American Idol Top 12 Recap: Royals

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Joey Cook Top 12 American Idol

For quite some time now, I’ve been considering expanding my recapping game. My experience doing recaps for the third season of a cappella competition “The Sing-Off,” back in 2011, was extremely positive, and since this past outing of the show was only one episode, I’ve been wanting to try out another full season of recapping something else. That said, it’s always somewhat time-consuming, so that’s held me back a bit in the past. I’m going to start experimenting, though, with recapping this current season of “American Idol,” now that they’ve gotten down to the Top 12, and starting next week, the show will just be a once-a-week commitment. I say “experimenting” because I am going to school, I do have other things to worry about, and it’s possible this may end up not working out down the road. However, I’m willing to try it, because I’m a huge “American Idol” fan, and this season is really exciting, and as always, I have quite a few thoughts and opinions and it’s always great to share them.

As of late, many have been renewing the calls that “American Idol” is tired, done, not relevant anymore, etc. Its ratings are certainly not even half of what they used to be, but I feel like the show is really experiencing a creative revival, all three of the judges are excellent (I dare say that Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick, Jr. are the best, most consistent judging trio we’ve had), and this season’s crop of contestants is better than ever. The last season I was able to watch, Season 11, had a very strong group of talent, but there were still a few contestants I could have done without. This season, however, out of the Top 12 that made it, I either like or love a whopping 11 of them. (You’ll see pretty clearly below the one who I don’t quite think belongs.) In my years of Idol watching (and looking over seasons I missed), that’s never happened. True, this means the eliminations will be nail-biters every week for me, and might sting a bit on occasion. However, I’m excited because it means watching every week should be quite a treat. Now, let’s begin the festivities, and talk about all the Top 12 performances, by the 5 from each gender who made it based on the public vote, and the 2 Wild Cards at the end that the judges selected:

  • Sarina-Joi Crowe, “Love Runs Out”: Sarina-Joi has been absolutely on fire up until now in the competition. Impeccable pitch. Incredible stage presence. A wonderful sense of artistry. So that’s why her Top 12 take on “Love Runs Out” was all the more disappointing…it appears the excitement of being the first to make the Top 12, combined with some sort of issue with her monitors, possibly, really tripped her up. It’s just not like Sarina-Joi to start a song completely off-key, but that’s what happened last night. She recovered for the rest of it, and I hope that, combined with her stellar previous track record, keeps her safe tonight for the Top 11 cuts. Despite such a talented group this season, she simply cannot go home this early. (If the unthinkable happens tonight, I don’t care if it’s the Top 12, judges, you break out that Save, and you use it.)
  • Rayvon Owen, “Wide Awake”: Last week, the judges advised Rayvon to explore some other sides of his artistry, but since the contestants were shackled to their audition tunes this week, he couldn’t really follow through with that, and thus this performance ended up being pretty close genre-wise to what he’s been doing so far. Quite frankly, though, I didn’t mind in the slightest. His vocal, as always, was terrifically on point, and that glory note at the end was both impressive and very well-sung. (Seeing as Rayvon has a background as a vocal coach, his excellent technique makes perfect sense.) I, like the judges noted previously, would like to see Rayvon get out of his comfort zone a little more, but like them tonight, I was perfectly thrilled with what he did give us. Keep voting for this guy, America. He deserves it all.
  • Daniel Seavey, “Straight Up”: Yeah. So this happened. I actually liked Daniel’s audition of this song when he was with his guitar, but here, for some reason, he went without it, and it ended up being pretty uncomfortable. I really appreciated Harry’s critique of Daniel’s lack of experience and how it is really starting to show (though you get to this conclusion just now, Harry?), because I feel like it really got to the heart of why I don’t think Daniel belongs in the Top 12. In a few years, his voice will settle down a bit. He’ll have had more performing experience and time to learn and grow. He hopefully won’t look like he’s 12 so much anymore. (Sorry. But it’s the truth.) But right now, he’s just not ready for this, and it’s slightly painful to watch at times. That he’s somehow become the designated heartthrob for the season is a bit frustrating, and I hope it doesn’t mean that Daniel becomes this season’s punching bag, and keeps moving on in the competition at the expense of other, more talented singers, even while he gives awkward, substandard performances like this.
  • Maddie Walker, “Suitcase”: Maddie has never been one of my absolute favorites, and this performance didn’t quite change that, but I like her and think she does deserve to go further in this competition. There were a few wonky notes and tone issues on “Suitcase,” her audition tune (why were the judges talking about song choice, by the way, when the theme last night was “audition songs”? It’s not like she could have chosen something else now), but when she gets it right, she really starts to shine, and there were quite a few moments vocally that I enjoyed. Stage presence-wise, she could have used a little more fire, but I think she’s one of those contestants that has the potential to keep improving that with time. She may overstay her welcome a bit down the road, but for now, I’m fine with Maddie sticking around.
  • Tyanna Jones, “Wings”: This girl, man. She’s good. She’s REALLY good. The gap between her and the other teenage contestants in terms of vocal power, stage presence, and even polish is a little mind-boggling. I feel like Randy Jackson (ugh) when I say this, but she’s only 16! And yet she already seems incredibly experienced, and like the judges noted, very comfortable and composed on stage. To have those qualities at any age is a great credit, but to have them at her age is pretty darn impressive and exciting. She had some tiny, tiny pitch issues on “Wings” at maybe one or two points, but besides that…top-notch. (It was even better than her already-terrific audition take on it.) May Tyanna keep rolling on in the competition…she is most definitely one of my favorites.
  • Nick Fradiani, “In Your Eyes”: Nick is always pretty solid, and he did well last night, but I can’t say it was a performance that really grabbed me. Once again, I note that song choice wasn’t quite a valid critique last night seeing as the contestants really couldn’t pick anything else besides the song they auditioned with, but I agreed with Jennifer that in the future, Nick should stick to songs that really fit his voice and work for him. This Peter Gabriel tune was alright for him, but for the first time in a while, he seemed a bit strained and off at some points, and his tone started to grate on me by the end, which doesn’t usually happen with Nick. He’s good, and like the judges keep reminding us, he’s got tons of experience, but this wasn’t quite the night for him to break out, I’d have to say. He’s not near the top of my list, but I’d like to see him stick around longer, so I hope America gives him the chance to do so.
  • Clark Beckham, “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World”: Gosh, is that title a lot to type out. Anywho, Clark has been a bit under par these past few weeks, even though he started out strong. Not anywhere nearly enough to completely fall off the wagon, but he could have done better. Last night, he certainly did do much better. There have been, to my memory, more than a few covers of this song (don’t make me type it out again) on TV singing competitions over the years, and it’s rather up for debate which is the best, but Clark’s version certainly can play with the best of them. He was confident, his vocal was very on-point, and it just really worked nicely for him overall. Based on this, it should be smooth sailing to the Top 11 for Clark, and with good reason.
  • Qaasim Middleton, “Sir Duke”: Qaasim has energy in spades and in droves. That once again showed tonight. The concern I’ve kind of seen rise up the past few weeks is, apart from his seemingly endless amount of stage presence, whether he has the vocals to back it up. His slowed-down intro certainly made some good progress in proving that…for a moment, he just sang, and it worked very nicely. Then he launched once again into full-on crazy mode, as usual, and I think that worked very well too. I may eventually get tired of all this stuff coming at me, but for now, it’s still a treat to see Qaasim work that stage every week. I noticed he responded with a thoughtful “definitely” to Harry’s critique of maybe not giving us quite an “explosion of energy” every week, so it’s possible he may start to pull things back a bit more on occasion, which I think will also be very intriguing to see.
  • Jax, “I Want To Hold Your Hand”: I’m with Harry and Keith on this one…I would have loved to have seen Jax stay at the piano for the entire number. That was gorgeous. She did quite fine, too, though, on this Beatles tune (the one she auditioned with, of course) when she got up and the band kicked in, though…her vocal was as great as ever, even if musically it wasn’t as distinctive as the first part, with just her and the keys. Jax, no matter what she does, is remarkably consistent and powerful week after week, and this week was certainly no exception.
  • Joey Cook, “King of Spain”: I’ve been a big fan of Joey since the beginning, and to see her in the Top 12…it’s exciting. She really brought her A-game last night, I think. The judges made a good point that she seemed to show a bit more of her range, beyond the stylized, kind of “cute” performances she’s been giving lately. Her vocal was strong, she seemed incredibly composed and confident, and she really just nailed it. If there was any doubt why she belongs in the Top 12, this performance certainly did wonders to dispel any of that. I hope this is a sign of even greater things to come from Joey, because I really, really love having her around.
  • Quentin Alexander, “Royals”: Perplexing why this had to be a Wild Card pick and that America didn’t vote him in outright (perhaps he was a close sixth?), but at least the judges righted the wrong, and put him through just fine. He’s had some pretty compelling vocals the past few weeks, and this one was definitely pretty darn exceptional. (Harry hit it right on the nose when he noted that there were fleeting pitch issues, but they didn’t matter.) His visible emotion (he broke into genuine tears at the end), the cool way in which he rearranged the song and changed up the melody a bit, and, as always, his high level of commitment to his performances, really sealed the whole deal. America, the judges bailed you out this time when it came to Quentin. Don’t make them do it again.
  • Adanna Duru, “You & I”: Another sensible Wild Card pick by the judges. Adanna’s really been stepping it up the last few weeks, and I really thought this performance continued that trend. The judges were very astute in advising her to work on her control a bit more and make sure her vocals don’t run away from her when she ramps the energy up. That energy, though…she seems to bring tons and tons of passion to her performances. There’s a lot of fire there and it really works for me. If she does indeed work on her pitch issues in those loud moments, she could be a major dark horse in this competition. I’m certainly glad she gets to stick around at least one more time, and hopefully, she’ll be here much longer if she keeps improving.

My Bottom Three: Daniel, Maddie, and Nick, with Daniel going home.

Predictions: I acknowledge that Daniel may overstay his welcome, but I’m going to go out on a limb and predict he’ll at least land in the Bottom 3. Sarina-Joi (aargh!) and either Maddie, Nick, or even Adanna might join him. As for who goes home, I’ll stick with Daniel, because I’m going for the wishful-thinking angle here.

Thanks for reading, and watch for a recap of tonight’s Top 11 performances sometime tomorrow. Any comments and feedback are, as always, incredibly encouraged. I want to make this a party, and you’re all most certainly invited.

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