Without fail, this week is always full of DRAH-ma, and this year was no exception. FOX's Glee has nothing on Group Round.
The group called The Dreamers tries their luck.
The first half of the show concentrated on the rehearsal process, with drama starting almost immediately. Mary Powers, Alex Lambert, and a third girl were happy with their group, called The Dreamers, and then two more girls joined the group, because they liked the song choice. This teed off Mary, who wasn't convinced they had the goods.
Other groups had an easier time. The Mighty Rangers all auditioned in Denver and fell in puppy love. "It was magical," one of the members said.
Moorea Masa, who was in Danny Gokey's group last year but didn't make it past Hollywood Week, insisted that her new group, The Phoenix, rehearse in the same closet. But could this group, which included Jermaine Sellers, do as well as the group that had produced the third-place finisher for season 8?
Two groups (Destiny's Wild and Neapolitan) nearly came to blows when they found themselves rehearsing right near each other. Rather than one of them finding a quieter space, they tried to out-sing each other's volume, which was sort of funny, since they'd both chosen the same song.
Meanwhile, The Dreamers, under Mary Powers, who had taken the lead, were still struggling to figure out a direction.
Perhaps the biggest drama was the story of "Big Mike" Lynche, whose wife was about to go into labor. While others could turn all their attention to rehearsing, he was frequently drawn away to speak to her.
The next morning, most everyone seemed positive, but it was time for a rude awakening for Phoenix, whose members were having trouble remembering the lyrics. The vocal coach even berated them, saying, "You don't know what you're doing."
Destiny's Wild, whose choreography involved a cartwheel, got a lot of attention from the other fatigued contestants. "They're having fun," Mary wailed, as she tried once more to save her group.
Real-life drama came for Big Mike, and he talked his wife through labor on his phone. He got the news -- and a camera-phone picture -- shortly before his group had to take the stage. It was a girl.
Finally, we got to the singing. First up was a group of three girls who had dubbed themselves Faith. Charity Vance, Ashley Rodriguez, and Michelle Delamor demonstrated nice harmonies as they sang "Irreplaceable" by Beyonce. They also each got a chance to shine through solos. Afterwards, Ellen DeGeneres played what is fast becoming one of her favorite games. She had Charity step forward, then said, "Front row and back row, you're all through." [VIDEO]
Next up was Team Awesome, consisting of new dad Michael Lynche, Seth Rollins (father of an autistic son), Tim Urban, and Michael Castro (brother of season 7 finalist Jason Castro, back for his second try). They chose "Get Ready" by the Temptations and incorporated a little choreography. The performance was uneven, with Big Mike shining above the rest. He made it through, along with Tim (whose appeal I still don't see). Seth and Michael were cut. [PERFORMANCE VIDEO, RESULTS VIDEO]
Then it was time for the two groups who'd been facing off to prove who could perform Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" better. First to take the stage were Neapolitan, a.k.a. Liz Rooney, Thaddeus Johnson, and Jessica Cunningham. They performed the song a capella, which irritated Destiny's Wild, who complained, "They stole our idea." Their version of it was tight. Simon Cowell told them, "I actually thought, in its own way, that was very good," adding, "I like to see effort at this point." Ellen thought it was great. When it came time for results, Ellen had them, one by one, all step forward before announcing, "You're all going through."
Rivals Destiny's Wild (Todrick Hall, Theri Harden, Jareb Liewer, and Siobhan Magnus) tried to show them up. Their performance involved some tricks, like the aforementioned cartwheel, along with a weird, weak ending. If you listen to it without watching it, you can tell that their singing fell victim to their ambitious choreography. Ellen summed it up: "It really was weird. You've got to know that. You're dressed like it's going to be Cirque de Soleil or something. It was surreal, is what it was, but you're sticking around." For the record, she was probably referring to Theri, who was wearing a vinyl one-shoulder dress, and Jareb, who wore an outfit that looked like a black jumpsuit but was probably tight-fitting black pants with a black and white top. [VIDEO OF NEAPOLITAN AND DESTINY'S WILD]
After a montage of others who made it through, we got to see the Mighty Rangers, whose love for each other had made them seem like an ideal group. The group consisted of Maddie Penrose, Mark Labriola (who's convinced he looks like Jack Black), Kimberly Kerbow (who no longer seemed to be wearing a wig), Tori Kelly, and Danny Jones. Kimberly forgot the lyric, and Mark was simply terrible. After Kimberly, Danny and Mark were cut, Mark begged for one more chance, wailing, "This is it for me." Simon told him, "Don't beg. It's not cool."
After a rough rehearsal period, could The Phoenix rise from the ashes? Things weren't made any easier when group member Kat Nestel quit at the last minute. After a pep talk from a vocal coach, Ben Honeycutt, Jeff Goldford, Moorea Masa, and Jermaine Sellers went to meet their fate. Instead of rising from the ashes, though, they went out in a puff of smoke. Moorea forgot her lyrics and Jermaine hit a really harsh note. Jeff was good, and the ending was a little better, but it was (to borrow an overused phrase) a hot mess. Afterwards, Moorea (violating the cardinal rule of defending a performance) claimed that she was happy with what they'd done because of all the hardship they'd been through. Simon countered, "The hardship is you had 12 hours to learn a song." When Ellen pointed out that a group member had left, Simon replied that such things happened in life and said, of Moorea's excuses, "It's rubbish." The judges only put through Jeff and Jermaine (really?). Afterwards, Jermaine complained, "It was fire. It was hell and brimstone. I know I am not meant to be in a group." Well, that won't bode well for his chances, considering the finalists must perform weekly group productions. A tearful Moorea proclaimed, "I won't come back to Idol. In the past year, I've grown as a person very much." Sour grapes much? [VIDEO]
Every year, contestants find one of the song selections more difficult. This year it was "Sweet Escape" by Gwen Stefani, which involves a rapid run of lyrics that often got garbled. We saw a montage of groups forgetting the lyrics. Ellen compared the mumbled mess to the way she sings the song, "And then I get to 'refrigerator.' That's all I know."
Big Dreams, consisting of Matt Lawrence, Allen Burton, Amanda Shechtman and Bryce Larson, also took on the song. Predictably, the lyrics were their undoing (do the producers include such songs as a test, to see who will fall for it?). Saying, "It was so horrific," Simon didn't even bother to divide them into lines. "You're all in the same boat, and I'm sorry it's the end." As they departed, like the fairy who mitigated Sleeping Beauty's death sentence, sweet-natured Ellen told them, "Try again."
Then, we saw a montage of some other hopefuls who got cut, including Leah Laurenti, Carmen Turner, Kimberly Carver and Dave Pittman.
Middle C, on the other hand, was a success story, with Janell Wheeler, Jermaine Purifoy, and Casey James proving to be a very strong group. They sang "Closer" by Ne-Yo, incorporating some nice harmonies and impressive solos. All of them made it through.
Similarly, Three Men and a Baby (Andrew Garcia, Katie Stevens, J.B. Ahfua, and an unidentified fourth guy), performed a skillful rendition of "No One" by Alicia Key". They also all made it through. [VIDEO OF MIDDLE C AND THREE MEN AND A BABY]
The last group of the day, the most drama-ridden group, The Dreamers, still hadn't recovered from all the arguing. This group was made up of Mary Powers, Hope Johnson, Margo May, Alex Lambert and Erynne Hundley. After a painful performance of "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac, complete with grating harmonies and embarrassing solos, Simon cut them off. Kara DioGuardi opined, "It's like the dream died somewhere on that stage." Randy Jackson added, "Those backgrounds were painful." Despite it all, Mary, Alex and Hope made it through. Afterwards, Mary proclaimed, "Our group, I love them all and I wish them the best, but I won't ever work with them again." Um... you do know that if you're lucky enough to make it to the final 24, you'll be required to sing with the other finalists, right? [VIDEO]
By the end of Group Round, 71 hopefuls were headed for their last performance in Hollywood.
Next week, the contestants take the stage one last time to prove they deserve to stay.
All video comes from mjsbigblog, one of the best American Idol news sources.
When another contestant can gracefully handle the long-distance birth of his first child, calling your petty group squabbles "hardships" is, indeed, rubbish.