Wednesday’s night’s American Idol saw the contestants teaming up for group performances. There were very strict rules and this lead to some problems for some of the groups. Every group needed to have three or more members and every group needed to have contestants from both day one and day two. That threw a wrench into the plans of some day one contestants who had already started rehearsing. While it ruffled some feathers, it’s pretty obvious it was done to level the playing field so that the group performances were fair for all of the contestants. Had it not been done this way, day two contestants would’ve started from a clear disadvantage as they wouldn’t have as much time to practice. I thought it was a smart move, even if some of my favorites were left struggling for it.
As I predicted, Tiffany Rios screwed herself. She screwed herself big time. Her attitude alienated her from her fellow contestants and made it nearly impossible for her to find a group. Why someone would walk onto the Idol stage and announce she was better than everyone else that had gone before her when she knew group week was coming up is beyond me. She was able to find one sympathetic girl to help her out but no third person was willing to join. The producers decided to allow it, but it did little good. The performance was awful and both girls were sent packing.
Group week wasn’t just hard for Tiffany Rios though. Some of the contestants that come across as the most likable had a hard time either finding groups or completing their groups. Brett Loewenstern – one of my favorite contestants in the competition as a whole – formed a group with some of his fellow Idol hopefuls on day one only to end up having to scramble to find a day two contest to join his group. They briefly found the girl they needed only to have that girl snatched away by Tiffany Rios. She probably would’ve had more luck sticking with Brett’s group.
The country boy with the lovely baritone, Scotty McCreery had a hard time finding a group that would accept his unique voice. Although Tiffany approached him to pair up, he decided to go another way and wound up finding a home in Clint ‘Junebug’ Gamboa’s group which also included early favorite, Jacee Badeaux. In an unexpectedly douchey move from Junebug, Jacee was booted from the group later that night and had to scramble to find someone new to partner with. He is taken by Brett’s group who, at midnight, was still missing a fourth person for their group.
Finding groups wasn’t the only problem, but staying with the group you were part of also posed a problem. Jacee was the only one so cruelly given the boot, but that didn’t stop others from leaving theirs. Enter Jordan Dorsey – the man who quite possibly came across as the biggest douchebag of the evening. First, he made it almost impossible for his group to add the day two member they needed by rejecting countless people – including Scott McCreery. I can’t even begin to imagine the stress of these poor people at this point of the competition. You want to find the perfect person, but please, a little humility! He finally finds someone for the group and then bails on his group the same night. He joins a group that includes Robbie Rosen and leaves his group trying to pick up his slack. It works out alright in the end as all of the members of the group he left and the group he joined make it through to the next round.
Ashley Sullivan. Oh, what can I say about Ashley. I love this girl and I’d love to see her in the top ten, but after almost quitting the competition the night before group performances because she was feeling overwhelmed, I have to wonder if she has the strength to make it through. She was talked into thinking about her decision to leave by one of the show’s producers and after a discussion with her boyfriend, she returned to her group, ‘The Hits’. They were one of my favorite groups of the night and Ashley was on fire. The real stand out of the group, though was Ashton Jones. I don’t know where this girl came from, but this girl is going to go a long way in the competition.
Strife within the groups also shows many times; especially in ‘Three’s Company’ – the group made up of exes, Rob and Chelsee with Jacqueline Dunford rounding out the group. They’d been planning to perform together since getting to Hollywood although the original plan included Jacqueline’s boyfriend, Nick. It seems that Rob is having trouble keeping up with the girls, learning the song and generally getting along with his group. You know it isn’t going to go well and boy it sure doesn’t. Jacqueline and Chelsee both make it through (although Jacqueline’s pass really surprised me as I didn’t think she was all that good) and Rob is sent home.
Conflict between groups also came up several times; most notably between ‘4Plus1’ and ‘4-40’ as well as ‘The Deep Vees’ and ‘The Minors’. Jordan Dorsey was really the root of the problem before the first set of dueling groups while song choice was the culprit between the second set; or perhaps it was more to do with mothers. ‘The Minors’ all being only fifteen, have to have their mothers or another guardian present to take part in the competition. The group used this to their advantage by getting their mothers to coach them. ‘The Deep Vees’ who were performing the same song as ‘The Minors’ felt the coaching gave their rivals an unfair advantage with James Durbin most vocal about his frustration. In the end, they may have been better off focusing their attention on their performance as ‘The Deep Vees’ were mediocre at best while ‘The Minors’ gave one of the best performances of the entire group competition. ‘The Minors’ also shone a light on one of my new favorites, Deandre Brackensick. Talented, good looking and confident. I think he has a shot at the top ten. Keonna Evans was also excellent.
The actual group performances were a bit of a mixed bag and saw some of my favorites make their exit. Most notably – for me anyway – was Adrienne Beasley, who was cut in this round after her uncertain fate last week. Most heartbreaking for me, though, was seeing Matt Dillard sent home after he missed several notes. I don’t know if he was unprepared or just nervous, but it was sad to see. Paris Tassen, the mother of a special needs child that Jennifer Lopez connected so strongly with, was also sent home after a somewhat lackluster performance.
With limited time to practice together, ‘Sugar Mama and the Babies’ – featuring Brett Loewnstern and Jacee Badeux – put on a pretty strong performance with the exception of late comer, Jacee. He forgot the words, but he tried his best. No one on the stage expected him to make it through but after it was explained that he had been kicked out of his group and had little time to practice, the judges let him go through. It was an emotional moment.
With the Jacee situation exposed, Clint’s group – which I’m not even going to attempt to spell – was left to explain their decision. I don’t like that Clint kicked Jacee to the curb, but I can understand his reasons. Scott stepped up to the plate and admitted he should’ve stood up for Jacee and called Jacee the best kid in the competition. It was a manly thing to do and it earned my respect. All drama aside, Clint definitely deserves a place in this competition. He has an incredible voice and lots of confidence. I’m also really liking Scott, but he might lack the thick skin needed to survive in Hollywood. I think you’ll see both of these guys in the top twenty-five and will definitely see Clint in the top ten.
With group performances over and done and all of the drama pushed aside, there were few real surprises. Although I was sad to see young Emma Henry go, I am actually surprised she made it this far. Her voice is beautiful and she’s a lovely girl. My hope is that she’ll stick with it and give it another shot next year when her voice is a bit stronger. There were only two real surprises – Ashley Sullivan pulling herself together to survive another cut and Paris Tassen’s unexpected exit. Although, if you’ve read my predictions, that wasn’t a huge surprise to me.
One of the most memorable moments of the night came from the group that included my choice to win the whole thing, Lauren Alaina. Instead of just focusing on choreography and harmonies, the girls decided to pull Steven up on stage and sing with him. A clear ploy for votes? Yes. It also happened to be a lot of fun to watch though. The ploy didn’t work as only Lauren was allowed to go through, but it was still entertaining and definitely a highlight.
Some of my favorites really brought their A-game. Brett Loewnstern proved, once again, that he is definitely a contender in this competition and the little girl that no one expected to make it – the girl that basically cried her way to another chance in her audition and her golden ticket – Holly Cavanagh proved that nerves are no longer an issue. Casey Abrams was incredible as expected. Some new favorites stepped forward as well including Jacob Lusk, the man with the crazy good range, Lauren Turner, Da’Quela Payne, Carson Higgins, and Colton Dixton. I expect to see all of these folks make it to the top forty. Of course, there were also some low notes. Kevin Campos. Dude. You have a chance at American Idol. Make sure you get to the theater on time!