'American Idol' Recap: Hollywood Week Flies Off the Rails
The girls, desperate to make it to the solo rounds, unleash a parade of diva antics, psychological meltdowns and botched group performances.
"I would love it to be a girl this year," quoth Keith Urban before American Idol's crop of lady sing-testants took the stage during Hollywood Week.
Wouldn't we all. It's about time a woman took home the Idol title, given the monotonous string of sensitive, super-bland dude singer-songwriters who've eclipsed superior rivals to win top honors, bragging rights and a record deal that may or may not fall through once those 15 minutes are over. (See: Kris Allen, David Cook, Phillip Phillips in 2014.)
Although Ryan Seacrest can always be counted on to tease that "this year's group of women is the most talented ever of all time," blah blah blah, he's all hype yet again: There are no standout Kelly Clarksons, Carrie Underwoods or Jennifer Hudsons to be found among the female set in season 12. Only a handful of contenders displayed a stage presence and vocal prowess that could threaten to pull off the near-impossible: the killing of the White Guys With Guitar Curse.
In no particular order, candidates for The Next Female Idol (With or Without a Guitar) who might reinstate gender equality back to this male-dominated competition, fingers crossed:
Janelle Arthur: This country singer with an appealing Mary Chapin Carpenter vibe belted out "Be My Little Baby" during her group audition like a seasoned professional, drawing effusive praise from Nicki "New Simon Cowell" Minaj. "Janelle, you've been my favorite time after time after time. You're a star to me," gushed Minaj, sending Arthur through to the next round of solo performances.
Zoanette Johnson: A natural, electric performer. Totally yanked the spotlight away from her group-mates on the soul number "Knock on Wood" like Beyonce overshadowing Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams at the Super Bowl -- but with a Frenchie Davis, "Moulin Rouge"-y twist. Even when she complained that she wasn't "feeling the song," she shone brighter than the rest.
Britnee Kellogg: A steely and ambitious presence on screen, she nonetheless impressed with her rendition of Sin Wagon by the Dixie Chicks. Major shades of Underwood here, mixed with some type-A Tracy Flick attitude toward Haley Davis, who ditched the "Dolly Chicks" to go to bed early and, while on stage, looked the fool while using her arm as a cheat sheet because she hadn't learned the lyrics to the tune. LADIES: if you don't know or forget the lyrics to your audition song, you should not be auditioning in the first place. No excuses.
Cristabel Clack: Her Alicia Keys-style earthiness and warmth was a refreshing antidote to the bizarre theatrics of Janel Stinney, a member of Clack's group (fittingly called "The Dramatics") who imploded under pressure -- giving the silent treatment during practice and then FORGETTING THE LYRICS (a recurring theme of Wednesday's episode) in front of the judges' panel. Lucky for Stinney, Minaj, Urban, Mariah Carey and Randy Jackson handed her a free pass; to Clack's credit, she never went off on her colleague/competitor save for a few eye-rolls. Oh, and Clack? She's got talent in spades, bringing soulful flavor to The Band Perry's "If I Die Young."
Angela Miller: There's something irritating about Miller's "I'm going to win this" gung-ho enthusiasm and the presence of her equally over-enthusiastic stage mother, hovering in the wings. Still, she has an undeniably smoky-toned, solid voice (her speciality: vocal runs). Miller could be this season's Haley Reinhart. In previews of Thursday's show, she is shown wowing the judges while accompanying herself on the piano.
Rachel Hale: Little Miss Sunshine is adored by Minaj, who's a tough critic. Another country crooner with an Underwood quality: perhaps like Carrie, she'll advance through the contest and lose the smiley, nice-girl facade mid-way to expose some real grit (recall: Underwood's Idol-defining cover of Heart's "Alone").
Although Hale and her fellow hopefuls show promise, a strong female frontrunner has yet to emerge. And per Idol tradition, the group performances were catastrophically painful to watch. A sorority rush gone awry. Basically, your worst nightmare. One quartet stayed up all night only to change their song selection morning-of; only one of the bunch remembered the words to their last-minute choice, Gotye's ubiquitous "Somebody That I Used to Know." Everyone knows those lyrics, so again: NO EXCUSES.
"Why did they let me through, I totally botched that thing," confessed Stephanie Schimel, reveling in her unexpected victory. Well, when Minaj and company are faced with slim pickings, they can't exactly be choosy, can they? (Minaj, annoyed, drew "THEY SUCK" with marker on her hand.)
Other travesties: a furious Savannah Votion vowing "This will be the last time I ever come on the show" after getting the boot. OK, her rant = enjoyable. But not warranted. When Votion took credit for arranging the harmonies for her group "Almost Famous," she really shouldn't have: those harmonies sucked. Then there was Shira Gavrielov, who requested an explanation as to why she was cut so unceremoniously. "You may feel that you were incredible but the four of us collectively didn't feel that," said Jackson, imparting straight-no-chaser feedback.
Amid an otherwise lackluster roster of fallen Idol wannabes, a so-bad-she's-good guilty pleasure surfaced: Kez Ban, the second coming of Sanjaya Malakar who stands zero chance at winning, and may as well be an actress planted by Nigel Lythgoe to add levity against all the sobbing and seriousness. This time around, producers put together the groups, rather than contestants breaking into pods of their choosing, and so Arthur, Miller and Breanna Steer got stuck with Ban -- eek! Turns out, that's not such a bad thing.
Despite Ban arguing over song choice ("I want it to have substance and be meaningful"), launching into an odd, unintentionally hilarious version of "California Dreamin'" during said song-choice deliberations and telling an unseen cameraperson "You people suck" in her early-morning haze, she managed not to drag down the entire outfit on "Be My Baby." Her contribution was inspired, albeit karaoke-grade.
And so she made the cut, along with 27 others. On Thursday, Idol will reveal the lineup of 20 guys and 20 girls.
Tell us Idol Worshippers, who are your favorites thus far? Which ladies could potentially prevail come May? Sound off in the comments!