After last week's screwy episode, all bets are off on how Wednesday's (May 6) episode of “American Idol” will handle its performances and its elimination.
In theory, we've got three performances coming up from each contestant tonight, but will we get three performances from the Top 3 following a mid-show elimination? If that's the case, does that mean that one contestant will have gotten the visit home, but will still be booted without singing thrice? Or will we have 12 performances and four Hometown Visit clip packages, even though one singer was effectively a Dead Idol Walking on that visit, having already been eliminated by the voting, even if they didn't know it?
I have no clue.
Click through and follow along as I inevitably become increasingly frustrated and eventually angry…
7:59 p.m. In case you didn't hear, “Idol” is going two nights next week for the finale. Somebody will be eliminated on Tuesday in an hour-long episode at 9 and then we'll get a completely unnecessary 126 minute finale on Wednesday. Guests include New Kids on the Block and because “American Idol” has no dignity, Chris Brown.
8:02 p.m. Ryan Seacrest repeats what I just told you, claiming that the “American Idol” finale is still one of the biggest events in Hollywood. I'm sure there's a semantic way in which this is true.
8:02 p.m. Jennifer Lopez Fashion Show. Her dress is short and peach.
8:03 p.m. All four contestants will perform all three songs: Scott Borchetta's choice, Hometown Dedications and Judges' Choice. And then we'll get results at the end. Up first…
Singer: RAYVON OWEN
Song: “Want To Want Me”
My Take: We all just want to see what Scott Borchetta will chose to torture Clark Beckham, right? This Jason Derulo song is a safe choice for Rayvon because it isn't especially hard to sing, but it's also dangerous because it's not a ballad. So it's mostly Rayvon squealing in his falsetto as smoke cannons go off in the background. It's not a one-note performance, because the falsetto squeals are their own thing, but it's not a three-note performance. He's… OK. Some of the falsetto is shrill and some is chill. There's a lot more action behind Rayvon than there is action coming out of Rayvon.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith thought it was a great song choice and J-Lo agrees. J-Lo thought “it felt real superstar-ish.” Harry says that while he likes Rayvon doing ballads, this was his best performance on an up-tempo song.
Singer: CLARK BECKHAM
Song: “Beautiful Day”
My Take: Scott has given Clark a little U2, which isn't quite as nefarious as I might have hoped. I was thinking “Barbie Girl” or something. The low part of Clark's voice isn't what he does best and the song has a very slow build. He eases in on the chorus, but isn't until the big note that I'm really convinced that Clark is doing anything worthwhile here. He closes strong, but that just makes it a push with the weak opening. And, again, there's more excitement behind Clark than coming out of him. This is not a rock star performance. This is a decent performance of a rock star song. But if Bono ever let himself get this upstaged by his band and by the light show, U2 wouldn't be U2. But I've never really thought of Clark as being an arena rocker anyway.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo's liking Scott's picks. Harry thought the band shined, but that Clark wasn't engaged until he hit the chorus. Keith says there was a reckless abandon at the three-quarters point, but that the band still led.
8:13 p.m. So somebody really did go home for the visit and is returning for three performances tonight even though they've already been eliminated? And they don't even know it? That's frustrating.
Singer: NICK FRADIANI
Song: “Because the Night”
My Take: Wow. Scott got The Boss for Nick. That's crazy. And a pretty big overreach for Nick. Is Nick making out with the microphone? I swear there's lip-on-mic contact going on in addition to his his over-emphasized facial expressions. This song has more gravitas than Nick is capable of providing and he's the third straight performer to be completely upstaged by the band. I think Nick comes much closer to a rock star performance than Clark did. I'm not a Nick fan, but I can still be candid and honestly comparative when it comes to his performances.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry thought it was fantastic and strong. Keith knows Nick's tone. J-Lo thought it was a perfect song for him, but she also wasn't sure he connected enough to the lyrics.
Song: “My Generation”
My Take: “You get me,” Jax says when she sees Scott's song choice. And I'll say it again: The duller the other people are, the more I find myself loving Jax. Because this is the performance that nobody else has had the energy or the spirit to give. She's prowling the stage, integrating the audience, the band and the judges. And she's also putting her own spin on the phrases and, in at least one awkward case, the lyrics. Jax has gone rocking and up-tempo like this before, but I don't think she's ever done it this well. That was the top performance of this first round by a wide, wide, wide margin. Bless Jax for waking me up.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “That was f-f-f-frickin' awesome,” Keith says, calling it her best performance. J-Lo says it was the perfect song for her and she killed it. “You absolutely made the most of your opportunity,” Harry says, also calling it her best performance.
8:30 p.m. J-Lo gives the first round to Jax, saying “You can feel the finale on her.”
8:33 p.m. Yeah, I'm past the point at which I care about anybody else. I've accepted that Rayvon is filler, that Nick is not for me and that Clark is never going to push himself enough to be interesting. Jax or bust for the next two weeks.
8:35 p.m. Now, we're going home! Up first, Nick Fradiani went to Guilford, Connecticut. He got to visit a FOX affiliate! He got to shoot some hoops, or shoot in the direction of hoops. He ate Italian with his family and went back to his high school and met the Governor and Teddy Kennedy Jr. And he enjoyed his signature ice cream flavor and played for a big crowd. It was the best day of his life. That was not, however, the sort of tear-filled Hometown Visit we sometimes see.
Singer: NICK FRADIANI
Song: “Back Home”
My Take: I've never heard this song before. Oh, I have. I just don't particularly care about it. It's up-tempo sentimental hometown dross and it's probably perfectly suited for Nick. Unlike the Bruce song earlier, it requires no gravitas, just middle-brow arm waving. This will play well on The Nick Fradiani Mall Tour that I won't be attending.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo's feeling emotional. She doesn't know how America will choose. I'm not sure that's true. These artists are not identical. People will have preferences. It's actually quite easy! Harry just reflects on how lucky they are that Nick decided to audition. Keith says nothing other than acknowledging Nick's parents in the crowd.
8:43 p.m. Clark Beckham went back to Nashville/White House, Tennessee. Clark's “Me vs The City” riff is very nicely shot, much more epic than anything in Nick's package. The mayor of Nashville, who wasn't formerly married to Rayna James, comes to greet Clark in the streets before he went to visit a FOX affiliate. Clark visited his old high school and got a video from his old college choir. I like the #BeltItLikeBeckham hashtags on t-shirts and the amount of music in Clark's home. This is the Hometown Visit that Clark dreamed of. Clark's father is crying, even if Clark isn't. And his old choir surprised him! Clark gets a little teary telling the crowd about his dream to make music. This was closer to a Winner's Hometown Visit.
Singer: CLARK BECKHAM
Song: “(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay”
My Take: Get rid of the smoke rolling across the stage and this is my favorite Clark performance for a long while. It's a reminder that blue-eyed soul really is the thing he does best, even if he doesn't think so. There are some rough notes, but I like that because it's rough and finished. That was a performance that came out to play. I'm glad Clark still has that in him, even if it's too late for him to be my favorite.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry felt like he got to know Clark through the clips and the performance. Keith wants more struggle from Clark. Yup. I've been wanting that all season. I thought tonight came close. J-Lo loves crying over the hometown visits. She thinks this kind of song is who he is.
8:56 p.m. Now, it's off to Richmond with Rayvon Owen. He goes to a FOX affiliate! He went home. He went to his high school. Nice. Rayvon got a visit from My Favorite Jewish “Idol” and Earthquake Correspondent Elliott Yamin. Rayvon's mother is very emotional. That was a lackluster package.
Singer: RAYVON OWEN
My Take: Doubling down on up-tempo? Bad idea, Rayvon. I know that Rayvon is making it look like this is a high energy performance by bending backwards a couple times, but that was just not especially good. I have nothing to say about this and I don't see what it has to do with the second theme of the night. But I also really don't care.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith thought it was effortless. J-Lo loved the “silky vocals.” Harry liked seeing Rayvon move.
9:12 p.m. It's off to Jersey with Jax, who got the longest white stretch limo ever. Jax got a much more intimate trip to her actually home, with lots of quite time with her father and her dog. Her father compares her to Seabiscuit, which is my favorite thing ever. Jax has the biggest breakdown of any contestant, but she bounces back nicely. People in East Brunswick really like Jax. Yeah, this is the first cutdown intended to produce tears. I'm sure J-Lo will be crying when we return.
Song: “My Immortal”
My Take: Sitting at a piano perched on a disco ball platform, Jax wins her second consecutive round by my count. This is the performance that Clark has never given, where when Jax misses notes, you know it's completely emotion and feeling. That was kinda beautiful and it was quiet and soulful as a perfect contrast to Jax's first performance.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo likes the “humility and the confidence” that Jax has and she rambles for a bit, using up all of the time for this segment. Harry defers to J-Lo and calls it “fantastic.” And Keith doesn't get to talk at all.
9:21 p.m. Keith says Rayvon took Round 2. That's silly. Don't be silly, Keith.
9:25 p.m. I'm not sure who just swore and what it had to do with J-Lo's scent. Time for the judges to make their choices. Up first…
Singer: CLARK BECKHAM
Song: “Earned It”
My Take: At least I know exactly why I've never heard this song before. It's got a lot of falsetto. I like Clark's transitions into that falsetto. But mostly I like J-Lo dancing along to the song. I guess that was an effective enough way of proving that Clark can be contemporary. The show-off-y bits at the end work pretty well for Clark. He's had a good two-performance bounceback. And the crowd is really pleased.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry wants Clark to have quiet intensity in addition to loud intensity, telling him to have intensity from the first night. Keith felt things from Clark that he's never felt from him before. J-Lo's really proud and she thought it got electric toward the end, which gave her goosies.
Singer: RAYVON OWEN
Song: “You Are So Beautiful”
My Take: We're identifying this song with Joe Cocker, but Rayvon Owen is way too composed and calculating to actually do the Joe Cocker version of the song. The problem is that this song really needs Joe Cocker's reckless abandon, or else it's just saccharine And this is prettily sung. And totally saccharine. I almost wish they'd given Clark this one, but I guess I know how Clark would have sung it. And now I know how Rayvon sang it. Yawn.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith thought it was a beautiful song and beautiful arrangement. J-Lo wanted Rayvon to sing to his mother. Harry, however, felt that Rayvon was singing it emotionally.
Song: “Misery Business”
My Take: From Evanescence to Paramore. I guess we know what Jax's niche is supposed to be. But I like this jangly arrangement, which sounds much more like its own thing than probably Harry and the judges probably intended. It's practically a country song in this version, at least initially when it's just Jax and a guitarist. And I like it just fine. And as it builds to something more rock-y, I like it even more.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith things Jax sang phenomenally, but the arrangement didn't come together. J-Lo's irritated that Jax tried to make the song her own. Harry though that Jax used the guitar player with her on the stage was upstaging her. Wow. They did not like what she did there. How dare she try doing her own thing with the song! Silly judges.
9:47 p.m. Oh right. We have to eliminate somebody. I was thinking, “Well, we have one more performance and then… What?” Elimination! But first…
Singer: NICK FRADIANI
Song: “I'll Be”
My Take: Wait. Why did Keith say that we might not know this song? Wasn't it a huge hit? And hasn't it been done on “American Idol” a dozen times? Leaving aside the claim that this was an esoteric song choice, it's a very good song choice for Nick. This version of the song could certainly play over the credits to a CW song. I hate to say it, but I may need to give Round 3 to Nick? See? Again. I can be objective if I have to be.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry liked the vocal and the interpretation of the lyrics. Keith thinks Nick's version of the song could be a hit and I agree. “You just sat in it,” J-Lo says.
9:51 p.m. Harry gives Round 3 to Nick. It's probably true. So by my count, it was 2-1 for Jax. Keith gave the second round to Rayvon which was, as I've said before, silly. But only Clark apparently didn't win anything. Is that a sign? We'll find out in a few!
9:55 p.m. Results! Results! Results! J-Lo thinks that the talent is as strong as ever this season, but that it's a wide-open field, perhaps more wide-open. Keith can't fathom losing one of these singers. He should try to. Because it's about to happen.
9:56 p.m. In no particular order, the first person through is… Nick. And the second person through is… Clark. Now remember that this is in no particular order. So Jax isn't necessarily in the Bottom 2…
9:57 p.m. The final person safe is… Jax. Thank heavens. That's it for Rayvon who, by any stretch of the imagination, outlasted all reasonable expectations.
9:59 p.m. Bye, Rayvon Owen.
What'd you think of tonight's results? And did we end up with the right Top 3?