Friday, February 7, 2014

"American Idol" 2014: Group Round BS

A useless hour of decent people getting cut and people who screwed up getting pushed through

Posted By on Fri, Feb 7, 2014 at 10:53 AM


Hollywood Week continued with Group Round. Historically I have loved Group Round. We've gotten some major break-out moments in past seasons, with performers really stepping to the front of the pack. And we have also got some spectacular freak-outs. Thursday night we got some decent group numbers, we got some awful group numbers, but we saw very few "star" moments from any particular performer.

What we did see was a lot of bullshit judging decisions. I've been saying that there's a ton of amazing talent this season - and I stand by that -- but it could all get screwed up during Hollywood and semi-finals. And some of my fears were realized last night. Group after group came up and delivered uneven performances. That is to be expected at this point, given the pressure-cooker scenario and crazy time restraints. But people who screwed up were sent through to the next round while others who performed competently were cut. The judges' justifications basically came down to, "Well, they did enough before this to justify keeping them, and you didn't." I know we're talking about a glorified TV game show, but that is totally unfair.

If you are going to ignore the group-round performances when making cuts, why bother with it at all? The answer, of course, is for drama. Group round almost always produces tears, yelling, and tantrums - and it did this season. I'm OK with drama if it's for a reason, but this is simply running the hamsters through a maze. And when they get to the end, the judges all laugh and say, "It doesn't matter if you got the cheese. We're sticking with the derpy one who is still stuck at the first corner, because we like him/her better than you." Bullshit.

It all started well enough with Three Mo' Days, featuring "Idol" vets David Oliver Willis, Tony Foster, Jr., and SarinaJoi Crowe, who all were in Hollywood Week last year. They did a very solid job with "Too Close." The number got better as it went along, and the harmonies were fantastic. Kind of shockingly, Tony was cut, because he lacked personality and he spent most of the number looking at the floor.

The Backstreet Cowboys -- Casey Thrasher, Dexter Roberts, and Ben Briley -- did "I Want it That Way" by Backstreet Boys. Casey looked like a full-on creeper in his part. His opening passage felt almost like a threat. But it got better when Dexter came in. He's really great. The harmonies were OK, but nowhere near as good as the first group. The arrangement and pacing made it seem almost like a dirge. Ben did not make much of an impression one way or the other. They all went through, which was our first bullshit moment of the evening: they were nowhere near as good as the first group. And Ben wasn't displaying any more charisma than Tony.

Golden boy Spencer Lloyd created some drama in his group. Apparently he felt he knew the song, which I didn't recognize, and refused to practice thoroughly with his group members Megan Miller and Alyssa Siebken. Megan totally flopped, forgetting her part almost completely. Alyssa struggled through it, but still sounded decent. And Spencer just kind of bobbed along. He certainly didn't kill it for someone who supposedly mastered the song. Even Jennifer Lopez said, "If it was based solely on this performance, it would be a wash." That's how bad they were. And yet, somehow it was only Alyssa who got cut. Megan did not even remember her lyrics at all. Total BS.

Caleb Johnson, Tyler Ahlgren, Matthew Hamel, and C.J. Harris also did "Too Close." Tyler totally forgot the words and thought he was cute making stuff up. Unacceptable. Matthew was quite good, C.J. was very rough, and Caleb can sing, but he's more than a little over the top. The group as a whole was a mess. Caleb and C.J. got pushed through, but Matthew and Tyler got cut. C.J. had no business making it over Matthew, and Matthew knew it. He was right - he sounded quite good on that song. I came around on C.J. last episode but he fell again in my estimation after that weak showing.

Clarity Can Do had Jen Asciutto, Sikenya Thompson, Allie Odom, and a gentleman they didn't ID with a chyron. They also did "Too Close." Sikenya had skipped hours of rehearsal because she was sick. She totally blew her verse, was given a second chance, and then struggled through it. The others seemed to have acquitted themselves well, especially since it appeared that much of their practice time was rendered useless because they didn't know if they were performing as a trio or a quartet due to Sikenya's waffling. Allie, who sounded really great, got cut. The judges gave Sikenya a whole lot of ass kissing about pulling through, but the footage we saw hardly painted her as a survivor. I get that she was legitimately sick, but she had a lousy attitude and did not give one shit about her group. So let's reward her and cut the girl who performed quite well. Again: so much bullshit.

NicaNashae, Stephanie Hanway, Cara Watson, and Jessica Meuse did Beyonce's "Single Ladies." It was dreadful karaoke. Really embarrassing, though not as embarrassing as the one girl's mom dancing in the audience. Jessica really struggled with the lyrics, and gave the judges her whole group-round sob story. That almost certainly helped Jessica get through. Stephanie was the only one cut, and her embarrassing mom interrupted the whole proceedings by yelling and being obnoxious. Her mom then threw Jessica under the bus in the lobby, and was swearing on the Bible and God while being vindictive and mean spirited. Jessica wasn't good and didn't deserve to advance, but Stage Mom was awful. (I like Jessica, but I found it telling that she said, "Drama seems to follow me around." That does not bode well for her, in this show or in life.)

Speaking of drama engines, Love's Angels, featuring Terrica Curry, Carmen Delgina, and Emmanuel Zidor, did Destiny's Child's "Say My Name." Carmen was much better than she has been in the past. Terrica seemed angry the whole time and her vocals were unimpressive, and Emmanuel was totally over the top, as usual. The judges said that the song didn't allow them to showcase their voices. It's true; there was a lot of monotone and then shouting. But the show offered them that song, so... Harry Connick Jr. called it full out "terrible." Carmen and Terrica were both cut, while Emmanual advanced. He sets my teeth on edge.

Loud and Fierce, a drama-plagued group featuring Christina Collins, bossy Olivia Diamond, Queen Bulls, and Malaya Watson, did "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5. The styling featured a lot animal prints, tight black leather and spandex, and a fair amount of skin. There was a desperation to the whole affair, but the singing was generally good. Christina was totally off the tempo. Olivia and Queen came on like houses on fire. Malaya is clearly the one to watch from that group. She's terrific. They all got through. Olivia seems like a pill.

At the end of Group Round 77 contestants were left. So not so much with the cutting the field in half, like JLo said. I hope you all enjoyed the hour of your life this show just wasted by jerking us off.

Next week: I very well may skip the remainder of Hollywood Week in lieu of the Olympics, because at least they bother to explain the bullshit judging in figure skating, and it's way more fun watching people fall on ice.

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