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American Idol XIII: Hollywood Week Part 1 and 2

Despite our love affair with Idol even after 13 seasons, there are a few things that bug us about the show. New captain Per Blankens has done a good job adjusting a lot of those things, but one that he didn’t is Group Day. Sure, the challenge seems to test contestant’s abilities to work with other strong personalities and standout from the crowd, but The Voice does a great job of comparing contestants in different ways with the Battle Rounds and Knockouts. We, personally, feel like those are equally effective at comparing similar but perhaps not necessarily equally talented contestants without the drama. It’s the drama that really cheapens the Hollywood Week experience and takes away from the talent, which will talk about it just a bit but all the time spent on American Idol should be about one of two things: getting to know the contestants or hearing them sing, that’s it. So, with that said, let’s talk about the highs and lows of the past two nights.

Highs:

  1. Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

    The Hanger – I’m kind of torn on this “new twist” in the Idol game. I think it was a great way for the judges to put the “maybes” on the spot right away and separate them into people with legitimate potential. It showed that they did their research to come up with that list of 50-some contestants and it forced them to prove they weren’t just a flash in the pan. While I didn’t agree with all their cut-or-keep decisions, I thought it was certainly efficient and gave us plenty of quick glimpses at people who might otherwise just disappear off our screens with no explanation. I’m not sure if the psychological trauma of putting them on “mystery buses” destined for either the airport or the hotel was necessary, but that’s just me. It might have been because I thought it was clear which bus was which.

  2. Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

    New Stars Emerge – Previously lukewarm contestants Kenzie Hall and Spencer Lloyd came up strong with their takes on current songs like Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us” and Great Big World’s “Say Something” respectively. And Jena Ascuitto who, despite us highlighting her audition, kind of seemed like semi-talented fodder until we saw her three or four times over the course of the two nights and once was with her gritty, soulful take on Lana Del Ray’s “Video Games”

  3. Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

    Some frontrunners continue to shine Majesty York came back swinging early with another brilliant song choice. Her cool take on Feist’s track ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ has me convinced that she knows who she is and, if she can make it to the live rounds, she’ll fair just fine amidst the sometimes crazy themes. Briana Oakley proved she was more than just the second coming of Jordin Sparks by breathing new life into an otherwise-tired song choice of Lorde’s “Royals” with some smart vocal runs.

  4. Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

    The Judging Panel – Despite not always agreeing with their decisions, or not getting any justification for them, I’m still in love with this trio. Harry has maintained his humour by storming off the panel and flipping the other two judges the bird. Keith, as always, is as charismatic as it gets by playing guitar, singing harmonies and just showing that he’s more than just a pretty face, he knows music. And even J.Lo has begun to disagree with Harry on things and while, I might disagree with her that sound-healer Adam Roth was worth another shot after his performance in the hanger, at least she’s showing that she has an opinion other than agreeing with the other judges.

Lows:

  1. Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

    The Drama – It’s kind of surprising that any these contestants emerge from Hollywood Week unscathed, given how stressful it all seems. Poor pink-haired rocker gal, Jess Meuse was bounced from group to group and forced to sing Single Ladies under the judgmental eye of a fellow contestant’s mother. I can’t tell if the producers were trying to get us to dislike her, but it actually made me like her more. Meuse’s resolve showed that her primary concern was that the judges knew who she was and what music meant to her and I personally felt like that meant more than any sashaying in time to a Beyoncé track.

  2. Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

    The Unexplained Cuts – After a strong audition with an Amy Winehouse song, the cute, soulful Jade Lathan disappeared from our screens faster than you could say “No, no, no…” and without so much as a 3-second song-byte to explain why. Furthermore, after his bold coming out on the Idol stage during the line-up-and-sing round, Keith London was swept away without another glimpse. It was clear the judges didn’t “get” him, calling his song choice of “If I Were A Boy” confusing, rather than, as we saw it: creative and original. As a sidenote: We keep seeing the unique Ryan Nisbitt but have yet to hear a peep out of him… I don’t know if that bodes well for him cracking the Top 30. Oh and the loss of Tiquila Wilson was heartbreaking after she continued to slay on that stage, but I guess a gospel girl has gotta do what a gospel girl has gotta do. (Try saying that 5 times fast…)

  3. The Song Choices – While I liked the option of more current hits like Alex Clare’s “Too Close” and  recent Grammy winner Lorde’s “Royals” in the group rounds, I wish the list of approved songs was just slightly longer so we didn’t end up hearing the same song over and over again. Even with new arrangements, it feels tired. Hopefully Per & the Gang cleared a few (thousand) more for the live rounds this year because I feel like unexpected song choices alone can result in better quality performances. (See: The Voice for more)

All in all, the group rounds were slightly less painful than years past. We got to see more singing and more than a chosen handful of contestants. I also felt like we had better insight into the judges decision making process this year and hopefully that will resonate to next week when we see the remaining fifty or so contestants sing solo to try and secure a spot in the Top 30. Until then, Ashrew out!

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