AMERICAN IDOL Recap: Three’s a Crowd!

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This is not a time to mourn. It’s a time to celebrate.

Yes. This week Fox announced the cancellation of ‘American Idol’ with its final season airing next Spring. Yes. We didn’t even get to see Jax perform one last time in competition as she was cruelly eliminated just seconds after the opening credits. Yes. This was the last time we’ll ever get to see Clark perform in competition. There are a lot of reasons to despair.

But cheer up! One of the top five contestants of all time closed out his competition last night and we’ve still got a whole two hour finale to anticipate along with one last season next year where we can walk the past of nostalgia and remember all the incredible culture-shifting moments this show wrought during its fifteen years on the air.

But for now, we recap.

ROUND ONE – Contestant’s Favorite Song
Clark Beckham Sang “Georgia on My Mind” by Ray Charles
Keith Said: That was like a whole mess of flapjacks drenched in syrup.
J-Lo Said: You’re singing to win.
Harry Said: That was a perfect example of you always pushing the limits.
The Verdict:
My love for Clark is well-documented at this point in the season. He’s the best musician this competition has ever seen. He’s one of the best contestants. His voice. His playing ability. His arrangements. He’s had a pretty spotless run.
That’s why it’s so incredible to see him find a brand new gear after digging so deep for a dozen live shows. On this performance his voice has just never sounded so sweet. He’s never sung so much like a bird with a honey-pleasant tone with which folks simply don’t seem to want to sing anymore.
Clark’s a total genius. It’s only fitting he should close his final show with one of the best from The Genius.
Grade: A

Nick Fradiani Sang “Bright Lights” by Matchbox Twenty
Keith Said: I can relate to you.
J-Lo Said: You are everything an American Idol should be.
Harry Said: That was a great performance.
The Verdict:
Nick is really really good at this very specific and limited move. He can sing crap rock as well as anybody who’s ever sung crap rock. Yes, that’s a backhanded compliment, but given his chosen genre it’s really a glowing one.
Nick’s carved himself out a nice little niche on this show and he’s maxed it out further than it really deserves.
Grade: B

ROUND ONE WINNER: CLARK
ROUND TWO – Simon Fuller’s Choice

Clark Beckham Sang “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers
Keith Said: That was fantastic.
J-Lo Said: It was awesome. Beautiful. Heartfelt. Amazing.
Harry Said: That was an inward and soulful performance.
The Verdict:
Oh my. Say it ain’t so. On the finale Clark gives his worst performance. How is this fair? His guitar playing was off, the arrangement was boring, even his voice was dragging despite the perfect song choice. Yikes.
He redeemed himself in the latter third of the song has he burst forth with a ferociously soulful closer that showcased his full potential. It’s that kind of effortless raw fire that’s really set Clark apart this year and made the closing of this song something special.
If only the rest wasn’t so boring.
Grade: B-

Nick Fradiani Sang “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz
Keith Said: Such a good song choice. Beautiful.
J-Lo Said: I love the way you sound on that.
Harry Said: It was a very emotional and heartfelt performance.
The Verdict:
Crap rock for a crap rocker. In other words, perfect song choice for Nick by Fuller.
Another wrinkle here – Nick at that piano! I don’t recall him sitting down at the keys yet this year and it made him seem a little like the lead singer of the world’s best Nickleback Cover band as he dug in with more emotion that he typically shows as he tries to be vanilla as possible.
It’s not tough to outdo the original record with this number, but Nick still did it all the same.
Grade: B+

ROUND TWO WINNER: NICK
ROUND THREE – Winner’s Song

Clark Beckham Sang “Abandon”
Keith Said: That song is so inspiring.
J-Lo Said: It’s great to you see you come into your own.
Harry Said: It’s clear that it’s a new song.
The Verdict:
We’ve reached the dud portion of the final show. The part where the contestants are forced to sing really awful songs that have probably been rejected by every major artist for the last five years only to wind up in the contestants’ unfortunate hands.
Furthering that issue this year is that these songs may double as THE ANTHEM TO THE WOMEN’S WORLD CUP ON FOX. That was very apparent here as the song felt more like a jingle for a sports apparel company than it did something destined for the radio.
As for Clark, he sang the hell out of it even as pyro, strange moonscapes and smoke shot off behind him, but there’s not a whole lot good you can say when the song is so horrible.
Grade: C

Nick Fradiani Sang “Beautiful Life”
Keith Said: That’s the kind of song that people buy.
J-Lo Said: It was you in the moment.
Harry Said: That song felt like it was tailor-written for you.
The Verdict:
I’ve been knocking Nick all year for being the greatest singer of crap rock on the planet, but as the show closes it’s clear that’s actually a major strength for him. This song sounded ready for the radio.
Yes, it’s a garbage song that sounds like it was written for kids to sing in their grade school music classes, but coming out of the frontman of every crappy rock-radio band on the planet, it turned into…something you’d hear on crappy rack radio!
It’s simple math really. Ever since grunge died middle-of-the-road weakness has dominated rock music and there’s something about Nick singing a really weak rock song that just seems comfortable.
Grade: B

ROUND THREE WINNER - Nick

Prediction:
It’s been pretty clear ever since Nick started to emerge as the next great savior of mid-90s mainstream rock that he was going to win this show and after his closing performance last night it because crystal.

Nick Fradiani. Your penultimate American Idol.

Check back tomorrow when I recap the final episode of the almost-final season.

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