It's a night of penultimates on “American Idol.”
Tuesday (May 12) is the season's penultimate episode as we wait to see which two contestants will be competing on Wednesday night to become the penultimate winner in “American Idol” history.
Yup, FOX announced on Monday that “American Idol” will end after next season.
Let's see how Ryan Seacrest and company acknowledge the end of the road and who goes home in this showdown between Jax, Clark Beckham and Nick Fradiani…
8:59 p.m. ET. No clue what tonight's format is going to be. Are only the two Finalists performing? So will we open with an elimination? I guess we're about to find out.
9:01 p.m. We're at the Dolby Theatre and we're getting to the results RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. A gigantic nerd delivers the results.
9:02 p.m. Between two of them, the vote came down to less that 0.4% of a vote. The person going home tonight is… JAX.
9:02 p.m. And with that, I have three hours of recapping looming ahead of me that I couldn't care less about. Well, that's a pity. Farewell to Jax, who was to my mind the clearly deserving winner for the season.
9:03 p.m. This appears to have taken place backstage, where nobody is around to react. That sucks for Jax, who surely deserved the chance to be celebrated by the crowd. Indeed, they're behind a screen and the screen rises and the crowd gets to take in our Top 2.
9:05 p.m. Even the Jennifer Lopez Fashion Show has lost its luster. I'm not sure “Idol” has ever done anything so emotion-deflating — Tom Brady Joke — in its history.
9:06 p.m. “For those who want to try out for our final season of 'American Idol'…” Ryan says, noting that auditions start today. Harry says that it's going to be a party. Oy. Three performances. It's a personal choice from the season, Simon Fuller's choice and coronation songs. Up first…
Singer: CLARK BECKHAM
Song: “Georgia My Mind”
My Take: Doing unnecessary Ray Charles head-twitches, Clark begins solo on a piano at center stage. I wish it had stayed that way, but he's joined by an understated musical arrangement. This remains the mode in which I most enjoy Clark and goes through a very nice piano bar cover of “Georgia on My Mind” boosted by some flourishes in the last 15 seconds. The bits at the end show some of his range, but also show Clark in his always-contained element.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “It was like a whole mess of flap-jacks drenched in syrup,” Keith says. J-Lo says Clark was singing to win. “You're always stretching and pushing.
9:13 p.m. So Ryan gave that close margin between two of the singers, but he didn't say if that was the margin between second and third or first and second. I guess he wanted to allow for suspense? But here's my suspicion/fear: Nick Fradiani has been dominating the results by epic margins for weeks and he's going to dominate tonight no matter what happens. He just feels like a better example of what “American Idol” is at this moment — Innocuous, not untalented and also totally irrelevant. So my fear is that not only are we looking at a three-hour slog to get to a result I don't care about, but also a three-hour slog to a result that hasn't been in doubt for months.
Singer: NICK FRADIANI
Song: “Bright Lights”
My Take: This was, to Nick's absolute credit, one of his best performances and one of the first times I suggested that he was probably the betting line favorite. And he's good once again. You can tell how hard he's working to get the audience involved and energized. It was a good original performance and I think that was a better redux performance. Clark had better watch out, because this is just slipping away. The crowd reaction to Nick is on a different level from the response to the previous performance.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo says that Simon Fuller must have been thinking about somebody like Nick when he was thinking up the competition. Harry tells people to vote. Keith says he can relate to Nick.
9:22 p.m. Round 1 to Nick. J-Lo tries saying it was a push. “You have to choose!” Harry says, leading the crowd in cheering. J-Lo mumbles, equivocates and refuses to give in. “It's a tie,” she insists.
Singer: CLARK BECKHAM
Song: “Ain't No Sunshine”
My Take: This was a great song choice from Simon Fuller and I'd admire the hell out of Clark if he did the entire performance solo with just his guitar at center stage. I'm practically holding my breath that nothing else joins him. This probably won't get Clark any votes from anybody other than me, but it's the ultimate sign of “American Idol” confidence. Can you do it all yourself and still hold the stage. The answer? Absolutely. It may be too late, but this is a statement-making performance from Clark and, as such, it's my favorite thing he's done all season. I enthusiastically endorse that.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry thought it took guts to do a second straight slow song. Harry thinks it's interesting that Clark is inward and Nick is outward. “That was fantastic,” Keith says after an odd joke about ducks and Bill Withers. J-Lo wants to know who Clark was singing to.
9:33 p.m. Now, of course, I'm going back to Kris Allen's celebrated “Ain't No Sunshine.” Kris started without accompaniment, but then the song and the vocal become overdone in the second half. It's definitely not bad, but I'll take Clark's pure performance here, I think.
Singer: NICK FRADIANI
Song: “I Won't Give Up”
My Take: How odd. Why is Nick trying to give a Clark performance? Quiet and understated really isn't Nick's jam, though it's interesting to see him sit at the piano for a bit. Whew. Nick starts off in Clark-mode, but at the chorus the band joins him and the lights start flashing just a bit. Yeah, the first performance was what Nick does best. This was not, but the crowd still loves him.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith loved the song choice and says Nick's heart is so good. J-Lo loved the way he sounded as says the two singers are going toe-to-toe. Harry says that it was an emotional and heartfelt performance.
9:40 p.m. I give Round 2 to Clark. Easily.
9:41 p.m. Harry says it's a tie and J-Lo rushes to choke him, but then Harry clarifies that it's a tie because Nick clearly won Round 1 and Clark clearly won Round 2. Yup! Me and you, Harry. We'll take on the world.
Singer: CLARK BECKHAM
My Take: Wow. This song is… Awkwardly overwritten. It's a nonstop string of empowerment cliches and it couldn't be worse matched to Clark's musical aesthetic. All season long he's been uncomfortable taking the stage without an instrument. So naturally, they give him a song that's asking him to spit out long, needlessly verbose platitudes without any Clark musical accompaniment. The hook isn't bad, but the rest of the song is nonsense. Clark is a performer who can definitely be inspiring, but in a quieter, less forced way than that.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo thinks Clark sounded great and it's going to be a tough night. Harry thought Clark did a good job, but it was obvious that it was a good song. “What's great is how inspiring that song is,” Keith says. Sigh.
9:51 p.m. The last coronation song I thought was GOOD for a singer was back in the Phil-Phil days. But “Champion” actually seemed like it could have been decent for Nick. We'll see what they give Nick. Also, why have we not switched up the order tonight?
Singer: NICK FRADIANI
Song: “Beautiful Life”
My Take: “Haters can hate and fakers can front”? Jeebus. This is another lyrical nightmare. It's actually almost totally interchangeable with “Champion,” but the difference is that this is much more what Nick is suited to do. Oh and the reason why Nick compared it to Fun is because it's “Carry On” only without the hooky chorus. It builds up to that hook and then bows out. Nick is just so much more comfortable selling this mush than Clark was. It's not a good song either, but that was a better performance. He looks happy to be out there spewing this stuff. Clark did not.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry really enjoyed it and says that Nick got lucky that the song sounded tailored for him. I think both songs were tailored for Nick. “That's what people go out and buy,” Keith says, calling it a “bullseye.”
9:59 p.m. Keith leans a little for Nick “by a narrow margin.” And I agree. It's too bad they couldn't have given Clark a more Clark-centric song. I wonder what Jax would have gotten, because neither of these two songs were in a Jax zone either.