Judging American Idol: Hollywood Hell Week Turns To Group Performances

The pressure is on as contestants must assemble groups and wow the judges on short notice...
  |   Comments

Oh, Star Boobs, how far and quickly you have fallen. Last week Tiffany Rios (Star Boobs to those who witnessed her New Jersey audition) declared to the judges, contestants and all of the world that she’s “tired of all these people trying to do what I know I can.” She then belted out a crappy version of whatever song she decided to butcher. She was sent through, mostly I think because JLo was just entertained by her and felt she had spunk.

That ill-advised comment couldn’t have come at a worse time and definitely haunted Tiffany as she was looking for a group to join for Group Night. This is the part of Hollywood Week where you must join with other contestants and learn a song and dance moves in a fairly short period of time. Some people were so focused on having the perfect group they seemed to forget that as long as you nail your part, you’re fine. Rarely does the entire group go through anyway. There were 168 contestants who formed 31 groups. Since the first round of Hollywood Week took two days, the producers announced that all groups must have three to five members and MUST contain contestants from Day One AND Day Two. This is definitely the most fair way to go about it, or Day One contestants have about 24 hours more preparation time.  It was sad to see some strong contestants “auditioning” for Day One groups that were already formed and being turned down again and again. Most surprising for me was that Scotty McCreery couldn’t buy his way into an ensemble if he tried. He even promised to tone down his twang when finally Clint “Junebug” Gamboa agreed to let him in to his group, The Guavs. Sweet little Jacee Badeaux from New Orleans auditions had a hard time as well. He finally was let into the Guavs also, even though Gamboa seemed really unsure of the decision.

Now it seems everyone’s settled into their final groups when they find the lack of quiet and privacy a little daunting. It’s hard to practice when you feel people are stealing your routine or you can’t hear what your group is doing. Some move to the lobby, parking garage and even the restrooms. The later it gets, the more people are just absolutely losing it. Ashley Sullivan who has, I believe, cried through every stage of this process, finally has had enough and quits. She’s never looked fresh and young but tonight she looks like Mackenzie Phillips’ older, less-rested sister. She’s a wreck and goes off to cry to her boyfriend.

The next drama the cameras lead us to is 15-year old Jacee Badeaux getting kicked out of his group. First Clint Gamboa says it’s because he’s being really picky lyrically, then it’s revealed maybe chubby Jacee isn’t the best with choreography. It is 1:00 A.M. and groups start performing for judges at 8:30. A little over seven hours to go and Jacee is sobbing and snotting all over the place, wandering around hoping someone, anyone needs a Day 2 person. At this very moment our favorite neurotic ginger, Brett Loewenstern is looking for a Day 2 person to complete his already established group, The SugarMamas. They welcome Jacee with open arms showing little concern when he says he has never heard of the song they’re performing- Duffy’s “Mercy.”

Next we see a group comprised of only 15 and 16-year olds called the Minors. They are singing the same Queen song as James Durbin’s group, The Deep Vs, and he feels that is unfair, especially since their parents are there to coach. “Idol isn’t really the place for stage moms.” Seeing as how there are 31 groups, and only 20 songs to pick from, obviously there will be some overlapping of songs. Oh wait, he thought he was being super edgy by choosing a song nobody else would, and he of course needs a song he can scream on. Duh, Heather.

Exes Rob Bolin and Chelsee  Oaks are in a group with Jacqueline Dunford. Her boyfriend Nick Fink was supposed to be the fourth member but, as you may recall, Nick went out in a blaze of glory when he was eliminated after his performance. And by glory I mean he looked like a huge jackass. Rob is not liking dancing or taking orders from his bossy ex. “Its hell when your ex is Commander In Chief.” He looks truly miserable and like he may be having a nervous breakdown.

Jordan Dorsey was so picky about assembling a super group that he turned down nearly everyone who tried to join the group they named Four-Forty. Then shortly before everyone is heading to bed for their 2 or 3 hours of sleep, he becomes unhappy with his group and joins a better one that renames themselves Four Plus One to accommodate Jordan.

Finally, it’s the next day and performances are starting. The judges give a brief pep-talk; Steven Tyler says he’s addicted to adrenaline (no kidding) and loves performances like this, JLo says to remember even though you’re in a group cuts are made individually, and Randy says, “Don’t EVER forget the words!”

First group up is a trio of pretty girls I have never seen before. They sing “Grenade” by Bruno Mars and it’s a nice way to start things off, as they are all sent through.  Four Plus One takes the stage and they all sound great, cute dance moves, and harmonies are all on point. Jordan Dorsey made a ruthless move that paid off for him in the end. The group he abandoned is next and they are just as good in the same ways and move on as well.

Tiffany Rios is up and shock of shocks she wasn’t able to get into ANY group despite being “the only professional choreographer here” but  Jessica Yantz  felt pity and left her group to be with Star Boobs. It turned out to not be the wisest decision as they are both sent home pretty quickly.

A group calling themselves Center Stage asks Steven Tyler to come on stage and sit in a chair while Lauren Alaina and the rest of them (we are never shown their names, bad sign) basically give him underage lap dances while singing “Some Kind Of Wonderful.”  Even changing a line to, “Steven Tyler is so wonderful” didn’t help them out when the judges announce only Lauren is moving on.

Matt Dillard is in a group with Colton Dixon and they are so badly out of tune that no one except Colton advances. Next we’re shown a montage of a bunch of no names who we’ll never hear from again, but sadly one of them happens to be the single mom we all fell in love with, Paris Tassin. Unfortunately, the weaknesses I saw in her auditions were very apparent in this auditorium as a part of a group.  We also learn that Emily Ann Reed with her “old timey” voice will not advance as well as Aly Jados, Adrienne Beasely, and Aaron Gutierrez. The other Guttierez brother Mark, does make it through, however.

After what seems to be an endless string of out of tune and disappointing performances, Randy takes a moment to remind everyone to concentrate on yourself because while it is a group effort, not all of your group will necessarily make it through. Ashley Sullivan’s group is next and despite some pitch problems on her part they all make it through making her happy with the last minute decision to stay.

The showdown of Queen’s “Somebody To Love” is next with James Durbin’s group, The Deep Vs going first. It was pretty rotten, honestly, and only James and Caleb Johnson survive this round. The Minors follow-up that performance with a jaw-droppingly-good version proving you don’t need to scream your face off to do a very respectable tribute to Freddie Mercury. They were so good Tyler says “I was bathing in those vocals” and proclaims performances like that are why he joined AI. Apparently stage moms are where it’s at! Who knew?

The next group butchers “Grenade” so badly that Hollie Cavanagh is the only bright spot. One kid was even blatantly reading lyrics off his arm! Judges called him out on that; they were pretty disgusted. Night Owl features Casey Abrams and Julie Zorilla, their group does an a capella version of “Get Ready” and only Casey and Julie make it through. Next group does the same song, also a capella and they all make it through, Jerome Lusk emerges as the shining star in this performance.  Four Non Blondes And That Guy is next. It’s an underwhelming performance but it’s worth noting that Chris Medina and Carson Huggins are moving on.

Finally! The dramatic matchup American Idol has been teasing us with for at least four commercial breaks: Jacee Badeaux’s new group, against his old group with Scotty McCreery and Clint Gamboa.  Jacee’s group goes first and they are phenomenal; Brett Loewenstern is definitely one to watch. It’s not surprising that Jacee is the only weak link of the group. He keeps in tune but had the wherewithal to improv  some cute lyrics as he can’t remember most of his line. The judges notice that Jacee, who has been strong for this entire process was definitely lost, and ask what happened. His new group stuck up for him and explained how he was kicked out of the Guavs at 1 in the morning. Clint’s group is next and he lamely defends himself while Scotty cuts him off to say that he feels bad for not sticking up for Jacee as he was being kicked out, because he thinks he’s the best kid there, hands down. In the end it doesn’t matter as both groups advance.

Now to our final act of the evening: Three’s Company which consists of Rob Bolin, Chelsee Oaks and Jacqueline Dunford. Their performance has rocky moments and it looks like Rob is his own worst enemy, after only getting 30 minutes of rest and fretting for the duration of Group Night, he is the only one of the three who didn’t make it. This is nothing but a shame because he was hands down the most vocally talented member of the trio. He appears almost delirious and tried to make up lyrics to “Forget You,” only he’s not nearly as cute as Jacee and the ploy does not work for him.

We learn 100 potential Idol winners made it through, and tonight’s conclusion of Hollywood Week allows the remaining contestants one more chance with a solo performance that will help the judges whittle down the number to 50 prospects.

Who stays, who goes? I can’t wait to find out what drama unfolds on the final night of Hell Week!