Since we have double recaps hitting this week, swing over to Surviving the Butchers of the Final Auditions if you need to catch up on the final wisps of the initial audition rounds.
Oh producers of all things American Idol, I beg of you to tone down the narcissistic-like ramblings at the judges’ table and focus on the contestants while in Hollywood. We start off this week focusing on the boys. Ryan Seacrest tells us that the girls are up next week. The first round is 10 guys coming on stage, singing a capella and several being given the hook as necessary.
In typical Idol fashion, it is one big drive-by with some mentions of contestants that received initial audition round camera time and sound bites of others with no names. None of the extended moments we hear standout, which has me wondering if the male voices are again weak this year.
My main problem with this first Hollywood show is that I don’t know who the majority of the men are. Why? Because the Idol edits failed to show their first auditions. How does a contestant build a fan base when you give them no air time?
It is funny to see the guys that make it past the first round starting the process of lining up their group options—as if there won’t be a twist. This year, the rules are that contestants will be put in groups with no choice. Once in the groups, they are not allowed to make switches.
Wee! This is very different from seasons past when some element of choice remained. Now you know the producers are going to stack some drama into these picks via putting clashing personalities together. The bonus I see is some fabulous all-male harmonies will soon be upon us. There are so many names whizzing by that I’ll capture the ones I can.
Review of Wednesday’s Groups
- The first group we are shown does Queen’s “Somebody to Love.” Calling themselves the Math Heads, two of them, Mathenee Treco and Matheus Fernandez, are great. I hope that curly-haired, screaming rock guy will be going home. Nope. Maybe next round.
- The next group, Normal Hills, gives us Johnny Keyser blowing it again by being off-pitch and busting up the words for his entire solo. The group stammers through the Four Tops’ “I’ll Be There,” but they let all (including Johnny), but one go on. The ego monster in Johnny has reared its head. He insists they pick this song, bombs on all the words, then admits he’s never heard of the song. Then why did you make them pick it? Keith reams him with an unbelievable idiot award and wonders who doesn’t know the song. Well, Keith, that would be someone like Mr. Keyser who spends most waking moments focused on himself.
- The Couch Potatoes (shown above), with nerdy Charlie Askew, Curtis “it is all about me” Finch, Jr. and another guy whose name I miss, rock “The Lazy Song.”
- Four Tones has Micah Johnson, fellow soul-vibed Vincent Powell, Marvin Calderon and David Willis. Their take on Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin'” is a nice blend of voices.
- Cortez Shaw, who butchered “I Will Always Love You” for his a capella round, is in group five and I am again not impressed. This group calls themselves Young Love, sing “Some Kind Of Wonderful” and also includes Nate Tao, Elijah Liu and Zach Birnbaum. All make it through.
- The next two groups are whizzes of bumbled lyrics. I’m not even sure of the songs being sung. No, I refuse to go back and watch a replay.
- Ditto for the group, B-Side, that sings “Payphone.” Brutal harmony as well, yet the judges let them through because of the no-fear showmanship they present. And I suspect Nicki feels single-named Chris, who fancies sporting tied long scarves around his head, is cute.
- Last Minute has Jason Jones, Dan Wood and Jessie Lawrence who scorch to death One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful.” All are sent home.
- Our next group does “Payphone” a capella instead of with the band. This idea is the brainchild of member Ryan Connor Smith and there is also a Devan and Devin in the group. Keith says he doesn’t get why they didn’t use the band because he feels their energy would have been stronger and more rocking. I have a soft spot for a cappella and liked it, but realize that I’m in my recliner and not yet on the panel. The ironic fates send only Ryan home.
- Lazalo Arbo’s group, Super 55, struggles all night working with him on learning the song melody, parts and lyrics. While he points to a song on the list he does know and struggles to communicate concerns over their song choice, they go with it anyway. So they know he has no clue on “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” then complain when they must teach it to him. How does that work?
Funny thing is the others in the group, who “know” the song, stumble over lyrics. Then Josh Stephens, when cut, blames it on his help of Lazalo yet again and has the nerve to “congratulate” Lazalo by telling him it might as well be him (Lazalo) going through since they spent all their time working with him on what he needed to know. I think the karma fairies already extolled a lesson on Josh. It is now time for him to step back and learn it.
- We have a group that call themselves Country Queens. Let’s say they are eclectic and let it ride. As we watch their initial struggle in song choice and evening rehearsals, it is evident that personalities are clashing and stress is building with Josh “JDA” Davila and Trevor Blakney as polar opposites. Imagine Boy George versus John Wayne. Their performance is an unblended mess and Trevor blames it on spending the evening arguing over dance moves instead of singing. JDA and fellow male diva-in-arms Joel Wayman make it through. Trevor and Lee Pritchard are cut.
- DKSK, the grouped youngest contestants on the show, have David Leathers, Jr. back from last season, Sanni M’mairura, Kayden Stephenson and Kevin Quinn. Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time” is not safe in their hands and only two move on.
- The last group is packed with what appears to be another batch of four strong personalities that are not melding. Papa Peachez is in the mix. The edit shows him being quiet, which seems out of character, but he does make some faces of disgust. Drama boy, Subway singer Frankie Ford, then melts down behind stage two minutes before going on. They perform Estelle’s “American Boy” and soulster Charles Allen does the best followed by male diva voice candidate Adam Sanders. Charles rocks it to the point of having Mariah moving her head and hands. Frankie is sent home and Nicki chastises her fave Papa P. for being too complacent.
Moments from Thursday’s Solos
The rules tonight are that contestants sing their solos and the judges will be cutting after every eight sing. Some are letting the stress zap their brains and Nicki’s comments are at her brutal best. Carry on.
- The judges fawn over Curtis Finch, Jr. He’s the one who shared with us on Wednesday that he didn’t care about anyone else and would drive his group mate, Charlie Askew, to the airport to head home if too sick to perform. If Curtis makes it to the finals, he’ll bite it early because of his attitude. Plus all his fake dramatic faces while singing “Jar of Hearts” make me gag.
- It is our first time getting a long view of Devin Velez and he blows away “What a Wonderful World” with all the right stylized choices. This could be one of the season’s sleepers. He sails through and I want to hear more.
- Nicki goes in on Mateus Fernandez after he bombs his solo, puts the blame on it being his first time singing with a band and flavors his intro with a series of quips about being short. She tells him the constant references to his height have moved from being inspiring to him wanting a pity party. The pitying ends tonight with him going home.
- Papa Peachez sings “You and I” like it is a dirge and Nicki fires away as if his lack of energy and care are a personal affront. He wasn’t special to start with and thankfully is now gone.
- Jimmy Smith is one of my ones to watch from Charlotte. I really like his voice on “Landslide.” It has a rich, earthy rock tone. He’s one that I would look forward to hearing each week. Yippee! He moves on though I sense the judges questioning his star appeal.
- Nick Boddington has a beautiful tenor voice and range on “Stars,” but I wonder if he’d be more suited for smaller venue performances than being an “idol.” Does that make sense? He makes it through.
- Charlie Askew is weird. I say that with the embrace of weird being cool in this case. He makes a spirited performance of “Somebody That I Use To Know” and the judges love it.
- We aren’t allowed to see Mathenee Treco or JDA’s solos. I’m bummed because I’ve seen wisps of promise with both and want to hear more.
- Micah Johnson’s song choice is ill-fitting and gets him cut.
The most fierce award this week goes to JDA (seen at right). You better work. Even faced with the negativity of Trevor Blakney on Wednesday’s episode, he keeps his focus, offers words of encouragement and then performs with energy (and the correct words) to be allowed to the next round. I’ve got nothing but love for you.
As the episode ends, all 28 remaining guys are called out onto the stage and told that eight more will be cut, after the girls perform. I’m wondering if these will just be straight out cuts or if they’ll have all the contestants go to Las Vegas. Once there, they might do more group rounds or final sing solos then do the long walk to talk to the judges and see if they make it to the live semi-finals show.
We get promotion for next week’s all-girls Hollywood time and the voice over tells us that there will be a slew of the “best performances we’ve seen all season.” The conspiracy theorists are already swarming the Internet with stories that the producers edited the guy’s hours extreme to skew them as lazy and not as talented because they want a female to win. This pre-praise of the ladies will feed that fire.
What do you think about the guys’ auditions? Did the judges get it right? What’s your take on the conspiracy theory on a push for a female winner?