The group performances are the pinnacle of the early stages of the American Idol competition. Contestants have made it past the terror-inducing auditions, traveled to Hollywood and survived yet another cut. Now, they must face the always arduous task of finding a group that they can actually get along with. A group more focused on the music than the drama.
Unfortunately, this is not always an easy task and it was made even harder this year by what the show indicated was A) an infectious disease B) contagious anxiety C) sleep deprivation D) lack of compatibility E) All of the Above, and then some.
Amid a few moments of impressive talent, there was much drama and swooning.
As viewers watched the first group, The Betties (or perhaps Bettys) take the stage, it's clear that E) All of the Above is a combination that negatively impacts key, harmonies, lyric memorization and essentially every other marker of musical talent. Three of the five Betties found themselves cashing in their return tickets home much sooner than they had bargained for.
Groove Sauce had a leg up on other groups because none of their members succumbed to any of the pitfalls or ailments on display Wednesday night. It also had the distinction of being comprised of early favorites Reed Grimm and Creighton Fraker, possibly the two best names in the history of American Idol. In addition to these boons, all members effectively worked together to achieve not just a standing ovation from the judges but also a clean sweep of individuals making it through.
Things also seemed to be on the upswing for Amy Brumfield who just the night before was shunned as she attempted to find a group that would welcome Idol's very own Typhoid Mary. The new day found her feeling much healthier and happier with the group who threw caution to the wind and welcomed her with open arms. Unfortunately for Jacquie Cera, she suddenly collapsed moments before taking the stage with her group. Refusing to let illness squash her dreams. Jacquie valiantly struggled to the stage to perform but it was all for naught as she, Amy and Dustin Cundiff were all promptly discharged after their terrible performance.
Viewers were then treated to a grueling string of cringe-inducing performances marked by the performer's inability to remember the lyrics. And though the judges encouraged the teams to help their group mates, it seemed that the theme of the episode was every contestant for themselves. This was never more apparent than when Area 451 took the stage. Area 451 had two handicaps going into their audition: Johnny Keyser, whose egomaniacal delusions of grandeur likely caused more nausea than any Idol bug, and Imani Handy, who had fainted twice before making it to the stage. Even onstage, Imani continued to struggle until she finally collapses into Johnny's arms in the middle of her performance. The audition is plunged into confusion as Ryan and Imani's mother rush to her side, alongside medics and stagehands. Yet there, amidst the confusion, rises the voice of Johnny Keyser who is continuing his audition as Imani lay helplessly on the stage floor.
Yet somehow, the only member of Area 451 to make it through is Johnny, whose influence over JLo and her goosies is troubling . . .
And while some contestants fall out of favor, others enjoy a meteoric rise. Take Heejun Han for instance. Heejun piqued curiosity in his first audition by demonstrating a remarkably insecure and self-effacing personality. Additional screen time (not to mention being subjected to cowboy Richie Lawson for 24 hours) revealed that Heejun possesses a deliciously dark and dry sense of humor, not to mention a great voice. Watching Heejun interact with Richie was almost as delightful as watching Phil Phillips take to the stage, both as part of the group performance and then again in the final Hollywood performance after his whole team made it through group rounds.
Any misgivings that may have been rumbling inside after the Johnny Keyser affair were instantly quelled when the judges showed remarkably good judgement in their final Hollywood contestants. Especially, when contestants such as Heejun Han, Phil Phillips, Reed Grimm, Creighton Fraker and Angie Zeiderman survive the dreaded Hollywood week. On Thursday, viewers will watch as the contestants travel to Las Vegas where they will once again be subjected to another group performance and another final audition. Like last season, the fourteen thousand auditions per contestant seems excessive, no matter how many times they cross state lines. By now it should be perfectly obvious who needs to stay and who needs to go.
When in doubt, feel free to use this blog for reference.