Last week, the “American Idol” Top 24 performed over two chaotically edited nights.
This week, we're going to apparently be eliminating eight people, while also showcasing eight performances per night leading up to eliminations next week.
And Aretha Franklin's going to be involved in some way.
Click through and follow along!
7:59 p.m. ET. Per Ryan Seacrest's twitter, eight guys will get called to perform. If you don't get called, you're eliminated. This is, of course, utterly vicious to the last few performers, who will be stressed out balls of adrenaline. But who cares!
8:00 p.m. OH SNAP! IT'S ARETHA! She's doing “I Will Survive.” A couple years ago, we were really concerned about Aretha's health and it seemed like we might not have her for long, but she looks and sounds spectacular. What an absolutely terrific turn of events. I'm just plain happy.
8:03 p.m. We're still in Detroit, of course. We're doing Music of Motown for our theme.
8:04 p.m. This is in no particular order, but we're starting with…
Singer: DANIEL SEAVEY
Song: “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)”
My Take: Good. We've got new footage. Daniel Seavey's got footage from when he was four. Which was last year. Motown really isn't going to be Daniel's ideal theme and you instantly sense how little clue he has what to do without an instrument in his hand. He does a little thing where he runs down the scale with his fingers. He points at the audience. He leans his head sideways. He does a half-hearted side-drum. He dips the microphone over slightly. It's a pu-pu platter of barely committed stage mannerisms. Vocally, the song is way too low and Daniel doesn't get caught up with the melody until the end, when a run takes the song up into his range, which isn't exactly pleasant, either. But Daniel ends with his choirboy smile and I suspect that'll be enough to push him into the Top 12 with ease.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “You're hanging with the big dogs,” Keith says, telling him that all he needs is confidence and experience. He tells him not to be so stuck on the melody. J-Lo felt like the song was a little low for him and that he's getting more confident with each performance. Harry felt that he wasn't moving to the beat with the band. “Sing that shuffle. You've just gotta groove harder,” Harry says.
Singer: MARK ANDREW
Song: “Papa Was a Rollin' Stone”
My Take: America loved the young guy and now America loves the old guy. Mark Andrew has tendonitis. Daniel Seavey barely has tendons. Mark is, if you ask me, much too satisfied with being smooth and charming. So this is a proficient karaoke cover and nothing more. It requires very little vocal range and he's adding neither edge nor soul. It's just smooth and easy. The background singers are getting all the big notes. Lame, Mark. You can do better than that. Try harder. Give more. There wasn't anything there emotionally. The lyrics to that song can be as honest and heart-felt as you want to make them. Or as empty.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “I'm not sure that song in that way was moving me,” J-Lo says. Harry calls it a “jam band” performance, which is EXACTLY right. Keith loves that America voted for him. We'll see if they do next week, because that was nothing.
Singer: RAYVON OWENS
Song: “My Girl”
My Take: In contrast, smooth and smiley really is what Rayvon does best and “My Girl” is about as close to a no-brainer as I could imagine. The difference is in fulfilling the potential of a performance. Mark did not. Rayvon, however, is doing exactly what I'd want from a Rayvon performance of this song and perhaps in the second half, with a few personalized runs, he even does more. That's a performance that wasn't great, but will push the needle in a positive direction, because it was a good match of song and artist. Tonight's best so far. For what that's worth.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry thought it was a great song choice and he admires his “nice” presence. Keith wants to see just a little more weight, but he assumes he'll be sticking around. J-Lo liked where he made it his own.
Singer: ADAM EZEGELIAN
Song: “I Want You Back”
My Take: Frantic Jack Black-style rocking is what Adam does best. Grafting the Adam humor and cartoonishness onto a Jackson 5 song is… an odd match? Should this song be funny? I mean *can* it be funny? Absolutely. This is a funny performance. I'm smiling throughout. But Adam's mostly shouting and shrieking and winking at the audience. I think I like the idea of Adam sticking around, because he's not smiley and smooth and this competition needs people who aren't smiley and smooth, if only for a few weeks. Adam will be distinctive and I can appreciate that, even if I'll keep saying that a Tenacious D tribute band or a traveling production of “The Commitments” is more likely to be in his future than an “American Idol” win. The light bobbing through his towering hair is already a classic comedy sight gag.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “That was the perfect song for you,” Keith says confusingly. Keith loves that America voted for you. J-Lo loved the band. Harry says the Adam's voice is the most dangerous part about him.
8:33 p.m. It's our first glimpse of new mentor Scott Borchetta. He's hearing “online buzz” that the season is great and that they have a lot of artists. He really likes Clark. That's a good thing, because up next?
Singer: CLARK BECKHAM
Song: “The Tracks of My Tears”
My Take: I like Clark. Of the Sincere White Boys With Guitars this season, his voice is easily the most interesting. I don't love everything he's doing to this standard — the falsetto does nothing for me and it gets his voice out-of-sorts on some high notes — but it's very Clark-y. The up-tempo closing is quite fine and even if I can't hear his guitar's contribution to the music, I like that he's using it, because it shows his musical diversity. There were some rough, sharp notes there, but that was mostly very good. He shouldn't be worried.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo likes Clark's choices, but she wants him to let loose and feel. She thinks he could go all the way. Harry wanted more of a beginning, middle and end. Keith would have done it without the band, with just his guitar and his voice. I think that's a good point, certainly I'd have toned down the backing arrangement and made it more about Clark.
Singer: NICK FRADIANI
Song: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”
My Take: Yeah, America is definitely pro-oldsters. Working all acoustic with a big smile, Nick continues to actively benefit from the fact that he looks like he knows what he's doing on a stage in front of people. The guitar, toothy smile and slicked back hair makes Nick look like a candidate to front a FOX reboot of “The Heights,” which makes him look like he'd be a huge star in the early-to-mid-90s. I'm not so sure he works long-term on “American Idol,” but his polish benefits him a lot.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry actually wants Nick to smile MORE. No. No. No. Keith didn't think Nick looked as comfortable with the guitar. “I think he smiles when he sings,” J-Lo says correctly.
Singer: QAASIM MIDDLETON
Song: “I Wish”
My Take: Excellent. Not only do I love Qaasim, but this is his freaking theme. And, once again, Qaasim is a pure electricity. He dances. He plays with his hair. He's entirely in the band's groove. On the real: Qaasim is energetic and wonderfully alive but he sings better when he stands still. But why would you stand still when you can spin and your hair looks that damn cool. That's an “American Idol” winner right there. I don't know if he can maintain it, but he's fabulous as a showman. I said it last week and I'll say it again: From this group, there's exactly one performer I'd go out of my way to watch live and it's Qaasim. He's the truth.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “Watching you in front of an audience is what it's all about,” Keith says. “You so damn funky it's crazy,” J-Lo says. She aptly tells him, though, that he wants to remind people how well he sings. “I didn't hear you lose the vocal at all,” Harry protests. “That's what we're looking for,” Harry says.
8:51 p.m. Interesting. We've only got one place left and sitting on the side, we still have Trevor Douglas, Michael Simeon and Savion Wright, among others. I predicted Trevor might win the whole thing and I stuck his picture with this recap because I figured he was a lock to advance, even though I also thought he was awful last week. I'd be a bit stunned in America rejected him this quickly.
8:55 p.m. The last guy to perform is…
Singer: QUENTIN ALEXANDER
Song: “Master Blaster”
My Take: Wow. I like Quentin, but I'm astounded that his uniqueness stood out for voters. Trevor Douglas did NOT look pleased. Why didn't we just call this Mostly Stevie Wonder Night? I don't think Quentin is anywhere near the best vocalist we've got, but after Qaasim, he's the guy with stagecraft and personality and the guy who seems able to make choices that will surprise and excite complacent viewers. Even this is a very slightly off-brand Stevie song, relatively speaking. And he sells it with style and swagger.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “That was so easy, that was so smooth,” J-Lo says, adding that she hates to see the other guys go. Harry felt like Quentin was a bit freaked out to be the last guy through, but he otherwise liked it. “You know who you are. You know what songs suit you,” Keith says, calling it a bullseye.
8:59 p.m. Trevor Douglas didn't deserve to advance after last week, but I'm astounded America didn't keep him anyway. I'm also surprised that Riley didn't have more support. I think this, coupled with Caleb's win last year, may be a strong indication that “American Idol” is no longer a show steered by the voting of teenage girls. That both Nick and Mark advanced suggests the show's getting older. The ratings do as well. So there you go. Losing Trevor isn't a disaster, I just went overboard on him before seeing a single full performance. My bad!
TONIGHT'S BEST: Qaasim Middleton is alone for me. Clark, Rayvon and Quentin were also in my “plus” column.
TONIGHT'S WORST: Daniel Seavey was bad. Mark Andrew was a total snooze.
Who'd you love? Who'd you hate?