'American Idol' Recap - Top 6 Perform

We’re coming into the home stretch, so tonight will be a big indication as to the rest of the season. Who will fall? Who will rise to the top? Let’s see.

As I always do, I’ll rate each song on a scale of 0-5 along with a short blurb and then pick my favorite and least favorite performances of the night.

Tyanna Jones (“Why Do Fools Fall In Love” by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers) – * * * ½
Tyanna definitely has an old-school vibe about her and some of her best performances are with Janelle Monae-esque neo-soul songs. But instead of neo-soul, tonight we just got straight up Motown and, while “Fools” is a fine song, the whole thing felt way too much like karaoke. I wish Tyanna had tried to modernize the arrangement or bring something new to it. Her singing was great, as it always is (except for a few wobbly moments), but we need more.

Clark Beckham (“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder) – * * * * ½
I’m wary of contestants singing “Superstition.” It’s undoubtedly a classic song but it lacks in melody and is so heavily syncopated that many singers crumble under its weight. But with some killer guitar skills and musicality, Clark made “Superstition” work. For another contestant this might seem like an insult, but I’m also really happy Clark’s vocals were a bit looser than unusually. Clark has (almost) all the right pieces to become an Idol, he just needs to relax into it a bit.

Jax (“Piece Of My Heart” by Janis Joplin) – * * * *
I learned something interesting about Jax this week. She has, by far, the most social media presence of all the Idol contestants, with loads of Twitter/Instagram followers and a habit of personally interacting with her so-called JaxPack. Recently, she posted YouTube clips are her personally calling fans. The reason I bring this up isn’t Jax worship; it’s to say that she is even more of a front-runner than I thought. Talent is a big part of winning, obviously, but at the end of the day this is a personality contestant and Jax seems to be winning on that front. Her Janis Joplin cover? Oh right. While it also felt a little karaoke-ish, Jax delivered a very solid vocal.

Nick Fradiani (“American Girl” by Tom Petty) – * * * * ½
Hands down, this is Nick’s best performance in a long time and it comes down to one thing: song choice. While this is a classic song, it feels like something that Nick would put on his album. He felt right at home singing it, which makes all the difference in the world.

Quentin Alexander (“Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz) – * * * ½

This just worked. Liked Nick, this is the kind of music I’d expect Quentin to make and I’d happily watch a whole set of this kind of thing. But JLo was right; pitch issues prevented it from being a real star-making performance.

Joey Cook (“My Funny Valentine” by Rogers & Hart) – * * * * ½
First off, Joey looks absolutely gorgeous! I try to not mention looks too much here, but Joey’s fashion sense has been hit or miss and tonight she looks amazing. Her vocals were amazing too. With no shtick and no rearrangement, Joey delivered a quiet and grounded performance. I love how she wholeheartedly embraced the melancholy lyric and, despite a few vocal hiccups, disappeared into the song. I wish Joey was given more time as I think another verse/chorus would have helped form a more conventional arch/climax to the song which would have helped thematically.

Rayvon Owen (“Long Train Running” by The Doobie Brothers) – * * * ½
Joey vs. Rayvon. Rayvon is a fantastic singer, one of the best pure vocalists this season. But he has a bland, wedding singer quality about him I can’t seem to shake.

-- Round 2 --

Clark Beckham (“Moon River” by Frank Sinatra) – * * * *
I’d generally find this kind of performance a little sleepy – and this is coming from someone who watched the four-hour HBO Sinatra miniseries of his own accord – but I enjoyed it all the same because it showed a vulnerable part of Clark’s personality we’ve never seen before. I can deal with sleepy if the song felt personal and emotional and pretty, which is was.

Tyanna Jones (“Proud Mary” by Creedance Clearwater Revival) – * * * * ½
If I had my druthers, I would have fully stuck with the more up-tempo version and modernized the arrangement just a touch to make it feel more radio friendly. But, as it, there wasn’t much to criticize.

Nick Fradiani (“Only The Good Die Young” by Billy Joel) – * * * * ½
I loved this arrangement. It was really pretty and, even thought I’ve heard this song many times, this version actually allowed me to listen to Joel’s amazing lyrics. But because the bare meaning of the song was so forefront, it emphasized Nick’s slight detachment. He needs a few acting lessons to help convey the story of a song just a bit better.

Quentin Alexander (“Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz) – * * * ½
I adore this song and the idea of a more gospel arrangement of it. I just wish Quentin had more vocal chops to back it up. His vocal inexperience is beginning to show through.

Jax (“Beat It” by Michael Jackson) – * * * * ½
This wasn’t Jax’s artsy-est performance, but it showed a fun, freewheeling side of the rock-star-to-be. In the season-long arch of Idol this is exactly where Jax should be.

Rayvon Owen (“Always On My Mind” by Willie Nelson) – * * * * ½
This is the right time for Rayvon to deliver his best performance to date. It was finally vulnerable and heartfelt. This might be his last performance, but he sure went out with a bang.

Joey Cook (“Somebody To Love” by Jefferson Airplane) – * * * *
For his Save Me song, Rayvon delivered a truly killer performance. Joey’s was just middle of the road. She is a fantastic performer and a really inventive musician, but her “Somebody To Love” arrangement just didn’t work for me. I can’t put my finger on it – I usually love Joey’s unique throwback arrangements – but this one felt ill conceived. It would make for a cute Postmodern Jukebox video, but as an Idol swan song it left me a bit cold.

Show VIP: Gotta give Joey one last shootout. Her “Funny Valentine” was pure class.

Who Went Home: Joey. Look, I love Joey and actually voted tonight for the first time this season. But I’m surprised she got this far and know she has a music career in front of her. More importantly, she opened the door for a lot more weird kiwis in seasons to come.

Who Should Go Home Next Week: Quentin.

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