Holy crap, is it Idol finale time already? After several long months of searching for the next American Idol, it all comes down to two contestants. Both of them aren’t named Jax, so excuse me while I go throw a tantrum. In all seriousness, we have a pretty unique Final 2…in that if we ever wanted a Taylor Hicks vs. Kris Allen finale (in what universe would we want that?!), well, we got it! It’s Soul vs. WGWG. Since every male singer who has ever won Idol belongs to at least one of these categories (the latter of which Idol invented), it shouldn’t be a surprise that the rocker chick was left out in the cold. Jax, you brought so much fun and relevancy to this show…and I am beyond devastated you weren’t around to make one last badass move. I’m sure there are more in store for the future.
With that said, it’s been a terrific year recapping the show. I’ve legitimately enjoyed this season, especially when compared to the horrendous previous two. Hopefully the right person walks away victorious by the end of tonight. Let the final games and recap commence!
Round 1: Reprisal
Clark Beckham, “Georgia on My Mind” — This was a smart move by Clark: extending a snippet of a performance we saw in Hollywood into a fleshed out showstopper on finale night. Sure, Clark lost his vocal footing on that final note, but he was so lost in the magic Ray Charles created that we can almost forgive his technical blunders. The good news is that the majority of the track highlighted what audiences enjoy most about Clark; namely, his loud yet melodic tone that infuses soul with a guttural rasp that can only be described as pure, unhinged commitment.
Performance Review: (★★★½)
Nick Fradiani, “Bright Lights” — Even just walking toward the judges to perform, I could see the transformation in confidence. I am so proud of Nick and his growth this season. He started off as a nervous middle-of-the-pack contestant who soon realized that it’s never over until Ryan Seacrest tells you it is. As soon as Nick had that epiphany, he performed like a winner despite nobody deeming him a frontrunner for the longest time. In fact, “Bright Lights” was the song that sealed the deal and once again Nick uses it to remind of his mastery of all the tools needed to become a great artist. The difference between Nick and Clark with this round was Nick performed like he was a champion, whereas Clark’s performance came off like a Week 5 breakthrough moment. Nick is beyond comfortable siting in the Idol saddle…as he should be.
Performance Review: (★★★½)
Round 1 Winner: Nick Fradiani
Round 2: Producer’s Choice
Clark Beckham, “Ain’t No Sunshine” — Kris Allen perfected this song by understanding the intent behind each phrased lyric. I can’t really say the same for Clark, whose arrangement was bold in an Alex Preston sort of way but without the heartfelt attitude. From the way this performance was lit to the way it was sung, to the way it ended with such cacophonous fury, I couldn’t help but smell the phony odor. Clark took a risk and tried to pull off a “moment,” but once again the severity with which he struck some of those notes completely drained the emotional potency of the song.
Performance Review: (★★½)
Nick Fradiani, “I Won’t Give Up” — He…plays…PIANO?! Just unleash the confetti right now, why don’t ya?! That was probably the best and most smartest kept secret of Idol Season XIV. Nick was savvy to hide this secret weapon until the end, and with just one piano performance he practically pointed out piano stud Clark Beckham’s major weakness in the process: a complete inability to connect to his lyrics. You felt Nick mean every word he sung, those lyrics practically reflecting Nick’s tumultuous journey on Idol this season. Not a single note out of tune whilst playing, either. BRAVO!
Performance Review: (★★★★)
Round 2 Winner: Nick Fradiani (by a landslide)
Round 3: Winner’s Single
Clark Beckham, “Champion” — Mastering the art of subtlety, aren’t we, Idol songwriters? Ugh…this was as hokey as Idol singles get, made worse by the fact that Clark looked so lost and emotionally vacant throughout the entire performance. Yeah, if I were him I’d probably also have a difficult time mustering any kind of emotion or enthusiasm from lyrics that were probably ghost-written by George Lucas. Clark, you were the frontrunner from the beginning and still might very well win since the South always has a foothold on this show…but this performance was the equivalent of raising a white flag. Ain’t that right, Jax?
Performance Review: (★★)
Nick Fradiani, “Beautiful Life” — Man, these coronation songs simply refuse to be on my good side. Look, from the sample that was released earlier in the week, I have to admit I’m partial to Jax’s “Force Field.” While “Beautiful Life” is a vast improvement over “Champion,” the lyrics are still pretty juvenile and trivial, and I do have to wonder if Nick would really be including it on his album if given the choice. Still, Nick sold “Beautiful Life” like it was a revered Grammy-winning track, and for that I have to once again give praise where it’s due. Nick didn’t win this competition by gambling, evolving or surprising. He (presumably) won by staying true to himself. Since Nick was already a professional musician before Idol, why should he have to recreate what’s already perfect to begin with…only now just seen on a wider scale? Nick, you are a humble and talented individual. I hope the Idol machine — not to mention Borchetta’s Big Machine Label — make a star out of you.
Performance Review: (★★★)
Round 3 Winner: Nick Fradiani
Should and Will Win American Idol XIV: Nick Fradiani
As always, it’s been amazing recapping the season…and of course I’ll be there to do it all again for the FINAL time next year. How bittersweet…