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"American Idol" - Group Night Brings Lackluster Performances

Jenny Chen |
February 17, 2011 | 1:01 p.m. PST

Associate News Editor


Contestants perform on Hollywood Week (Michael Becker/FOX)
Contestants perform on Hollywood Week (Michael Becker/FOX)
Hollywood Week on “American Idol” is famously known as the most difficult time for contestants, and Wednesday’s episode saw singers struggle during Group Night. 

The remaining 168 contestants were already shocked to find they had just one night to perfect a performance with vocals and choreography, but “Idol” producers added a twist by forcing groups to be a mix of Day 1 and Day 2 contestants. 

Chaos struck as contestants ran around looking for groups, suddenly finding they were no longer auditioning for the judges, but for each other. 

Tiffany Rios from New Jersey, better known for auditioning with stars emblazoned across her chest, was finding more difficulty that most. Her overconfidence during auditions last week had left more than few feeling sour. 

While Rios managed to pull Jessica Yantz away from the group “Sugar Mamas,” producers were forced to make an exception for the duo when no one would join them. 

Ashley Sullivan, a straggler from Day 2, was accepted in Day 1 group “The Hits.” A montage of her over-emotional and slightly irrational behavior reminded “Idol” viewers that Sullivan might be a wee bit crazy. Halfway through the night, Sullivan underwent a mental breakdown, leaving her teammates in what host Ryan Seacrest dubbed “limbo.” 

With less than 10 hours to go until performance time, the groups ran around to find any sort of privacy – groups like “Brothers From Another Mother” ran into the bathroom for both good acoustics and some isolation.

Meanwhile, a group of young contestants aged 16 and under were surprisingly alert and innovative, bringing new dance moves and abundant energy. Their stage moms on the other hand left contestant James Durbin (with the Adam Lambert-like voice) confused. 

One final contestant Scott McCreery, with his deep Josh Turner-esque voice, joined “The Guaps” after endlessly searching for a group. After welcoming McCreery, the group kicked out 16-year-old Jacee Badeaux at the last hour, putting pressure on the young singer. 

Jordan Dorsey, after being picky the whole day in finding a final group member, spontaneously left to build a second group: “Four + One.” The New Orleans native left his fellow hometown contestant Lauren Turner upset. “It’s hard to be in a group and rely on each other, for our dream,” Turner said. 

Conflict didn't seem to escape “Three’s Company,” composed of half of the supposed “power couple,” Jacqueline Dunford, and Rob Bolin and his ex Chelsee Oaks. Bolin was the odd man out, saying he’s a musician who doesn’t want to perform with other people. 

Luckily, as the night came to a close, so did most of the drama. Sullivan returned to her group and Badeaux found himself in the group “Sugar Mamas and the Baby” ready to sing “Mercy” by Duffy.

Ready or not, the contestants were up by 7:00 a.m. the next day to see if Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Steven Tyler were going to give them another shot at being the next “Idol.” 

The first group consisted of a trio of Pia Toscano, Alessandra Guercio, and Brielle Von Hugel performing Bruno Mar’s hit “Grenade.” None of the vocals were spectacular but the judges seemed easily impressed by decent harmonies and a cohesive choreography. 

Group Two also sparked the judges’ attention as Dorsey and his crew, including Robbie Rosen, took on “I Want You Back” by Jackson 5. All five were sent sailing through. 

Jordan’s old group then sang Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget You,” which appeared to be a little sweet revenge against Jordan’s late departure as they, too, made it through.  

It turned out the contestants’ choice to leave Rios hanging was correct as she and Yantz performed a poor rendition of Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable.” Spanglish’s “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars was just as bad, with only two contestants making it through.

Early favorite Lauren Alaina and her group “Quadripple” asked Tyler to join them on stage as they serenaded him with “Some Kind of Wonderful” by Grand Funk Railroad. And while everyone seemed to enjoy the originality of the performance, only Alaina made it through. 

Performances continued to tank as Paris Tassin took the stage with her group for Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In the World)” where the original notes weren’t even recognizable among the mess of a performance. 

Following came Durbin’s group with Queen’s “Somebody to Love” without much conviction, leaving Lopez to call it a bad “Glee” audition. Durbin screeched through much of the song – the judge’s apathy is indicative of how quickly his screaming will get old. 

Luckily, Ashley Sullivan’s group broke up the line of bad performances with Blu Cantrell’s “Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!)” with confidence, attitude, and great harmony. 

The Minors, composed of little ones and their stage moms, performed “Somebody to Love” much better than the more seasoned performers with Durbin. Well rehearsed and a refreshing performance to watch, Tyler said, “This is what I joined forces with “American Idol” to hear.” 

Two groups opted to sing The Temptation’s “Get Ready,” neither one too impressive. The first group, The Night Owls, had significantly less energy, pushing only Julie Zorrilla and Casey Abrams through. 

Chris Medina and singing waitress Devyn Rush performed “Forget You,” the latter getting kicked off. Fellow group member Carson Higgins brought his acting skills on stage as he entertained with attitude and his eyes wide open. 

Badeaux completely flubbed the words as his group performed “Mercy,” improvising with lyrics about not wanting to go home. Despite Jackson’s earlier warning to the contestants to remember the words, the judges found him endearing. 

McCreery's group may have kicked Jacee out, but they rocked their performance of “Get Ready” with attitude and soul. DJ Clint Jun Gambao wailed and wailed at the end, bringing the song to a climax and a nice end. 

The last group of the day was “Three’s Company.”  Oaks had some sweetness to her tone that was pleasant to listen to but a little boring. Meanwhile, Bolin tried to pull a Jacee and faked his way through the lyrics singing “I’m tired.” It didn’t work and he was cut. 

One hundred people made it through to the next round, where they will sing solo before the judges. 

But while the next Idol should be confident and ready to perform solo, there is no reason anyone should be so overconfident and arrogant that the stage cannot be a platform for multiple talents to sing together. 

Wednesday night’s episode spoke volumes about many contestants’ character, as Group Night always does. Perhaps, the most difficult part is that the producers attempt to place several very large egos together one stage. In doing so, the singers grapple with the situation as they lose control over their fate and the audience simply watches the drama unfold. 

Reach reporter Jenny Chen here.
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