Sorry, but I'm still annoyed that we sent Sarina-Joi Crowe packing. It's not that she didn't, at least on some level, deserve to go. She gave a bad performance at the beginning of a long episode, which is an easy path to being forgotten and being eliminated.
Still, “American Idol” lost a singer with almost limitless upside and we kept at least four or five people who almost certainly will never have anywhere near Sarina-Joi's potential.
After dedicating Wednesday night to two ridiculously high-rated hours of “Empire,” FOX is turning Thursday over for a sure-to-be-lower-rated two hours of “American Idol” with a Movie Night theme. This is always one of the show's fuzziest and least justifiable themes and tonight we're using the theme as a hook so that Jennifer Lopez can perform the song she has in an upcoming movie.
Click through and follow along!
8:00 p.m. Am I possibly be watching NCAA Tournament hoops in the background? Possibly!
8:01 p.m. Oh wow. We brought back the “American Idol” Group Sings. Who those this was necessary? Why did Ryan Seacrest require such a half-hearted “Lucky” introduction?
8:03 p.m. Hello, Jennifer Lopez Fashion Show. I believe she chose tonight's outfit so that she could easily change in and out of it, but J-Lo also chose an outfit that doesn't allow her to bend over to touch the squealing crowd. J-Lo's pretty.
8:05 p.m. Nile Rodgers is our mentor tonight.
8:06 p.m. Jeff Gordon is handing Ryan Seacrest tonight's results. The Finalists are doing the National Anthem at the NASCAR race this weekend. Nobody seems ever vaguely excited by this news. Jeff Gordon talks about how he's retiring after this year and that he just wants to have one last great season. Whoa. Was that FOX's way of announcing that “American Idol” is also ending after this season? Probably not.
8:08 p.m. Tonight's first performer is…
Singer: ADANNA DURU
Song: “I Love You I Do”
My Take: Our first Movie song of the night and… It isn't a cheat! “I Love You I Do” was written for the movie version of “Dreamgirls,” so it totally counts. I'm not sure Adanna gains anything from putting herself against Jennifer Hudson, but with a fetchingly sparkling outfit, she fits the part of a Dreamgirl. Adanna looks great and sounds reasonably good. The couple bum notes stand out and she doesn't really build to anything big. It's a consistently smiley and empty performance. But that was a decent enough show-starter.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith thinks it was a good song choice and Adanna looks amazing. J-Lo says Adanna sounded good on the high parts, but maybe not on the lower parts. J-Lo also wanted more emotion. “Everything was good. Everything was strong,” Harry says, recommending that Adanna should sing to the audience, rather than just playing to the camera. Ryan tells us that J-Hud will be dropping by “Idol” in a couple of weeks. Adanna is impressed.
Singer: DANIEL SEAVEY
Song: “Lost Stars”
My Take: Wow. Two straight entirely theme-appropriate song choices. Daniel wanted to play the piano, but Nile Rodgers steered him toward the guitar. Ummm… Daniel doesn't know what the high notes are supposed to be. the early falsetto touches are rough, verging on brutal. Yeah, this is pretty much entirely immature and disconnected performance by a kid who would have been better served by “Idol” with a pre-Top 24 elimination and an invitation back next year. And yes, I know that Daniel Seavey is almost certain to be back for several weeks to come. But he's not good enough as a singer to be here. But now the judges will coddle him a bit. Sit back and relax and ignore how weak what you just heard was.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “You're such a cutey,” J-Lo says, calling it “OK,” but claiming she felt emotion coming from him. “It just sounds like you were in a practice room.” Harry says. Keith praises Daniel's rearranging of the melody, calling it “a good performance,” urging him to dig in a little more. The crowd loves Daniel, or at least the girls in the front row do. So it doesn't matter what I think.
8:24 p.m. Joe Buck in the audience. Up next?
Singer: RAYVON OWEN
Song: “Staying Alive”
My Take: We're 3-3 on song choices that aren't cheats. Yay! Pharrell may be on “The Voice,” but Pharrell's Hat is on Rayvon Owen. Rayvon has decided that “Staying Alive” should be all-falsetto and far sleepier than usual. The Bee-Gees version was intended to get you up and dancing. This version is intended to make me nap. The slow fan projected on the screen behind Rayvon just adds to the drowsiness. Rayvon has a fine falsetto, so this isn't unpleasant to listen to. But it's sure a bore, with Rayvon meandering and smiling and floating around the stage.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry “admired the arrangement,” but he wonders how Rayvon is going to remain interesting. Harry calls it “fine” and “pleasant,” but asks for more substance. Yuppers. Keith wants more stage command from Rayvon. “It's about how you capture the audience every single time,” J-Lo says. Apparently we're short on time tonight.
Singer: NICK FRADIANI
Song: “Danger Zone”
My Take: Another actual song from a movie! Plus? “Archer” cred. Nick says he made this choice to step out of his comfort zone, but all it's doing is reminding us of how old he is. Yup. This is some vintage Child of the '80s karaoke from Nick, which is sure to be a test of how many Children of the '80s are actually watching “Idol” still. Unfortunately, this is our fourth straight mediocre performance to start the night. And oy, Nick has absolutely no clue what to do with himself without his guitar. He's stumbling around and spasming his hand over a phantom guitar. The vocal is fine, but it's no better than fine. But the crowd loves it.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith thinks Nick is getting more comfortable, but urges him to keep loosening up. “You're a hot guy. You know you're hot,” J-Lo tells Nick. “You've just gotta own your hotness,” J-Lo says. J-Lo, for the record, is entirely owning her hotness. “I love Kenny Loggins, but that was the wrong song,” Harry says. Nick has his own ice cream flavor back in Connecticut. And somehow “Idol” thinks this is a better use of time than letting J-Lo talk.
Singer: JOEY COOK
Song: “Mad World”
My Take: OK, this is probably the first theme-stretch. Granted that “Mad World” was important to “Donnie Darko,” particularly this arrangement, but it's not a song from a movie, at least not technically. I wish she'd done a song from “Popeye.” Looking oddly like a Real Girl doll, Joey is still tonight's best performer by wide margin. A comically wide margin. It's not a range-y performance, but it's flawlessly sung and articulated. I believe this performance completely, even if I also believe that Joey's singing the song in the persona of her fake movie alien character. Every choice here is on-point.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo compares Joey to Sia, calling it a different side of her. Harry says Joey keeps staying in her lane, but she keeps expanding that lane. He calls it a great song and a great choice. Keith loves that Joey brings attention to the lyrics of a song and praises her for going in different directions.
8:52 p.m. Harry is auctioning off his t-shirt from last week to benefit an afterschool program in New Orleans. Somehow the conversation degenerates into discussion of J-Lo's underwear or lack thereof. Awkwardness ensures. Up next?
Singer: TYANNA JONES
Song: “Circle of Life”
My Take: This is an interesting choice for Tyanna. It may be the first time we've seen her do a song that was wholly about her voice and not about her peppy personality. And… It's OK. Can Tyanna do this? Sure. Is it what Tyanna should be doing? Probably not. There are segments that showcase parts of her voice that we haven't heard before, but there are also parts that find her missing notes in ways that I don't like and that we haven't heard from her before. Some of the big notes at the end are good, but that's not what's going to win “American Idol” for Tyanna. There's very little personality tonight and that's a disappointment.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry says it looked like Tyanna was trying to hard tonight and she overshot the mark. Keith says Tyanna had serious issues tonight with finding pitch. J-Lo says she's sure Tyanna will be amazing next week. Ouch.
9:02 p.m. J-Lo time. This is Princess Ballad J-Lo, not Sexy Dancing J-Lo. I'm confused by J-Lo's dress. Is it a projection screen? Is she melting into the stage? There are fireworks coming out of her dress. And cosmic ripples. While this is less embarrassing than having to hear Ryan say “I Luh Ya Papi,” but it's not particularly fun.
9:11 p.m. J-Lo is back in her judging outfit. And she didn't even work up a sweat. Up next to sing?
Singer: QUENTIN ALEXANDER
Song: “You”re the One That I Want”
My Take: This is from the “Grease” movie, not the musical, right? So it counts? Last week Quentin didn't really connect to his song, but this is an intriguing spin on the song, repurposing the idea of having multiplying chills. Quentin's phrasing is precise and passionate and perhaps a bit scarily intense, which is almost certainly what he's going for. I dig the heck out of that. His sense of the pitch isn't nearly so precise, but I'm not distracted by it. Quentin joins Joey in escaping tonight's morass of mediocrity, though Joey managed to be unique and also sing, which gives her the advantage.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith knows the arrangement and urges Quentin to loosen up a bit. J-Lo thought it was haunting and beautiful, but she doesn't know if it translated. Harry cautions Quentin about losing the pitch in favor of emotion, calling it “horribly out of tune.”
9:20 p.m. Next week, Boy George will be mentoring '80s Week or, as Nick Fradiani calls it, “home.”
Singer: MADDIE WALKER
Song: “Let”s Hear It for the Boy”
My Take: This song definitely fits the theme, but Maddie probably should have saved this one for next week. Maddie is glued to the camera in genuinely disturbing ways. Why is she spinning slowly with it? The opening verse is painfully wooden. Is Maddie wearing that headband because she thinks that's how we did it in the '80s? She's got none of the spirit of the song otherwise. Maddie picks up the pace a bit when she hits the first chorus, but even that comfort becomes bland when she reaches the second verse. This was a return of Pretty Pageant Maddie. Maybe being sick last week helped Maddie because it took her out of her head? That wasn't good at all.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: That was J-Lo's mom's favorite song. “It was good. It was cute,” J-Lo says damningly. “I don't know who you are,” Harry laments. “It felt very pageant-y to me,” he adds after criticizing her sporadic twang. Keith thinks it's about song choice. Harry accurately says that “average” performances are going to look good on this subpar night.
9:27 p.m. Kenny Loggins!
9:29 p.m. Hmmm… Are only Jax and Clark Beckham left? That's ridiculous. Qaasim, too. There's no way one of those three should be going home if Daniel, Nick and Maddie are still around. I'll acknowledge that Qaasim was really bad last week, Jax was lackluster and Clark was far from his best. But none of those three should be in trouble at this point.
Singer: CLARK BECKHAM
Song: “Sunday Morning”
My Take: Ummm… The “Cheaper By The Dozen 2” soundtrack? Laaaaaame. Clark's going with his guitar tonight. He's also gone with a pleasantly stripped down arrangement that invites the dumbass rhythm-free morons in the crowd to clap against the beat. This is a good wimp-rock performance elevated a fair amount by the absence of band. That proved Clark can hold the stage without any embellishment. Good vocal, good guitar, good arrangement. This is going to be the posterboy for Harry's “average is the new awesome” critique earlier.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry acts like we don't know what “arrangement” means. Harry says Clark's arrangement knocked it out of the park. Keith wants just a bit of a smile. “It was so you. It was very beautiful,” J-Lo coos. Yup. That wasn't a great performance, but it was great relatively.
9:44 p.m. Oh, America… What have you done? We're down to Jax and Qaasim. The next performer is… JAX. Qaasim was bad last week. But he didn't deserve this.
Song: “I Wanna Grow Old With You”
My Take: This is a hilarious song choice. Gotta give Jax credit for that. Why picks the Adam Sandler song from “The Wedding Singer” for “American Idol”? Nobody, that's who. And the hilarious thing is that Jax's version of this song could be a hit. It's cute and sweet and a little funny and in this version, it even includes some singing. The problem? I don't have a clue who's going to be swayed to vote for Jax based on an adorable performance of a joke song. I continue to like Jax a ton and this was an unexpectedly effective showcase. [We don't know, of course, if she was actually in second-to-last in the voting, so she might be totally comfortable and this wouldn't hurt that at all.]
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “I thought it was beautiful,” Keith says. J-Lo felt like it played into the quirkiness in Jax's voice. Harry says Jax is a high risk/high reward performer and this paid off tonight.
9:52 p.m. So what does Qaasim Middleton have in his back pocket to save his “Idol” life? “Come Together.” Nope. Bad choice. It's a theme cheat. I actually like how expressive and distinctive Qaasim is being here, but I wish he'd found a way to get back into his James Brown sweet spot here. “Living in America”? “The Payback”? I actually kinda love this performance. This is the Qaasim we didn't see last week, plus it's better vocally than last week's dud. Unlike Sarina-Joi last week, Qaasim is gonna make the judges work for this.
9:57 p.m. Harry's got the Save announcement responsibility and he tells Qaasim that that was arguably the best performance of the night. And QAASIM IS SAVED.
9:58 p.m. While this was much too early in the season, I love how excited Qaasim's fellow contestants are for him. He earned that.
TONIGHT'S BEST: Joey Cook, Qaasim and Jax were my favorites, followed by Clark.
TONIGHT'S WORST: Too many to list, really. Daniel Seavey, Maddie Walker, Rayvon Owen, Nick Fadiani. I guess Daniel and Maddie were the ones who were really bad. The others were just Meh-ish.
What'd you think?