Jennifer Lopez takes a shot at Glee & Adam Lambert wannabe James Durbin: Idolgroup drama
“Get ready for group night … if you can handle the pressure,” Ryan warned, and off we dove into the infamous group round of Hollywood week on American Idol. It was a night full of (unnecessary) drama, questionable judging and telling facial expressions from Jennifer Lopez.
There were only four — yes four — groups of the 14 that truly impressed me, so let’s just walk through Thursday night as a whole:
• A near nameless trio of bronzed New York ladies — Pia Toscano , Alessandra Guercio and Brielle Von Hugel — receive glowing praise from the judges for their well-rehearsed rendition of “Grenade,” but I’m a little skeptical. Their harmonies are existent, sure, and they hit all their notes, but I don’t hear anything special in any of the three melisma-driven voices. All three are through to the next round.
• The judges continue their streak by letting all members of “Four Plus One” through, including the over-confident Jordan Dorsey, who joined the group after jumping ship on his other group. Only two of the singers are highlighted during their performance of “I Want You Back” — Jordan and Robbie Rosen — and only the latter shines.
• Next is the Jordan-absent “Four 40s” (or is it “4:40s”…?), the first of a handful of groups to cover the PG-13 version of Cee Lo’s hit, “Forget You.” It’s a decent rendition, with a surprisingly fiery performance by Lauren Turner (and why have we never seen her before?). All four contestants make the cut.
• “Oh my gosh you guys — I’m so scared of this group,” Jennifer Lopez says as the Jersey girl with the massive personality, Tiffany Rios, takes the stage. She and Jessica Yantz couldn’t find a group to take them in, so they’re singing as a duet — “Rebel Star.”
It’s a disastrous performance of “Irreplaceable,” and I am literally embarrassed for Idol that Rios got this far in the competition. Thankfully, both girls are sent home.
• “Splangish” takes the stage with “Just The Way You Are” after producers have to physically wake up Kevin Campo. Kevin, Jovany Barreto and Karen Rodriguez are all relatively good singers, but fourth member Jorge Gabriel leaves something to be desired.
They all lose points in my book for changing the final line of the song to “cause you’re amazing just the way we are.” Steven Tyler messes up the judges’ verdict (dude, it’s written out for you) but finally lets Jovany and Karen through.
• Steven then joins a group of countrified young ladies on the stage as they serenade him with “Some Kind of Wonderful.” It’s a clever move on their part, especially since all four girls manage to have fun without sacrificing the quality of their vocals. For reasons I cannot understand, the judges only send the talented Lauren Alaina through. Guess we should have known when Ryan introduced them as “Lauren’s group.”
• Another nameless group of Nashville contestants tackles “Just The Way You Are.” Colton Dixon, to whom we've yet to be introduced, shows promise despite forgetting the lyrics, while cowboy hat-sporting Matt Dillard is all over the place with his pitch. Colton’s the only one to make it through to the next round.
• A montage of bad group performances follows, and I again wonder how so many clearly bad singers made it this far in the competition. To the groups that chose Rihanna’s five-note “Only Girl,” I say “SERIOUSLY?”
• Randy gives the usual “step it up” pep talk before the next group, “The Hits,” kicks off their performance. Though she dramatically contemplated quitting the night before, Ashley Sullivan shows up in full force. The group’s original spin on of “Hit ‘Em Up Style” reminds me a bit of this awesome gem from Season 6, and for the first time, I’m impressed. All four are through.
• Rock-leaning “The Deep V’s” blow through their rendition of “Somebody to Love” with a lot of power but not much control or substance. I continue to be turned off by James Durbin’s approach of all force and little thought. After delivering the best quote of the night (see below), Jennifer lets James and fellow rocker Caleb Johnson through.
• “The Minors” are up next. The 15 and 16-year-olds were controversially schooled by their (kick-ass) parents the night before, but they didn’t need the help. Keonna Evans, Jalen Harris, Sarina-Joi Crowe, Felix Ramsey and Deandre Brackensick all show raw talent, and their take on “Somebody to Love” is colored by a refreshing throwback vibe. The judges send all five through, the moms run on stage to embrace them, and yeah, I might have gotten a little teary-eyed.
• We’re then graced with a version of “Grenade” so terrible that Jennifer says they’ll have to judge the group members based on previous performances. I think that’s pretty unfair, but Corey Levoy and Miley Cyrus-influenced Hollie Cavanagh are through.
• Two groups decide to go a cappella with "Get Ready": the first is “The Night Owls," whose individual voices aren’t bad but whose harmony is off. The judges send Columbian Julie Zorrilla and the soulful, early favorite Casey Abrams through. The second group has better results with the song, throwing a heck of a lot of personality into their performance. As Steven put it, they go “off the beaten path," ending creatively with deep notes from Jacob Lusk. All five are through.
• A group called “Four Non-Blondes and That Guy” hits the stage, showcasing some big voices and personalities on “Forget You.” Caleb Hawley sounds great while Devyn Rush and Chris Medina turn in mediocre vocals. Carson Higgins — a character we’ve also yet to be introduced to — pulls out some crazy attitude that gets a reaction out of Jennifer and surprisingly doesn’t annoy me. Everyone but Devyn is through.
• The episode’s crux of drama comes during the next two performances, the first being that of “Sugar Mama and the Babies,” whose “baby” is 15-year-old Jacee Badeaux.
He showed grace and maturity when he got kicked out of his old group by the infamous Clint Jun Gamboa, but ultimately forgets the words to “Mercy” and improvises with “I don’t want to go home.” When his story is revealed on stage, he crumbles into tears that could melt the hardest of hearts. All five are sent through.
When the next group admits they let Jacee go, Steven responds with “for that alone we should make you all step back one.” In spite of their lack of compassion, Clint and country crooner Scotty McCreery actually deliver solid performances on “Get Ready,” and all four of the members make it through.
I suspect the memory of this drama will linger, though, and may affect the public's votes going forward.
• The night ends with one final “Forget You” by “Three’s Company,” made up of ex-couple Rob Bolin and Chelsee Oaks as well as Jacqueline Dunford, whose boyfriend was sent (forced) home last week. The girls are sent through despite unbelievably bad vocals by Jacqueline, and Rob is sent home for forgetting his lyrics.
I’ll miss Rob’s smoky tone, but it’s hard to feel bad for him when he didn’t seem to care much about his fate.
Quote of the Night
"It was like a bad Glee audition or something."
— Jennifer Lopez on "Somebody to Love" by James Durbin's rock-heavy group. For the record, this is how Glee does Queen: