American Idol XIV Top 9 Revealed + Performance Recap (VIDEO)
Welcome to the live blog and recap for American Idol XIV, “Top 9 Perform”! Last week’s controversial save of Qaasim Middleton means two singers will be going home tonight, as the Idols tackle songs from the 1980s!
Boy George is on-hand as the guest mentor for 80s Night, and tonight’s song spoilers reveal a mixed bag when it comes to the song choices. On the plus side, this is the beginning of iTunes singles! So if anyone knocks it out of the ballpark tonight, we’ll get to purchase the track. Hopefully, the versions are decent.
But back to business: which two singers will be going home tonight?
For an unprecedented third week in a row, Rickey.org readers predict that Daniel Seavey will be eliminated, as he’s received 31.9% of the votes as of press time. Predicted to be leaving with him is Maddie Walker with 22.19%, followed by the Save recipient himself, Qaasim Middleton, with 18.3% of the vote. Our readers are normally spot-on, but the poll has yet to predict the correct eliminated person yet this season! But could the streak end tonight? It’s not too late to vote in the poll, so follow the link and have at it!
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!
-Before we start, I just wanna say….
— American Idol (@AmericanIdol) March 25, 2015
…too soon, Idol. Too soon.
-As the show opens, we get a recap of the week for the Idols as they prepare for 80s Night, from makeup and styling to rehearsals and iTunes track recording. Joey’s “space dress” is positively adorable. Less adorable, this Idol theme song remix which persists for reasons I can’t explain. And yet, it’s slowly growing on me. Not in a pleasant way, but in a “meh, getting used to it” way. Like how you put off a nagging tooth ache because you don’t have the money for a dentist at the moment, and before you know it, the pain is just second nature. It’s still horrible for you, but you’re mostly used to it and can still live your life. Well, until it kills you. Tooth aches can totally kill you, right?
-The judges are out, and J-Lo is wearing a painfully tight-looking dress, while Harry is somewhat under-dressed, wearing a white t-shirt that reads “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” in honor of Boy George.
And now, we’re ready for the results envelope. Who’s the celebrity bringing out the envelope this week?
I’m surprised at how hyped the crowd is to see The Hoff, actually. But I like him for having a sense of humor about himself, saying he doesn’t remember a whole lot about the 80s beyond the soul and funk and fun. During all this, he starts undressing for reasons I can’t explore. He then puts on a leather jacket, shades, and sings a medley of 80s songs, including “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Never Gonna Give You Up”. I pray to God he’s the only person who picks any of these songs this season.
-We then get a video package on Boy George and the music scene of the 1980s, in general. Then we see Boy George in rehearsals with the Idols, giving them advice to enjoy what they’re doing. After this, we go to a group performance of the Top 11 singing “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club. Boy George even joins them, and I feel it’s incumbent upon me to once again reiterate that Joey looks positively dreamy. Seriously, I have tiny butterflies in my stomach, and those butterflies are copulating and giving birth to more butterflies, making this a really giddy night for me.
That said, I kind of wish we could get on with the actual show already, because this is the kind of stuff that gets people to change the channel when you kick off the show with it.
-Time for results! Ryan Seacrest reveals the first result: DANIEL SEAVEY IS SAFE! OMG! The streak of the readers predicting the wrong person to be eliminated unfortunately continues! How much longer can Daniel possibly last? Could he win this thing?
-Daniel will be singing “You Make My Dreams” from Hall and Oates, one of my favorite acts of all-time. Of course, before all of this, we see Daniel learning a bit more about the 80s by playing with an old Simon game. (Is this the first time a Simon has been on this show since Season 9?) In rehearsals, Boy George notes that he doesn’t agree with the judges about the weakness of Daniel’s voice, as he feels Daniel has skills. But before the performance, J-Lo notes that now is the time for Daniel to prove he belongs here.
-Daniel actually sounds pretty good for about 80% of this song. He’s still fighting to be heard over the band, and this causes his voice to break in his upper register. He looks like a star here, especially when interacting with the fans, although he does shut his eyes a bit too much. Still, I felt like this ended up being one of his better performances.
-Keith feels that Daniel doesn’t really start to get into the song until it’s nearly over, and feels he’d be more comfortable if he had a warm-up song or two to start. But he still feels Daniel did a pretty good job here, and can do even better if he can be less tense. J-Lo actually loved this song for Daniel, saying he sang this song better than his song last week. She agrees with Keith that it’s just about loosening up, since fans will have fun if they see he’s having fun. Harry asks Daniel what he loves doing, and Daniel says “Making people happy.” This draws a big awwwwww from the crowd, and Harry feels Daniel probably just won himself a lot of votes with that answer. (Or maybe a spot in One Direction?) He does say that while Daniel sounded pretty good here, he needs to throw the choreography out the window. I don’t disagree, but the choreography is that distracting, honestly.
-Back from break as Daniel shouts out to his fans and vows to keep making them happy. Yeah, this kid is frighteningly popular.
Time for Result #2: QUENTIN ALEXANDER IS SAFE!
I found it kind of adorable that Quentin didn’t realize his chair lit up. Ryan asks him his reaction to being safe, and his response is, “ME?!” Dude is so cool.
-Quentin gets acquainted with the 1980s via fashion, creating the perfect pair of boots. In rehearsals with Boy George, Quentin worries about his pitch on “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. Both Boy George and Scott Borchetta feel Quentin could have a real moment if he could just relax. Quentin admits that he should start taking risks with his vocals in the same way he takes risks with his fashion. Before the performance, however, Harry notes that Quentin takes risks onstage, but at the expense of technique. He hopes Quentin can sing in tune this week, and I continue to hate these pre-judgments.
-I’m beginning to feel like a lot of Quentin’s performances are starting to blend together. His tone is lovely here, and he sounds great, but it’s yet another moody, atmospheric, dark, haunting, (insert adjective for something Bjork might do) performance. And while it’s unlike anything that anyone else is doing in the competition right now, it’s getting all a bit samey to me. He also strains to hit his notes towards the end, too. Still, the crowd loves the hell out of him, and his fellow contestants are on their feet by the end of it.
-J-Lo says Quentin’s “cool factor” was at a thousand, and adds that he makes every song specifically his. She calls it a homerun, and Harry agrees, adding that his favorite thing about seeing Quentin perform each week is hearing him really dig into the lyrics. However, he feels Quentin might be doing one too many medium-to-slow tempo songs, saying that he’d like to hear him do something a little more uptempo from Quentin. Keith feels Quentin continues to own his songs more and more with his artistry. His only note is for Quentin to work on his phrasing, but he still thinks Quentin is great. And I don’t disagree, although I really hope he does something different than this if he gets to perform next week.
-Back from break with Quentin gushing about getting to perform, and thanking America.
Ryan reveals Result #3: JOEY COOK IS SAFE! YES! YES, DAMMIT!
-Joey describes her look tonight as “Madonna in Space”. In the video package, she plays with a thighmaster, before heading in for rehearsal with Boy George. Scott notes that Joey is more psyched than anyone to meet Boy George. However, Boy George wants more dynamics from her performance of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper. I’m nervous about this being such a quick tempo arrangement, since it sounds faster than the original.
-Joey is stunningly adorable, dancing onstage and performing her ass off with the song. She seems like she really belongs in the 1980s, and the crowd seems to love her there. But I didn’t love this vocal, honestly. Part of it was the arrangement, which was all over the map. But also her movement seemed to rob her of breath, so she struggled to hit notes she’d have had no problem hitting if she were standing still. That said, I still absolutely love Joey. Even if she’s somehow going down, I’m going down with the ship.
-Harry notes Joey seemed distracted tonight, and felt that something was holding her back. He does note that being a street performer gives her an advantage since she needs to perform for her supper, so he hopes she can regain her focus. As for J-Lo and Keith, they both feel she’s a consummate performer. Even though it wasn’t her best, she still brings a lot of fun to the competition, with Keith noting that Nicole Kidman and his kids are probably dancing their asses off at home, while J-Lo’s daughter is going to desperately want Joey’s outfit. I agree with the judges this week, for the most part. This was probably Joey’s first major misstep of the competition, but it was less about song choice than about arrangement. I think if she had gone with an arrangement more like Taylor Henderson’s version on The X Factor Australia, she’d have had a moment. Still, I didn’t dislike the performance, really. It just wasn’t up to the usual Joey standard. In an adorable moment, Boy George comes out after the performance to give her a hug and offer her a cup of tea. I imagine those two get along famously.
-Joey thanks America for putting her through, and says she had so much fun performing onstage. She’s even more stoked that she got to touch Boy George, which makes one person, at least.
-Ryan reads Result #4: TYANNA JONES IS SAFE!
Tyanna expresses surprise at having made it through, and honestly, I am too. But it’s a pleasant surprise, since I was worried she’d be in danger here.
-Tyanna plays with one of those old Glow Worm dolls, as she seems confused by what passed for a toy in the 80s. She’s be singing “I Wanna Dance (With Somebody Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston, and Boy George is curious about the arrangement. She says she’ll be doing it with the full band, and that excites him. Hell, it excites me too, provided it isn’t a dry, copycat arrangement of the original. However, Tyanna seems to understand what she’s gotten herself into, saying that when you take on a legend like Whitney Houston, you have to leave it all out on the stage.
-Tyanna sounds great here. It’s not a perfect performance, but honestly, it was pretty damn close. She has a natural, effortless charisma onstage that some of the other contestants probably wish they could borrow, even if only in tiny fractions. But this goes beyond her vocal and stage presence, the arrangement is also smart. It’s a bit house-like in places, and it really gave a rhythm and cadence to her performance that elevated the entire thing. I enjoyed the hell out of this, and that’s from someone who wasn’t completely sold on the song choice, going in.
-Keith feels if anyone could do a Whitney Houston song, it’d be Tyanna. He does warn her against getting too nervous, saying, “When you sing that good, you could be singing and having fun up there the entire time.” J-Lo says that Tyanna shouldn’t let their critique last week get to her, since it wasn’t even really a bad thing. Nobody’s perfect (Harry: “You are, Jen!”), and so she should just do what she does best. Harry loved the arrangement, and thinks Tyanna’s strength is that she’s always in control and in the driver’s seat with her performances. However, he thinks she should avoid growing complacent. He tells her to fight for it every time she’s out there, to sing her heart out, and jump and dance onstage, and just give it her all. Um…is that not what she’s being doing?
-Back from break and Tyanna flips out about how awesome it was to perform up there. Meanwhile, Ryan gets a pretty cute joke in about how we’re flashing back to the 80s tonight, “Back when a hashtag was called…pound.”
Ryan then reads Result #5: JAX IS SAFE!
-Jax plays with a Rubix Cube and a Thighmaster, confused at how anyone could possibly have used the damn thing as a workout aid. She reveals she’ll be singing “You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi, and notes she’ll also be playing the piano for this one. Boy George feels Jax has “the bones of a great performer,” but feels she needs to not think about it so much. She needs to feel it. I’m already excited about this, provided she doesn’t use the original arrangement.
-Thankfully, Jax goes with her own, dark, badass arrangement of the song. I was really worried she’d get up from the piano and start walking around while the tempo changed to something utterly bland and toothless. But she never did that. I mean, yes, she did stand up towards the end as the vocal sort of got away from her, but this was still her moment of the season so far, for me. I thought this was just so badass and passionate, and helped make the song sound entirely new. I loved it.
-J-Lo feels this is the Jax they originally fell in love with, and although she got a bit lost towards the end, she thought it was great. Harry liked the performance, but felt it would have been stronger if she’d stayed at the piano the entire time, since the band had too much power, and it ended up overtaking her. But he liked the beginning and the end. Keith mostly agrees, feeling Jax did a great job, but noting that the arrangement did her a bit of a disservice. Ryan asks Jax about her performance, and she says she has a lot she wants to let out. Well, I can’t argue that Jax is a passionate singer.
-Back from break, Jax thanks America for voting her through. Then Ryan reveals that next week is KELLY CLARKSON NIGHT!!! You know, I never really thought about how deep Kelly’s songbook is. She’ll be on-hand to mentor the Idols, to boot. Why can she not be a judge? Seriously, back up a dump truck full of money to her house and make that happen.
Ryan then reveals Result #6: NICK FRADIANI IS SAFE! YES! GO NICK!
-Nick plays with a Skip It, sending me back in a time warp to lazy Saturday afternoons. Of course, he ends up breaking the toy, so…yeah. I guess things weren’t as “built to last” back then as I remember. He reveals he’ll be singing “Man In the Mirror” by Michael Jackson, as his tour through the Ben Haenow songbook continues. Boy George tells him to embrace J-Lo’s advice last week about owning his hotness, since a lot of his stage charisma relies on reclaiming his masculinity up there. It’s great advice. He’s not saying Nick isn’t manly, but rather that he should embrace his maturity as the oldest dude in the competition. To BE the grown-ass man in this competition. Before the performance, J-Lo advises for Nick to sing as if he’s singing it to someone special.
-Nick really surprised me here. I mean, I knew in my head how this would sound, but when he got up there, it was decidedly better than I envisioned in my head. He really gets into the song, and it makes for a compelling performance to watch. Seriously, I was legitimately impressed by this. I still think Nick is far from the competition’s best singer, but he’s one of the purest, rarely hitting a false note. Dude could still be a total dark horse.
-Harry calls it an absolutely perfect song choice and a fantastic vocal. (J-Lo is stoked to hear this) Harry feels he’s figured Nick out, saying that so many people have been calling him hot, but he’s remained humble, and that’s what’s appealing about him: his humility. He feels Nick is such a kind sweet, kind soul that when he sings sweet, kind songs, he’s exponentially more appealing. Keith loved the song, and thinks Nick has a killer smile, although he wants Nick to loosen up a bit more, comparing it to a boyfriend meeting his girlfriend’s dad for the first time. J-Lo, meanwhile, felt that the performance became exactly what it was supposed to be once he got caught up in the swell and arrangement of the song. After the performance, Ryan asks if there’s anyone special he was singing the song to, and he says, “Maybe,” before saying he was singing it “To all of you guys.” So I’m guessing he broke up with his girlfriend from the city auditions. American Idol: Destroying as Many Relationships as They Start (Est. 2002).
-Back from break, as Nick calls that his favorite performance he’s given so far. “Please vote for me, I don’t want to leave!” That was kind of heartbreaking to hear, as if he expects he’s next on the chopping block. I mean, even if he is, dude should have more confidence! He’s got an outstanding recording voice.
-And here are Salt-N-Pepa, for some reason. Okay, I guess the reason is that they’re an 80s act, but still, outside of their reality show (is that even still on?) and their appearance in that Geico commercial, I don’t know why this. Still, these two have still totally got it, from the dance moves to the rapping. The two 80s dancers are a bit distracting, but this was still a lot of fun, particularly with J-Lo singing along and Harry dancing (complete with J-Lo spanking Harry). I enjoyed this about a thousand times more than I thought I would. Is it just me, or has this actually been a pretty good show tonight? It hasn’t been a blowaway, but these two hours have just been flying by in a way two-hour episodes of The Voice almost never do.
-Back from break with Seacrest asking for more song suggestions for their upcoming “American Classics” theme, saying fans should tweet using the hashtag #IdolClassics. Fine, but only if you actually clear the songs we suggest!
Ryan then reveals Result #7: CLARK BECKHAM IS SAFE!
-Clark plays with a Lite Brite, having no idea what in the loving Hell it is, calling it “like Battleship for girls.” He’ll be singing “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, and while Boy George thinks it starts out well enough, he thinks it needs a key change. However, when Clark gets to pre-show rehearsals, he feels he needs to stick with his original key of G. He knows it’s a risk, but he trusts his own decisions, and feels he needs to knock it out of the ballpark to prove he was right to trust his instincts. Before the performance, Harry feels Clark’s decisions as a musician are part of what he likes about him, but we’ll see if this pays off tonight.
-Clark plays the piano and delivers his best vocal, full-stop. Seriously, this was MAGICAL. In fact, it might be one of the moments of the season so far. I’ve said for a while that if Clark is going to win this thing, he’s going to need to have a “winner’s moment,” a performance that allows us to see him as a potential winner. And this was that moment. Just a gorgeous blend of power and tenderness.
-Keith asks if that was the dropped key, but Clark says it was actually the original. Keith digs it, saying he thought Clark took him on a journey and showed a more emotional side. He brought out the melancholy and pain out in a way he’d never heard before, getting the song away from its stalkery undertones. J-Lo says she got “goosies” from that performance, and adds that watching him at the piano just feels like home. Harry says there’s good news and bad news. Bad news: the other contestants are very dynamic performers who offer a lot of showmanship. The good news: he won’t need to do any of that. All he has to do is sing and he’ll be alright. Ryan asks Clark if he knew, at the halfway point, that the performance was going right for him. Clark doesn’t get what Ryan means, so he reiterates it, and Clark explains that he simply feels that music is a universal communicator, and he wants to communicate to people with his music.
-Back from break, and Clark says he loved getting to perform such an iconic song, and hopes America liked his arrangement. We then get an interview in the audience with Scott Borchetta, who says you can’t just be as good as last week, you need to keep raising the bar.
Ryan then reads Result #8: QAASIM MIDDLETON IS SAFE!
Ryan asks what prompted Qaasim to drop the super-expensive microphone after his performance last week, and he says he was caught by the crowd energy and the Holy Ghost. Ryan reiterates how expensive the thing is, and says a woman in their department named Wylleen isn’t shy about sending an invoice.
-Qaasim is super stoked to play with Rock’em Sock’em Robots, and asks if he can keep the toy. He then gets his gameface on, saying he’ll be singing “Addicted to Love” by Robert Palmer, as he has to prove he deserved the Save. Boy George feels Qaasim is a terrific storyteller, and he needs to keep that up in his performance tonight. For his part, Qaasim says he’s a vocalist and this is what he does, so he says you’re going to hear him sing more. Before the performance, J-Lo says people don’t know what a great heart Qaasim has, and he wants him to show that onstage. I have no idea how though.
-Okay, maybe J-Lo meant he should put hearts on the video screen behind him, since that’s basically what happens. It’s almost kind of distracting. Thankfully, Qaasim delivers his best vocal of the competition, without a doubt. It’s a cool arrangement that helps it sound a little bit more current (although that song is still very much a product of its time). It was a confident blend of showmanship and vocal. This didn’t need to be over-the-top, and Qaasim recognized that. I think he deserves to be rewarded for his restraint, since this was pretty damn great, honestly.
-J-Lo loves that Qaasim didn’t have to be flashy this week, delivering a great vocal that was still a compelling performance. Harry thinks Qaasim’s strength was his showmanship, but his weakness was his unwillingness to relinquish that. But he felt Qaasim overcame that weakness by just standing there and being sexy and confident. Now, he feels Qaasim can go back to that flashiness, since he’s proven he’s got more to offer. Keith thought Qaasim sounded great, but hopes he’ll show us more vulnerability if he makes it through next week. I agree, since I think Qaasim could stand to take a page out of Quentin’s handbook, and vice-versa.
-Ryan then announces that it’s down to Adanna Duru, Maddie Walker and Rayvon Owen, saying they’re the Bottom 3. Is that confirmed, or is he just saying that they’re the only three left? Does this mean all of the “last three to hear their names” of the competition so far were the Bottom 3? Because he sure didn’t announce it as such before. And I was just getting used to there being no Bottom 3 this season.
-Back from break as Qaasim thanks America for putting him through. Ryan then confirms that Maddie, Adanna and Rayvon are indeed the Bottom 3.
The finalists come up onstage and Ryan reveals the ninth and final result, which isn’t really a huge surprise:
RAYVON OWEN IS SAFE!
MADDIE WALKER and ADANNA DURU are eliminated from AMERICAN IDOL XIV!
-Rayvon takes a picture with an Alf doll, tweeting out a picture to his followers to see if anyone can identify what it is. How young ARE these people? Anyway, Rayvon reveals he’ll be singing “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears For Fears, and Boy George wants him to sing the song less pretty. Scott feels there’s a shell between Rayvon and the audience, and he needs to break through if they’re going to feel it. Rayvon resolves to do right by the judges’ advice, saying he wouldn’t be here in the first place if he didn’t have the capacity to do so. Before the performance, Keith says Rayvon needs to own that stage and, in essence, “rule the world”.
-I still can’t get a read on Rayvon as an artist. I have no idea why he would pick a song like this, and then deliver it in the exact same arrangement as the original. It’s a good vocal, but it’s only competent as a performance. Somebody this talented shouldn’t be this boring, but I just wasn’t into this. In fact, aside from the falsetto note that ends it, the best part about it is Jax vigorously singing along in the “lounge”.
-Harry feels that Rayvon delivers a strong vocal every time, but thinks he often lacks interpretation. On the one hand, he feels this was Rayvon’s most interpretive performance, but on the other hand, he doesn’t need to hear the falsetto every week. Keith kicks off his critique by saying that losing both Maddie and Adanna is like a dagger to the heart. He then mostly echoes Keith’s comments about connection. J-Lo says Rayvon will have to step outside his comfort zone, since that’s the only way we grow as artists. It’s a salient bit of criticism, and one Rayvon should really listen to. I know risks don’t always bring in big rewards, but playing it safe obviously isn’t working for him, so it’s time for him to break out of his shell.
-And that’s a wrap! What did you think of tonight’s results? What about tonight’s performances? Who is at risk next week, and what should the Idols sing for Kelly Clarkson Week? Sound off in the comments! Until next week, thanks for reading and hanging out! Loved every minute of it.