There were definitely some surprises in last week's first Top 24 eliminations.
One week, Trevor Douglas was my pick to win the whole thing. The next week? Poof. Gone.
One week, it seemed like everybody hated Maddie Walker for taking Rachael Hallack's place in the Top 24. The next week? Bam! Embraced by America despite an utterly mediocre performance.
On Wednesday (March 11) night, “American Idol” is unveiling our Top 12 Finalists. How will the lucky singers be revealed? And what will we do to fill the hour?
Click through and follow along!
8:00 p.m. ET. I feel pretty good about Qaasim Middleton's chances of making the Top 12, so his picture is accompanying my recap. I don't know if the judges are getting Wild Card picks or what, but by hook or by crook, I'm betting on Qaasim, at least for another week.
8:02 p.m. I don't have a clue what's happening tonight. OK. Five guys and Five girls are making the Top 10. And then there will be Wild Cards. But they're also singing tonight. This is going to be a total mess, isn't it? In an hour? Bad idea. I know “Empire” is too big to preempt, but I'm not sure what “Idol” is doing tomorrow night either, so I wonder on the approach they're taking.
8:03 p.m. The first person in our Top 10 or Top 12 or whatever is…
Singer: SARINA-JOI CROWE
Song: “Love Runs Out”
My Take: Easy one and I'm glad Sarina-Joi didn't have to wait. But… Stop clapping along you arhythmic morons in the “American Idol” audience! This is a stupid song to be clapping along with and Sarina-Joi is also obviously over-pumped with the evening's excitement and the clapping, which has no relation to the beat of the song, is surely making things worse. Sarina-Joi is one of my favorites, but this up-tempo performance is a little more shout-y than I needed. She comes out tight and she's sharp and off on a lot of notes. She's better than this and better than this format that she's been stuck in.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith tells her to be carful with her pitch. “I am so excited for you,” J-Lo says at least three times. “You are very talented and this is going to be a good competition,” Harry says.
Singer: RAYVON OWEN
Song: “Wide Awake”
My Take: Rayvon had a very savvy performance last week and I'm not surprised that America responded. He made good use of the Motown theme and was rewarded. This performance? It's a bit dull, eh? At least Rayvon isn't smiling broadly through this one, showing that he's got more expressions than he'd showcased previously. Vocally? I take back a bit of what I said. There are some bigger notes toward the end that Rayvon hadn't previously hinted that he could hit with this authority. It's not a good personality performance, but it's the kind of vocal that Rayvon probably needed.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “It was sick,” J-Lo says of the big note. Harry wants to see how Rayvon improves and Keith also hopes we get to hear more.
8:13 p.m. No. Do not rush the performers while dedicating multiple minutes to buttering up Scott Borchetta. Bad. Bad. Bad.
Singer: DANIEL SEAVEY
Song: “Straight Up”
My Take: What? You thought Little Daniel Seavey was in any jeopardy of not making the Top 12? Seriously? How do we feel about the Bieberization of Daniel's hair? He's going to be dating Selena Gomez by the time we make the Top 5. Didn't he do this with an instrument the first time he did it? He's lost without an instrument, both melodically and in terms of on-stage movement. Things get genuinely uncomfortable when he blunders the lyrics. He bounces back reasonably well and ends a pretty weak performance with a smile with a smile. I thought Daniel's “Straight Up” was much better when he auditioned. Is he struggling without an instrument? Is he struggling with the pressure of the moment? Is he struggling with puberty? He's definitely struggling.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “You're young and you're inexperienced,” Harry says, telling Daniel that his inexperience is really showing. Keith, however, thinks Daniel needs to find emotional song. J-Lo agrees that song choice will be everything.
Singer: MADDIE WALKER
My Take: We're in the Juvenile Category now. Somebody has very wisely worked with softening Maddie's makeup. She looks much younger and less pageant-y tonight. She's still a pretty plastic performer and her voice isn't especially interesting. But she's much more likely to advance actually looking and coming across like a teenage girl, which she does tonight. The giggle at the end is a good move as well. Maddie has been robotic previously, but tonight was a bit more flesh-and-blood and you have to assume that Scott Borchetta is thinking he has a good sense of how to work with a pretty, blonde teenage girl.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith felt the song suited her, even if lots of people don't know it. J-Lo felt like Maddie was too much in her head on the vocals. And Harry felt it was solid.
Singer: TYANNA JONES
My Take: Whew. I genuinely worried that Tyanna was too boring last week. And this is instantly better than her lackluster performance of “Rocking Robin.” As up-tempo songs go, Tyanna is much better than Sarina-Joi Crowe was opening the show. She's got a smile, but also a look of determination that we maybe haven't seen from her before. Sarina-Joi maybe still seems surprised to be advancing after her earlier rejections, so she's just happy to be there. Tyanna, the way she looks and sounds tonight, seems to know she belongs and now she's out to win.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo praised her composure. Harry calls her comfort impressive. And Keith says she's a star.
Singer: NICK FRADIANI
Song: “In Your Eyes”
My Take: So Daniel chose not to use an instrument? Hmmm… That appears to be the case, since Nick Fradiani has his guitar out for this Peter Gabriel cover. Nick is consistently above-average and polished, but he doesn't excite me as a vocalist or an artist. He's a very solid bar band performer, but he hasn't shown me he's anything more. There are more distinctive singers and performers on the male side and I'm already getting a bit scared for Quentin, who is more likely than Qaasim to get squeezed out.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry points out that Nick is almost twice as old as Daniel. Keith feels like Nick needs to believe in himself more. J-Lo wants him to choose a song where every part of him is undeniable. Nick nods like he has a clue what J-Lo is talking about.
Song: “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”
My Take: The editing here is funny, because it looks like Jax suddenly just pushed that piano out onto the stage. Far moreso than with Maddie, Scott Borchetta much be looking at Jax and saying, “I can make that girl into an actual star,” because while Maddie has her cute teen blonde thing going, Jax has that, plus a distinctive voice, shocking stage confidence and an artist's interpretative gifts.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith thinks it was clear why America voted for her. J-Lo agrees. Harry wanted her to do it without the band, but he thought it was nice work.
Singer: QAASIM MIDDLETON
Song: “Sir Duke”
My Take: As always, I love Qaasim's fashion choices. That's a great red suit he's working. I like the build of this performance, because Qaasim starts off quiet and restrained, before unleashing his now-trademark excitement. Qaasim's feeling confident enough that he spends 10 seconds running around the judges' arc, leaves the lyrics aside to scat for a while and closes just with a wordless falsetto. Perhaps that was more frantic than Qaasim's previous performances? And perhaps that's not an awful thing? I think this was just a tiny bit less controlled, ultimately, than what Qaasim did previously. I still like what he brings to the table.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo calls his energy contagious. Harry wonders if we're going to see a performance that isn't an explosion of energy. But Keith says he killed it.
8:42 p.m. With Tyanna, Sarina-Joi, Jax and Qaasim safe, Quentin and Joey are the only two I'm really nervous for. From there, whatever America does I'll accept.
Singer: CLARK BECKHAM
Song: “It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World”
My Take: Oh right. I like Clark, too. I forgot! I would have been disappointed if he hadn't advanced. Sorry, Clark. You're very good. He's got a very good blue-eyed soul voice and he does good work on one of my two or three favorite James Brown joints. Yeah, I love what he does with the high notes. They're full of emotion. That was a great performance.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: The song is more complicated than what Harry is saying. But he loves it. Keith says it was killa. And it was J-Lo's vocal of the night. I agree.
Song: “King of Spain”
My Take: Joey Cook has no clue what state she's from, so Ryan had to say her name. Rocking the ukelele, Joey Cook looks a bit like a Deep South hipster matron tonight. I'm not complaining. Joey was out-of-control last week. Tonight? She's very controlled and it's very nice. I also like that she tosses in a big note at the end just to remind us that she has that capacity. Every week I don't get tired of Joey is a win, so this is totally a victory. She stands apart and I will continue to appreciate that.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith felt like Joey looked shocked. J-Lo felt Joey filled the stage well. Harry thinks Joey is finding her spot.
8:50 p.m. Ah. So that's the Top 10. And now the judges have to make two picks. To me, it's gotta be Adanna and Quentin *or* Adam. Right?
8:54 p.m. So… Who's it gonna be? The first pick is… QUENTIN ALEXANDER.
Singer: QUENTIN ALEXANDER
My Take: I like Quentin's Lorde cover, but I wonder if it's too understated to move the needle for America? Quentin's such a tough guy to get a read on and the competition is better for having him here, but a slowed-down version of “Royals” that nearly tosses the melody aside? That could chill some voters. However, I love Quentin's emotion at the end, emotion that makes J-Lo a bit weepy. That emotion could warm some voters.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo says that his emotions are part of what makes him a great artist. Harry loves how deeply in touch he is with his emotions. Keith likes the spiritualism Quentin brought to the song.
8:57 p.m. The second Wild Card pick is… ADANNA DURU.
Singer: ADANNA DURU
Song: “You and I”
My Take: Both Wild Card choices were correct. Adanna just has a different voice from the other women in the Top 12 and relative to Loren Lott, I completely buy the sincerity of her performances. This particular performance? Well, Adanna's mighty pumped up and there's some really shrill yelling at the end as she tries to march around the stage. Under these circumstances, I'll allow it.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry tells her to channel the emotion better. J-Lo thought it was amazing, but needed more control. Keith says she's got something going on.
9:00 p.m. That's close enough to the right Top 12. Yes, it's silly that Daniel Seavey is there, but Mark Andrew was a smooth-voiced bore and Adam Ezegelian was always going to be an acquired taste. To me, once the judges put Daniel Seavey in the Top 12, they were acknowledging and accepting that he was there to try to lure the young girls. And for “Idol,” there's a lot of merit in that. But once you take Daniel out, the rest of the Top 11 is roughly what it should have been based on what the voters had to choose from. It's a decent Top 10 and with Tyanna, Sarina-Joi, Jax, Joey, Qaasim, Quentin and Clark? That's a lot of people I like.
TONIGHT'S BEST: Clark, Joey, Jax and Tyanna were my favorites.
TONIGHT'S WORST: Daniel Seavey should have this place to himself.
What'd you think of the Top 12 America selected? And who did you like tonight?