American Idol XIV Top 11 Revealed + Performance Recap (VIDEO)
Welcome to the live blog and recap for American Idol XIV, “Top 12 Perform”! Tonight, we learn which 11 singers have advanced based on America’s vote, and which unfortunate singer will be going home after having JUST made it into the Top 12.
But that’s not all, as tonight’s show will feature an appearance by Empire’s Taraji P. Henson and a performance by co-stars Jussie Smollett and Brashere Gray. But which singer will face elimination?
In order from most likely to least, Rickey.org readers predict that Daniel Seavey will be eliminated. He polled with 32.1% of the votes. Joining him in the Bottom 3 based on readers’ predictions are Adanna Duru (19.74%) and Maddie Walker (10.8%). But it’s early in the competition, so anything can happen! It’s not too late to vote in the poll, so follow the link and have at it!
Tonight, the Top 11 “Get the Party Started” with a party songs theme, and if you’re curious about who will be singing what, check out the Top 11 Song Spoilers.
Keep it locked right here as I’ll be updating with commentary, analysis, and videos of tonight’s performances!
Let’s get this show on the road!
-We open with a video recap on the Top 12 show, and I can’t help but laugh at Harry being edited to tell Daniel he was impressive last night. The “impressive” comment was about how he’d been impressive just about every other time they’d seen him BUT last night. Still, I did find it kind of adorable how stoked Daniel was to hit the red carpet with the rest of the finalists.
-Ryan Seacrest introduces the Judges, and for once, Harry is the one underdressed, wearing a pair of dark jeans and a simple black t-shirt that reads “You’re Talented”. Expect that T-shirt to come up in a LOT of his critiques tonight. But before we get to any of that, it’s time for results. And who better to hand over the envelope than Taraji P. Henson.
I LOVE TARAJI P. HENSON!
Okay, I’m over flipping out. She’s just my favorite. She teases the finale for Empire by saying Cooki isn’t the only member of the Lyon family who’s had to serve time. Interesting.
Anyway, we get the results, as each Idol’s chair is red. When they’re called to the stage, the chair will turn green, signifying that they’re safe. I really, really, REALLY hate these one-by-one results. Just cut someone at the start and move on, sheesh. I mean, I get why they do it, because it keeps people watching for the whole show. But it’s just obnoxious, to me.
Anyway, Ryan reads Result #1: RAYVON OWEN IS SAFE!
-In the video, Scott Borchetta offers his critique of Rayvon, saying that while he’s a great pop singer with a good sense of who he is, he’ll need to step up more. This is followed-up with an in-set video from Harry in which he also critiques Rayvon for no discernible reason. Seriously, I don’t get the point of any of this. Let the man sing, then say stuff about him. Sheesh.
-Rayvon sings “Burn” by Ellie Goulding, and while I didn’t love it at the beginning, I thought this picked up tons of energy and groove as it continued on. The dude does three-quarters of the song in his falsetto, and I just find it really impressive. He’s a total package artist. A bit off-topic, but I have to add, I love that they’re scaling back the whole “Half of Every Performance Has the Camera Focused on J-Lo” garbage from last season. The camera glances at J-Lo, but it’s not like we focus on her for what feels like years at a time, like before.
-Keith thought it was a killer song choice for Rayvon, and he loves watching contestants progress from week-to-week. He felt this was Rayvon’s best performance, and while it was certainly good, I wouldn’t say all that. J-Lo agrees with Keith, saying it was the best they’ve seen from Rayvon. Harry thinks Rayvon did a good job, but warns him against always climaxing at the end. He recommends that Rayvon spread out the high notes so that there’s more of an arc to each performance.
-After the break, Rayvon talks about how excited he was to get voted through, and shouts that it’s a party in here. That certainly seems to be the case with all these balloons everywhere.
-Anyway, Ryan Seacrest moves on and reveals Result #2: MADDIE WALKER IS SAFE!
-Scott Borchetta says that Maddie is a future country star, but Scott still wants her to work hard. We see them working on the track in rehearsals, and Maddie explains that she’ll be singing “She’s Country” by Jason Aldean because it’s country, but with a rock edge, which America needs to see from her. Before the song, a video from Keith reveals that he’s stoked to hear her sing a Jason Aldean song, ebcause we need to jam as much filler into these two hours as possible, I guess.
-Maddie does a really solid rendition of “She’s Country”. I mean, the song is kind of in one gear, with no real build. But Maddie does a good job working the stage and showing personality in the track. I can see what the judges saw in her before, since she does exude this inexplicable star quality. I don’t LOVE this or anything, but I do think it’s good enough to get Maddie through another week. At least for now, although I could easily see some of the other contestants surpassing this.
-J-Lo says she’s always kind of surprised by how strong Maddie’s vocals are. She knows Maddie can sing, but she’s continually taken aback at just how well. Harry says Maddie definitely can sing, but notes that he’s glad that it’s a two-hour show since it gives them time to chat. He talks about how she imitates too much, and while I’m not sure I completely agree with that assessment, I can definitely see where he’s coming from there. Keith praises Maddie on her performance, but warns her against being too focused on how to stand/pose and work the stage. Afterwards, Ryan lets America know that Maddie was sick and in a lot of pain earlier today, because apparently it’s not enough that she’s getting 100% of the country vote already.
-We keep things moving along with Result #3: JOEY COOK IS SAFE! YAAAAASSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!
-Scott Borchetta asks her about the experience so far, and she says they’re all surrounded by such talented people that their only role is to be a sponge and learn as much as they can. Before the performance, Harry says he’s excited to hear Joey’s take on “Fancy,” but warns against her not seeming like she belongs in a song like this.
-Joey sings “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX, and this instantly becomes one of my favorite performances of the season. She goes sultry with this, like a lounge singer, but it retains her quirky, original quality that makes her so compelling to watch. If I have one criticism, it’s that she keeps her eyes closed practically through the entire thing. Open up those eyes, Joey! They’re gorgeous! But yeah, the crowd pretty much loses its mind, in particular one girl behind Keith towards the start of the song. I love this. And I love her.
-Harry gives her an A+, saying the arrangement was brilliant, and she sang it incredibly well. He feels Joey is starting to believe in herself on that stage, and Joey agrees that she is. Keith, who gave her a standing ovation, says Joey pulls people in, and he’s drawn to her like a moth to the flame. He loves that she made the song her own, noting that she continues to show more facets of herself. J-Lo loved that Joey picked such a mainstream song and put her own stamp on it, but again, she comes back to the “I’d like to hear more of the melody” critique. I get it, for sure, but I don’t even feel like “Fancy” has much of a melody in the first place. After the performance, Joey credits the arrangement to Postmodern Jukebox, which I LOVE.
-After break, Joey says she can’t believe she just did that. She takes her handful of seconds to promote Maddie Walker, saying how proud she is of her friend, and telling America to please vote for someone, anyone. “Please support us, because we’re all chasing a dream.” What a beautiful speech. Seriously.
-But now we’re back to the next Empire cross-promotion segment…
BRYSHERE GRAY AND JUSSIE SMOLLET
-The fictional brothers perform the Empire theme song, “No Apologies,” and I swear, Jussie Smollett and Rayvon Owen could be related. It’s a pretty short performance, but I LOVE the full band arrangement. It’s got such a great vibe to it, and both Bryshere and Jussie are amazing talents.
-After the performance, Ryan reveals Result #4: CLARK BECKHAM IS SAFE!
-Scott feels Clark is one of the best singers in this entire competition, and he’s delivered a lot. But he feels Clark is holding back a bit by sticking only in his wheelhouse, and not pushing himself beyond the old fashioned types of songs he usually does. I agree completely, but then, it’s kind of early in the competition to take huge risks. Just go the Kris Allen route and stay in your wheelhouse until the midway point, then EXPLODE with originality. That said, I wouldn’t wait too long, if I were Clark. Before the performance, Keith shouts out Clark’s Nashville connection, and says Clark is one of his favorites.
-Clark does “Taking It to the Streets” by the Doobie Brothers, and yeah, I’m beginning to worry he’ll be more Taylor Hicks than Kris Allen if he doesn’t back off the classics soon. This wasn’t Clark’s best, but really, it wasn’t bad at all. I love Clark’s voice, and he seems so vibrant with energy while sitting at the piano. I just want to see Clark move forward and grow in the competition. Even if this is how his album is going to sound, I want to see Clark go a bit farther outside his comfort zone.
-Keith thought Clark was great, and even talked to his wife, Nicole Kidman, about him. She loves Clark’s voice and was thrilled to learn he can play piano too. Keith reiterates that he thinks Clark is great, but says he wants to feel something more from Clark, like there’s something he’s trying to get out. J-Lo agrees that he needs more feeling and performance, but she notes that he sounded great. Harry actually likes that Clark doesn’t perform, in the traditional sense. He’s such an introspective performer that it makes him compelling to watch, like Ray Charles. It wasn’t his favorite performance from Clark, but Harry tells him to keep doing what he’s doing regardless. After the performance, Clark talks about his connection to the song, and I get it a bit more now, even though I’d have taken advantage of this theme to do something a little more current.
-Back from break, and Clark says he loved playing piano with the band. He’s going to take the judges’ criticism to heart, and pleads with America to vote for him.
-Meanwhile, Ryan Seacrest reveals Result #5: JAX IS SAFE!
-Scott says Jax is the epitome of all the great things about the 80s, mashed up into 2015. He thinks she has everything it takes to be a star. Jax chose “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift because she feels it’s an anthem at the moment, and she hopes she’ll get everyone at home singing along in their living rooms. Before the performance, Harry warns her about singing a super popular song, saying she needs to fit into the groove. Basically, the same critique he offered for Joey. Why aren’t the guys getting critiqued like this, man? Come on now…
-Jax goes with a more rock-fueled arrangement here, and I think it’s a pretty smart move. That said, it’s probably her weakest vocal so far. It’s not bad, but she seems a bit quiet when she should be more forceful. Of course, she does a great job working the stage, even swiping the hat off a guy in the audience and messing with his hair, in a fun little moment. This wasn’t perfect, but I’m still all about Jax.
-J-Lo says that Jax has a lot of fans, but didn’t feel it was her best performance, since she got a bit swallowed up by the band. She tells her to be careful about the songs she chooses in the future. Harry feels one of her talents is taking an old song and making it new, and taking a new song and making it feel classic. But he felt this was too much of a copycat version. Keith kind of agrees with what they’re saying, and even points out that she ended up singing the harmony part for a moment, which suggests she should have changed the key a bit. You know, this is the first I think I’ve agreed with all three judges’ critiques all season. I still love Jax though. Seriously.
-After the performance, Ryan obnoxiously asks Scott Borchetta to tell us a bunch of Taylor Swift stories, like why she’s relevant and why she sang “Blank Space” in the first place. It reminds me of how I’d act in college every time I got the slightest bit tipsy at the bars. I’d let everyone within earshot know I went to school with her, like anyone actually gave half a damn about any of that. I felt the same way with Scott here. Let’s just keep this show moving, friend.
-Back from break, and Jax is a ball of energy as she talks about how thrilled she was to perform on the stage. You’d never know she got negative critiques from how stoked she is.
-Ryan reads Result #6: QAASIM MIDDLETON IS SAFE!
Scott calls Qaasim one of the best performers on the show, saying he’s a real “cool cat.” However, he doesn’t feel Qaasim isn’t the best singer in the competition, so he needs to step up his vocals so they can match his performance excellence. Qaasim agrees and reveals he’ll be playing his guitar on this song so they can hear his voice more. Already, I’m interested, even if I don’t love the song choice for him.
-Qaasim sings “Jet” by Paul McCartney/Wings, and I just don’t like this song choice at all. In fact, I think this is doing the complete opposite of what he intends for it to do, as this ends up being one of his weakest vocals. I think it might have actually been smarter to ditch the guitar, since he seems like he’s about to explode from energy having to stand still. By the end of the song, he’s practically jumping in place and not playing the guitar at all.
-Harry asks Qaasim what his opinion on the song’s lyrics are, and he says it has to do with communication and women’s suffrage. “I heard it was about a giraffe or something, so I don’t know,” he says. Harry notes that his performance might have actually fit better if he had been singing about a giraffe, since his interpretation of the lyrics didn’t match his performance. J-Lo gets the crowd to boo Harry, so he wants to hear her opinion. But it’s Keith’s turn, so he says he loved it, noting that he particularly liked seeing Qaasim on the guitar. J-Lo loved it too, but she’s still waiting for that moment to really hear him sing. After the performance, Ryan asks Qaasim’s mother who has more fun, her or her son. He then brings up that she was fasting until he made the Top 12, because…reasons, I guess.
-Back from break, Qaasim says he loved being on the stage, and loved the judges, even though Harry offered a lot of critiques. He loves America and hopes they vote for him, making a call to action on “Team Qaasim”.
-After Ryan asks the judges about their favorite Idol classics, and encouraging fans to tweet out their song suggestions using #IdolClassics, we finally address Harry’s shirt. He shows off his guns, and then says he wore the shirt to get the point across so he can just get to the constructive points without having to reiterate to the contestants how talented they are, since they all deserve to be here.
Ryan then reveals Result #7: ADANNA DURU IS SAFE!
-Scott feels Adanna is dangerous and has a certain reckless quality to her that makes her appealing. He feels the next big success for American Idol will be someone edgy, and he thinks she’s right on that edge. Before the performance, Harry wonders if Adanna will be able to sing in tune and control her emotions on such a fast-paced song. I hate these pre-critiques. They just feel so utterly devoid of purpose.
-Adanna sings “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars, and it starts out quite well. But I think the vocal suffers as the track goes on, since the band is kind of swallowing her up, like it did with Jax. She strains voice in places trying to sing over them, and I find myself just not feeling this. That said, she does a damn good job working the stage. She has a really great sense of showmanship, and she definitely looks like she belongs up there, even if I wasn’t crazy about the vocal. I do like Adanna quite a bit.
-Keith says that’s why they saved her, adding that she’s cool like Tina Turner. J-Lo praises Adanna for staying in control, since she could tell Adanna wanted to explode up there. She says the one thing she prays for before each performance is that her dancers will be able to remain in control, and she’s similarly proud of Adanna. Harry thought the control was great, and it was so much better than last night, even though he still thinks she has some issues with intonation. But either way, he thought she did a good job. After the performance, Ryan asks Adanna if she proved herself as a wildcard pick, and she feels she has.
-Ryan keeps things moving with Result #8: TYANNA JONES IS SAFE!
-Scott feels Tyanna brings it every week, essentially calling her fierce, although I’m paraphrasing because it feels like Tyanna’s video is going a whole hell of a lot faster than everyone else’s. I mean, it probably isn’t, but it sure as hell feels that way. Tyanna is going to be singing “Tight Rope” by Janelle Monae, and I’m both excited and a little scared for her, since this is a tough song. This song choice does nothing to keep her from reminding me of Majesty Rose though.
-Tyanna feels like such a star up there. She’s a total artist, and even though I didn’t think this was her best, it was still a great, multifaceted performance. She had it all, from tight vocals to solid showmanship. By the end of the song, Keith and J-Lo are on their feet, while the crowd is going apoplectic. I’m telling ya, man, while it might not hold true for the entire season, the girls are absolutely SMOKING the guys tonight.
-J-Lo calls the performance “beautifully complete,” while Harry says if he were a judge in the Olympics, he would not have clapped nor stood up after that performance. He would simply have sat there and given her a ten. Tyanna is floored by the comment and fights back tears, while Keith address Tyanna’s video package. He was genuinely touched by her declaration that she wants to do this forever, not “I wanna be a star.” He’s also touched that she expresses performance not as “Look what I have to do,” but “Look what I get to do.” Tyanna breaks down a little bit as she talks about how happy she is to see her mother happy. I really like Tyanna.
-After the break, Adanna and Tyanna thank America, and talk about what a fun experience performing was, just like everyone else (those two are so adorable though).
Ryan reveals Result #9: DANIEL SEAVEY IS SAFE! (Does this mean Nick, Sarina and Quentin are the Bottom 3?)
-Scott says that Daniel is the type of musician who can charm the socks off a room every time he smiles. But Scott feels his performances need to back it up. Daniel agrees, saying he wants to show America he’s more than just a cute kid. Harry says that Daniel got here on his musical ability, but notes we’ll see how he does. (See what I mean? Why is he getting such a soft pre-critique, whereas the girls are getting the shaft?)
-It wasn’t perfect, but this performance of “Happy” was easily Daniel’s best performance. He just seemed really natural up there, and didn’t seem to have issues being audible like he occasionally has in the past. Seriously, I was impressed by this, and think Daniel might have more to offer than we’ve seen. That said, I do think it’s a bit silly that he basically did an exact copycat arrangement, and none of the judges called him out on it like they did with Jax. But I’m gradually acclimating to how much preference guys get on this show.
-Harry spent last night going through every single one of Daniel’s performances in an attempt to figure him out. He says that what they realize as judges that perhaps not all of America sees is that Daniel is immensely talented. He feels that was Daniel’s most comfortable performance, and his strongest overall. Keith says he thinks Daniel will be around for a while, because he has such a natural likability. J-Lo says it’s impossible not to root for Daniel, even with the competition being as close as it is. Ryan asks Daniel how old he was when he first watched Idol, and he said he was three, and that his parents would watch it with him. Man ALIVE, do I feel old now.
-Back from break as Ryan reveals Result #10: QUENTIN ALEXANDER IS SAFE!
-Scott says that Quentin has a really cool vibe about him, and really great, piercing eyes. He also notes that every time Quentin shows up, everyone wants to know what he’s wearing, since he’s got a thrift-shop coolness about him. Keith says he’s really interested to see what Quentin does with this, since he loves when a guy takes on a girl’s song. You know what? So do I. Those really tend to be some of my favorite performances. However, Quentin says he’ll be singing “Rolling In the Deep” by Adele, because it’s such a huge party song back at home. Dude, just because it’s a party song at home doesn’t mean it’s a party song. Seriously, I don’t get it.
-Okay, I’ll shut up now. Quentin absolutely smashed it here, and proved me hilariously wrong. The arrangement was cool, funky, upbeat, and very contemporary. Yes, I know it’s already a contemporary song, but he made it feel entirely new. I’ve never been more happy to be wrong, because Quentin made this his own. The crowd really seems to love him too. This guy could be a real underdog threat in the competition.
-Keith loved Quentin’s originality, and thinks he made the song his own, while J-Lo really enjoys watching him perform. Harry thinks Quentin has a great talent for digging deep down into the lyrics of the song. But for this performance, he felt it was kind of a shallow rendition of the song. He gets that this is a party songs theme, but he felt Quentin coasted over the song, particularly since this is a song about saying “screw you” to an ex. J-Lo defends Quentin by saying she thought his beat made it a different song, and I’m actually Team J-Lo on this one. I thought Quentin changed it up in a way that fundamentally alters the song, but not for the worse.
-Back from break, as Quentin says he had the time of his life. He was hype, the crowd was hype, the judges were hype, and he hopes America keeps him around because he wants to keep doing this.
-Ryan reveals the final result of the night: NICK FRADIANI IS SAFE!
SARINA-JOI CROWE WILL SING FOR THE JUDGES’ SAVE!
I’m going to feel positively AWFUL for Sarina if she goes home after just making the Top 12, since she spent four freaking seasons trying to get here.
-Scott says that Nick is a great singer with a great look, and he’s really driven. Nick is going to be singing “Wake Me Up” by Aloe Blacc, and he’s pretty confident with what he can do with it. Harry, meanwhile, wonders if Nick can bring weight to the song, since it has some fairly heavy lyrics. I’m more concerned about how this is a party song, once again. The original? Sure, I could see it. But I doubt Nick is going to do it that way.
-Despite not being real party-like, I love what Nick does with this, from how his voice sits in the pocket to how he shouts out the first lyric of the second verse instead of singing it. I’m genuinely glad Nick is still around, since I think this competition needs him. He’s a hell of a vocalist, with a really understated emotional presence. I thought this was one of the best performances of the night.
-J-Lo knows Nick is very emotional, being the last person saved, but she liked the song a lot despite it getting away from him (and getting “screamy”) in places. Harry thought it was a solid performance, but he wants Nick to crack open for them like he did when he shouted out the “weight of the world” lyric just there. He just wants him to be less shy and reserved. Keith liked Nick even though he had issues with the performance. But he’s confident we’re going to see him next week. Here’s hoping.
-Back from break as Sarina sings for the save…
-Sarina is going to be singing “Neon Lights” by Demi Lovato, and this is the problem with having the person rehearse all week just to be eliminated. It means the only song they have ready to sing for the save is the song they had rehearsed all week. And while that can be a good thing on a week like American Songbook or Beatles Night, “Neon Lights” really isn’t a good Save Me song, because it does nothing to show off her voice, since it’s buried under all the dancey backing track. It also doesn’t help that Sarina isn’t up to par on this. The judges don’t seem to be discussing the performance at all, which makes me think they’ve made up their minds already. I love that Sarina finally made it to the Top 12 after four tries, but maybe this just isn’t meant to be.
-One guy shouts out “SAVE THAT GIRL!” But alaso, J-Lo explains that while it’s getting harder every week, they unfortunately will not be using the Save.
SARINA-JOI CROWE IS ELIMINATED FROM AMERICAN IDOL XIV!
-It’s a shame to see her go this early, and I was all about seeing her saved. But after that performance, I think it was the right decision not to Save her. Someone else might need that in a few weeks.
But what do you think? Did the judges make the right call? Did America? And who were your favorites? Sound off in the comments!
Also, make your predictions by voting in our poll!
Until next week, thanks for reading and hanging out!