The boys got their shot in Hollywood last week
and did a so-so job while narrowing the field down to the top 28. Amazing performances were hard to come by, as were lyrics (at least correct ones), but a few favorites have started to emerge with mostly solid performances all around. Now, it's the girls' turn. And if Nicki's prediction that American Idol
would have its first female winner in years is correct, we should be in for a fun ride. Not so much for the girls though, who face the added pressure of greatly outnumbering the guys who advanced this far.
There are 162 girls who've made the trip, and by the end of Thursday night, we'll narrow the group down to just 20. That means lots of harsh cuts are on tap, including people we've seen before and who have inspirational stories. But that will be countered by faces that are new and voices that are spectacular. First up is the quick-shot do-or-die solo round.
The First Cuts are the Deepest (Because Some are Wrong)
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Making it through this round is more of a relief than a confidence booster, and partially deaf Angela Miller, Mariachi singer Victoria Acosta and recovering anorexic Mariah Pulice are in the first group. Miller's confidence helps her stand out above the rest, and she and Victoria advance. I actually thought Pulice had the best vocal performance of the three, but the judges apparently disagreed.
Also not moving on were funny girl Ashley Smith (who I dubbed Black Snookie), Miss University of Arkansas Ann Difani and country singer/Nicki rapper Sarah Restuccio. I liked all three when they auditioned, so I wish we could have heard them (possibly) suck before saying goodbye.
A Country S(ho)wdown
I never get tired of that heading. Overly bubbly Rachel Hale has a big accent and a big voice, and she's in the same group as Janelle Arthur, who once played a young Dolly Parton in a play. Rachel turns out a nearly flawless performance, and though her power threatens to overshadow the more subdued Janelle, there's plenty of room for both of them in the next round.
The Best We've Ever Seen?
That's how Ryan Seacrest prefaces the next set of advancing girls, which seems like a stretch. But crowd and judge favorite Candice Glover (who Nicki Minaj wanted to skin and wear) certainly does not disappoint. Megan Miller, who auditioned on crutches, does not share her fate.
Isabelle had far and away the best audition in New York, and after her performance here, I'm thinking she may just be the best we'll see. How is this chick not famous already? Who goes by one name who isn't already famous?
Briana Oakley, who was both bullied and one of Maury's Most Talented Kids, continues her strong run. General oddball street performer Kez Ban doesn't feel like she fits in anywhere, and her voice is shot. But she goes through on potential and personality, despite a shaky performance.
Also among the 72 who advanced are returning contestant Melinda Ademi (who we haven't seen this season) and budding superstar Ashley Feliciano (whose family fosters kids).
The Cattiness of Group Day
Everyone's most dreaded round kicks off with the announcement that girls will be put in groups instead of choosing them, which ruins the plans of all the strategists. Personalities seem to clash a lot more than they did with the guys, particularly in the groups with Kaz Ban and Zoanette Johnson, who (along with her unusual yet obnoxious scowl) somehow made it past the first solo round.
Highlights include Kez Ban demanding her song choice, arguing over key, asking for orange juice, hocking a loogie, spitting in a trashcan, leaving her group to find dinner and starting off the next day with something shady on her balcony (off-camera) after declaring she's not a morning person. They could just do the whole show about her. Except you'd probably just change the channel.
The Swagettes Kick Things Off
"Hit 'Em Up Style" starts off rough for the group, but it comes together individually. Candice Glover stands head and shoulders above the rest, but Kamaria Ousley, Melinda Ademi and Denise Jackson hold their own. I do NOT like Melinda's accent, but I have long had qualms with people who can't sing in clear English. Still, they're all moving on.
The Hot Start Continues
Raisin' Cain, with Morgan Leigh Boberg, Lauren Mink, Brandy Hotard, a really pale girl and four sets of cowboy boots, rock their country swagger. Mink and Hotard stood out for me, and Nicki Minaj gives a really bizarre speech about cupcakes, ice cream and pedicures before sending all four of them through.
Don't Forget the Lyrics!
Almost Famous is the first group to struggle, since the girls don't know harmonies or lyrics. It's an utter train wreck, and Savannah Votion, Lizz Weiss and J'Leigh Chauvin are all eliminated. Daysia Hall somehow advances, even though she might not have gotten a single word right. Savannah, who I previously described as having the perfect demeanor to fall apart under the pressure of Hollywood Week, doesn't think it's fair because she's the one who put the harmonies together (not something to brag about, honey). All three of them ooze bitterness and sour grapes, but one would think you'd pick a song that at least ONE of you knew the words to.
The Dramatics have an odd girl out, and Janel Stinney has done her best to live up to the group name. She refuses to sit with teammates Cristabel Clack, Kriss Mincey and a girl whose name is pronounced On-Yay, and they all laugh when Janel says she learned so much from working together. Cristabel is a seasoned vet at 29 who steals the show, and Kriss hits a high background note that gives you goose bumps. Still, they get a lot of lyrics wrong, particularly Janel, who doesn't bother to sing a single word. Nicki says the fact that she's basically an outcast makes her endearing, which I completely disagree with. There's a lot of division between the judges, but somehow all four advance.
Several groups can't get anything going, and most are sent packing. But Shubha Vedula (one of my audition favorites), Sarina-Joi Crowe and Aubrey Cleland all stand out enough to move on.
Seretha Guinn, Tenna Torres, Kiara Lanier and Jett Hermano don't gel together at all. Seretha, whose husband was in an accident and who auditioned with her daughter, delivers a solid but unforgettable performance. She also changes the "American Boy" lyrics to add two inches to Kanye West's height. Tenna screeches more than sings, yet Nicki thinks she's the only memorable one in the group. Seretha is the ONLY one going home, which I find completely baffling.
Really? The Pu-Snaps?
Zoanette Johnson headlines this group, joining Erin Christine, Lauren Bettes and Isabelle. Erin is super hot and crushes it, while Isabelle continues to show she may be the best one in the competition. It is an unfortunate group for Lauren, because she fades into the background and is the only one sent home. I'm surprised all the glass in the building didn't break when Zoanette sang.
Really? Handsome Women?
Where do they come up with these names? And when will they realize that it's really hard to stand out during the verses of Gotye's "Somebody I Used to Know"? Israeli pop singer Shira Gavrielov butchers the first few lines in a key that's entirely too low for her before Alisha Dixon gets to put her own angry spin on the chorus. Meh. Liz Bills goes for the barefoot look and sounds decent only because everyone else sucks so bad. Courtney Calle might be salvageable, but again, I have accent issues. Possibly the worst song choice ever, and I'll be amazed if anyone advances. So of course Liz is moving on. And Shira comes back on stage demanding an explanation.
'For You' is Not For Me
The group For You, made up of Stephanie Schimel, Alex Delaney, Kalli Therinae and Holly Miller, decided to change their song two hours before their performance. They were having trouble learning "Total Eclipse of the Heart," so they decided to ignore history and sing Gotye. Naturally, it's terrible, with Holly the only one who actually knows the words. Though underwhelming, she and Stephanie advance. Stephanie sums it up perfectly, saying "Why did they let me through? I totally botched that thing."
Again, DON'T FORGET THE LYRICS!!
Normally, you can't argue the point enough. But apparently the trend this year was to write your lyrics on your hand or arm. And STILL forget the words. For the Dolly Chicks, division was ever present. Haley Davis went to bed, while Britnee Kellogg, Kree Harrison and Brandy Neelly pulled an all-nighter. Haley also didn't bother to learn the song, so she sings directly off her wrist until she just gives up and vamps. Kree and Brandy seem unable to overcome their tiredness and lack of lyrical knowledge, meaning Britnee stands out whether she deserves to or not. Yet only Brandy is eliminated. Some of this stuff is just infuriating.
Kez Ban to the Rescue
The Misfits are the last group to perform, and Breanna Steer, Angela Miller and Janelle Arthur spend most of their time practicing without Kez Ban, who oversleeps, misses the group bus, warms up by dancing like a general lunatic and has a completely unforgettable performance. Breanna blows it out of the water and Angela is hit or miss with some highlights, but the real show stopper was Janelle. Her voice is beautiful and flows out so clearly and easily, and Nicki calls her a superstar. It should be the end of the line for Kez Ban, who Nicki calls a "crazy psycho," but all four are headed to the solo round.
That's it for the group round, and we're just one hour away from learning who makes the top 40. Who are your favorites girls so far, and who do you see making a serious run for the Idol crown? Do you get as annoyed as I do when the singers forget their lyrics? And are you as terrified as I am that Zoanette will make it to the live shows and win the vote-for-the-worst Sanjaya title? She is seriously the worst singer to ever make it this far.
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