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Empire‘s Taraji P. Henson drop by American Idol tonight to deliver the official results from the previous night’s voting to host Ryan Seacrest. Throughout the episode, Seacrest revealed one by one who had advanced to the top 11— the contestants’ chairs turning from red to green if they made it through. Last night’s theme was “let’s get this party started,” which was vague enough to give the remaining contestants a lot of flexibility with their song choices. During the two-hour episode, America got to see a little more than usual of the contestants, who each had the stage for longer than they would in a typical one-hour episode. This made their song choices all the more important.
The first contestant through was Rayvon Owen, who sang “Burn” by Ellie Goulding. “Rayvon has a very positive, infectious energy,” Harry Connick Jr. said before the performance, but went on to say that he still wanted to see Rayvon “in a different light.” The judges loved his performance of “Burn,” and Keith Urban said it was Owen’s best to date. Clearly, his work with this season’s mentor, Scott Borchetta, paid off.
Maddie Walker also advanced to the top 11. She chose “She’s Country” by Jason Aldean, hoping it would show an edgier side of the country genre. Connick warned Walker about imitating the original recording of the song, getting at Walker’s main challenge: she still hasn’t found a distinct identity as an artist, and that makes a lot of her performances unmemorable.
The next person through was Joey Cook. Borchetta explained how he had been pushing her in their mentor sessions, and said that he thought “she'[d] discovered a new gear in her voice.” Cook sang a stellar original arrangement of “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea, accompanied by a stand-up bass, in what was one of the most memorable performances of the season so far and the best of the night. Cook made “Fancy” her own and proved that she can take a mainstream song and still make it fresh.
Continuing FOX’s cross-promotional efforts, the show then took a break from the American Idol singers to feature Empire‘s Jussie Smollett and Yazz performing “No Apologies” from the official Empire soundtrack.
Smollett and Yazz performed with such dynamism that Clark Beckham had a tough act to follow. He chose The Doobie Brothers’ “Takin’ It To The Streets” and played the piano as he sang. Like Walker, Beckham hasn’t done much to set himself apart in the competition. As Jennifer Lopez pointed out, the rest of his skills—his emotion, his stage presence, his artistry—still need to catch up with his vocals
Jax Cole advanced next. Borchetta opined out that “Jax is the epitome of everything that’s great about the 80s, mashed up in 2015.” Cole sang Taylor Swift‘s hit “Blank Space,” but, unfortunately, it wasn’t her best performance. As Lopez pointed out, her vocals were somewhat swallowed up by the band. Usually Cole brings more of herself to whatever she’s singing, but last night her song sounded too much like Swift’s original. She chose the song in an attempt to do something a little more mainstream, but the judges’ told Cole that she should go back to being true to her own style.
Also making through to the top 11, Qaasim Middleton performed “Jet” by Paul McCartney. For the first time, he played the guitar on stage, and it definitely revealed a different side of the artist, who has become known for jumping around the stage. While he guitar kept him grounded in place, but it was still an energetic performance from the singer who is undoubtedly the season’s best performer. Connick expressed that he thought Middleton’s over-the-top showmanship might be starting to hurt him, saying, “I don’t think the performance matched what the song is trying to say.” But Urban and Lopez loved it.
Adanna Duru advanced next. Borchetta described Adanna as “brooding, moody, and dangerous.” During their mentor session, she told him she wanted to focus on getting her vocals on stage to the same level as her practice sessions. Her work paid off, and her performance of “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars demonstrated more vocal control than we’d previously seen from her. As Urban said, she totally justified the judges’ choice to save her with a wildcard last night.
One of the most consistently great singers in the competition, Tyanna Jones also advanced to the top 11, ambitiously taking on Janelle Monae‘s “Tightrope.” The performance showcased all of her strengths, and she was once again a standout, getting a standing ovation from Urban and Lopez. “You’re so in control over everything,” Lopez praised. “It was so complete.” Jones got as close to perfect as is possible last night, making a real case for becoming the next American Idol.
Daniel Seavey hoped to show that he’s more than just a cute kid in his performance of “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. Connick told him that it was the most comfortable he’s ever looked on stage, and on the whole Seavey definitely proved he has the musical range to back up his adorable image.
Next, Quentin Alexander made Adele‘s “Rolling In The Deep” his own, again demonstrating the strength of his vocals and artistry. Like Duru, he proved the judges made the right decision by making him a wildcard pick. “You bring a different flavor than everyone else,” Lopez old Alexander. Connick thought his interpretation of the lyrics was shallower than usual, but felt it was still a solid performance.
The final contestant to make it through to the top 11 was Nick Fradiani, who sang “Wake Me Up” by Aloe Blacc. It was an inconsistent performance, but he finished strong.
Finally, having been voted off, Sarina-Joi Crowe had the opportunity to sing for the judges to convince them to use the one save they get for the season on her. Crowe sang “Neon Lights” by Demi Lovato, but in the end the judges decided not to use their save.
Idol returns on March 19, when the competition gets narrowed down to 10 singers. Do you think America made the right choices this week?
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