4 contestants. 12 performances. 4 hometown visits. A lot went down last night. Let’s not waste any time. On to the recap!
Rayvon Owen Sang “Want to Want Me” by Jason Derulo
Keith Said: That was a perfect song for you.
J-Lo Said: It felt real superstar-ish for me.
Harry Said: By far your best performance on an uptempo song.
Rayvon came out like an absolute pop star on this performance. Whatever nerves had been holding him back and turning him into a statue singing at the camera seemed to melt away during his hometown visit as he was as loose and easily charismatic as anybody since Justin Guarini on this performance.
And, for once, his falsetto was actually on point. Normally, I think it lacks so much power as to just feel airy. Here, it was every bit as big as his always spectacular chest voice and gave him a gear beyond what he’s flashed so far.
This was a ton of fun from Rayvon and one of his best vocal performances..
Clark Beckham Sang “Beautiful Day” by U2
Keith Said: You should have risen up to the band.
J-Lo Said: That was really suited to your voice. You channeled your inner rock star.
Harry Said: Don’t disregard the verses.
Strange choice here for Clark as the song doesn’t allow him to inject any of his funky AM Gold vibe into it really at all. Instead, he had to go anthemic, and it didn’t quite work. A totally unnatural feeling abounded as it became Clark singing a song he wouldn’t normally sing rather than something that felt like it was off his record – his trademark.
Sure, the vocals were solid and his voice soared about as high as it ever has, but it just didn’t have that awesome Clark vibe.
Nick Fradiani Sang “Because the Night” by Bruce Springsteen
Keith Said: When I hear your tone, I’m excited.
J-Lo Said: You need to connect with the words more.
Harry Said: I thought it was fantastic.
OK. It’s official. After Nick’s grappled with taking on the persona of every lame rock frontman in the history of the medium, he’s now definitively Rob Thomas. He can be nobody else.
This is a perfect song. An absolute firestorm of sexual anguish and ferocity. He made it sound like a freaking lullaby of mid-90s crap rock, pulling the teeth right out of it in a way that seemed almost like desecration.
Normal, bland, mid-level rock music from a song that commands something much more.
Jax Sang “My Generation” by The Who
Keith Said: That was friggin’ awesome.
J-Lo Said: It was perfect for you. You killed that.
Harry Said: You absolutely made the most of your opportunity.
This had the makings of total karaoke performance. Right on the record, Jax draped in a Union Jack. Lame backup singers. It was all there.
But Jax managed to transcend that just enough to tilt this towards good. Her interactions with the band were spot on. Her crowd work made her feel like a rock star. Her energy blew the roof off higher than it should have from this performance and arrangement.
Jax has that indefinable quality that makes the best out of even the worst musical situations.
Nick Fradiani Sang “Back Home” by Andy Grammer
Keith Said: I’m glad your dad is here?
J-Lo Said: That was another great song by you.
Harry Said: That was very strong.
Oh no. I’m really starting to hate Nick. He is just becoming the total embodiment of the Imagine Dragons-ing of rock where it’s all about being so middle-of-the-road that it’s like the radio isn’t playing musical at all.
I have to give it to him. He’s definitely a rock start if that’s what you want to call it at this point. If you swapped him out with the front man of any of those lame rock bands, they wouldn’t miss a beat.
That’s kind of a compliment, but not really.
Clark Beckham Sang “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding
Keith Said: I’m missing a bit of struggle.
J-Lo Said: This type of song is who you are.
Harry Said: I felt like I got to know you a little bit more.
Here’s the Clark we were waiting for. Total AM Gold on a soul song. The perfect amount of watering down to make it a smoothly pleasant experience. Huge hooks in the chorus that let the song soar. This kid was born to dominate 70s radio forty years too late.
Vintage Clark. I can scarcely say anything more.
Rayvon Owen Sang “As (Always)” by Stevie Wonder
Keith Said: Great great song choice.
J-Lo Said: It all felt right to me.
Harry Said: What a great night. It was strong.
Before we get to the performance, it must be discussed that Rayvon was essentially wearing a graduation gown turned into a suit jacket turned into a pair of pajamas turned into a tuxedo costume on this performance. We’ve covered that? Good.
As the first performance exemplified good Rayvon, this exemplified bad Rayvon. Too many runs. Too much false soul. Too much of a wannabe soul singer rather than a guy singing soul music.
The whole thing felt too polished and made him sing like something of a poseur rather than a true star.
Jax Sang “My Immortal” by Evanescence
Keith Said: (Nod of approval)
J-Lo Said: It’s all about humility. I think you’re amazing.
Harry Said: Fantastic.
From the moment she announced her song choice, I knew exactly what was going to happen. She was sitting at the piano and it was very clear what was about to occur. The lights dimmed and it couldn’t be denied. Jax was going to go Tori Amos on an Evanescence song and it was going to be glorious.
Surprisingly, it was even better than I expected in those five seconds from song announcement to performance. Her emotion, her tone, her star quality cut through the delicate performance like a razor as she did the goddamned definitive version of this song with a fragility nobody ever shows on this show.
Her best yet easily.
Clark Beckham Sang “Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)” by The Weeknd
Keith Said: I saw and heard and felt things I’ve never heard from you before.
J-Lo Said: It got electric. I got the goosies.
Harry Said: Find a way to find quiet intensity.
I don’t know this song. I know it’s a big hit right now. I know people are digging The Weeknd. But I don’t know much more than that.
I do know that Clark Beckham put on a suit, absolutely destroyed this song, and suddenly I’d let him go all Christian Grey on me and I’m totally straight.
I’m sure I’m not the only one. Good God what a vocal. Best pure vocal of the entire season from anybody.
Rayvon Owen Sang “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker
Keith Said: Beautiful song and beautiful arrangement.
J-Lo Said: You needed to show more emotion and connection.
Harry Said: That was really smart. Good job.
This song was an easy win for Rayvon. With his ability to sing ballads and milk the emotion of a love song out through his voice, an easy home run.
Rayvon, however, totally sabotaged himself by slowing the song down so much that it almost became a funeral dirge and singing a run on just about every single note. Like Jamie Foxx singing The National Anthem or something.
His falsetto was astonishing again, and his voice its typical on-point self. But he over complicated what should have been a simple and brilliant performance.
Jax Sang “Misery Business” by Paramore
Keith Said: You sang phenomenally, but it was an odd arrangement.
J-Lo Said: To pull it back that far it was like, “What happened?”
Harry Said: It seemed like you were using the guitar as a crutch.
Ugh. Spanish guitar on a hard rock song that Jax would kill in its original version? Why? Why oh why?
Jax did okay with it all things considering. I can’t understand the half-assed acoustic arrangement of it though. Especially as she basically sang the original vocal line.
It simply didn’t make sense and became four things at once while ending up as nothing.
Nick Fradiani Sang “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain
Keith Said: If you had cut that, it would be a hit.
J-Lo Said: It was perfect.
Harry Said: It sounded like you were singing the underbelly of what those lyrics mean.
Congrats, Nick. The judges just handed you a craptastic perfectly-soft late-90s rock ballad so you can fulfill your destiny as the ultimate lightweight rocker. I swear, it’s like the guy has turned into a jukebox from 1998 at this point. He’s just so damn good at being awful it’s something to behold.
Sadly, I think the dude’s got a future.
Well, we’re down to the finale. There can be only one to win it all next week. Here’s a mini power rankings of who’s got the inside track going into next week’s final shows.
1 – Nick Fradiani
Everything I’ve said about his craptastism (new word) is exactly what’s going to see him ultimately triumph on this show. His middle-of-the-road rock is exactly what voters on this show crave and he does it really well.
2 – Jax
Jax is super cool and super talented but other than the year when the producers rigged it for Candice Glover to win, a female hasn’t taken the title since Jordin Sparks beat a beatboxer in Season Six. She’ll make the top two for reasons I’ll explain in a bit, but she’ll get steamrolled by Nick.
3 – Clark Beckham
Ah. My favorite. This should be a walkover for Clark. He should have the other contestants just give him the title and then swear their fealty to him like a conquering king. But he’s my favorite, so there’s no way he’s going to win. He’s also the most talented, which means he’ll finish third. Just ask Alex Preston, Angie Miller and Joshua Ledet.