It’s the guys’ turn to sing for America’s vote tonight on American Idol. So much more has to go into the contestants’ choices now that they’re performing live and not just for the deliberations of judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, and Harry Connick Jr. Everything from their look to the way they work the stage factors into how America votes, and there definitely seems to be a bit of a learning curve as the contestants transition from Hollywood Week and Showcase Week into these live show episodes.
Adam Ezegelian kicks things off at the Fillmore in Detroit with an over-the-top performance of “I Wanna Rock” by Twisted Sister. Ezegelian undeniably has huge stage presence, but he also has the vocal range to match. The judges love his energy, but Ezegelian’s lack of versatility is starting to become more and more obvious, and that could hurt him in the long run.
Following the hard-rock sounds of Ezegelian, Michael Simeon slows things down a bit with Michael Bolton’s “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You,” and the change of pace is well received by the judges. “You stayed right in the moment,” Urban says.
Looking very natural on the stage, Savion Wright sings “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train, which Urban doesn’t think was the right song choice. He gives a solid performance, but vocally it doesn’t really stand out. Lopez also points out that, while he’s great at working the crowd, he also needs to connect with the camera to reach voters at home. Rayvon Owen, who brings a Motown sound to “Jealous” by Nick Jonas, gets a similar note from Lopez, who wishes he could have given a little more attitude but otherwise thinks it was a great performance.
Daniel Seavey makes the strongest song choice of the night with “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz, accompanying himself on the ukulele. Seavey has one of the most interesting voices in the competition and not just because he’s only 15 years old. It’s a unique sound, regardless of his age, so he brings something a little different to a song that’s otherwise so oversung. Mark Andrew also plays to his strengths with his song choice. The roots rock sound of “The Weight” by The Band fits his voice perfectly.
Trevor Douglas loses control a bit vocally on “Best I Ever Had” by Gavin Degraw, but he brings the right energy to the stage, and it’s fun to watch, even if it’s not the best he can do singing-wise. “You’re a visual performer,” Urban tells him. He certainly has no problem connecting with the camera. But striking that balance between showmanship and the technical skills will be key moving forward.
On the other hand, Clark Beckham already shows a strong grasp of how to nail these live performances. Everything from his sharp look to his clear emotional connection to the music makes his performance of “When A Man Loves A Woman” by Percy Sledge. He gets a standing ovation from Urban and “goosies” from Lopez.
Riley Bria — who reminds Connick so much of Urban that he decides to dub him “Keith Suburban” — sings “Homeboy” by Eric Church, and even though the judges have positive comments for him, their feedback is broad, focusing more on Bria as a whole than his actual performance tonight, which isn’t all that exciting, especially when compared to the act that follows.
After Bria, Quentin Alexander gives the stand out performance of the night — and also his personal best to date in the competition — with “I Put A Spell On You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. As Lopez says, it has drama, dynamics, and emotion. Whereas the other contestants seem to be trying to play it safe at this stage, Alexander goes all out, and it shows. “That was like a Grammy performance,” Urban says.
Nick Fradiani and Qaasim Middleton also close out the night with stand-out performances. Fradiani’s experience shows in his rendition of “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran. And Middleton lights up the Fillmore with an electric and vocally rich performance of “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars — another excellent song choice. Like Alexander, he gives tonight’s show his everything.
“I don’t want any of you guys to go home,” Lopez says. But unfortunately, some of tonight’s performers will have to say goodbye once the votes are in. The girls take their best shot tomorrow night. Which guys won your vote?
This article originally appeared in THR.com.