American Idol

American Idol XIV Top 7 Revealed + Performance Recap (VIDEO)

Welcome to the live blog and recap for American Idol XIV, “Top 7 Perform”! Tonight, the Idols tackle the most popular songs from the Billboard Hot 100!

Jason Derulo and Florida Georgia Line are the guest mentors as the Idols choose popular songs from different years. Once again, the song spoilers for tonight’s show don’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence, but I’ve been surprised before. Here’s hoping these contestants are able to deliver something unique.

But back to business: which singer will be going home tonight?

As of press time, Rickey.org readers predict it will be the end of the road for Qaasim Middleton. He topped the poll with 60.45% of the vote, eclipsing the next closest competitor, Rayvon Owen, who polled with 17.27% of the vote. Of course, if Qaasim and Rayvon ARE the bottom 2, it’s going to lead to yet another situation where they’ll be forced to sing for the save. Yes, the Twitter Fan Save is back! Both men have benefited from a save in the past, with Qaasim earning the Judges’ Save and Rayvon earning the Fan Save last week, but if they are the Bottom 2, there will be no more saves for one of them. The Bottom 2 will have a sing-off, America will vote on Twitter, and the person with the fewest votes leaves in eighth place. But WILL it be Qaasim vs. Rayvon? Or are we in for a surprise? 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 7 Revealed + Performance Recap (VIDEO)

Credit: FOX

Let’s get this show on the road!

RECAP

-The judges are introduced, followed by the contestants. Despite the purple hair, this is the most Joey has ever looked like Sia. Not that this is a complaint. Her shoes look like an absolute nightmare to wear though. Then again, I’m a guy, so I probably would think so.

We then follow it up with a video package on our guest mentors, Jason Derulo and Florida Georgia Line, two artists I find obnoxiously prolific. But I guess they’re successful for a reason, so good on them, I guess. Scott Borchetta introduces the mentors to the finalists, and they get busy with a mentoring session, split four-and-four. Tyanna, Clark, Joey and Quentin pair off with Jason while the rest team up with Florida Georgia Line. I’m not sure who’s getting the short end of the stick here. Jason and FGL bring out the results envelope and have a little chat with Ryan Seacrest, since we have eight performances to stretch out over two hours. Well, ten if you count Jason and FGL.

-Ryan reveals the first result of the evening: JAX IS SAFE!

JAX opens the show!

-Jax reveals she’ll be singing “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga. Florida Georgia Line suggests keeping closer to the original melody of the song so that America can better recognize it. But they’re confident she’ll knock it out of the ballpark. However, Scott Borchetta notes that Jax has been compared to Lady Gaga by a lot of people, so she’ll need to be distinctive enough for people to recognize that they just saw Jax perform. Before the performance, Harry calls Jax very raw, which…I mean, I guess I can see where he’s coming from, but I think she’s one of the more polished artists in the competition, particularly for how young she is.

-Jax impresses with a really interesting version. Sure, it doesn’t sound a single loving thing like the original, but I like it a lot. Jax has such a wonderful voice, and an incredible stage presence that makes her riveting to watch even when she’s mostly just standing still. I also thought the fun behind the performance just poured out of her, with all of her smiles and excitement and enthusiasm. That said, J-Lo looks a bit annoyed by this, for some reason. And if that’s the best she can do to hide it, then she probably isn’t as good an actress as she thinks she is.

-Keith thought it was an interesting arrangement, and praises her for making the song her own. J-Lo is all for originality, but she thinks there’s a line where it gets dangerous. She doesn’t know if she could hear that version on the radio, and says she couldn’t relate to it musically at all. She knows Jax is one of the favorites and is super popular, but she doesn’t want Jax to go so far left that people don’t get it. Harry doesn’t have a problem with taking an arrangement all the way to the left, but he does have a problem with not fully owning it once you do. He tells her she needs to completely inhabit the emotional space of a song, saying that what she did onstage didn’t match the song. I can’t say I agree with anyone but Keith, since it seemed like they were going out of their way to find something critical to say.

-Back from break, as Jax shouts out to the Jax Pack and the Little Monsters, and then tells America not to forget to vote.

Ryan then reveals Result #2: NICK FRADIANI IS SAFE!

Somehow, I just knew it would be Nick. His continued success should really confuse me far more than it does, but for some reason, I’m just never shocked when he advances. He’s pulling an under-the-radar Kris Allen run here.

NICK FRADIANI is up next!

-Nick is singing “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry, and Florida Georgia Line comes up with a solid idea to add a half-time beat to the arrangement. Scott hopes Nick’s time with FGL will help him come out of his shell and “attack the stage” more. Before the performance, Harry expresses confusion over just why Nick would sing “Teenage Dream,” but he’s taking a wait-and-see approach, hoping Nick can do something cool with it.

-Not my favorite Nick vocal, but I love the arrangement. I still maintain that Nick is a dark horse candidate to go really far. I mean, he’s obviously appealing to SOMEBODY if he we’re at Top 7 and he hasn’t really ever found himself in danger. The vocal goes full rock in places, and his voice wavers as he attempts to keep above the band. But the band is just too loud in spots. Still, I enjoyed the spirit of it, and I think Nick is really coming along nicely in the competition.

-J-Lo felt that was so good, noting that this is how you change a song and make it your own in the best possible way. She says that’s a version she actually could hear on the radio today (sounds like an obnoxious shot at Jax). Harry didn’t think the arrangement was that great, actually. He wishes Nick would sing something with grittier lyrics, since he has an intensity underneath his sweetness. J-Lo doesn’t understand how Harry didn’t like that, and Keith shares that confusion, since he thought Nick did an awesome job making it his own. He notes that it was a killer song choice for Nick. After the performance, Ryan asks what Katy Perry song Harry would sing if he could. He says he thinks he could sing the hell out of “Teenage Dream,” and this prompts the judges and the crowd to dare him to sing it. He eventually gives in, gets onstage, and sings it onstage with Nick, in a moment that I think is going to endear Nick to a lot of people. Of course, Harry then runs with it and goes over-the-top with the song, ad-libbing since he doesn’t actually know the lyrics. But Nick wins huge points by telling Harry, afterwards, that that wasn’t his best performance. You know what? I wouldn’t mind if Nick lasted a long-ass time in this competition. I think he should at least outlast Qaasim and Rayvon, at this point. And maybe even Quentin too, if Quentin refuses to change up from all his dark, brooding vocals.

WATCH: Nick Fradiani gets assist from Harry Connick Jr. on ‘Teenage Dream’ on American Idol Top 7

-Back from break, Nick thanks America so much for voting him through yet again. He then apologizes to Harry and says that while it was a subpar performance, he’ll get’em again next week. Okay, I love Nick.

JASON DERULO

-Jason sings his new single, “Want to Want Me”, and honestly, it sounds like virtually every other Jason Derulo song he’s released in the last five years. He’s one of those guys whose success completely and utterly perplexes me. He’s a good singer, but man, he goes way the hell over the top with all these runs, and his R&B tracks have this weird electronic/80s feel to them that just doesn’t do anything for me. But he seems like a decent guy, so kudos to him on all his success. That said, I think it’s telling that this is the first guest act of the season that the judges didn’t stand up for. Then again, I read way too much into everything. I mean, it’s my job, but still. Jason notes he’ll be a part of this season of So You Think You Can Dance before shouting out his dancers in a sweet little moment. Again, cool guy, but his music doesn’t get it done for me.

-Ryan reveals Result #3: QUENTIN ALEXANDER IS SAFE!

QUENTIN ALEXANDER is up next!

-Quentin will be singing “Latch” by Disclosure featuring Sam Smith, and Jason feels Quentin isn’t making use of his full vocal range. Quentin is impressed with Jason, saying he pulled notes out of him that he didn’t know were there. Before the performance, J-Lo says “Latch” is one of her favorite Sam Smith songs, and she’s interested to see if he’ll do the uptempo version or the ballad. She hopes it’s the uptempo, since that would be more of a risk for him. I agree wholeheartedly, although now I’m really wondering what Rayvon is going to sing. I would have bet the farm on Rayvon doing the ballad version of this track.

-This was my least favorite Quentin performance so far. I like how he works the stage, and is generally more lively and active onstage than he’s been in weeks past. But the vocal isn’t there as well as it could have been, in my opinion. I think Harry is right about how Quentin needs to work more on the technique of it all. I like Quentin, but he’s sort of wearing on me.

-Harry likes Quentin’s style, and feels he’s a really good rhythmic singer, noting that he manages to find the pocket of a song pretty easily. He still feels there are pitch issues and technique issues, but he liked it overall. Keith agrees, and gives kudos to Jason for bringing those notes out of him. J-Lo calls Quentin an artist with a capital A, and while it wasn’t perfect, she still thought it was a great song choice for him. Ryan asks Quentin about his fashion, and Quentin calls it a “big ball of thoughts,” saying he’s a “visualist” and that there’s a story in his head when he combines fashion with performance. Harry speaks for me: “What are we talking about?”

FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE

-Florida Georgia Line performs their new single, “Sippin’ On Fire”, and it’s probably the most I’ve liked any song by them. It sounds like a modern country song, as opposed to one of those party tracks that shoehorns a rapper into it just because. Much like Jason, they seem like cool guys, so I can’t really hate on them, even though I don’t care for their music. I also had no idea they were so young either. Both under 30.

Anyway, onto Result #4: JOEY COOK IS SAFE!

JOEY COOK is up next!

-Joey reveals she’ll be singing “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus…WITHOUT CHANGING THE ARRANGEMENT. This could be great though, although Jason warns Joey about staying trapped in her own world, from how she keeps her eyes shut to her “crab hands” in each and every vocal. Joey feels like this is a “make or break” week for her, since she needs to be able to show she’s current and capable of being on the radio. Ah well, even if she doesn’t win, she could have a future with Postmodern Jukebox like so many other Idol contestants from the past.

-The verses are stunningly lovely, and the chorus went far better than I thought it would, honestly. I always love Joey, no matter what she does, but I was worried her voice would thin out on the high notes of the chorus. But she navigates those notes well, making vocal choices that allow her to keep the melody in the pocket. The energy was a bit subdued though, so it looks like I’ll be voting my ass off for her tonight to make sure she’s safe next week. So…yeah, no change from my usual routine.

-Keith felt Joey held back a bit on the chorus, but says the verses were so good that he liked it anyway. J-Lo says Joey is the epitome of “different,” noting that we have a very diverse roster this year. She thinks it lacked power, but loves the quality of Joey’s voice, saying she stands apart. Harry agrees, saying that even when Joey does an arrangement that’s similar, it still sounds different. That said, he thought it was just an okay vocal, and hoped it had been a half a step higher to force her to step out of her vocal comfort zone. He got a bit bored toward the end, and wished she’d moved a bit more and made use of the physical space, since the performance never really went anywhere. Still, he does like Joey a lot. After the performance, Ryan asks about the arrangement, and Joey explains that she didn’t change it because she wanted to prove she could be good even without changing things up. I think she’s already good even without the jazzy arrangements, but I hope she doesn’t shy away from those arrangements in the future. Sometimes, it’s okay to do what’s expected if the expected is good.

-Back from break as Joey thanks America and her fiance looks bored in the audience.

Ryan reveals result #5: CLARK BECKHAM IS SAFE!

CLARK BECKHAM is up next!

-Jason says that when Clark sings, it’s almost like a prayer that’s for himself. Clark loves Jason’s point about singing being like preaching, since he grew up in the church. He’ll be singing “Make It Rain” by Ed Sheeran, which is the perfect song for that spiritual sensibility. Clark says he needs to be vulnerable and connect with the emotion of the song this week, while Scott declares that Jason gave some of the best mentoring this season. Before the performance, Keith once again stresses how vital it will be for Clark to connect with the emotion of the track.

-I thought Clark had a hell of a moment with this. It was very soulful and almost spiritual. I feel Clark is really beginning to embrace the performance aspect of all of this, thanks to that “treat singing like preaching” advice from Jason. I still prefer “Every Breath You Take” for his performance of the season so far, but I think vocals like this are going to be what gets him to the finale, far more so than working the stage, loosening his collar, or mussing up his hair. Loving the electric guitar chops on this.

-J-Lo thought it was an outstanding performance, but says the rest of the package has to match it, because he could make the finale, but he won’t if he doesn’t commit to the rest of the package. She suggests even something as simple as popping his collar or dropping the guitar strap a little lower, since he needs to be memorable beyond his vocals. Harry agrees, feeling it was good but could have been great, since he needs to loosen up a bit more. He even though Clark could have left the guitar at home. Keith co-signs, but notes that Clark did sound really great. After the performance, Harry once again notes that any of these contestants could win this, but they can’t afford to drop the ball even once.

WATCH: Clark Beckham sings ‘Make It Rain’ on American Idol Top 7

-Back from break as Jax says she may have peed a little after learning Lady Gaga just saw her performance. Nick is freaked out and backs the hell away from her in an amusing moment. Then, Ryan throws to yet another pair of guest performers…

JENNIFER HUDSON AND IGGY AZALEA

-They perform their new song, “Trouble”, and this is the most I’ve liked any Iggy song since “Problem”. This song is outrageously catchy, sounding like a throwback, but with a modern beat underneath it. I’m loving this, actually. It’s also good to see J-Hud performing on one of these shows in a context that isn’t “Hey, it’s a finale, can you sing ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’ with our third-place finisher?” After the performance, Ryan greets both stars, but doesn’t really chat with either of them. I guess we’re in rush mode now.

-Back from break, as Ryan confirms the news that only the Top 5 will be going on the summer tour. Honestly, people have been treating this as some sort of tragic news, but really, I didn’t even think there would BE a tour this year. So I guess that’s something…

Anyway, Ryan reveals Result #6: TYANNA JONES IS SAFE!

TYANNA JONES is up next!

-Tyanna says she’ll be singing “Stay” by Rihanna, and instead of thinking of a relationship, she’ll be thinking of her late grandmother. She says she can really imagine her grandmother when she sings this song, and Tyanna fights back tears when saying she feels her grandmother singing to the angels about her as they speak. Such a darling moment, although Scott Borchetta is right when he says that Tyanna’s vocals are often so effortless that she doesn’t really push herself to go beyond that. However, Jason thinks Tyanna is great, pointing out the maturity of her voice despite her youth. I agree with both opinions. Before the performance, J-Lo is glad Tyanna is singing “Stay,” since she feels this will help Tyanna find herself again.

-I think the orchestral arrangement is GORGEOUS, although I hate it when this song is performed on talent shows, because they always skip right to “Funny you’re the broken one” and skip over “Oooo, The reason I hold on,” resulting in a song that doesn’t flow anywhere near as well. It’s just such an awkward transition. Still, this is easily Tyanna’s best performance since “Tightrope,” in my opinion. She struggles not to break down towards the end, and it results in a poignant, emotional moment as she lets it all out once the song is over.

-Harry applauds her for keeping her emotions in check, and says she delivered an absolutely beautiful performance. Keith agrees with Jason that Tyanna has such maturity to her voice. He adds that if that were an original song for her, she sang it so well that it would be an instant hit. J-Lo feels Tyanna has found herself again after several weeks of struggling, and I agree. This was great stuff from Tyanna, and it could completely revive her run in this competition.

-Of course, this now means that Rickey.org readers were spot-on: Rayvon and Qaasim are the Bottom 2. Who will get the fan save? I’m guessing Qaasim, although I think the person who’s saved is gone next week anyway.

-Back from break, and Tyanna thanks America and expresses how thrilled she is to have America see this side of her. She feels her grandmother’s spirit watching over her, and…man, how could you not wanna vote for Tyanna after that?

RAYVON OWEN is up next!

-Rayvon is singing “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele, saying he wants to give some “gravy” to America. Scott suggests Rayvon “sing it from the groove” to change it up a bit, and Florida Georgia Line suggests some falsetto. I’m guessing they haven’t seen his past performances to know that his falsetto isn’t exactly something he brings out rarely. But still, it could be a good performance nonetheless. I do feel a bit bad for Rayvon as he has to stand there and listen to Scott’s live critique in the audience with Ryan, saying that this showdown is between a great technical singer who hasn’t been a great performer, versus a great performer who hasn’t been a great technical singer.

-I like the arrangement and the vocal, although I don’t necessarily love either. I think Rayvon is growing a lot as an onstage performer, but it’s coming a bit too late to really save him. I mean, he might survive tonight, but he has another week, at most. It’s a fine vocal though. That said, did he miss a lyric towards the end? I couldn’t tell if he missed it or if the band swallowed it up, since I had trouble hearing him in places. Still, Rayvon did his best here, and I can’t fault that.

-Keith felt that was the performance of a man singing for his life, and although he felt something was missing in the chorus, he still thought Rayvon did a good job. J-Lo agrees, saying that he really sang his butt off, even though she isn’t sure it was the best song for him. Harry asks Rayvon what his “gravy” is, and he responds by saying that his passion is to inspire people, and to give all glory to God for the gift He’s given him. Afterwards, Ryan comes in to talk with Rayvon, and Harry gets on Ryan’s case for not being as passionate as Rayvon just was. Ryan comes back with a killer, self-effacing observation: “I’ve made a living being boring.”

WATCH: Rayvon Owen brings the gravy to ‘Set Fire To The Rain’ on American Idol Top 7

QAASIM MIDDLETON closes the show!

-Qaasim is still down from last week, since he felt it was the worst performance he’s ever had in his life. He’ll be singing “Hey Ya” by Outkast this week, and Scott notes that any time there’s been a guest mentor, they’re always fascinated by Qaasim. For his part, Qaasim is looking for redemption, calling this performance his surprise “left hook” that could provide the knockout. It’s as if he knew he’d be in the sing-off when he recorded that soundbite.

-Honestly, this is a FAR better vocal than I thought it would be. In fact, I liked it way more than Rayvon’s. It’s just a more complete performance, with the dancing, the showmanship, and the surprisingly adept technical prowess. Seriously, I absolutely LOVED this, and while I can’t go as far as to say it’s the best performance of the night, it was easily my favorite. I like Rayvon, but I know who I’m voting to save.

-J-Lo says it’s no secret that she’s a huge fan of Qaasim’s, and says that while that was a big song, she thinks he once again wowed them all. Harry feels American Idol is lucky to have Qaasim, as the show looks for someone like him year in and year out. He says the vocal wasn’t too dissimilar from “Andre 18000” but he thought it was still great for him. Keith says that as far as singing goes, he knows how to make the most of each performance by making it a part of a complete package. He tells Qaasim he’s “so entertaining”. At the end, J-Lo adds in a defense for Qaasim’s vocals, saying he has a great voice and that he’s such a great performer that it often gets overshadowed.

-Back from break as Ryan has a final chat with Qaasim and Rayvon. He then throws to J-Lo who says the guys are both incredibly talented, adding that they’ve both left their imprint and made their impact on America.

-Ryan reveals the final result…

RAYVON OWEN IS SAFE!

QAASIM MIDDLETON IS ELIMINATED FROM AMERICAN IDOL XIV!

Wow. I’m legitimately surprised by that. So has this now been the most wasted Judges’ Save in Idol history? It only bought him, what, three more weeks?

-And that’s a wrap! What do you think of the result? Did the right singer earn the save? Sound off in the comments! Until next week, thanks for reading and hanging out! It’s been great!

GOODNIGHT!

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