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American Idol Recap: Top 11 (Movie Night)

I took these notes live on Thursday but didn't get a chance to post them until now.

• At the top of the show, the Top 11 performed the Daft Punk song "Get Lucky." They seemed awkward and hesitant together, but it's their first group song. They were accompanied by Nile Rogers, who has recorded with various artists and performed on movie soundtracks (tonight's theme being movie music). After a videotaped intro to his music, a preview of his latest song, "I'll Be There" followed. Nile would be the week's guest mentor.
• Onto the stage strutted racing superstar Jeff Gordon, who gave Ryan Seacrest the results envelop as well as inviting the contestants to come to his race on Sunday, where they will sing the national anthem and start the race as the collective grand marshal.
• First to hear that she'd been saved for another week was Adanna Duru. She chose "I Love You, I Do" from "Dreamgirls" for her movie song, sung by Jennifer Hudson in the film. She wore a short gold sparkly, tight-fitting sleeveless dress. While she oozed confidence, her version of the song showed the limits to her voice, never quite reaching the flexibility and ease of the original. Keith Urban liked the sound choice. Jennifer Lopez found that the genuine emotion of the song didn't come through. "It has to come from a real place," she told her. Harry Connick Jr. told her she looked like a movie star, and "everything was strong." He recommended she work on just singing to the audience, rather than glad-handing them and trying to walk by them and grab their hands.
• The next person to make it through was Daniel Seavey, who seemed super surprised. He chose "Rock Stars" by Adam Levine, which was in the movie "Begin Again." Nile told him to be careful not to look down too much when playing piano, and Daniel decided to play guitar instead. He did find on the verse, but the chorus had some sections that were too low for him. Jennifer called him "such a cutie" but said it wasn't his best. Harry felt that all the rehearsal might have killed his spontaneity. "It wasn't strong tonight." Keith praised him for a change that he made in order to not have to imitate Adam's falsetto. He advised him to "dig in more" and not be distracted by the audience.
• Rayvon Owen sang "Staying Alive" from the movie "Saturday Night Fever." He has a decent falsetto, but got deeper on the chorus, into his comfort zone. He wore a black and white striped shirt with a black track jacket and gray skinny pants, along with his flat-brimmed hat. He gave the song more of a funk feel, especially on the bridge. It actually worked. Harry found it a cool way to reinterpret the song but asked him, "How do you remain interesting in this competition," because he's Mr. Nice Guy. He suggested giving himself some lyrics that "you can chew on," or more substance. Keith felt he was a bit lost when he was in the middle of the stage, but he took control when he moved forward. Jennifer agreed. She told him to think about how to capture the audience, since he has a really amazing voice.
• Nick Fradiani sang "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins from the movie "Top Gun." He took a risk by performing without his guitar, and he did a lot of pointing and strutting around the stage, though his vocals were nice. Keith said he's getting more comfortable up there and should keep loosening up more. He thought it was better than last week. Jennifer asked him if he knew he was hot, and he just shrugged and smiled. She felt that he was still too much in his own head. Harry declared himself a huge Kenny Loggins fan, but this song hadn't given him much to work with, lyrically. Then Ryan chatted with Nick about the fact that he's had an ice cream flavor named after him back home, and even brought out a few mini sample cones for Nick, the judges and Ryan's own mom.
• Next was Joey Cook, who this week chose the song "Mad World" which was used in the movie "Donnie Darko." Nile advised her to watch when she closes her eyes. She wore a burgundy plaid dress with a full skirt, sheer net overlay at the shoulder and a velvet Peter Pan collar. Her version of the song was in her own inimitable style, but as she sat on a stool concentrating on the lyrics, it was less cartoonish. Jennifer said she'd given her "Sia vibes." She liked seeing a different side to her. Harry liked that she'd widened her lane. He thought the song was a great choice, especially because of the lyrics. Keith said that every week he sees more depth of her artistry.
• Tyanna Jones was next, wearing a black dress with A-line skirt and singing "Circle of Life" by "Lion King." Nile advised her to watch her vibrato. She was ahead of the band in the beginning of the song. The song was simply too big for her: and she wobbled all over the place, trying to hit the sustained notes. Harry said that tonight it seemed like she was trying really hard and overshot the mark just a bit. She needed to relax. There were intonation issues and it felt like it was "yelled the whole way through." Keith praised her tone and vibrato but noted there were pitch issues. Jennifer called it a challenging song and said she'd do amazing next week. "No worries."
• Then it was Quentin Alexander, who was singing "You're the One That I Want" from "Grease." He slowed it down and sang it like a torch song, wearing a rust-colored suit and a feather cape. Keith found it an interesting performance, asking him to loosen it up. He recognized the arrangement from something Baz Luhrman had done. Jennifer wasn't sure the song translated, but it was still "very Quentin." Harry said that the emotion is important, but he has to pay attention to tone, too, saying it was "horribly out of tune." Afterward, Quentin admitted to Ryan that he hadn't actually seen "Grease."
• Maddie Walker, who'd had a health emergency this week, sang "Let's Hear It for the Boy" from "Footloose," wearing a sort of disco outfit of a silver sparkly top, black short-shorts and a headband. The arrangement blended the pop sound with just a little country flavor but was ultimately forgettable. She kind of just walked away from the last note, too. Jennifer said she was glad she sang that song because it was her mother's favorite growing up. She called it cute and sweet but wasn't sure if it was "a knock-out." Harry didn't think it was good. He thought it was very pageanty, and he couldn't tell who she was: a pop singer, a country singer? Keith felt she should have sung a ballad.
• Surprise! Kenny Loggins came out to perform the title song from "Footloose." I guess now we know why Harry was so careful to praise him personally before knocking his song as a choice for one of the contestants. Harry even got up to dance with the other judges. Kenny showed how you can take even a fun pop song and make it more interesting.
• The next to take the stage was Clark Beckham, doing "Sunday Morning" by Maroon 5, which was in "Cheaper by the Dozen 2." He sat on a stool and accompanied himself on guitar as he sang a stripped-down, heartfelt version of the song. Harry told him, "You just put your arrangement on that song and knocked it out of the park." Keith told him just to put a little bit of a smile on it. Jennifer said it was beautiful and "it was so you."
• This meant it was down to Jax and Qaasim Middleton. One would make it through, and one would have to sing for the save.
• After a commercial break, he brought the two up onstage to hear who made it through: Jax. She was clearly relieved and a bit overwhelmed. She sang "Grow Old with You" from "The Wedding Singer," performed in the movie by Adam Sandler. Sitting on a stool in a silver dress over a black lace cami with a matching black bow in her hair, she gave the song a sweet interpretation that still allowed for the humor of it.
• Singing for his life, Qaasim sang "Come Together" by the Beatles from "Across the Universe," getting really funky with it. He also pulled a card out of his pocket when he sang about being a joker. Hrm. But he put just the right amount of funk on the song, and he was much more together than he'd been the previous week. Jennifer and Keith started talking animatedly about it. At the end, he dropped his mic! He was definitely not just giving up. Ryan reminded us the judges get one save for the season, and it has to be unanimous. Harry delivered the news: that that was arguably the best performance of the night. But unfortunately, we have to talk about the issue of the save. He felt that Qaasim is often all performance and doesn't pay attention to the vocals, but they had determined that "you deserve the save." Wow!
• Next week will be a double elimination. Based on this week's results, the singers who weren't as strong vocally are likely to be in trouble, regardless of their stagecraft. This means that Tyanna and Daniel should be the most concerned.
Tags: american idol, music, television

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