American Idol XIV Top 6 Revealed + Performance Recap (VIDEO)
Welcome to the live blog and recap for American Idol XIV, “Top 6 Perform”!
Tonight, the remaining finalists tackle American Classics, which include tracks from artists as varied as Willie Nelson, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Billy Joel.
In case you missed it, the actual song spoilers reveal that each artist will be performing two songs tonight. Granted, the choices themselves are, as usual, a bit of a mixed bag. You can check out the song spoilers here as we get ready for the show to start.
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!
-So America picked the songs that are classified as “American Classics,” and a nifty video package ends with a girl “handing off” the envelope to Ryan Seacrest, in liu of a celebrity this week. Ryan intros the judges, and for once, Harry is looking dapper in a creme-colored suit. J-Lo’s dress is ridiculous. Girlfriend works out. Oh, and Keith is in a t-shirt. I wish I could get away with a t-shirt (I’m a button-up shirt sort of guy).
-Ryan opens the envelope and reveals Result #1: TYANNA JONES IS SAFE!
TYANNA JONES opens the show!
-Scott recalls when they brought in the radio people last week, that Tyanna wasn’t very “present” or “engaged” in the meeting. She says it was the day of performance, and she was nervous and thinking of wardrobe and other distractions. Scott stresses that you have to be present and engaged when meeting with people, since no one is going to remember you if they don’t feel something when they meet you. He name drops Taylor Swift and Steven Tyler, but this is the one time where a name drop actually helps, since I see his point in how engaged those two often are.
-Tyanna sings “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and it didn’t drive me wild or anything. Tyanna can definitely sing, and this performance illustrated that. But it wasn’t all that dynamic. I don’t know, I just wanted more from her. Hopefully, her second song delivers.
-Keith thought it was a good song, but it wasn’t the best song to show off her vocals. He feels her voice is often so shimmering and lovely that it can be too clean. He wanted her to make it edgy and something he could “get traction on.” J-Lo calls it a taste of the fun Tyanna that she fell in love with, and says she’s beginning to get back into her groove. Harry asks if Tyanna has ever seen Frankie Lymon perform that song on YouTube, and she says she hasn’t. He compares her to Frankie in their rhythm. However, he would have liked to have seen a bit more movement. After the performance, Tyanna admits to feeling a bit confined in the stage space during the performance, leading to a cute bit where Ryan encourages her to get her moves on.
-We keep things moving as Ryan reveals Result #2: CLARK BECKHAM IS SAFE!
-Scott says there are only five weeks left, and Clark says he doesn’t look too far ahead, going from week-to-week. However, now that they’re at Top 7, he’s starting to picture the finish line. He admits that when he played on the street, he would literally imagine performing on American Idol, instead of on 3rd and Broadway. And now he’s here, and he can almost see the end.
-Clark sings “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder, and it’s a very funky performance. Perhaps the funkiest we’ve seen yet from Clark. He sounds good on it too, and it doesn’t feel like the guitar is just a prop preventing him from taking use of the stage, since his groove/bounce movements feel natural. The crowd absolutely goes nuclear after the performance, refusing to let the judges actually start their critiques. Can anyone actually stop the inevitable Clark victory march?
-J-Lo loves it, and says it’s all coming together for Clark. Harry knows what it’s like to play onstage and not have the solo come out the way you want it to. He knows how bad Clark felt after last week, which is why he likely came out and delivered a wild performance. Keith dug it, but suggests he drop the guitar about six more inches to open up the upper half of his body. Keith demonstrates with some shoulder moves, and the crowd gets into it. After the performance, Clark talks about his dad, and how he played a guitar just like the one he played onstage tonight. They even have a picture on the video screen! A nice moment.
-Back from break, and both Tyanna and Clark thank America for putting them through, and Clark asks to keep voting if you like what they’re doing.
Ryan reveals Result #3: JAX IS SAFE!
JAX is up next!
-Scott asks what Jax wants to do with her music, and she says she wants people to feel when she’s up there, whether it’s love or hate. Scott feels this is very important, since great artists inspire a reaction, for better or worse. Jax notes that haters often equal success, or something to that effect. Sorry, was kind of distracted by how cute Jax’s straight-haired look was in this segment.
-Jax sings “Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin, and it’s one of her best performances of the competition. It’s raw and unfocused in places, which adds to the visceral quality of it. I thought it was a real rocker’s song, and Jax did it in a real rocker’s fashion. I’d love to see her do more of this.
-Harry says he only knows two versions of that song, the one by Janis and the other by Aretha Franklin’s sister. He says this was somewhere in the middle, and he found it really interesting, because Jax was really in the pocket. Keith says Jax sings really well with a band, which is why he loves having the band onstage now. J-Lo says Jax is in her element now, doing a really good job with it. After the performance, Ryan asks Jax about how she paces herself onstage, and she credits the band with keeping her in time. I think what helps Jax is the same thing that helps Lady Gaga in connecting: yes, she’s a unique performer, but she also frequently comes across as a down-to-Earth, normal person in interviews. Jax seems like a normal girl, which makes her stage persona all the more extraordinary.
-After break, Jax shouts out the Jax Pack and thanks them for voting her through, then tells them not to forget to vote for her, as if they’ve somehow been forgetting. Ah well, I still think she’s great.
Ryan reveals Result #4: NICK FRADIANI IS SAFE!
NICK FRADIANI is up next!
-Scott asks Nick if he thinks he can win, and he says he does think so. His issue is simply that he’s in the middle of the pack right now. But he’s trying to break out. Scott notes that last week was his best performance. For his part, Nick says he’s been working at this since high school, and he believes he can really make this happen. Honestly, I can’t imagine him going farther than Top 5, at best. But I’ve been shocked in the past, so who really knows? Obviously, people are voting for him. I get it, but I don’t get it.
-Nick sings “American Girl” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and it’s one of his best vocals, in my opinion. He also seems far more lively here than he has at any point of the competition so far. Hell, he even had J-Lo rocking out, in one of those rare moments where I wish the camera had actually stayed on her a bit longer (it was hilarious but also endearing). I really enjoyed this.
-Keith shouted, before the crowd even stopped cheering, that Nick did a great, great job. He says the crowd was engaged the whole way through, and J-Lo was rocking out. J-Lo says Nick has a really radio-ready voice, and he has a very wonderful arc to what it is he’s doing. Harry says this is precisely what Nick needs to be doing, from the song choice to the feeling and overall performance. He says this is exactly what they’ve been envisioning for him. After the performance, Ryan asks if J-Lo had any particular radio station in mind in her critique, and she shouts out Ryan’s station and radio show.
-Nick thanks his fans, and then gets giddy at going three-for-three on comments from the judges.
Ryan then reveals Result #5: QUENTIN ALEXANDER IS SAFE! JOEY COOK AND RAYVON OWEN ARE THE BOTTOM 2!
DEAR LORD, NO! It’s time for Rayvon’s run to end. Sorry. Quentin seems pretty mad to be safe, for some reason.
QUENTIN ALEXANDER is up next!
-Scott stresses the need for engagement, and Quentin agrees. He says there can be a million people in the room, but if he can’t get over his own fears and concerns, he won’t be able to reach anyone. Scott really respects that answer, and so do I, honestly.
-Quentin sings “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and it’s good largely because it’s such a departure from what he usually does. I even dig the part where he and Rickey Minor try to sync up their grooving motions onstage together. Kind of funny, but also really entertaining. Wasn’t crazy about the vocal, but this is the most I’ve enjoyed Quentin in some time.
-J-Lo loves the entire package, saying it was a perfect song for him. Harry felt there was very little different from Lenny’s version of the song, and felt that if he was going to do that song, he needed to do something different. He compared it to Quentin being tied to the front of a mack truck on the highway, saying if you’re going to be up there with Rickey Minor and his band, you’ve gotta bring it. Keith actually thinks Quentin held his own quite well there. After the performance, Ryan asks Quentin why he seems so upset, since he just has this stone-faced expression. He says that the Bottom 2 sucks, and “This entire thing is whack.” He says his best friend is up there, and he just thinks it’s whack. Harry says if he really feels that way, he can go home, because Idol is paying a lot of money for him to be here. Things get really awkward, as Harry says it’s tremendously disrespectful for Quentin to bite the hand that’s feeding him. Quentin returns to the stage and walks right up to Harry, and clenching my teeth, because he looks ready to haul off on the guy. But instead, he calmly, rationally explains that he didn’t mean this competition was whack, he just thinks it sucks that two good friends are in danger of elimination. Harry thanks him for clarifying, and Quentin says he was glad he could clarify for him, as this continues to be the most painfully uncomfortable moment this season.
-After the break, Quentin hopes America will continue to vote for him, not addressing the whole Harry unpleasantness earlier.
JOEY COOK is up next!
-Joey recalls coming to the decision to audition for Idol, saying she eventually caved in thinking, “What’s the worst that could happen?” She says not a whole lot of people expected anything from her because she was so weird, but Scott feels it’s very much about artistry this year. Joey agrees, and says the show dipped its toes in the weird pool this season. I’m going to be livid if Joey goes home, I’m not even kidding.
-Joey sings “My Funny Valentine,” and it’s an elegant performance. Seriously, one of her best vocals of the entire competition, owing to a certain old-fashioned vibe that she hasn’t cultivated since “Miss Independent”. I really loved this, aside from the fact that this is already one of my favorite songs ever.
-Harry says the hardest thing about judging is that you can’t mentor, but says what she did right is to research the lyrics and really convey their meaning with her performance. Keith thinks Joey reaches beyond her grasp artistically, but that’s what he respects about her. The fact that she goes outside her comfort zone is to be commended, he feels. J-Lo has always been a huge fan of Joey, but she didn’t love it. “It didn’t move me the way I thought it would. I don’t know why,” she says. Ryan speaks with Joey about her dynamic with Quentin. She says he’s her best friend, so much so that Quentin will be marrying she and her fiance at their wedding. Awww, that’s downright adorable.
RAYVON OWEN is up next!
-Rayvon talks about how being in the Bottom 2 brings the fight out of him. People ask him if he’s down on himself to be in the Bottom 2 every week, and he says no, since he’s so gracious to be here. Every week he’s here is an incredible learning experience, and he’s simply grateful to get to live this.
-Rayvon sings “Long Train Running,” and this is probably the kind of performance he should have been giving since the start. It’s not really anymore of a Save Me song than Joey’s was, but this gives a more complete, package performance, as he works the stage, dances, and really commands the attention of the audience in ways he never really has before. If it’s down to just these two songs, I fear Rayvon just might earn himself a third consecutive save.
-Keith thought Rayvon really had that “performance-wise”. That said, he wishes Rayvon would be a little less perfect. J-Lo says there’s nothing wrong with being perfect, but notes that he really stepped it up. He’s still fighting and he’s here. Harry agrees, saying he admires Rayvon’s fighting spirit. He wishes he’d picked a better song though, saying when he finally picks the perfect song, he’ll shut the room doom. After the performance, Ryan notes what a nice guy Rayvon is, and Harry interjects that Rayvon handles adversity with dignity and class. So…was that a shot at Quentin? And if so, can Harry just p*** off now?
-After break, Joey thanks America for letting her perform her favorite song of all-time, while Rayvon says how grateful they are to be here, telling fans to tweet to save them.
CLARK BECKHAM kicks off round two!
-Scott asks how things are going at home, and Clark breaks down recalling how he’s been surrounded by people who believed him ever since he was 10. “They knew I was going to make it before I did,” he says, noting that this experience is as much for them as it is for him, whether he wins or not. It’d almost be like them getting the chance to say “I told you” so, rather than him saying, “Hey, look at what I did!” This was really endearing, actually.
-Clark sings “Moon River,” and he actually sounds a bit like Harry here. This is another one of my all-time favorite songs, and I think Clark does it justice. That said, I wish he were a bit more expressive. He seems like he’s thinking way too much, and isn’t sure what key he wants to hit next on the piano. It’s just such a strange visual. But I imagine this would be a thousand times better if you close your eyes, which I’m sure would be sacrilege to anyone who finds Clark hot.
-J-Lo says she was thinking “smooth and creamy” to herself, which…I don’t even know. She says it was like being at a movie. Harry says Clark is an incredibly talented young man, but he wants him to challenge himself to expand his musical repertoire and learn more chords. He keeps talking, making it more painfully awkward, saying that Clark is the only musician left in the competition, then back-tracking and trying to say he doesn’t want to throw anyone under the bus. Keith saves the day, however, by calling it “warm and fuzzy like an epidural.” After the performance, Ryan addresses J-Lo’s “smooth and creamy” comment by saying that’s usually how he prefers his yogurt. Then Clark shouts out Bill Medley from The Righteous brothers, who is in the audience next to Clark’s father, with whom he played.
WATCH AND DISCUSS: Clark Beckham Sings ‘Moon River’ On American Idol Top 6
-Back from break, as Ryan announces that next week’s theme is Arena Anthems, so prepare for a LOT of Bon Jovi.
TYANNA JONES is up next!
-Tyanna talks about her family, saying that if she didn’t have her mother here with her, she probably wouldn’t still be in this competition. Scott asks what winning would mean to her family, and she says seeing her family that happy would be the highlight of this entire experience. You know, I’ve never given real consideration to the possibility of Tyanna winning, but she’s actually yet to be in danger of elimination yet. Which can’t be said for Joey or for Jax (assuming you believe that the time she survived or Qaasim, she was actually in the Bottom 2. Because this was before they actually started announcing Bottom 2s. This season is a mess for Idol statisticians. Assuming they exist).
-Tyanna sings “Proud Mary” and delivers what, in my opinion, is her best overall performance of the season. Her vocal is on-point, building to an insane, long falsetto note at the end that ranks among the most impressive things I’ve heard this season. Tyanna was downright funky on that stage, and J-Lo was really getting into the groove. I loved this, which is surprising to me, since I’m completely over this song.
-Harry told J-Lo before the performance that Tyanna would really have to nail this song, and he felt she really did. He says it was pretty much perfect. Keith agrees, and J-Lo adds that Tyanna has found herself and is in her element, telling her this is where she lives. We’re clearly in rushing mode now, as we speed ahead to the next performer…
NICK FRADIANI is up next!
-Nick talks about how his dad is his best friend, and he gets so emotional that he gets a little embarrassed. But Nick realizes that his dad was grinding away at music even longer than he has, having pursued it since age 15. His father told him that he didn’t realize that he was working hard at music not so he could make it, but so Nick could make it. That may be the most touching thing I’ve heard in any of the VTs this season.
-Nick sings “Only the Good Die Young” by Billy Joel, and this is quite a good vocal from Nick. I think this is the closest he’s come to having a moment. Sure, he had a more memorable moment with Harry last week on “Teenage Dream,” but this felt like an authentic, real moment based entirely on the strength of his vocal performance. No guitar, no running the stage, just a straightforward vocal performed with conviction.
-Keith asked whose arrangement that was, and Nick says it came between he and his vocal coach. Keith calls it an amazing arrangement, as it highlights the lyrics. J-Lo was waiting for Nick to get out of the chair, and was so stoked when he finally did. Nick says he hadn’t planned to get up, but J-Lo says this is why you can’t plan things onstage. She loved it. Harry, meanwhile, says the lyrics are about how Billy Joel is pleading to a girl. However, he didn’t feel that from Nick, saying the arrangement threw him off. He called it a bit too “self-involved” and that he didn’t get the sense that he was singing it to a girl “or a guy”, drawing awkward murmurs from the crowd. Harry is really digging himself deep tonight. I get the feeling he might just be too old-fashioned for this job, too stuck in his ways. This is a rare situation where someone might actually have too much musical knowledge to really be much of a help in what is ostensibly a pop competition.
WATCH AND DISCUSS: Nick Fradiani sings ‘Only the Good Die Young’ on American Idol Top 6
QUENTIN ALEXANDER is up next!
-Quentin talks about how he didn’t get into music until his youth group teacher brought her in, had her sit down, and listen to Quentin sing. She fled the room, crying hysterically, because she didn’t know he could sing. Ever since then, he’s pursued music actively, and he feels this experience is the culmination of all of that. I will say, Quentin’s baby pictures are absolutely ADORABLE.
-Quentin sings “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel, and I think he might be a bit too distracted from the whole Bottom 2 situation, because he doesn’t seem as engaged with this song. At least not in the first half. The second half really picks up, as he pours more strength into his vocal, eschewing the subdued approach in favor of something more forceful.
-J-Lo called it very dramatic and moody, and says she understands he’s in a very sensitive mood this evening. But she says that’s part of being an artist. However, she says his behavior earlier was against what she knew/expected from him. However, she knows he has a good heart, and he needs to control his emotions. She essentially puts the blame for it on Quentin, when this should be a show that really encourages people to show honest, genuine emotions, instead of stifling them. I’m kind of surprised she’s siding with Harry on this. But then, the show is paying her a fortune, so it shouldn’t be that shocking. Harry doesn’t address the awkwardness, just saying he likes how Quentin interprets lyrics. He once again brings up pitch issues, and encourages him to seek out Rickey Minor for help. Keith loves Quentin’s style and the overall package of what he does. After the performance, Quentin formally apologizes to Harry for what he said, saying he meant no disrespect. He was simply having an emotional moment. Ryan jokes that he thought Quentin was going to hit Harry, to which Quentin, straight-faced, says “I was raised way better than that.” Looked like he didn’t appreciate the joke. Quentin strikes me as a bit self-serious, but this whole business with Harry really has me liking him way more than I did.
JAX is up next!
-Jax talks about how her dad is not only her best friend, he’s her doppelganger. He even calls him her emotional doppelganger, noting just how close they are in their feelings. We see some really cute baby photos that detail just what a Daddy’s Girl Jax is. And I love it.
-Jax sings “Beat It,” and I actually thought this was her weakest performance since “Blank Space”. She has great showmanship, and really works the stage, even circling around the judges. But the vocal seemed a bit under-par for Jax.
-Harry talks a bit about Jax’s hair before detailing that this is what they’ve wanted from her. Keith and J-Lo basically echo those sentiments, as we’re running low on time. Harry even notes that this is only a two-hour show. After the performance, Ryan has Jax spray his hair, noting that if he were near pyro, he’d have exploded just now. He then throws a container of wipes at Harry like a football, and Harry throws them back, causing Ryan to leap up to catch them. Not a bad throw or catch from either man, actually.
-Back from break as Rayvon is up next, giving Joey the pimp spot. It makes me think they want to give Joey an edge. Hopefully it works.
RAYVON OWEN is up next!
-Rayvon talks about the complicated nature of his family, from his mother raising him on her own, to his father still being in his life. Scott talks about what it will take for Rayvon to be a great storyteller, and sorry, but I’m starting to get nervous now. I NEED Joey to stay. Seriously, her elimination would just cap this off as being one of the dumbest Idol episodes in the history of this franchise.
-Rayvon sings the Willie Nelson version of “Always On My Mind,” and it’s a very good vocal. A bit dry though. But I can’t really argue with the technical value of the performance, or the coolness of seeing Keith singing along from his seat. Still, I just wish it were a bit more dynamic. Okay, so he’s doing falsetto again, but what else about it is there to really differentiate it from the umpteen other versions we’ve heard of this song?
-Keith called it the right song, and he sang it fantastically. J-Lo says it’s about feeling something, and she felt a lot out of that. She says she had “goosies” from start to finish. Harry feels Rayvon really is a ballad singer, and notes that while he can’t sing a ballad every week, he thinks Rayvon does ballads better than just about anyone else in this competition, and it really sets him apart.
WATCH AND DISCUSS: Rayvon Owen sings ‘Always On My Mind’ on American Idol Top 6
JOEY COOK closes the show!
-Joey talks about how her mom was a very eclectic person, raising her on music as varied as Guns N Roses and country artists. One member of her family refuses to acknowledge that she isn’t actually a country singer. I missed which family member, because all my attention has been compromised by worry, man. ALL OF IT. PLEASE SAVE JOEY! Before the performance, Scott says that no matter what happens, Joey has a career ahead of her, and he’s proud of her.
-Joey sings “Somebody to Love” by Jefferson Airplane, and it’s an uptempo, borderline bluegrass version. I think it’s a brilliant arrangement, although I don’t think it’s much of a Save Me song. Then again, I feel this performance illustrates how badly we need Joey in the competition, since she’s one of the only interesting artists left in this race. So maybe it was the perfect Save Me song. If nothing else, the crowd is electric for her.
-J-Lo says that performance gave us “all the colors of who Joey Cook is,” as she took the song and made it her own. Harry calls it a difficult groove to dance to, but he was impressed with how Joey transformed it into something exciting and original, saying that artistry is what keeps her in this competition. Keith says he feels like Joey showed both sides of her artistry tonight, feeling that he knows what kind of show he’d get at a Joey Cook concert.
-Back from break, as Joey and Rayvon seem to actually be having a really good time waiting for the result to come in. I like how relaxed they are. They talk about being good friends and how Rayvon has been in this situation before. This is the loosest Rayvon has seemed the entire competition. Harry says all their finalists are immensely talented, and it’s a really emotional time for someone to go. J-Lo says they’ve all won already, and that both Joey and Rayvon are going to be fine. Keith feels it was tough for the people voting, since it’s apples and oranges. But says they both have millions of people who know who they are. Ryan is handed a card that reveals the vote was a matter of 52% to 48%.
-Ryan reveals the final result…
RAYVON OWEN IS SAFE!
JOEY COOK IS ELIMINATED FROM AMERICAN IDOL XIV!
NICK ROMAN HAS HAD IT WITH THE AMERICAN IDOL FRANCHISE. COME AT ME, HARRY.
I literally have nothing else. Thanks for reading, everyone. Goodnight.
EDIT: Okay, cooler head now. If there’s any salve to this burn, it’s that Joey actually seemed kind of relieved by the result. At the very least, she didn’t seem bothered by it. But this Twitter Save really has got to go, since America is no longer picking who goes home. They’re only picking who’s in the Bottom 2. The Twitter minority is choosing who leaves, and that’s absolutely preposterous right now, considering everything that’s at stake. It fundamentally changes Idol into a different show, sort of like The X Factor, where the country picks the Bottom 2, there’s a sing-off, and then a third party sends someone home. I don’t know if this would have been the same result without Twitter, but considering that this is Rayvon’s third trip to the bottom, I doubt it.
Anyway, despite my fury at this result, I’m not done with the franchise, since I get paid to do this, of course. But if this weren’t my job, I can’t even tell you how done I would be. But what did you think of the result? Sound off in the comments. And once again, thank you so much for joining me tonight. In lousy times like this, it’s all that much cooler to have ya’ll here.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @NickRomanTV. Until next week…