Why do I love the Hollywood group rounds? It's probably for the same reason that you cannot turn away from a looking at a car accident. You just have to see it for yourself. How bad's the damage, anyone hurt? Really, the same applies here. Different personalities, different levels of talent, different styles -- sometimes it can blend beautifully, but other times the performance should be surrounded by police tape.
I spoke with the mother of last year's finalist Casey James about the group performance and she said that was the only time since her son first set foot on stage as a teenager that he was ever really nervous. That's what having to work in choreography when you're used to "just" being a singer/musician can do to you. Even the most seasoned professional will break out in a cold sweat.
After the Ryan Seacrest intro to this two-hour long episode, I'm not sure I can handle the pressure of watching.
So here's the set up. They have one night to find their group, pick their song, rehearse the song and work in some choreography. Those from Group 1 thought they had an edge, they had started forming their groups and rehearsing while the Group 2 contestants were still auditioning the next day. But not so fast, Group 1! There's a twist. Hey, it's a reality tv show, there's always a twist. The medallion of power, power of veto, U-Turn, something. This time it's a new rule -- your group has to include at least one member from each of the two Hollywood days. Ruh roh.
And so the scrambling begins and in the next ten minutes there is more shuffling that the first day of the WSOP main event. Central to all the drama, unsurprisingly, is one Tiffany Rios who during the first round of Hollywood endeared herself to everyone by pronouncing that she was all that and a bag of chips and everyone else wasn't. She does not get how no one wants to work with her. Don't they know she is the only professional choreographer there? Perhaps your girth confused them, dear.
Oookay, so eventually, she manages to snare Jessica Yantz and you wonder what exactly could Jessica have done in a previous life that she is now paying for it by being the only person willing to join up with Tiffany. The two of them search for a third without which they will not have a valid group. But wait. For every rule there is an exception -- I present to you the Tiffany Rios is a huge beyotch exception. If you've make yourself so repulsive to your fellow contestants that none will join with you, you can go on as a duet.
Elsewhere the more lovable, though musically pigeonholed, Scotty McCreery is searching for a group. He wanders for hours from group to group like the Israelites looking for the Promised Land, but can't find a place to call home. Sometimes it's by his choice -- even he wasn't desperate enough to join Tiffany's group -- sometimes he didn't make the cut.
There is the Bieber inspired group unironically named The Minors and they are all 15 or 16 and there with their Stage Moms who either give them an unfair advantage (according to envious James Durbin) or give them a pain in their butt (according to every teenager watching from home).
We also have the two exes and their third wheel, forming Three's Company and the original twist on that phrase, three's a crowd, seems more apt. They are getting along...like you would imagine two exes and someone thrust between them to stir the pot would. Poorly. Rob is having a meltdown and the vocal coach, Debra Byrd, gangs up with the girls against him.
Brett Lowenstern has his own problems and he cannot find a third for his group, the Sugar Mommas. Jessica had been in the group, till Tiffany swooped in and grasped her with her talons. Now he and his partner are desperate for a third.
Clint Gamboa has a four person group including adorable and talented Jacee Badeaux and their rehearsals seem to be going swimmingly, until Clint suddenly goes all Mussolini and Il Duce decides unilaterally to kick Jacee out of the group. Jacee handles it better than someone twice his age...he is a trooper. I'm taking it worse than he is and Clint is now dead to me.
But wait, there's hope for Jacee. Brett is still in need of someone from Group 2 and Jacee just happens to be from that group and free as a bird (bird who was kicked out of the uppermost branch of a tree just as his little bird arms were learning to fly...but I'm not taking this too hard). So Jacee is the newest member of the Sugar Mommas. Elsewhere Jordan Dorsey, who was the one deciding who was or was not good enough to join his group, suddenly decides his group is not worthy of him. So he leaves Four-Forty and joins up with the newly named 4+1 which includes early favorite (of mine, anyway) Robbie Rosen. Will this be a choice he later regrets?
Not so much. Both groups sing, both groups make it past the group round! Robbie sounds amazing on I Want You Back and one of my early picks is sounding good!
Will Tiffany and Jessica make it past this round, after all the drama? Not if singing is a prerequisite. Tiffany sounds horrific. Jessica sounds like Aretha by comparison, but she is dragged down by the Tiffany anchor and her dreams will end here. She takes it surprisingly well!
Pia Toscano, Allesandra Guercio and Brielle von Hugel win the contest for the best names in the same group. Wait, no, this is a singing competition? Okay, so they sing Bruno Mars' Grenade and they sound really good, especially Pia, and all three lovely ladies are through.
Spanglish sings and only the first, Jovanny Baretto, can sing. They tell three of them that they're through, then change that to two, which I think was still one too generous, but it's Jovanny (deservedly) moving on along with Karen Rodriguez (much less so).
The Nashville Stars include Colton Dixon and Matt Dillard. Unfortunately, Matt thought he was auditioning for Do Forget the Lyrics, so he won't be coming back. Colton sounded off key to me, but he is still the best of a weak bunch and he's the only one to make it beyond this round.
Quick medly that hurts my ears. Yes, folks, singing is harder than it looks. Keep in mind, this isn't acappella. They have music backing them, and yet some still are murdering their tunes.
Paris Tassin was an early favorite, but her voice just falls apart vocally. It's tough on the judges who have a personal connection with her story. There is no way to ignore how badly she's singing, so it's a no. We say goodbye to some others who had shined their first time out, including half of the Gutierrez brothers.
Next it's The Hits, an all-girl group that rehearsed hard last night, even after one of their members, Ashley Sullivan, tried to quit. She had some pitch problems, according to Randy, but he otherwise loved their harmonies and they are live to sing again.
I predict most of the Deep Vs will be deep sixed, that was some shaky singing. Only James Durbin, the Adam Lambert clone, sounded good. JLO properly says it sounded like a bad Glee audition. I was surprised they kept Caleb Johnson, but James deserved to move on.
Next up is The Minors who have been coached to death by their well meaning moms. Let's see if multiple moms know best. Yes they do. They sound amazing! All should go through. Wow. Stage moms: 1 - Absentee moms: 0.
We have one group that has a member with the cojones to use crib notes and the whole group sounds just awful. But the judges let Corey Levoy and Hollie Cavanaugh through not on what they just did, but because they obviously made a big impression in earlier rounds.
Four Non Blondes and That Guy take on Cee Lo's "Forget You" and it's an apt title. But despite that subpar performance, which includes Chris Medina whose story has touched a lot of people, all but one go through. Devyn Rush, who was way off, does not make the cut even though Caley Hawley and Chris did despite not exactly nailing what is a pretty easy song to sing (heck, Chris Martin's wife even sounds good singing it). I was digging Carson Higgins, though, and glad he made it.
Lauren Alaina and a bunch of other girls whose names we don't need to learn ask Steven Tyler to come up on stage so they can serenade him. Lauren sounded amazing, the other girls were good, but, surprisingly, only Lauren was able to seduce him, and the other judges, with her voice. All that work for nothing. Maybe Angela should have done her noodle trick.
Now it's time to see if Jacee, Brett Lowenstern and the rest of the Sugar Mommas can pull it out. Jacee was unfamiliar with the song, Mercy, and he has to improvise the lyrics. He still has a great voice, but will the sin of forgetting the words bring his downfall? The group comes to his defense and they explain to the judges how he was given a raw deal the night before and they all make it! And I'm tearing up! I'm verklempt!
Next up is the group that treated sweet Jacee so horribly. The judges call them on it and Scotty McCreery apologizes for not sticking up for Jacee. I'm glad to see his reaction...he's human and seems like a good kid. Clint, not so much. But he has a spectacular voice, strongest in the group, one of the best in the competition. Wouldn't you know it! Anyhow, all of the heartless three and Scotty make it through.
Last up is Three's Company. How will the exes, Rob and Chelsee Oaks, and Jacqueline make it? First off, who doesn't know the words to "Forget You?" There are like two dozen words to this song and it's been played twice an hour, every hour, on your local radio for the last four months! Jacqueline Dunford can't sing. Why did I never notice that before? Come on Rob, save this horrible mess. Oh, heck, no. It goes from bad to really pathetically awful. He does not remember one lyric, not one word and basically sings a plea to keep him in the competition. It's too little, too late. Somehow, the two girls make it through and Rob, who sounded the best in his improvisation, has to go.
That was fast and furious? Did yours make it? Did they even get face time? Tomorrow the numbers get thinned even more.