“It has always been the most intense part of the week … but this year, it’s even worse.” So promised Seacrest of the infamous Hollywood Week Group Round. And, boy, did they deliver.
While most of us like to think of “Idol” as wholesome family fun, this episode reminds us that it is, after all, a reality show. The formula behind the genius is very simple: Narcissists Plus “Teamwork” Minus Sleep Equals Gold.
Bring on the divas. (And I don’t mean J.Lo.)
The first scandal broke when after two days of individual auditions, the remaining 168 contestants were given the ground rules for the Group Round. Candidates were to perform in groups of 3-5 people and choose from a list of 20 songs.
Easy enough. After all, those who had auditioned on Day 1 of the Individual Round had already formed their groups and were perfecting their routines, given that they were able to rehearse while the Day 2 contestants were still auditioning.
But in a twist worthy of an M. Night Shyamalan movie, producer Ken Warwick put a kink in their choreographic strategies by announcing that each group must contain hopefuls from both Day 1 and Day 2. Chaos then ensued as desperate Idols roamed the Pasadena Civic Auditorium with cardboard signs, begging for extra group members.
Finding teammates from opposite audition days wasn’t as difficult as finding the right chemistry, though. Losing sight of the fact that “Idol” is really an individual competition, cocky hopefuls literally auditioned each other to find the right vibe.
Baritone cowboy Scotty McCreery, 17, wasn’t what piano player Jordan Dorsey, 21, wanted for his R&B number but don’t feel too badly for him. When McCreery was asked to join redheaded Brett Loewenstern’s group, Sugar Mama & the Babies, he literally turned and left once they started serenading him with Duffy’s “Mercy.”
As contestants scurried to form their groups, “Snookalike” Tiffany Rios, 21, had the hardest time of all. Rios (pictured above), whom Lopez referred to as “not likeable” last week, couldn’t understand why the other hopefuls didn’t want her in their groups, especially since she was the “only professional choreographer in this place.”
It could have something to do with her comment before her individual audition last week: “I’m tired of seeing people try to do what I know I can.”
McCreery couldn’t handle Rios, either, who was offended when he asked her to sing for him. Finally she obliged and turned an innocent Faith Hill song into a creepy stripper routine, no doubt scarring the fresh-off-the-farm 17-year-old for life. At least she left her cardboard nipple stars at home this time.
Eventually Rios poached Jessica Yantz, 28, from Sugar Mama & The Babies, leaving them without a Day 2 contestant. McCreery ended up in karaoke host Clint Jun Gamboa’s group, along with 15-year-old Jacee Badeaux, the unassuming cherub from Louisiana.
As the groups stayed up all night rehearsing in parking garages and public restrooms, exhaustion set in and the drama continued. Leave it to James Durbin, the fatherless unemployed Tourette’s guy, to concoct a sob story. Durbin complained that a quintet of 15 and 16-year-olds (appropriately named “The Minors”) had an unfair advantage since their moms were there coaching them through their routine.
Overwhelmed by the cameras, Ashley Sullivan spent hours crying while she contemplated leaving the show. No stranger to tears, this is the girl who wept her way to Hollywood by literally begging the judges for a Golden Ticket. In the end, she decided to give it another shot.
The most rage-inducing turn of events was when Clint Jun Gamboa kicked little Jaycee Badeaux out of his group at 1 am, saying that he wasn’t a good fit as far as choreography. He was welcomed with open arms, though, to Brett Loewnstern’s Sugar Mama & The Babies. As a victim of bullying himself, Loewenstern knows how it feels to be the odd one out.
Exes Rob Bolin, 23, and Chelsee Oaks, 23, teamed up with Jacqueline Dunford, 22, whose boyfriend was cut during the first round of Hollywood Week, to form Three’s Company. The estrogen proved too much for Bolin, as he withdrew into a catatonic state, unable to learn basic choreography or Cee-Lo lyrics.
Jordan Dorsey, the picky piano player who rejected Cowboy McCreery, decided that he was no longer happy with his group, 440, and left them in the wee hours of the morning for a group that was now called Four Plus One.
After an evening of little to no sleep, auditions began at 8:30 a.m. … for most people, that is. Kevin Campos, 24, slept in and almost missed his audition altogether. Luckily, resident rock star Steven Tyler was on hand to entertain the troops with some drumming. His tardiness did Campos no favors, though. While fellow Spanglish group members Karen Rodriguez, 21, and Jovany Barreto, 23, advanced, Campos’ journey ended.
The appearance of Tiffany Rios and Jessica Yantz prompted Lopez to exclaim, “Omigod, you guys, I’m so scared of this group” to her fellow judges. The two — surprise! — couldn’t find anyone to join their group and were allowed to audition as a duo. Clad in matching leopard print with glitter in their harm, they gyrated and warbled their way through Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable,” putting an end to their “Idol” dreams.
Standout Lauren Alaina, 15, and her group took a chance by calling Tyler up to the stage to serenade him with “Some Kind of Wonderful.” In typical rock star fashion, Tyler chimed in with “Yes I am!” Despite what Lopez deemed a “cute, original” idea, though Alaina was the only one in her group to progress.
Also taking a risk were groups the Night Owls and Ebony, Ivory & Every. Both groups performed a capella versions of “Get Ready.” Colombian-born Julie Zorrilla and Melodica fan Casey Abrams both made the cut, as did every member of Ebony, Ivory & Every – Da’Quela Payne, Matthew Nuss, Naima Adedapo and Jacob Lusk.
Ashley Sullivan’s decision to stick it out paid off as she and her entire group made the cut. Their harmonies on Blu Cantrell’s “Hit “Em Up Style” were deemed the best of the day, according to Randy. Members included: Keeira Lyn Ford, 26, and Ashthon Jones, 24.
James Durbin’s group, the Deep V’s failed to impress with Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” a song obviously chosen for Durbin’s Freddy Mercury-like screeching. J Lo even likened their rendition to “a bad ‘Glee’ audition.” This didn’t stop Durbin from making it through to the next round, though.
Fittingly for the “unassuming season,” the best audition was by the Minors, the teenagers who had their moms on hand for support. Their cover of “Somebody to Love” blew Durbin and his group’s out of the water and earned a standing ovation from the judges. All five members made it through — Keonna Evans, Jalen Harris, Sarina Joi-Crowe, Felix Ramsey Milwa and Deandre Brackensick.
Loewenstern’s Sugar Mama & the Babies tried their best to support Badeaux but, having never heard “Mercy” before, he was unable to memorize the words. Instead he just vamped, singing about how he really wants to stay. The judges seemed to take pity on him and progressed him along with the rest of his group. This made for a touching moment, as Badeaux dissolved into tears.
Badeax’s former group, led by Gamboa, had to explain themselves to the judges but their shrewd choice didn’t end up hurting them. McCreery and Gamboa will live to see another day in Hollywood– -er, Pasadena — along with Frances Coontz and Monique de los Santos.
As for Three’s Company, Bolin never did quite get those Cee-Lo lyrics down and, like Badeaux, vamped his way through the song. The judges had no sympathy for him, though, ex-girlfriend troubles or not. Despite giving a borderline performance, both Oaks and Dunford were given a second chance. Bolin, on the other hand, will have to go back to waiting tables in Nashville.
This round totaled 68 casualties, including: Lopez favorite Paris Tassin; singer/songwriter Emily Anne Reed, overalls-clad Matt Dillard and one-half of the Gutierrez Brothers, Aaron.
The next round of auditions will cut the 100 hopefuls in half. Among those hoping to make the cut are: picky piano player Jordan Dorsey, 16-year-olds Robbie Rosen and Brielle Von Hugel, the Gokey-esque Chris Medina and hammy Carson Higgins.