Wednesday (April 15) night's “American Idol” theme is American Classics and America played some role in choosing the eligible songs and at some point, somehow, we'll find out who America put in the Bottom 2 and then America will get to go on Twitter and choose who we/they want to save.
That's a lot of responsibility on you tonight, America.
Good thing I only have to recap!
Click through and follow along.
7:59 p.m. ET. Note to self: Clark Beckham is a person on “American Idol.” Try to remember.
8:00 p.m. “Tonight we celebrate the songs you picked as American Classics,” Ryan Seacrest says, underlining the confusion. And is Ryan already holding the results? Does that mean we've abandoned the envelope-presenters? That wasn't a good gimmick. But it wasn't a bad gimmick either…
8:01 p.m. Jennifer Lopez Fashion Show time! Yeah, there's no way she's touching anybody in the crowd tonight. Maybe the tips of her fingers will skim some outstretched hands? But she can't bend over or even kneel in this outfit. “Good evening beautiful,” Ryan tells Harry Connick Jr, suited up for the night.
8:03 p.m. We're jumping right into this. The first person safe is…
Singer: TYANNA JONES
Song: “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?”
My Take: They have no mentor tonight. Instead, Scott Borchetta is imparting platitudes. Yeah, I don't know how this song came to be chosen or how it came to be chosen by Tyanna. But who cares about process on “American Idol”! Tyanna's proven in the past that she has a decent feel for the peppy upbeat songs of this period and I think this is an improvement over her empty “Rockin' Robin” performance. There are times, however, when I don't know if Tyanna actually knows the melody of this song she's singing. There are at least a half dozen notes she just hits wrong. But she smiles through it. Should you be smiling all the way through this song? It's not a sad song, per se. But I'm not sure Tyanna is getting very deep into the lyrics or theme of the song. But she seems happy and last week she seemed so emotional. So… Variation.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith is confused by the song and the song choice. Keith wants more edge from Tyanna. J-Lo says it's a taste of Fun Tyanna, but she needs to get back into that groove. That's almost the opposite of what Keith said. Harry tries schooling Tyanna on the origins of the song. She smiles politely. Harry also asks for more movement.
Singer: CLARK BECKHAM
My Take: Whew. Fortunately, Clark Beckham's name was called before I had time to forget him. I like the guitar noodling that Clark does before the band joins him and he begins to groove. I think that Clark's trying to add just a bit of his street musician rasp to this, but it's a struggle. He's also spending so much time on instrumentation that there's only a little singing. Still, the performance covers a lot of stylistic ground and it's entertaining without, once again, being especially deep.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “Baby, you look good,” J-Lo says, telling Clark that he's starting to feel like a star. Harry liked the guitar play and says it was about as good as Clark could have done the song. Keith calls it “cool” several times and advises Clark on guitar placement. Keith, by the way, is wearing a Harry shirt.
8:19 p.m. If we have 14 performances tonight, then what's happening with this elimination/safety process? Are the two people facing elimination going to perform twice apiece? And when? I'm so confused. Anyway… Up next?
Song: “Piece of My Heart”
My Take: This is the night's first match of song and singer that I actually understand. We've had many decent Janis Joplin covers over the years on “Idol” and we've also had many awful Janis Joplin covers. After the placid one-two-punch to start the show, Jax is at least trying to dig in, but she's also scared of changing the song too much. I think she's allowed herself to settle in with the band a bit more than the more passionate Janis-style versions of the song in which the emotions of the vocal invariably overwhelm the music. I have no idea if that makes sense. I'm saying she isn't trying to sing over the band, to upstage the band with how much the song is meaning to her. Or maybe she'd like to be doing that, but the wind machine is freaking her out. This is a safe Jax performance, but a good Jax performance.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry liked Jax's timing on the song, raving that she was in the pocket. Keith likes the band and says it was great. J-Lo liked that Jax did her thing.
Singer: NICK FRADIANI
Song: “American Girl”
My Take: I just buy Heartland Pop Nick more than R&B/Pop Nick. I don't know if this is better than what Nick has been doing for the past few weeks or if I just think it's more authentic. It could be all about my perception of what I think Nick ought to be rather than Nick's perception of who he is. And he may be right and I may be wrong. But that, to me, felt like a big, big improvement. That's probably the most I've liked Nick ever.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith was engaged the whole way through. J-Lo loved it and she thinks Nick has a radio-friendly voice. “To me, this is precisely what you need to do. Dead-on,” Harry says.
8:37 p.m. Nope. Still don't get this. So we have Quentin, Rayvon and Joey remaining. Two are the Bottom 2. But we've only had four performances so far… The pacing is all off. Ryan's having a long conversation with Rayvon and it feels like he's suggesting Rayvon is safe, but… Nope.
Singer: QUENTIN ALEXANDER
Song: “Are You Gonna Go My Way”
My Take: I'm gonna say “No” on this one. You know why this works for Lenny? Because he's singing and he's SHREDDING at the same time. Quentin's just walking around the stage slowly. He's got almost no swagger or attitude at all. When he tries getting down with the lead guitarist, they have no chemistry at all and it's awkward instead of rocking. Nope. But J-Lo's happy.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo says “the whole entire thing” really worked and it was a perfect song choice. She says that his pitch was all over the place, which is a comical understatement. He was vocally dreadful. Harry says he was captivated by the band and not by Quentin. Harry is correct. J-Lo is not. Keith disagrees and says that he thought Quentin held his own. He thinks that Quentin's laid back personality was an intentional counterpoint. Quentin is emotional that Joey and Rayvon are the Bottom 2. “This whole thing is whack,” Quentin says, obviously emotional. OK. That rocked. See? That was “Don't give a f*** rock star attitude.” But Harry is displeased. He says that Quentin's attitude was highly disrespectful and says that if he thinks the whole thing is whack, he can just go home. Quentin struts over, stands up to Harry and ends by shaking Harry's hand. That was so marvelously uncomfortable and it was better than Quentin's performance. I'd vote for Quentin for THAT. America will probably disagree with me on that.
8:49 p.m. So now, Joey and Rayvon are just gonna perform twice like it's business as usual?
Singer: JOEY COOK
Song: “My Funny Valentine”
My Take: Joey's almost unrecognizable tonight. I'm interested in what she's doing. She sounds great, but are she and the small musical ensemble on the same page regarding the tempo? Or is the slight discordance intentional? It may be intentional. Because it worked. Joey shouldn't be in the bottom anything. And that was an intriguing vocal. She stays cold and calibrated most of the way through, but I could feel the emotional release in the closing notes.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry wants to mentor. He wants to talk to her about 15 things. Harry feels like she did her research and sang it appropriately and did a “damn good job.” Keith wonders if Joey's reach is beyond her grasp, but he likes her aspirations. J-Lo wasn't moved. She felt nothing. Ouch. Talk back to J-Lo, Joey! Pull a Quentin.
Singer: RAYVON OWEN
Song: “Long Train Running”
My Take: There are some moves here. Rayvon definitely seems to be aware of what the background singers are doing and he's trying to add to that. He's trying to add to the layers of the stage. He did a spin! He's leading an on-stage march. There are little flourishes to the vocal that serve zero purpose and I think they take the place of real emotion. And this is a song that, ideally, should have real emotion. Still, I really have to give Rayvon credit: That was a different stage performance than anything he's done this season.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith wants to feel something more, but he still got some of Rayvon's killer instinct. J-Lo thinks Rayvon is growing and fighting. Harry says there's a lot to admire about Rayvon, but he doesn't think it was the perfect song choice, but that when Rayvon finds that perfect song choice, he'll blow something or other away.
9:00 p.m. Rayvon's fanbase is trained to handle the Idol Save process on Twitter. Joey's fanbase is not. I think that gives Rayvon a potentially insurmountable advantage. And I don't know how long they're going to do the Idol Save, so I don't know how far that advantage will take him.
Singer: CLARK BECKHAM
Song: “Moon River”
My Take: Clark talking about his family's support brings out more emotion that he's ever hinted at in a performance. Tap into that, man. Alas, the emotion isn't here. Clark is going for smooth piano man style here and he does it nicely, but blankly. I love his equal comfort going between guitar and piano and I appreciate how stripped down this arrangement is. It's so solid and proficient and, unfortunately, a bit robotic. If Joey's reach exceeds her grasp, Clark's does not. And it needs to. At least once.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo calls it creamy. Harry says Clark is incredibly talented, but he calls it a cocktail bar performance and tells him to learn more chords. Harry suggests Clark may be the only musician in the competition. I want Joey and Jax to attack. They're both definitely musicians. “It was warm and fuzzy like an epidural,” Keith says. He means it as praise. It shouldn't be.
Singer: TYANNA JONES
Song: “Proud Mary”
My Take: Ummm… What's Tyanna doing with her arm? Does she not know the tempo of the song? Her lackluster snapping is almost as bad as the audience's off-the-beat clapping. I know Tyanna's intentionally not doing straight-up Tina Tuner, but she's doing the Tina Turner arrangement and she's doing it without much Tina Turner attitude. She gets a bit more into the song in the second half and finally by the end it seems like there are spontaneous moments from her. But I want more of that. More sense that what's coming out of her is uncontrollable. I guess the crowd likes the energy more than I do, because that felt lite to me.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “That was as close to perfect as you can get,” Harry says. Keith thinks her improvement will be astronomical going forward. J-Lo says Tyanna should continue to find songs that let her do that.
Singer: NICK FRADIANI
Song: “Only The Good Die Young”
My Take: Back to being underwhelmed by Nick. We had a good run earlier, didn't we? Just chilling on a stool singing Billy Joel is about as uninspiring as it gets for me. The arrangement has slowed the song down, but I'm not sure what Nick wants me to be getting out of the lyrics that I didn't get before. I'm not seeing the reason for it all. But Keith is “Woo”-ing.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith gives him 10-out-of-10. J-Lo was loving it the whole way through and she loved that he stood up at the end. He didn't do anything. He just stood up. Harry thought it sounded self-involved.
9:23 p.m. I'm really not feeling tonight, am I? Other than Quentin, nobody's been awful, but nobody's really excited me at all.
Singer: QUENTIN ALEXANDER
Song: “The Sound of Silence”
My Take: Intense Quentin is back. I like Intense Quentin more than Trying To Be a Rock Star Quentin. Unfortunately, this is a song choice that pretty much accentuates absolutely every bum note Quentin hits. It's still a vastly better vocal and overall performance than “Are You Gonna Go My Way.” So much better. We'll see if the judges can judge him without cowering in fear.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “That was very dramatic and moody,” J-Lo says, trying her hardest to be gentle. “I know that inside you have a good heart,” J-Lo says, as if Quentin butchered a baby calf on the stage earlier. Harry likes how Quentin interprets lyrics and he likes the tone of his voice, but he tells him again to focus on pitch. “You can do it,” Keith says. Quentin thinks his first performance was better than his second and he apologizes again for what he said earlier. “It was just me having a genuine emotion,” Quentin says. “I thought you were going to hit him,” Ryan says, making things worse.
Song: “Beat It”
My Take: The judges really scared Jax away from doing free interpretations of songs, didn't they? She's making Michael Jackson into a bit of a grrrl power punk anthem and I like it, but it's still mighty straight-forward. I miss the Jax who made Adam Sandler comedy songs into heart-felt ballads. On the other hand, Jax is having fun and I don't doubt she's having fun and I kinda believe that there's some uncontrollable giddiness bubbling out of her. The vocal wasn't interesting, but as expressions of teenage joy go, that felt more real than Tyanna's “Proud Mary” to me. But what do I know?
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry points out the wild static electricity going on with Jax's hair. Harry's always wanted to see Jax run around the stage acting like a complete idiot and having fun. Keith thought it was contagious. J-Lo thought Jax made it look cool.
Singer: RAYVON OWEN
Song: “Always On My Mind”
My Take: For some reason I don't feel like Rayvon has gone to the ballad well very often this season. So this is a good showcase for his range and his vocal acrobatics. But I like how he clenches his face in seemingly emotional moments and nothing comes out. Or, rather, nothing changes. What comes out is technically lovely. But I didn't get anything different from that. It may have been one of Rayvon's best vocals, in fact, but if he thought it was a better piece of lyrical storytelling, I disagree.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo had goosies. Harry tells Rayvon that he's a ballad singer.
Singer: JOEY COOK
Song: “Somebody To Love”
My Take: This is absolutely peak Joey, flower in her hair, strumming away at her ukelele. The crowd is flummoxed by the little changes she's making to the phrasing and the rhythm of the song, but she ignores their off-tempo clapping. Joey Cook maybe about to go home, but she's going home off of my favorite performance of the night. By a lot. That was unique. Nothing else tonight has been. We lose something if we lose Joey.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “That for me gave us all the colors of what Joey Cook is,” J-Lo says. Harry was impressed with her inventiveness and presentation. Keith liked that Joey and Jax showed their extremes well tonight.
9:52 p.m. This is gonna make me sad, isn't it? I actually just “voted” on Twitter, which I don't do. But #SaveJoey.
9:55 p.m. Result time. “It's an emotional time to see somebody go home,” Harry says. “You have to know that you've all won already,” J-Lo says, pretending that this is Season 4 or Season 8 of “American Idol.” Keith thinks it was a tough vote. Nope. It wasn't. It was easy.
9:57 p.m. Ryan says that it was very close. The winner got 52 percent of the Twitter vote.
9:58 p.m. The singer remaining in the competition is… Rayvon.
9:58 p.m. Sigh. Joey Cook is going home. I'll say this again: It's a not meaningless advantage to have a fanbase trained to tune in with five minutes left in “Idol” and tweet the same thing every week. Joey's fans had no such training. And in a vote this close, I can't believe it didn't make a difference. And this is NOT something that I'm blaming Rayvon vote. This is a flaw in the voting structure that “Idol” has set up. Rayvon is a beneficiary. But somebody was always going to be.
10 p.m. Farewell, Joey. You rocked it tonight. She's tonight's only Best for me. And now she's going home. Oh well.
What'd you think of the results and of tonight's performances?