AMERICAN IDOL Recap: Arena Anthem Fail!

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There are any number of songs and artists you’d expect to hear when the Idols took on Arena Anthems last night.

Queen? Def Leppard? The Rolling Stones? U2? Garth Brooks? All of that was in play. All of it. Their choices though? Well, you’ll have to read on to discover “questionable” isn’t nearly enough to describe their interpretation of the theme.

All that, plus last night the show cut down to its final five. Which, this year, means the quintet that goes on tour.

So who can you see on the road this year? Read on to find out.

Jax Sang “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” by Jet
Keith Said: That’s how you open a show, right there!
J-Lo Said: I feel like you’re so ready to tour.
Harry Said: I’d have a helluva time at your show. That was strong.
The Verdict:
This is a terrible song. An outright stinker of wannabe rock that had no right being a hit. I have no idea why she would choose it for a singing competition. I think there’s about four notes in the entire tune. Very confusing.
Seeing the performance, just made the choice more puzzling. Perhaps Jax was going to do something really interesting with the song and strip it down or blues it up or some sort of interesting reworking. Instead, she sang right on the record in a performance that sucked everything good about Jax right out of her. It was simply weak and lifeless – exactly the opposite of what we expect from this firebrand.
In fact, the only thing she did do was sing “Are you gonna be my guy” instead. The old gender-switch pet peeve strikes again.
Grade: D

Nick Fradiani Sang “Harder to Breathe” by Maroon 5
Keith Said: It feels like you’re not in the performance.
J-Lo Said: It was pretty awesome, but that song lends itself to audience participation.
Harry Said: That was really scary for the other people in the competition.
The Verdict:
The Arena Anthem term is getting very loose with this funk-pop song that’s better suited for a club than an arena, but I guess that doesn’t necessarily matter.
Plus, Nick turned it into more of an Arena Rock tune than what’s normally associated with Maroon 5. He injected some big guitar licks into the arrangement along with anthemic vocals that soared above the smooth funk of the record.
All in all, it was a solid performance from Nick who showed yet another side on this one – the washed-up stadium rocker who’s down to playing theaters but still brings the energy. Is this guy just trying to be every rock cliche?
Grade: B

Clark Beckham Sang “Yesterday” by The Beatles
Keith Said: That was like if Sam Smith did it now.
J-Lo Said: You did a beautiful job.
Harry Said: That was really really smart. The whole thing had structure and made sense.
The Verdict:
If “Harder to Breathe” is loose with the Arena Anthem term, “Yesterday” is goddamned untied. I have no idea how this could be lumped into that tranche. No way at all.
But who the hell cares? Clark’s a crooner now! No piano, no guitar, just his voice and a suit jacket. Jesus Christ. The guy killed it again. He turned into every single soft rock crooner you’ve ever heard on Adult Contemporary radio all rolled into one bit of Christopher Crossian brilliance.
Can we please just transport this guy back to the 70s so he can make like 45 Gold Records? It’s something that has to happen.
Grade: A-

Tyanna Jones Sang “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus
Keith Said: It’s good to see the fun side of you.
J-Lo Said: I felt you were the most comfortable that I’ve seen you in a long time.
Harry Said: That was so smart to choose that song.
The Verdict:
OK. Let’s just stop calling this Arena Anthem night. Nothing makes sense anymore.
This should have been a perfect song for Tyanna. No more being a kid trying to be an adult. Just let her be a kid and have fun. Where was this idea the whole time?
Issue was, she didn’t really seem to have that much fun with it. That could be because she was the last one saved and there was some nervous exhalation going on during her performance, but it felt wound up and clumsy from the outset.
As the song went, Tyanna loosened up and started to let her big voice out in some freestyle belting that really brought the song home, but that was really just a glimmer of something that should have been that good the whole way through.
Grade: C+

Quentin Alexander Sang “Light My Fire” by The Doors
Keith Said: You’re anti-plankton.
J-Lo Said: I just want a little bit more vocal power.
Harry Said: It sounded cool. I dug it.
The Verdict:
In what Arena was this ever an anthem? This is really driving me crazy.
Also, this song is bad enough as it is. Did we really need a disco version of it? Did we really need Quentin over-singing every note? Did we really need to hear Quentin’s ultra-pitchy voice make this even worse than it already was?
The answer? Sorta. Mostly because for once Quentin wasn’t wearing some gigantic robe and standing perfectly still in the middle of the stage like he was conducting a seance. Finally some fun out of Quentin.
Off-pitch fun. But fun nonetheless.
Grade: C+

Rayvon Owen Sang “I’m Not The Only One” by Sam Smith
Keith Said: If you keep singing like that, you’re going to be the only one left.
J-Lo Said: You just might win.
Harry Said: That was a fantastic vocal performance.
The Verdict:
Oh my God! How many times has Sam Smith even performed in an arena!? How is this happening!
Rayvon singing a Sam Smith song right on the Sam Smith record is a mistake. He’s just not Sam Smith. He’s barely even a poor man’s Sam Smith. To take it on directly like this can’t add up to anything more than a pure and simple karaoke performance.
It’s definitely more emotion and fire than Rayvon usually shows. It just so far pales in comparison to the original artist that he can’t help but seem like a knock-off.
Grade: C+

Nick Fradiani Sang “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart
Keith Said: This week you looked really cool.
J-Lo Said: It’s about making moments and you need to think about doing that.
Harry Said: I think you could sustain a two-to-three hour show on the road.
The Verdict:
I want to say Nick’s right back to his bar band beginnings with this one, but he added an extra bit of flavor here. Something of a country edge came through on this acoustic version of Maggie May. Once again, Nick becomes another guy who sings rock music but isn’t a rock star. He’s really just every gigging musician rolled into one.
And once again, he’s pretty solid on this one. Every week he seems to strip a layer of discomfort away from his onstage persona and loosen up to the point that he can be confused with somebody having charisma. I’m not saying that he’s charismatic yet, but it’s becoming a bit blurrier.
Grade: C-

Tyanna Jones Sang “Heaven” by Bryan Adams
Keith Said: That’s a fusion thing that hasn’t been done yet.
J-Lo Said: I didn’t feel like it was perfect, but it’s something different from you that people need to see.
Harry Said: I thought you sang it very well.
The Verdict:
In what conceivable world was this a good idea? Take a young and vibrant female singer with a big voice and have her sing a mediocre ballad by a mediocre Canadian rock singer. There’s an astonishing amount of bad decision making that goes into that final result.
Now this insane choice could have gone any number of ways. Oddly, it ended up sounding like a song from a Disney movie. Maybe the creators of ‘Frozen’ will turn to “The Angel” next in their Hans Christian Andersen rolodex and this will be the theme song.
Wait a second. I should probably go option that…
Grade: B-

Clark Beckham Sang “Boyfriend” by Justin Bieber
Keith Said: You gotta feel it from a different place.
J-Lo Said: That was not the right thing to create a moment.
Harry Said: That was not the right song for you to do what you did with it.
The Verdict:
It goes without saying that this acoustic-blues version of this tune was way better than Justin Bieber’s version right?
I mean, Clark killed this. He killed a Bieber song. He made a Bieber song into something that I would definitely star on Spotify. What the Hell is with this guy?
Also in what universe is a Bieber song an Arena Anthem? Oh good God.
Grade: A

Jax Sang “White Flag” by Dido
Keith Said: I was completely riveted to that.
J-Lo Said: That is exactly what you need to do.
Harry Said: It was phenomenal.
The Verdict:
Everything non-Jax that undermined the first performance, Jax made up for in all her Jaxiness with this super Jaxy performance.
More specifically, she created a stunning connection with the song and sank deeper into it as she deliberately flowed through the rhythm and the melody in a gorgeous bit of slop that was the most authentic moment of the night.
Good to have Jax back after a one-song scare. Even if this was NOT AN ARENA ANTHEM!
Grade: A

Quentin Alexander Sang “Shake it Out” by Florence + The Machine
Keith Said: You’ve got really good artistic instincts.
J-Lo Said: I want to watch you on tour.
Harry Said: I thought it was pretty good.
The Verdict:
It’s really not a good idea to sing a song that requires an excellent vocal performance to work when you can’t really sing. That made Quentin’s now swan song into something of a Icarus-level nosedive complete with the golden plumage chestplate.
At least he had one more chance to wear a cape and stand in a sea of dry ice.
Grade: D

Rayvon Owen Sang “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac
Keith Said: The audience loved you. That was crazy.
J-Lo Said: It was a great way to finish the show.
Harry Said: You had to hit the high note!
The Verdict:
Oh my God! A real live Arena Anthem. It only took every single performance of the night until we got to hear one. That’s not utterly ludicrous or anything. Not even close.
Rayvon should’ve stayed just for that reason. He didn’t do much to help himself beyond that with a thoroughly forgettable vocal performance that was really just a prelude to his going into his moronic falsetto to end the song like a shrieking banshee.
Still, he stuck around one more time. That’s what following the theme gets you!
Grade: C

Prediction:
No more Twitter Save next week. Which means the king of the Twitter Save, Rayvon, won’t have his lifeline to bail him out next week. Meaning, it’s finally time for Rayvon to go home.

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  • Nick sang “Maggie May” note for note the way Rod Stewart did. I sang along, and Nick never varied a thing. The ultimate karaoke. He’s got a decent voice, but I am getting tired of him.

  • Nice description of Quentin’s final offense to the ears.