With twice the normal number of contestants arriving in Los Angeles, LAX was bombarded with singers, guitars, and Victoria Huggins' luggage. Due to the large volume of contestants, there were two days of initial solos and the judges weren't able to provide too much feedback for the sake of time. Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Steven Tyler greeted the contestants and reminded them that they have one shot...no pressure.
The way Hollywood Week initial solos work is that the singers are divided into groups of 10, and they sing a capella one at a time. The judges deliberate and then eliminate singers in a sudden death type of format. They don't call it "Hell Week" for nothing!
The first group contained Brett Loewenstern, our red headed teen from New Orleans auditions. He sang The Beatles "Let It Be" really well and was moving on to the next round along with some other singers we didn't hear from.
Rachel Zevita, the pint-sized Season 6 opera singer, showed a contemporary side of her voice with Duffy's "Warwick Avenue," which could be a subtle tribute to Executive Producer Ken Warwick. In the same group were two other strong singers we met during hometown auditions, teen Thia Megia and melodica player Casey Abrams, who both took on Ella Fitzgerald and made it their own. Rachel, Thia, and Casey are all safe.
Bubbly Victoria Huggins must have felt confident, because she packed a month's worth of belongings for her trip to Hollywood. Could you imagine sitting on the plane across the U.S. with her as she does her Idol theme song impression? Singing Julianne Hough's "My Hallelujah Song" could have scored her some brownie points if Ryan Seacrest was a judge, but he's not and Randy, Jennifer, and Steven dismissed her and her 11 bags. Although she was crying, she smiled the whole way home.
Two parents with rollercoaster pasts, Paris Tassin and James Durbin, were in the same group. Paris sang a Celine Dion song, which I normally would advise against, but she seemed less nervous and had more vocal control than in her initial audition. James Durbin rocked out to The Beatles' "Oh! Darling," and both parents were one step closer to providing a better life of their kids.
Nashville cuties Lauren Alaina and Stormi Henley were hoping to win over the judges once again. Unfortunately, Stormi's version of "Stay" by Sugarland was not strong enough, and not even her good looks and pouty lips could save her. Lauren Alaina belted out The Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody." She was moving on to group night and her mom with a Kate Gosselin hair 'do was excited for her baby.
When Milwaukee auditioner Chris Medina took the stage, Steven Tyler asked him how his fiance was doing and he even remembered her name. Chris sang Jason Mraz's "You and I." Earlier in the day he interviewed that "This is where it can all change or stay the same, and I don't want it to stay the same." It's looking like change is still a good possibility--Chris is advancing.
The contestants have quite some time to prepare for their one big Hollywood Week solo after they received a gold ticket in their hometown. So, it surprised me when a string of contestants completely blanked when they got on stage. They were able to choose their own song, so you would think they'd have mastered the lyrics by now. However, some of the teens we met in their hometowns did not crack under the pressure. New Orleans' 15-year-old Jacee Badeaux sang a Rascal Flatts song and his fellow competitors were grooving along in the audience. Robbie Rosen from New Jersey auditions had no trouble with "Moody's Mood for Love." And although Hollie Cavanagh buckled under the pressure at her Austin audition, she seemed to gain confidence since then as she took on another age-appropriate Miley Cyrus tune.
Unfortunately, accountant Steve Beguhn's Michael Buble song wasn't enough to keep him away from his cubicle. He's going home, along with analyst Sarah Sellers, football niece Jacquelyn Dupree, belly dancer Heidi Khzam, and many others.
Day two of Hollywood brought solos from the other half of Hollywood singers. Despite Jennifer's romantic movie plot thought that Chelsee Oaks and Rob Bolin would get back together in Hollywood, they're not dating. However, they are walking together and hanging out together, because the ex-couple is rooming with current couple Nick Fink and Jacqueline Dunford (obviously with the girls in one room and the boys in another). We saw footage of the four friends hanging out and having a great time out west, but Rob looked a bit uncomfortable with the situation. Ryan Seacrest questioned the couple for sharing a sink in their Hollywood hotel. The storyline would continue, as Rob tackled his Hank Williams song and Chelsee nailed her Patty Griffin performance. In their color-coordinated blues and grays, Nick Fink sang "News Shoes" by Paolo Nutini, and his performance seemed weaker than what we heard from him in Texas. Jacqueline showed her soulful side with a Sam Cooke song. After a dramatic wait, Nick was dismissed by the judges. As his fellow singers filed off the stage, Nick grabbed the microphone and begged for a second chance. Randy reminded him this was a one shot situation, and Nick continued to sing as he walked out of the theater. People always try this desperate act, but the judges have never said, "Oh, on second thought we're wrong. Come back!" Hopefully Nick will recover and be able to root for his older lady.
Several singers took on the same song they performed at hometown auditions. This surprised me because I'd think the contestants would want to show a different side of them, but I guess if you do one song really well it's not a terrible idea to get you to group night. The teen with the deep voice--Scotty McCreery--sang his Josh Turner song once again, and Jennifer Lopez stated, "A girl from the Bronx just fell in love with a country singer." Nashville's Jackie Wilson and Milwaukee's Jerome Bell reprised their hometown audition hits, and were joining Scotty McCreery for another day of Hollywood try-outs.
The last group of the day had two New Jersey auditioners--Tiffany Rios and Travis Orlando. The judges hoped Travis would loosen up for this performance, and I hoped Tiffany would keep her shirt on this time. Tiffany didn't show too much flesh in Hollywood, but her flesh toned lipstick was a bizarre choice. The judges liked her Etta James performance better than Travis' Maroon 5 solo, so she is staying and Travis is going home.
Since we couldn't see everyone, Ryan told us that 168 of the 327 contestants were moving on including Clint Gamboa, Julie Zorrilla, Naima Adedapo, both Gutierrez brothers, Molly DeWolf, Emily Anne Reed, Stefano Langone, and Ashley Sullivan. Britney Spears-lover Ashley bawled on the phone to her mom, who managed to make out the words between Ashley's whimpers. She will be a fun one to watch!
Next up, group round! One of my personal favorites. I can't wait to see who pairs up, who breaks down, and who stays up all night and then forgets their words. Bring it on!