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'American Idol' recap: Jax, Qaasim survive elimination scare

"American Idol XIV" Top 12 (back, from left

"American Idol XIV" Top 12 (back, from left to right): Quentin Alexander, Maddie Walker, Adanna Duru, Clark Beckham, Sarina-Joi Crowe, Jax, Tyanna Jones and Qaasim Middleton, (front, from left to right) Nick Fradiani, Daniel Seavey and Rayvon Owen arrive on the silver carpet during the Top 12 finalists party at The District by Hannah An in West Hollywood, Calif., on March 11, 2015. Credit: Fox / Patrick Rideaux

Atlantic Beach native Jax and Brooklyn’s Qaasim Middleton both survived elimination scares on “American Idol” Movie Night, resulting in an odd Hollywood ending.

They both had bad performances last week, though there were singers that were worse. And both New York-area teens ended up in the bottom two, fighting for the final spot, as lesser singers advanced.

Toward the end of the show, judge Harry Connick Jr. bordered on angry, after watching one bad performance after another. “Whoever sings average tonight is going to have a huge advantage,” Connick said to the Top 11. “Most are sub-par. Pick a great song. Think about the lyrics. And sing those words.”

Jax ended up safe from elimination, but she had to battle back the nerves of being in the bottom two. “That was the most painful experience,” she told host Ryan Seacrest after he commented about the quick turnaround.

Her version of Adam Sandler’s “Grow Old With You” from “The Wedding Singer” was sweet and unexpected. Connick complimented her, calling her a “high-risk, high-reward” performer, but then told her that she rushed the ending.

“My heart was beating double-time,” Jax explained, as judge Jennifer Lopez added that it was probably due to the nerves.

That meant that Qaasim Middleton was marked for elimination, but he got the chance to perform The Beatles’ “Come Together” to possibly persuade the judges to use their sole contestant save of the season on him.

Qaasim poured everything he had into the performance, from howling and wild dance moves to pulling a joker card out of his pocket to match the lyrics. At one point, he seemed to charge the judges, only to dance around them and offer more wild riffs. And when he was done, leaving it all out on the stage, he dropped the mic and waited for the verdict.

“That was arguably the best performance of the night,” Connick said. “That was a tremendous performance.”

But Connick said the judges have often told him that he’s “all performance and the vocals are sometimes lacking.” In the end, they gave him the save.

That means the Top 11 move on to “’80s Week” and get mentored by Boy George, with two singers getting eliminated next week. Voting continues until noon.


Here’s how the Top 11, mentored by the great Nile Rodgers, stacked up:

1. QAASIM MIDDLETON, “Come Together”: He upended The Beatles’ classic from “Across the Universe” with his wild performance that showed the abandon and raucousness that the rest of the Top 11 lacked on Movie Night. But he also had the vocals to back it up.

2. CLARK BECKHAM, “Sunday Morning”: Making the Maroon 5 song from “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” an acoustic blues number was a brilliant move. His take was actually more likable than the original until he went up for the nice, but unnecessary falsetto bit. “You put your arrangement on that song and knocked it out of the park,” Connick said. Lopez said, “It was so you -- very beautiful.”

3. JAX, “Grow Old With You”: The Adam Sandler song from “The Wedding Singer” was a smart, quirky choice. She delivered it perfectly, even after nearly two hours of stress. “I don’t even know what I’m feeling right now,” she said. “You did really great on that one,” Lopez said.

4. JOEY COOK, “Mad World”: Her take on the Gary Jules version of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” was lovely and super-dramatic. “That was so beautiful,” Lopez said. “You were giving me Sia vibes…. This was pared-down and super-artist.” Connick called it a great song and a great choice. “Every week, I see more depth to your artistry,” Urban said.

5. ADANNA DURU, “I Love You, I Do”: She did a good job with Jennifer Hudson’s song from “Dreamgirls,” but she was oddly shaky on the low notes. And Lopez didn’t buy the delivery as much. “I don’t want the fake excitement,” she said. “I want the real emotion.”

6. QUENTIN ALEXANDER, “You’re The One That I Want”: I’ve hated Lo-Fang’s slowed-down, hyper-dramatic version of the upbeat, lively “Grease” classic for months, as it gets overplayed in that Chanel commercial. But I get why Quentin thought it was a good idea for him to tackle it this way. Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite make it work, losing control of his vocals on the drawn-out notes. “It was haunting and beautiful,” Lopez said. “It was very Quentin.” Connick called it adventurous, but also “horribly out of tune.”

7. TYANNA JONES, “Circle of Life”: Tyanna’s had a great run so far, but nerves got to her early on in the Elton John song from “The Lion King” and she couldn’t quite get back on track, slightly off key and mistimed all the way through. “You may have overshot the mark,” Connick said. Urban said she had “serious pitch issues.” Lopez said not to worry.

8. NICK FRADIANI, “Danger Zone”: Slowing down the Kenny Loggins hit from “Top Gun” really made no sense since the need for speed is the core of its appeal. He was seemingly just singing random words, though he sang them pretty well. “It’s better than it was last week,” Urban said. Lopez told him he had to “own your hotness.” Connick said it was the wrong song. “That’s song gives you nothing to work with.”

9. RAYVON OWEN, “Stayin’ Alive”: His slowed-down version of the Bee Gees’ classic was weird, playing up a breathy falsetto and then switching to full voice in the middle. “How do you remain interesting?” Connick said, adding that he needed more substance. Lopez said he needs to figure out how to capture the audience.

10. DANIEL SEAVEY, “Lost Stars”: The Adam Levine song from “Begin Again” is a tough one for anyone to sing, but young Daniel struggled from the start. The nice tone of his voice from early auditions was replaced by an awkward, trying-too-hard squawk. “It wasn’t strong tonight, man,” Connick said.

11. MADDIE WALKER, “Let’s Hear It for the Boy”: She countrified the “Footloose” classic, which was a smart move, but this was so out of tune and clunky that it was hard to get through. “I didn’t think it was good,” said Connick, adding that it was “pageant-y.” “I just don’t know who you are.”

BOTTOM THREE Nick, Rayvon, Maddie

WILL BE CUT Nick, Rayvon

SHOULD BE CUT Maddie, Daniel

ACTUALLY CUT Maddie, Adanna

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