American Idol contestants crumble under pressure in Hollywood

American Idol's Hollywood week is synonymous with drama. But when 16-year-old contestant Symone Black falls from the American Idol stage, suddenly broken dreams are no longer the biggest concern.

Danny Moloshok / AP Photo
American Idol Judge and recording artist Jennifer Lopez jokes with the media as fellow judge Steven Tyler of Aerosmith laughs at the Fox Broadcasting Company Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. last month.

Viewers of American Idol aren't strangers to the excitement and anticipation of Hollywood week.  After weeks of auditions, fans are ready to say goodbye to the endless rotation of unknown faces and learn which of their favorites continued to impress and which failed to deliver at the crucial Hollywood checkpoint.  American Idol, always eager to whet the appetites of its loyal fan base, never strays from the formula that has proven so successful: drama, triumph and broken dreams.

Wednesday's episode delivered on all counts. But this season, the drama was intensified when 16-year-old Symone Black, after delivering a solid performance, becomes unsteady and plummets off the edge of the stage.  As medics and Symone's father rush to her side, the judges seem frozen in place, each of them visibly disturbed by the shocking accident.  Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson are shocked but Steven Tyler looks on with a knowing gaze, memories of his own calamities on the precipice of the stage imbuing him with the wisdom of an elder.

Viewers must wait until Thursday's episode to learn the fate of Symone, who, prior to her mishap, was almost certainly a shoe-in for the next day of auditions.  Thankfully, not every contestant's journey ended on a cliffhanger; several early favorites were featured in Wednesday's episode.

Johnny Keyser returned to the stage, having apparently undergone an ego implant since his audition in St. Louis.  Maybe word got out that Jennifer called him sexy – a comment that continues to confound yours truly – but whatever the reason, Johnny's self-adoration makes a decent performance almost unbearable.  Joining Mr. Keyser on stage was Pittsburgh stand-out Heejun Han.  Heejun arrived in Hollywood with the same endearing, self-deprecation he exhibited in Pittsburgh. And even if his extreme humbleness is part of his act, it makes for a much more palatable act than that of Johnny.  Despite their differences, both young men make it through to the next round.

And who could forget Lauren Gray, who left such a huge impression on the judges in St. Louis?  Lauren, seemingly as captivated by her own voice as the judges were, continued belting out the notes with her eyes closed, missing repeated attempts by Randy to end the performance.   Poor Lauren probably just really wanted to sing for the judges, even though everyone already knew she wouldn't have to sing a note to secure her place in the next round.

Contrary to what one might assume, it would seem that ending an audition prematurely bodes well for contestants.  Savannah show-stopper, Philip Phillips was also unceremoniously cut-off by the judges just as he was getting into his groove, but of course he made it through to the next round.  He had to.  Otherwise how would he fulfill his destiny to win American Idol this year?

Also making it through to the next round were, wedding singer Erika Van Pelt, vintage glitter queen Angie Zeiderman, devoted girlfriend Jessica Phillips and teen loverboy David Leathers, Jr.

Other early favorites were not so fortuante in Hollywood.  History repeated itself for Travis Orlando who was counting on his first-hand experience with Hollywood week from Season 10 to benefit him this time around.  And unlike her father, Jim Carrey, Jane Carrey (see video below) did not get a warm welcome in Tinseltown after delivering a pitchy performance that even her pedigree could not salvage.  Joining Travis and Jane on the long-road home was Ramiro Garcia, whose story of being born without ears left an indelible mark on the audience.

Thursday night will reveal the fate of other remaining hopefuls and an update on poor Symone Black, who deserves a free pass to the Top 24 after her disastrous debut in Hollywood.

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