Hollywood Round: Contestants wait to hear if they will advance to the next… (Michael Becker/Fox )
Oh, Hollywood Week, you cruel flirt. You fickle destroyer of "American Idol" dreams. You thing we have to go through twice this year.
Last week we got the tempered highs and lows, the tense group dynamics, and the teary departures for the male "Idol" hopefuls as their throngs were whittled down to 28. (Their ranks will soon be thinned further, to 20.) This week, we do Hollywood Week all over again with the girls. Sigh.
"We're ready to slice and dice," Randy Jackson announced with what seemed like perverse pride on his way in for the quick-cut a cappella round. We may not have noticed, but many more girls than guys made it through to Hollywood this year. That meant lots of cuts would be needed straightaway.
Standouts in the brisk first round were the glowingly happy Rachel Hale, in whom Nicki Minaj sees a Taylor Swift sweetness; Janelle Arthur, who I actually think could be a potential winner, or at least the one we'll all say should have won when a yet-to-be-determined cute white guy with guitar takes it yet again; and Candice Glover, who sagely said that, even though she got a standing ovation from the judges after her audition, "at any minute that can change."
Miss Baton Rouge (Megan Miller) got the boot, now that she and the judges have gotten over the leg injury that saw her hobble into her initial audition on crutches. The wacky and unpredictable Kez Ban was kept around, though, even after croaking out her a cappella song and attributing it to a developing cold. The producers – who, you'll recall, picked the groups this year -- clearly needed her to create drama on group night.
Combined with Janelle Arthur, Angela Miller and Breanna Steer to make a group aptly named the Misfits, Kez Ban did her part to liven up the proceedings. And her fellow group members did a fine job maintaining their balance through it all. Ultimately, the Misfits didn't misfire and all four made it through safely through to the next round (phew).
Candice Glover's group, the Swaggettes, which included Melinda Ademi, Kamaria Ousley and Denise Jackson, also made it through in its entirety. As did the members of Raisin' Cain; Minaj offered to make them cupcakes and paint their toenails, confusing Keith Urban.
Minaj, Urban and Mariah Carey (Jackson was absent for much of the day; we were told he was "busy in the studio") waved through Daysia Hall, while waving away her fellow Almost Famous group members Savannah Votion, Lizz Weiss and J’Leigh Chauvin, prompting a few mild snit fits on the way out the door.
Kriss Mincey, Janel Stinney, Cristabel Clack and Aunyai Hedrick also all got through, despite having a pretty rocky time pulling it together as a group. (Janel had some kind of chip on her shoulder – and possibly a stomach virus -- but Minaj, for some reason, loved her all the more for it.)
And on and on it went: Zoanette Johnson made it through even though she hated the song her group, the Pooh Snaps, had chosen ("Knock on Wood"). Liz Bills, who performed barefoot, was also safe, besting her fellow group members, Shira Gavrielov, Alisha Dixon and Courtney Calle, who we'd just seen griping about Bills thinking she was better than they are. When she turned out to be right, Gavrielov got ticked, returning to ask the judges for an explanation. Jackson was mercifully back at the table in time to break the news to Gavrielov that, despite the fact that she thought she'd sounded fab, they hadn't.
Lots of people read sang Gotye. Perhaps more read lyrics off their hands, which Minaj called disrespectful. But they weren't always punished for it.
The saddest goodbye? That was probably Seretha Guinn, whose boyfriend (we were told during auditions) had had a near-fatal accident, and whose daughter (we saw with our own eyes) is adorable. That adorable daughter was, mercifully, on hand to comfort her mom with a kiss after the judges failed to put her through. Aw.
See? It'll all be OK. And anyway there'll be more cuts – many more cuts – made Thursday night, when our final 20 men and 20 women will move on and Hollywood Week(s) will come to an end. Hooray for that.