reasons. She praises Clark for delivering that vocal in his own signature style. And I agree. This wasn’t a copycat performance at all. Afterwards, Ryan compliments Clark on his style, and yeah, they’re pretty much twins now. Maybe Julianne Hough will start dating Clark too?

RAYVON OWEN is up next!

-Keith is the one in charge of picking Rayvon’s song, so he’s given him “You Are So Beautiful” by the late, great Joe Cocker. The crowd audibly swoons when they hear this song choice, which makes me think he might actually have a shot at Top 3, presuming his fanbase is really as big as it seems. I would imagine he’d pick up Tyanna’s fanbase from last week, which should give him an extra little boost.

-I don’t love the arrangement, since it makes the song more haunting and dark. This is something Quentin would do, but it doesn’t seem right for Rayvon. That said, he sounds absolutely magnificent on this, and the arrangement actually softens up a bit.

-Keith thought Rayvon sounded beautiful, and praises him on the arrangement. J-Lo liked it too, but wishes he would have sang it to his mother again, since something different happens when he sings to her. Harry disagrees, saying he thought Rayvon did deliver the emotion. He then asks who came up with the idea to re-harmonize the beginning of the song. Rayvon says it was he and musician Tim who re-did it. Harry thought it was a brilliant call to keep the melody but change the chords underneath it. Maybe it’ll grow on me after a re-listen.

JAX is up next!

-The judges reveal that they picked “Misery Business” by Paramore for Jax, which is a surprisingly apt pick for her. Ryan then plays off of the twin connections between himself and Jax’s brother, giving him a suit coat from the Ryan Seacrest Collection, and allowing him to introduce his sister. And he…actually does a really good job introducing her, believe it or not.

-I thought it was genius to have Jax basically buck expectations by not doing a full rock arrangement of this song. The acoustic rendition helps it feel new, unique, and unmistakably Jax, without compromising the feel of the original. I can’t say enough how impressed I was by this. I really hope Jax is safe tonight, because she’s the one singer whom I feel has delivered on all three songs. This competition NEEDS her, and I think tonight’s trio of performances more or less proves that.

-Keith thought Jax sang brilliantly, but he didn’t like the arrangement at all. J-Lo gets where he’s coming from though, saying that they picked the song for her to dig into it more. Harry didn’t like it as much as Jax’s other two songs, saying she used to guitarist as a crutch, leaning on him and looking at him, instead of leading the vocal and commanding the stage like a lead singer should. I couldn’t POSSIBLY disagree more, but whatever. I’m mostly over it at this point.

-And now, a commercial break, and then Nick closes the show. Yeah, Nick isn’t going anywhere.

NICK FRADIANI closes the show!

-Keith announces that Nick’s song is “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain, somehow trying to sell the notion that it’s a song not a lot of people may know, despite that being one of the most overdone songs in Idol history. Then again, maybe it’s just that I’m 29 (hey, just like Nick!) and it’s inconceivable to me that people wouldn’t know the songs I grew up with. Getting old sucks.

-Nick sounds great on this, although there’s something missing from it, for me. It just seems emotionally hollow, and it looks like he’s struggling to get through it. Worse than that, actually, it looks like he’s rushing to get through it. Sounds that way too. This really wasn’t bad, but Nick is way better than this performance. That said, I still don’t expect him to suffer for it with his fans.

-Harry thinks Nick sang the “underbelly” of the lyrics, and thought he really nailed the emotional meaning of that song. Keith has always pictured Nick as a gruff singer/songwriter, and feels if that were Nick’s original song, it’d be a hit. J-Lo loved it, and says it feels as though Nick up and decided five weeks ago that he could win this, and just decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it. I actually agree. There’s a clear growth to Nick that’s been fairly compelling to watch.

-Ryan asks Harry which contestant he thought won the round. He says Nick, meaning Clark is the only one who didn’t “win” a round. At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I think it’s a total bus job on the judges’ part.

RESULTS

-After some general chat from the judges about how talented this group is, we get to the results…

Ryan reads the names…

NICK FRADIANI IS SAFE!

CLARK BECKHAM IS SAFE!

JAX IS SAFE!

RAYVON OWEN IS ELIMINATED FROM AMERICAN IDOL XIV!

-Rayvon’s farewell package, illustrating how far he came and how hard he fought to remain here is making ME proud of him, and I’m not even his mother! After the package airs, his mother comes onstage and gives him a big hug, and it’s a beautiful moment that has me a wee bit choked up. What? I’m overly sentimental!

-And that’s a wrap! What did you think of tonight’s performances? How about tonight’s result? Who will be in the finale of American Idol XIV? Sound off in the comments! Until next week, thanks for reading and hanging out!

For more on American Idol XIV: American Idol XIV

And for future updates, follow me on Twitter: @NickRomanTV

GOODNIGHT!

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