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American Idol in Hollywood, Round 3

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After taking a week off from an Idol obsessed life, I’m back for the recap. Here goes.

It’s group week on Idol, and of course that means plenty of drama.

The night started right in with it – a group of five girls who had clashing personalities AND sickness (too bad no one forgot the lyrics or they would have had the trifecta of the Group Week Curses). None of the girls in “Group Name Here” sang well at all. Amazingly, even though Randy dubbed the group “really weak,” Jennifer Malsch and Cari Quoyeser advanced to another round. Cherie Tucker was left vomiting her brains out and blowing her nose into snotty tissues. Thanks, camera crew. Just what we wanted to see.

The next group, Groove Sauce, seemed the exception to the Group rules – they claimed that no drama or sickness had invaded their bubble. The lack of struggle showed – this group’s strength was their team work and harmonizing. Though they may not have all had the greatest solo voices in the world, they sounded like a million dollars when put together. The judges claim to decide this round based on individuals and past performances, but they must have felt a little bit of bias when this group showed the rest what working together is all about. All members of this group (Reed Grimm, Nick Boddington, Creighton Fraker, Aaron Marcellus, and Jen Hirsh) made it one step closer to their dreams.

The group Six, Seven, Nine was plagued by one stage mom and her overbearing daughter. Brielle Von Hugel was quick to criticize, as was her mother, who thought the weakest voice in their group, belonging to Kyle Crews, was opening their song. Funny enough, mom must have a decent ear, because Kyle was the only member of the group cut.

The “Make You Believers” didn’t make much of anyone believe anything. After Jacquie Cera fainted earlier in the day, she pushed through to the performance. Not a great idea – she was sharp as she screamed through the end of her group’s song. Amy Brunfield was sick the night before, and it showed in her hoarse, flat performance. Dustin Cundiff forgot his words. Only Mathenee Treco advanced from this group, even though his performance was affected and overdramatic.

Afterwards, Ryan said, “This year, the verbal amnesia ran rampant,” as if it doesn’t happen every year that this show is on. Some contestants mumbled through, some “oh”ed and “yeah”ed, and one girl even made up some interesting, humorous words about forgetting the lyrics to her song on “American Idol.” I was amused.

Those Girls and That Guy was a group that had some trouble forming at first. Alisha Bernhardt had trouble finding a group that wasn’t intimidated by her being a cop, while Christian Lopez was sick and puking his guts out. Those were the most interesting tidbits worth mentioning about the group that induced yawns from the audience and Jennifer Lopez. All of them were quickly cut.

Unlike other groups with dominating parents, Hollywood Five was helped by their parents’ encouragement. This was another group that, like Groove Sauce, kept their performance focused on the group as a whole. They played the game well and all made it on to the next round.

Area 451 was another group that suffered from a fainting member. (What was with the fainting this year? Was exhaustion more prevalent? Was something going around? Or is this some kind of new fad in performing that Idol is trying to start?) Group member Imani Handy fainted in the lobby, but insisted on attempting to meet her group backstage. She went down again on her way back, but she still made it and got in front of the judges to sing. She did an okay job, despite looking like death warmed over – until she blacked out for a third time during the performance. When the performance ended, Steven told the group, “You all gave it your all, gave it your best shot.” Despite “their best,” everyone in the group was cut, with the exception of Johnny Keyser, who has a pretty great voice but lost some points in my book when he continued to sing despite Imani’s fainting spell on stage.

After a montage of contestants being sent home, there was more controversy with the group MIT, or Most International Team. There was palpable tension through the group’s confessional interview, but the tension only mounted when cowboy Richie Law stayed behind to put his two cents in. “At a certain point, there’s no compromise between good and bad. One person in our group is probably going to be taken down. If I stand above my group, I can make sure that that’s not me. That’s showbiz,” he said to the camera, sounding cold and conceited. He ended up being the worst vocalist by far in his group, with an overly throaty tone quality. Though the group’s performance wasn’t stellar, the judges surprised the audience by taking all of its members, based on their past performances, they said. Back in the lobby, Heejun Han (still loving the heck out of this guy’s emotional voice) apologized to Richie for having said some not-so-nice things about him that might show up on television. Richie said he appreciated the apology and that it took guts – meanwhile, he didn’t apologize for his own speech about how he’d be willing to throw anyone from his group under the bus if it meant his gain. Classy guy.

Finally, group day was over, but the episode continued for another hour. Usually, Idol episodes that are last for two hours stretch out with filler for far too long, but last night’s could have easily been two episodes – one for group day, one for solo day. Editing is a weird process.

Anyway, on the morning of solo day, after 87 hopefuls had been cut from the group round, Steven and Randy jammed on stage with a handful of contestants during sound check. It looked like they were having one heck of a partying good time on stage. Maybe they thought it would help calm contestants’ nerves, or maybe they just wanted to give them a chance to perform with the greats. Either way, it would have been the highlight of my week if I had been one of the aspirants left that day.

Solos commenced with Joshua Ledet, who shows emotion on his face like a pro when he sings. He has a huge, gravely voice, yet he executes a lot of control when he sings. The performance was amazing, but I can see his very distinct sound getting a little old after a few weeks. Randy told Joshua that he was “amazing, baby, amazing.” I thought the judges weren’t giving feedback during this round. I guess you have to break the mold sometimes.

Colton Dixon played the keyboard in an affected “I’ve seen pop stars play the keyboard this way” manner as he sang a Daughtry tune. Colton’s good, but he’s not original, not a winner.

Phillip Phillips did a weird dance with his guitar. His voice sounded kind of Kermit the Frog-y. Randy liked his guitar a lot. Phillip worked hard to afford it.

Jen Hirsh has a soft, easy voice. Her performance of “Georgia on My Mind” stayed controlled and understated until she opened up soulfully on the chorus. Steven looked like he was in heaven. The judges gave Jen a standing ovation. Keep a serious eye on this contender. (Not that the girls who are this talented ever get too far on Idol, but us Idol watchers can dream.)

Creighton Fraker sang “What a Wonderful World” in his overly nasal Justin Timberlake wannabe style. The judges looked enchanted. Creighton gets really into his performances and has great control, but I still don’t like his tone quality. Sticking to that no feedback tidbit, the judges stood and hooted and hollered for Creighton. Gee, I wonder if they liked him.

Shannon Magrane also sang “What a Wonderful World.” She used a lot of vocal grinding and ended up sounding like she was trying to be Christina Augilera and overdoing her performance. She’s talented, I guess, but she’s nothing too special. The judges stood again to applaud and Jennifer said she was surprised by Shannon’s abilities for a young girl.

Reed Grimm had reportedly planned on singing a song a cappella. Thirty minutes before he was supposed to go on, however, a message came in that this was against the rules, and he would have to pick a new song to sing with the band. After practicing with the vocal coach and musical director and seeming distracted, Reed called his mom for some comfort. Suddenly, an apparently brilliant idea struck him. He would play the drums through his performance! Okay, I wasn’t really sure why this more-than-likely fabricated drama was necessary just to introduce us to the fact that this guy can play the drums. Randy compared Reed to Casey Abrams – but can you really be an original if the judges can so easily compare you to someone who was on the show less than a year ago? Reed looked smug about his performance for the duration.

Skylar Laine was sick all night and had to go to the hospital for fluids, but she managed to perform anyway. She has a cute country voice and lots of stage presence. Her adorable personality reminds me of Kellie Pickler, but it would seem that Skylar has more talent. Steven told her she was one of the best performances he’d seen all day. Thanks for the ego boost.

Rachelle Lamb gave us another country performance. She messed up the rhythm of the first line of her song and asked to start over. Her performance was understated and controlled, but she delivered nothing eye catching.

Adam Brock cracks me up because his look is unbelievably dweeby, but his sound is big and soulful. “It’s time for American to have some white chocolate up in here,” he declared before launching into his rendition of “Georgia on My Mind.” Sing it, boy, I thought to myself. I really like Adam, and I can see him going far in the competition.

When the solos were over and the judges had deliberated over Polaroids, the remaining contestants were split into four rooms to be told their fate. Room #1, which included Adam Brock, Jermain Jones, Lauren Gray, Joshua Ledet, Johnny Keyser, and Elise Testone (who we saw none of but I just have to mention her since it’s thrilling to have known someone who’s now going far on the show), made it onto the next round, as did Room #2 (Phillip Phillips, Skylar Laine, Shannon Magrane) and Room #4 (Baylie Brown, Heejun Han, Richie Law). The only room sent home was #3, which held Rachelle Lamb and Brittany Kerr.

Tonight, the hopefuls head to Las Vegas!

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