American Idol shifted away from auditions and into its less popular Hollywood stages Tuesday night, and while the ratings tend to dip during this time, I usually find these rounds to be some of the more interesting. Unlike any other part of the show, we get tension, bickering, and high drama. Usually. Last year’s Brittenum twins are still forever complaining in my brain. However, I couldn’t help but feel like this part of the process was totally rushed this season. If memory serves me correctly (oh, who am I kidding — I looked it up), last year, we had one full hour dedicated to the solo Hollywood round and one full hour for the group competition. This time, both phases were hastily crammed together, preventing us from getting to know more “characters” and therefore distancing us from drama. Plus, the judges’ commentary was clipped, brief, and forgettable, and besides that, I have lingering questions: what happened to two of the frontrunners from the auditions — Ebony and Jenry? AND WHERE, GOOD GOD, WAS CAROL BAYER SAGER???As the hour began, we learned that day 1 of the Hollywood rounds would be spent with the girls singing their hearts out. The guys, meanwhile, were off cleaning up litter on the 101 Freeway. Or so I assumed. Unlike last year when we were treated to heartwearming glimpses of people cavorting on the beach, FOX denied us the chance to see “how the other half lived.” It was all about the singing. Just the singing.
The way this would work was that hopefuls would take the stage in groups of six and each sing solos for the judges, lasting about thirty seconds each. First up was Jory Steinberg, the girl with the nagging sense of entitlement — probably stemming from her being best friends with Queen Elizabeth. She made an instant splash, mostly because she was dressed almost identically to Paula. Needless to say, that’s not a good thing.
Anyway, Jory sang her song, and I didn’t think she sounded particularly great, but from the auditions, I remembered that Simon was highly enthusiastic about her. She was definitely staying. Less likely of moving forward was Christen Itam, some girl who managed to destroy my ears for the two seconds that we saw her on TV. Anyway, once everyone in Jory’s group had sang, the girls stood in front of the judges who informed them that they’d all be going home. HA! Excellent. Poor Jory Steinberg. She’ll have plenty to cry about next time she visits Queen Elizabeth at Balmoral Castle and Estate.
Perhaps the best part of this unceremonious elimination was one girl who made the embarrassing mistake of cheering with excitement, only to realize that she had jumped the gun. As a result, her already strange noise abruptly morphed into a moan of sorrow, which was probably only slightly less humiliating than waving back at someone who was waving at the person behind you.
Nevertheless, Simon kicked the ladies while they were down, saying, “None of you are any good. It was an absolutely terrible start to the day. Sorry. No originality.” He then added, “We’re looking for the best of the best who can win this competition and then be saddled with a generic, lame, and forgettable single.”
Meanwhile, in the audience, one girl remarked, “They just cut the whole first row!” — as if there was something inherently special about the first row that made it supremely uncuttable. Besides, it would have been no less astounding had the judges cut six people over the course of two rounds instead of one. That’s just some old fashioned availability heuristics at work! That’s right. I took social psych senior year. Feel free to bask in the reflected glory…
We then went to a commercial, and when we returned, Columbian thrush Perla was sauntering off an airplane, arriving in Los Angeles for her big shot at stardom. Proving to be significantly more annoying than her already annoying audition could ever bely, Perla mugged for cameras, acting as if she were the queen of Los Angeles International Airport. Needless to say, the other grouchy travelers were far from impressed.
“I am The Perla!”
Anyway, we then found Perla singing “Hips Don’t Lie” — again — and even though she was super annoying, the judges still pushed her through (although, not before Simon told her to focus more on singing and less on personality). For whatever reason, this caused Perla to cry, saying, “I can’t help but be myself.” Yes, your annoying, annoying self.
Faring less successfully was Rachel Jenkins, an army reservist we saw during one of the audition episodes. Her hair was longer now, and she was out of uniform; however, her voice was kind of boring and bland. I thought she might get a pass to the next round thanks to this show’s occasional desire to appeal to good ol’ American values, but Rachel simply wasn’t good enough to get the Joshua Gracin exemption. She was cut. Tears ensued.
Baylie Brown, a blondie whose commercial appeal Simon had praised in the auditions, easily glided through to the next round, and she, like Antonella and Jenry, seemed like a sure bet for the top twenty-four. Of course, that’s only what I assumed. Little did I realize what adventures lay in store for wee Baylie (and little did I realize that Jenry had disappeared off the face of this Earth).
Sure thing, right?
We then saw a montage of rejections, starting with Ashlyn Carr (the weird face girl who received two chances to audition), Porcelana (the “Rocky” girl from Brooklyn who had seemed like a sure-fire semifinalist), and Sarah Burgess (the Ohioan who had snuck to the New York audition behind her dad’s back). As she left the theater, a teary Sarah told us, “I made my parents proud; so I already won.” Yeah, we’ll see if you’re singing the same tune when they lock you back up in the cage. YOU HAVE BROUGHT SHAME TO THE BURGESS NAME!
Last but not least, there was Nicole Turner. She was the final singer of the day, and even though she had wanted to sing “Tracks of My Tears” to the judges, her mother and aunt pressured her to change tunes. Sure enough, Nicole switched it up at the last second — a pivotal mistake which cost her her confidence… and her shot to move on. THANKS, MOM. Afterwards, Nicole’s mother comforted her, and I couldn’t help but feel badly all around. The girl was angry and heartbroken. The mom was immensely guilty. And some sad third thing was probably happening somewhere.
Seeking to right the wrongs, Nicole’s mom approached the judges and explained that she had forced her daughter to sing the song and that she deserved a second chance. For whatever reason, this caused Paula to rise to her feet and clap, but I think that’s mainly because she thought she saw a monkey riding across the stage on a tricycle.
Anyway, Simon said that it wasn’t the song that had cost Nicole her shot, but Nicole and her mom begged to differ. An argument busted out, and soon Nicole was yelling, “It was the delivery of the song!” to which Simon yelled back, “It wasn’t the song!” And so on and so forth until finally, the disappointed mother and daughter walked away, and Paula was left to shoot Simon angry looks.
“You’re gonna love meeeee!”
Ultimately, fifty six girls went home (or maybe 56 moved on, I don’t remember), but one of my favorites — Melinda Doolitte — was moving on. Hallelujah! Bring on the men!
After the commercial break, we reacquainted ourselves with Brian Miller, who hailed from a placenta. Wait, no. Placentia, CA. He was one of those people who had made it to Hollywood before, but had failed to reach the top twenty-four. Now he was back to prove he had the chops to win this thing. Unfortunately, I kind of hated him — mostly because he had that annoying, non-threatening Anthony Federov thing going on. I hoped he’d get cut, but I had a nagging feeling he’d be with us for a long time. Kind of like a bad strain of herpes.
Believe it or not, he’s walking on air.
We didn’t get to see what happened with Brian. Instead we moved onto Jarrod Fowler, a celebrity in his own right — let’s not forget that he had won the much coveted title of S.S. Reagan Idol. Yes, Jarrod was the Navy man, and while I wasn’t a huge fan of his during the auditions, I had to admit that this time… I still wasn’t a fan of his. Too boring and generic for me. Plus, I have hard time respecting people who sing Josh Groban.
Following Jarrod was little Matt Satos, the likable sixteen year old kid, who may or may not be very gay. He told us that “Before this, my parents weren’t really supportive with the things I did.” He then added, “You know, like taking other boys to the dance.” Okay, he didn’t say that. Instead, he said how the golden ticket to Hollywood had brought about a sense of approval from his parents. He even earned a rare hug from his mom. “I felt loved,” he said. It was very sweet. And incredibly, incredibly sad. What is up with these awful parents this year?
Well, Matt had a strong performance, and we knew he was going through thanks to the Multiple Camera Angle theory. Basically, if someone’s singing, and the producers dissolve between multiple camera angles, they’ll usually move on. I haven’t really tested this theory on anyone else (I kind of forgot to), but it seemed reasonable to me.
Anyway, the judges called the latest group of guys out and told some of them to step forward and others to step back. Jarrod was behind. Matt was forward. Who would move on? Sure enough, the front line got to stay, which meant Jarrod would have to suffice with his lowly Reagan Idol trophy. Afterwards, Matt hugged Jarrod warmly, later asking, “Before you leave, will you tell me more about the Navy?”
Actually, what Matt really did was bust out his pink Razr phone (of course) and call his mom. He informed her that he was moving on and then promptly broke down into tears. Towards the end of the call, she told her son that she loved him, and he then informed us, “She never says she loves me either.” That’s right: just another superficial parent. As soon as her kid approaches some sort of fame, it’s all about the love. Funny how that works.
Well, after about six minutes of airtime, we wrapped up with the men, learning that a mere thirty-four of them would be moving on. Now, I know that the girls heavily outranked the guys this year, but couldn’t we have seen more than six minutes worth? I guess not. For those of you who care, the hirsute tandem of Sundance Head (awful goatee) and Sean Michel (Castro hair) both made it through to the next round. Would they survive the group round? Eh, kind of.
Sure enough, we rushed forward into the cooperative portion of the evening as the kids joined together to make groups of two, three, and even four. Sadly, the whole “no child left behind” policy didn’t quite reach the Orpheum Theater because at least two poor singers found themselves unwanted and unloved. One was a girl, who quietly sobbed in her chair. Luckily, some debonair man invited her into his group. The other loner was regrettably our boy Matt — he of the rarely loved and hugged childhood. He tried to join some people, but no one wanted the kindly boy and his pink Razr phone.
Of course, since this episode was all about hastiness, we simply moved on, fast forwarding to eleven PM where the groups were now practicing their hearts out for their next big shot. One such group was none other than Baylie, Antonella, and Antonella’s less talented friend, Amanda. Based on the audition episodes, I’d say this trio was a powerhouse — looks, commercial appeal, and talent. (Well, the “talent” label was a bit tenuous for Amanda, but I digress…). Anyway, these girls looked like they could have had the competition wrapped around their finger. Too bad they were consumed with bickering and indecisiveness. Amanda and Antonella snapped at each other and argued about what song to sing while Baylie merely sat amidst them, debating whether or not to find another group (somebody join Matt, PLEASE!).
Later, at the hotel, we met another dysfunctional group containing Gina the dental assistant, two other generic girls, and our old friend Perla. Here’s a shocker: Perla had no idea how to sing anything that wasn’t “Hips Don’t Lie.” She struggled with harmonies, and no matter how many times Gina tried to correct her, The Perla simply could not hit the notes. Plus, she remained super annoying. She reminded me of this girl in my high school named Emmy. She had big curly hair like Perla, but she also always wore this dumb shirt that said “STAR!” There was also a girl in my high school named Star, and she was a pathological liar who claimed she was dating John Popper from Blues Traveler. As you can see, Perla opens up a Pandora’s Box of unfortunate memories and experiences.
Back with Antonella’s group, when the girls weren’t belting their hearts out into a water glass, they were struggling to remember the lyrics — an ominous sign of things to come. Eventually, Amanda got so fed up that she merely left her partners, choosing to hang out with some boys and flirt — or at least laugh at their dumb jokes.
Ladies and gentlemen, Dreamgirls 2007!
Meanwhile, Antonella and Baylie went to sleep, and back at Perla’s group, Gina announced that they would certainly not be friends after the audition the next day. The assumption here was that anyone would ever be friends with Perla — something I highly doubted. I shouldn’t say that. She seems nice enough. It’s just that, well, like I said. Perla reminds me of Emmy and Star. And those two girls remind me of general dumbness. Guilt by association, Perla.
“Excuse us while we rehearse on the ugliest carpet EVER!”
The next morning, Antonella’s group had devolved into a total mess. Personally, I wanted to focus less on them and catch up with some of our other favorites. What happened to poor Matt? Was he sitting on a street corner, enticing some homeless man to be in his yet-to-be-formed group? And where the hell was Jenry? Two weeks ago, there were like three hundred comments on this board and others across the internet from women (and some men) who wanted to do naughty things to the Tyson Beckford lookalike. I picked him to be a top-twelve contender, simply for his looks alone. And yet, he was literally nowhere to be seen in this episode. A little follow-through, please?
Anyway, it was finally time for the groups to sing. Before the festivities began, Simon offered some ominous words of advice: “Do not forget the words!” And in about .3 seconds, we saw our first singer forget his words. Sadly, this was Matt, the unwanted, unloved, unhugged boy who had stolen our hearts just ten minutes prior. The good news was that he’d been finally absorbed into some hodgepodge group of girls. The bad news was that he totally choked. Not only did he botch the lyrics, but he was totally off key too. One probably caused the other (nerves!), and sure enough, the judges sent him home. Matt then called his mom, and when he told her that he didn’t move on, she seemed — what’s the word? — PAINFULLY DISAPPOINTED. No hugs for you, Matty!
Next up was the Perla group, and even though the girls had been so concerned with The Perla’s ability to harmonize, they really should have been more concerned about her ability to sing. She managed to butcher her way through her part, easily earning a well-deserved ticket home. THANK GOD.
We then saw a bunch of guys rouse the audience to their feet, thanks to their spirited take on “How Deep Is Your Love.” Group member Blake provided a beat-boxed accompaniment which was impressive, but slightly annoying — especially since he was supposed to be singing, not beatboxing.
Nevertheless, the boys all made it through, and then we moved onto Sundance Head’s group. Like I’ve said before, I have an irrational hatred of Sundance solely based on his obnoxious facial hair. His voice is great. Not denying that. I just hate that terrible goatee. Sorry, people. I never said I wasn’t superficial. I like my Idols to look good, not creepy. The omnipresent chest hair could also use a closed button or ten, I might add.
Anyway, Sundance miraculously made it through to the next round, despite having forgotten the lyrics to his song. “I am not an example for anyone that’s planning on trying out for this show,” he said, adding, “I am also not an example for anyone that’s planning on GROWING FACIAL HAIR.”
Finally, it was time for Antonella’s group to move forward. The girls told us that even if they do get cut, it’s okay because they’ve all become great friends. Yeah, I’m sure Baylie absolutely loves you two.
Well, as bad as Matt’s choke was, it was nothing compared to Baylie’s colossal meltdown. The girl who had once seemed like a top-twelve contender, couldn’t remember any words. As she struggled through the song, her mother began crying in the audience, her hopes and dreams dissipating with every unsung note. Amanda also had problems with the lyrics, but not nearly as many as Baylie. Sure enough, Baylie Brown was axed while Amanda miraculously lived to see another day. For now, at least.
Afterwards, Amanda chalked up her success to the big guy upstairs. “Because God likes good people,” she said, implying that Baylie might just be an absolutely awful person. Sure enough, the ejected singer got into a minor tiff with the other girls, thus ending the wonderful friendship that had been declared just minutes ago. Oh well.
We then saw a bunch of other people who were cut, none of whom were particularly noteworthy beyond Sean Michel, our heavily bearded underdog whose journey came to a sad end, thanks to a scratchy throat. And yes, as far as I could tell, this meant there was pretty much no one from the auditions that I liked who was still in this competition.
After the commercial, we returned for day four in Hollywood. It really wasn’t much of anything. Basically, the judges sat with a bunch of photos and picked out their favorites for the top forty. Whoever made it past this next cut then was eligible to make the top twenty-four (and thus, the semifinals). I think the singers all came out and sang for the judges again, but we really didn’t see any of this. We just jumped immediately to the judges separating the kids into three groups, one of which would be going home. Who would be in? Who would be out? All we knew was that Antonella and Amanda were split up. Plus, remember those two Indian kids? The brother and sister? Yeah, well, apparently they had made it this far, and they too were split up. Early predictions: Antonella and the brother were moving on. Amanda and the sister were goners.
Well, the judges ambled into room one (which featured Melinda Doolittle) and announced that they’d be moving forward. Of course they would be. They had Melinda Doolittle, one of the best voices in the competition.
Room two housed Antonella, Sundance, and the brother. Sure enough, just as we had expected, they too were moving on to the next round. This meant that the third room was full of rejects. And even worse for them, having heard two different celebrations, they all knew they were toast before the judges even walked in. Oh, and for those of you wondering, that non-threatening returning singer? He was in this room. DENIED!
As the show ended, there were some deserved tears as Antonella’s victory was undermined by her friend’s loss. This was nothing compared to the brother and sister who wept in each other’s arms (until they were joined by a third, anonymous woman. Hey, get out of their moment! Oh wait, I think it was their mom).
Tomorrow night, we cut the numbers down to twenty-four, and soon the voting begins. Are you psyched? Who are you rooting for? Did you like this condensed version of Hollywood week?