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The Top 5 became the Top 4 on "American Idol," Season 14, performing two songs. The first would be a song related to one of the home cities of the three judges. The second song would be a song that spoke to the contestants' soul (what judge Harry Connick Jr. calls "the gravy"). I didn't get a chance to watch the show live, but here are the highlights from watching it off my DVR. I skipped all the little video segments (and the Ford commercial) and concentrated on the performances.
• Clark Beckham sang a song about New York, "Living for the City." It seemed a bit too high for him at the beginning, but he found his groove and even worked in a pretty smooth piano solo, standing up. By the end of the song, it was clear he'd made a smart song choice, allowing him to show off both his vocal strength and his pure ease on stage, playing with the band and relating to the audience. Keith Urban said that he liked the piano playing and thought the whole song found a good groove. He thought he ought to play the piano for more of it. Jennifer Lopez agreed that he's most easy when he's with his instrument, though he sounded great. Harry Connick Jr. thought it was a solid performance but thought he had to work on the timing to get into the pocket.
• Next up was Jax. She sang another New York-related selection, the Alicia Keys song "Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down." She performed at the piano, wearing a silver embellished denim jacket and a black fringed skirt. At the apex of the song, she stood up to sing to the crowd, her voice soaring above the band. Jennifer thought she looked uncertain at the end. She also said that Jax was like a serious artist but wasn't sure about the song choice for her. Still, she thought Jax has the potential to "take the whole thing." Harry said, "I really dug it." He called it a mini-showcase of what she can do. He asked her if her voice was a little hoarse tonight, and she admitted it was. Knowing that, he praised her for powering through and "killing it" despite that. Keith found her voice was in a beautiful register and that she has a strong artistic foundation.
• When it was Nick Fradiani's turn, he sang the Matchbox Twenty song "Bright Lights," another song about New York. He was possibly at his most comfortable yet, and his vocals were strong. Harry called it the "most comfortable by far." He also thought he sang the hell out of the song. He observed that Nick sounds a lot like Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty. Keith said that every time he performs it gets stronger and better. Jennifer said, "You're peaking at the right time."
• The results were down to the last two: Rayvon Owen and Tyanna Jones. Rayvon managed to survive again, this time without a Twitter vote, leaving Tyanna to watch her good-bye package, wipe away the tears, and then perform "Rule the World (Girls)" by Beyonce. Her voice broke frequently as she performed, but it might have been because of the emotion of having just been eliminated. She moved very easily around the stage, wearing a black sleeveless black top and black pants, her braids piled on her head. Harry told her that she's special, and he hopes she continues to learn about harmony and music. Jennifer told her that she's young and will have a fun journey ahead of her. Keith thought her last performance was perfect for the last song from her.
• Rayvon sang "Need You Now" by Lady Antebellum, staring right into the camera lens as he sang an emotionally overwrought song about feeling lonely and needing love. Keith gave him props for making the song his own. He thought that he'd blended dramatics and heart but he wanted it a little more carefree. Jennifer thought it was about connection to a personal thing, so that instead of just acting, he's feeling something. She felt the vocal was pretty, though. Harry noted singers have a tendency to over-dramatize a lyric. He thought he was 100 percent on with his interpretation of that lyric.
• For his second song, Clark sang a Josh Turner song, "Your Man," going against his mentors for his song choice. He sang it a lot higher and sort of disco, compared to the way that a previous Idol winter had performed it. Still, the mellow groove worked for him. Jennifer thought he sang it well. She questioned, though, whether this was the type of musician he wanted to be. Harry advised him to think more about what the audience would think of a song. He found the song a little tepid. Keith told him to think about it in terms of singles. "They're the songs you need now. You don't need album tracks. You need hit singles."
• Jax chose "Human" by Christina Perri for her second song, standing in the center of the stage surrounded by dry ice clouds and wearing a sequined tunic min-dress with long sleeves. She built up the song to the climax, then dropped to her knees, almost whispering it and then powering through the ending. Despite the theatrics, it actually felt very real and vulnerable. Harry called it a perfect example of the technical versus the emotional. He noted pitch issues but said, "I really felt what you were doing." He thought it was really nice. Keith called it a perfect song for her, because it was so fragile, and that she'd killed it. Jennifer liked how she was connecting with people in the audience. She praised how pure her tone can be on certain phrases.
• Rayvon sang "Believe" by Justin Bieber, dedicating it to his mother. His choice was smart, because it gave him an emotional connection to the song. He almost sounded at the edge of tears at points, and he took it to church but without ever going too extreme. Keith told him, "You sang phenomenally just then." He'd enjoyed watching Rayvon's mom listening to the song. Jennifer pointed out the connection was so important. "That's what you have to do every time." Harry said the songwriters would be very happy with how he'd done.
• Finally, Nick sang the Rascal Flatts song, "What Hurts the Most," taking the advice of the mentors to put the guitar down and just sing at a microphone. As always, he bounced around a little as he felt the music. This was one of his best, vocally. Jennifer called it the song of the night. Harry said, "I could really hear you singing that on your CD." Keith predicted that song would do well on the iTunes chart.
• Based on last night's performances, it's hard to say who will join Rayvon in next week's bottom two (because that seems to be his destiny). Was Clark right that people really like the music he plays? Or will he lose support for arguing with the mentors? Chances are, if Clark's in the bottom two, he'll survive, but with Rayvon's success in that position, it's hard to say!

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