Hollywood Week is a time-honored tradition on American Idol, one that separates the contenders and judge mistakes from the pretenders. And no part of said week is more dramatic, more enthralling, more filled with highs and lows than the dreaded group round.
It brings together friends, enemies and people who have no friends or enemies. And it also brings out the best and/or worst in the golden ticket recipients who remain after the first solo round is over.
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There are the divas who don’t like to work with anyone else, the control freaks who try to dictate the routine, the singers who think they don’t need to practice and the stressed-out bums who are too lazy and tired to try. It really is just the best.
We haven’t gotten that far yet, though, as we anxiously await Gabby Zonneveld’s fate. When we left off, she was rolling right along with “Bottom of the River” when she suddenly stopped, grabbed her face and looked like she was about to stroke out. Was it a panic attack? A medical emergency? Let’s find out.
Round One Wraps Up
In reality, Gabby just got freaked out and lost her place in the song. But Harry Connick, Jr., goes up on stage to comfort her, and they’ll give her another shot after she composes herself.
Single mom Kelly Kime, whose four-year-old daughter stole the show with a rendition of “Let It Go” during her audition, and singer-songwriter Katherine Winston, whose audition song ran over a montage of rejections, both do a good job. Then Gabby gets on stage and gives it another go. No breakdowns this time, and all three move forward.
Andrew Annello, the Alabama boy with ADHD, is still nerve-free. And his “Valerie” is practically flaw-free.
Maddie Walker was a repeat auditioner in a montage, and her performance shows off her potential but has some weak spots.
Alexis Gomez is a pretty blonde southern girl who is also in the group, and while her “Before He Cheats” sounds good, her guitar sounds terrible.
Somehow, Andrew is the only one in his group not moving on, and I don’t get that decision at all because he sounded great. Definitely better than Maddie or Alexis. Maybe Harry was annoyed by Andrew’s hyperactive twitchy facial expressions?
Cody Fry, a lifelong and polished performer who seems like he puts a great amount of thought into every note, advances easily with a smooth slow rendition of Jeff Buckley’s “Lilac Wine.”
Loren Lott is a bundle of energy who warms up by having a seizure, and her “Radioactive” is, well, not great. I think anything by Imagine Dragons in general is a terrible audition choice, especially for a non-rocker, but somehow she goes through.
Shi Scott sang a copy of Amy Winehouse in her audition, and she follows it up with a copy of Duffy’s “Mercy.” Rayvon Owen, who didn’t know he was poor when he was growing up, lacked polish in his audition, but his “Ordinary People” shows a lot more poise and control. Both are through.
Clark Beckham has a nice gritty sound, but he yells a bit too much while urging “Let’s Get It On,” while puberty-ridden Daniel Seavey is still the bane of my existence but shows marked improvement over his audition. Both move on.
Dakota Suarez is still hoping to be the first drag queen to walk away with the title, but he shouldn’t have made it this far. He is exposed on stage and leads a montage of terrible performances, all unnamed.
Qaasim Middleton’s mom tells everyone he’s a virgin, but Jax, who advanced with Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” isn’t swayed. She’s got the hots for him, but his attempts to serenade her from the stage don’t go quite as well. There are good points, but his runs are just plain crazy. He goes through anyway.
Cue montage of people we’ve seen before advancing: Nick Fradiani, who auditioned with his golden ticket-less girlfriend; half-tribal, half-pilgrim, half papa shango Quentin Alexander; and some guy named Zack or Zach from the Kansas City audition.
Straight to the Group Round
There’s no rest for the weary, as those who survived day two now must jump into groups of four and spend all night getting ready for day three. But Alexis Danielle Granville can’t find a team and worries she’ll be stuck on her own until Sinatra wannabe Sal says five is a great number and invites her in, effectively winning me over despite the persona.
I spot a couple peeps from previous seasons who haven’t officially debuted in XIV yet, and there’s the usual delirium and sleepiness as the groups practice late into the night. Sal even lulls us into dreamy-dream land at roughly 5:30 a.m., as Idol keep the chaos that prevails in two-hour episodes to a minimum and instead (and somewhat disappointingly) jumps right into the performances.
Double Stuff, or as I like to call them, David Oliver Willis’ group, is up first. For those who aren’t as deeply entrenched, this is DOW’s third straight trip to Hollywood and beyond. And the past two seasons, he was (what I consider) unfairly sent home before his time. He’s been one of my unheralded and unrecognized favorites over that span, and you have to admire his persistence. Happily, their “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” does just that, and Willis, along with Jesse Cline, Clark Beckham and J. None, are all through.
Shi Scott, Big Ron Wilson, Andrew Bloom and bushy-haired Adam Ezegelian are next, and it’s great despite a bit of sleep deprivation. But being in such a strong group exposed Andrew, who is possibly unfairly sent home.
The Dream Team is the youngest of the bunch, with Tyanna Jones, Maddy Hudson, Reno Anoa’I and Steffi Ledbetter. Tyanna and Maddy destroy the rest in an occasionally off-pitch and perfect-lyric-free performance, and J-Lo calls the whole thing shaky. Harry thinks they tried to hard to out-run each other, and Steffi is out of the mix. But the Hawaiian was pretty deserving of elimination too.
Team Dimples, with Michael Simeon, Jaq Mackenzie, Nick Fradiani and Hunter Larsen, do a surprisingly good job with a terrible song choice in “Rude,” but the best part is when Jaq sings about putting on her “wet suit” to ask you a question. J-Lo professes her love for Michael, and all four advance, with Harry proclaiming that all but one of them will eventually be sent home (thus declaring Michael the winner?).
The group of five — Jax, Sal, Kelly, Kaitlyn(?) and Alexis — caps off the show, but not before drama from Alexis. She gets dizzy and has a panic attack, and the doctors tell her she is suffering from exhaustion. She rallies for the performance, but once she’s on stage, she collapses and is taken off stage by the medical team.
The judges call for a break, and it’s #ToBeContinued all over again. For real? Two straight episodes that end with a contestant nearly fainting? Can’t we find any new drama?
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There was a ton of talent on display in this one, but the highlight for me was the triumphant return of David Oliver Willis. Can a dude make the live shows for once? He’s earned it. Who stood out to you, and did anyone advance you thought should have been cut? And did you think the Andrews, Bloom and Annello, got a raw deal?
The group round continues, with Alexis’ health and fate at stake. Should they give her another shot? Or let the other four perform without her? Find out the judges’ decision next time as Hollywood Week becomes Hollywood Weeks.
You can watch American Idol on Wednesday and Thursday at 8pm on FOX.
(Image courtesy of FOX)