It's Hollywood week and our contestants have it all on the line as they hope to sing their way into the Top 40. This year, we kick things off with a torrent of testosterone in Tinseltown! That's right, it's just the guys as groups of ten line up, sing a cappella, and await their fate.
First up was twenty-four year old, Micah Johnson who we met in Long Beach. Micah brought his terrific and problem-free voice to "Bennie and the Jets" by Elton John. It was a resounding yes and Michael was on to the next round. Several others made it through singing everything from Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" to "More Than a Feeling" by Boston.
Among those moving on were Nate Tao who sang "For Once in My Life" by Stevie Wonder, Chicago rocker, Gabe "The Baker" Brown with "Gimmie Shelter" by The Rolling Stones and The Turbanator, Gupreet "Man Can He Singh" Sarin.
But we said goodbye to Karl "Too Much Caffeine" Skinner, Baton Rouge Fireman, Dustin Watts, and the singing doctor, Calvin Peters. Then Dallas native, Cortez Shaw took the stage and belted out "I Will Always Love You" by the late, great Whitney Houston.
Mariah loved Cortez, Nicki was "disgusted" by his performance, and Randy used his keen powers of observation to note that Cortez "is no Whitney." But, Cortez caught a break and made it on to the group round.
Twenty-four year old St. Louis gospel singer, Curtis Finch, Jr., Sgt. Trevor Blakney, Brooklyn's Frankie Ford, and Charles Allen all made it past the cut. And then Nicki almost gave twenty-three year old, Bryant Tadeo a heart attack when she told him he was going home and then pulled a "psych!" and let him know he was moving on to the next round. Thanks, Nicki Mean-aj!
Our final hopeful was Charlotte contestant, Brian Rittenberry. Sadly, a split decision on the panel after Brain sang "Make it One" by Brian McKnight, meant that Brian would not survive Hollywood week. Next up, the twenty-four hours of show biz hell called the Group Round!
Half the guys have been cut. The other half take on the toughest part of the competition, when time, talent, and tempers are all factors and the group competition determines their fates.
But this year, the Producers added a devilish twist. This time the producers form the groups and the contestants have no say. Get ready for oil and water, folks. The groups were announced, and very quickly tension built around song choice, personalities, and styles. By 4:00 a.m., team "Country Queen" (uh, just watch the recap) was struggling on all fronts. Trevor Blakely, wondered why they "don't just put dresses on all of us" and why they were focused on the dance and not their song, "More Than Words" by Erasure. The guys decide to go to bed. Tomorrow, it's go big or go home.
Group Day is on! The guys have to sing with the band and stand out despite being in a group. First up, was team The Math Heads with Matteus Fernandes, singing "Somebody to Love" by Queen. Killer close harmonies, Nick Boddington, Mathenee Treco, and Gabe Brown's bad-ass, rockin' scream were awesome. Their Freddie Mercury best earned them a big round of applause from the panel and all four are moving on to the solo round!
Next up, was team Normal Hills taking on "Reach Out I'll Be There" by the Four Tops. Johnny Keyser, blew the lyrics, Kareem Clark blew the key, and the song was, well, a hot mess. Despite the debacle, only Kareem was sent packing. The rest are moving on.
Charlie Askew, Curtis Finch, Jr., and their teammates took the stage and sang "The Lazy Song" by Bruno Mars. Curtis brought that big gospel voice to the table and led all three in the team onward and upward. Then we got Micah Johnson, Vincent Powell, Marvin Calderon, and David Willis, the Four Tones, who grooved on "Hold On I'm Coming" by Sam & Dave. They had the Motown mojo and all made it to the next round.
Jersey boy, Zach Birnbaum, Nate Tao, Cortez Shaw, and Elijah Liu brought comprised team Young Love and sang "Some Kind of Wonderful" by Grand Funk Railroad. Not sure where they scored the matching black jackets, but they scored with the judges and moved on to the next round. Not so for Team Taylor. Oh dear. It's a bad sign when we have to subtitle the garbled, forgotten, and lacerated lyrics. Only Paul Jolly and Will White survived. I have no idea what they sang, but sources say it was "Don't You Wanna Stay" by Jason Aldean featuring Kelly Clarkson. The lyric loss was contagious as B Side, and the Turbanator destroyed "Payphone" by Maroon 5, though Nicki liked it. Somehow, they all got through.
Next up, team Last Minute tried to sing "You Don't Know You're Beautiful" by One Direction. Well, Jason Jones, Dan Wood and Jessie Lawrence forgot the lyrics and forgot that songs have melodies and notes that must be hit. Nicki said they were all "equally bad" and The Urbanator send them all packing.
Our next group, decided to go a cappella, a risky move given that they had the house band at their disposal. Devan Jones, Devin Velez, and the boys sang "Payphone" by Maroon 5. The two Devs and Adrian squeaked by, but teammate Ryan's Idol time was over. Next on stage was MoFlo. Just to be clear, MoFLO. Baton Rouge's Burnell Taylor and his team sang "Some Kind of Wonderful" by Grand Funk Railroad. Tony Foster, Jr., Mario Jose, Burnell, and Darien Moses, gave it their best, but only Tony and Burnell stepped forward and into the next round.
Lazaro and team Super 55 were next with the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice." Josh Stephens, Scott Fleenor, Christian Lopez, and Lazaro struggled in rehearsal, and the harmonies were a bit sketchy. There was plenty of blame to go around, but in the end, the judges gave only Christian and Lazaro the nod of approval.
This cleared the way for the group Country Queen. Trevor Blakney, Lee Pritchard, JDA, and Joel Wayman sang their hearts out to Extreme's "More Than Words". The clash of styles was unique but the judges didn't think everyone had punched their ticket to the next round. Lee and Trevor were sent home while JDA and Joel advanced, taking the "Country" out of Country Queen.
DKSK, a group made up of the youngest guys in the competition, were up next. David Leathers Jr., Kevin Quinn, Kayden Stephenson, and Sanni M'Mairura performed Billy Joel's "For The Longest Time." The judges weren't entirely blown away, and after much deliberation, only Sanni and David were able to advance to the next round.
After a grueling day in group performances, we were in the home stretch. The group OZ didn't agree on much and it showed as they completely mangled Estelle's "American Boy." Despite the train wreck, Papa Peachez, Charles Allen, and Adam Sanders all advanced to the next round, leaving Frankie Ford behind. Frankie, who was in tears, thanked Keith Urban since who was his lone supporter on the panel.
The field is now thinned for tomorrow night when our survivors must perform solo for the judges in order to move on in the competition.