Thursday, February 5, 2009

American Idol Season 8
Hollywood Week Group Day

UPDATE: For those of you interested in knowing the Top 36 right now, there has been a change in the lineup after last night's show. To see the updated list, click on the link Season 8 Top 36 on the right.

Ah, Group Day. The drama, the catfights, the ... boredom. Excuse us, drama queens or drama-queen lovers, but we don't watch "Idol" for the drama, we watch for the singing. And on the chaotic Group Day episode, it was a full 30 minutes before we even heard a note sung. We weren't happy. We've been waiting to hear these voices for four weeks.

Of course, the drama involved only the girls, and that included the always teary-eyed Nate Marshall, who is quickly getting on our last nerve. In fact, Nate is on our short list of the most exasperating drama queens of Group Day, which is headed by Tatiana Del Toro and also includes Katrina "Bikini Girl" Darrell and Kristin McNamara.

Most of the contestants form cohesive groups fairly quickly, except for Tatiana, whose horrid laugh is only matched by her psycho behavior on Group Day. Finding herself without a group (what a shock!), she runs over to one and inserts herself into it. Within minutes, they're less than overjoyed, as she begins to manipulate and give orders. Yet, as Tatiana sees it, her group is out to sabotage her. So she leaves them to insinuate herself into another group, made up of Nate, Kristin (who welcomes Tatiana with open arms) and Nancy Wilson. Nate and Nancy aren't too happy about reforming the group, but finally capitulate. When, surprise! Tatiana decides to rejoin her original group, which includes Muna Hiluf and Kaylin.

At this point, we're getting so dizzy from the antics, we consider reaching for the Dramamine. Nancy, who knows how much is riding on the next day's performance, has a fit and calls Tatiana out on it. Tatiana, who could care less, basically says, yeah, well, I'm sorry, get over it. We begin to wonder if Tatiana is really that crazy or if the producers scripted the whole thing and put her up to these stunts by guaranteeing her a free pass to the next round in exchange for creating scenes. We'd put nothing past the show's producers.

Watch video of drama queen Tatiana

Watch video of more drama with Tatiana

Meanwhile, we are also (mis)treated to the dysfunctions of Team Diva, which includes the estimable Jasmine Murray, as well as Lauren Barnes, Rose Flack and pain-in-the-ass Bikini Girl. We love doomed Rose Flack, who not only hates Bikini Girl, but also accurately foresees the future, saying "we're going to be that group that gets up there and is just an absolute train wreck." To no one's surprise (well not ours, at least), Bikini Girl flakes out on the rest of her team and trots off to bed. The rest of the group don't know what they're going to do as Bikini Girl hasn't rehearsed. Not to worry, the next morning, she claims to be sick and essentially abandons them ... until she decides not to and unexpectedly shows up in the waiting area telling them "I'm here. Teach me what I missed." Rose storms off in a huff.

Watch video of drama queen Katrina "Bikini Girl" Darrell

Finally, we get some singing. Simon Cowell warns the contestants that if they forget their words they are out. As we said yesterday, the dynamics of group day can bring down even the best singers -- or elevate them.

In the latter category was the first group to perform, Team White Chocolate -- composed of India Morrison, Matt Giraud, Kris Allen and Justin Williams -- who perform a rap/singing version of The Jackson 5's "I Want You Back." It is so entertaining and so professional -- especially considering it was put together overnight -- that it's possibly the best group performance we've ever witnessed. As Ryan Seacreast says, "All the contestants are cheering now, but on the inside they're saying, 'Damn, I wish we were that good.'" No surprise, Kara DioGuardi announces that all of them are through to the next round. Wow! If this is a precursor of the rest of the groups, it's going to be a great 30 minutes. Unfortunately, it is not.

Watch video of Team White Chocolate (India Morrison, Matt Giraud, Kris Allen and Justin Williams)

We next see three different groups make a mess of the lyrics and melody of The Temptations "Get Ready." Austin Sisneros, making it up as he goes along, ends a line with do-do instead of "you do." Shelby Swartwood not only forgets all her lyrics, singing "heeeeeeeey, na na na na na," she sings off-key to boot. It just keeps getting worse. Gratefully, Simon stops the final group before they can finish, telling them "that was an absolute, total mess."

Watch video of three different groups messing up "Get Ready" (Maryn Azoff, Austin Sisneros, J.B Ahfua, Shelby Swartwood, Julissa Veloz)

The rehearsal footage of the Action Squad -- Alex Wagner-Trugman, Ryan Pinkston, Anne Marie Boskovich and Emily Wynne-Hughes -- seems to indicate they spent more time figuring out their team name and dance moves rather than their singing, and it shows. They sound like crap together on Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)," though individually they weren't bad. Sadly Ryan, who sounded great at the top of the number, flubs his lyrics and is cut, as is Emily. She's sad, but he's pissed, saying he saw evil in Paula Abdul's eyes, which the producers turn devil red to funny effect. Alex and Anne Marie move on to the next round.

Watch video Team Action Squad (Alex Wagner-Trugman, Ryan Pinkston, Anne Marie Boskovich, Emily Wynne-Hughes)

Music teacher Danny Gokey seems to be the leader of his group, the Rainbow Coalition, which also includes, no surprise, Jamar Rogers and Taylor Vaifanua. They decide to do an a cappella version of Queen's "Somebody to Love," and their harmonies sound just great. Randy Jackson tells them, "Nice harmonies, guys," and Simon calls it a very, very good performance and says he likes the fact that they were brave enough to do it on their own. They all make it through. And we must say that we love Danny's voice more and more each time we hear it. We're pumped.

Watch video Team Rainbow Coalition (Danny Gokey, Jamar Rogers, Taylor Vaifanua)

It's good news all around for a few groups singing Grand Funk Railroad's "Some Kind of Wonderful," including contestants Jeremy Michael Sarver, Adam Lambert, Matt Breitzke and Jesse Langseth. We like Adam, but Kara really adores him, calling him an incredible singer. Kudos also go to the others, but the surprise for us was the previously unseen and unheard Jesse (sister of Grammy Award-winning artist Johnny Lang) who sounds like a real contender. We can't wait to hear more from her.

Watch video different groups singing "Some Kind of Wonderful" (Jeremy Michael Sarver, Adam Lambert, Matt Breitzke, Jesse Langseth)

There are just three groups left, and we're looking forward to none of them, because they are the drama queens. First up is Team Diva -- Lauren Barnes, Katrina Darrell, Rose Flack and Jasmine Murray -- singing Duffy's "Mercy," and they're going to need some. They decide to put their differences aside for the greater good, but it does nothing to help. Jasmine is in great voice, and when Rose does remember her lyrics sounds good, as well, but her lack of concentration will get her eliminated. It doesn't take a genius to see they haven't rehearsed together and Simon wants to know why. Lauren, Simon points out, tries to be PC, saying some people weren't feeling well the night before, but he demands a name. Katrina blames her absence on her scolioses, saying she was in high heels from 5 in the morning, then up until 3, but he's not having it. Kara asks Lauren to step forward and then Katrina, who knows the end is neigh, but couldn't care less. Never having met a camera she didn't like, she starts voguing. Kara says to the other judges and to Simon's amusement, "OMG, look at her, she just totally posed." Rose is also told to step forward and the three are cut. Rose and Lauren surround Jasmine, but Bikini Girl just struts off, still aping to the camera, while Kara says, "She must be ready for her closeup. Damn what a [bitch? The expletive was deleted by the producers]." In a group interview afterward, Lauren says some people had better work ethics than others. Bikini Girl says "OMG" and stomps off. Katrina later tells the camera, "They're just fake girls," and with a shrug, "They don't mean anything to me," and with a giggle and a hand gesture to her shoulder, "Brush your shoulder off." Yes, Kara, what a bitch.

Watch video of Team Diva (Lauren Barnes, Katrina Darrell, Rose Flack, Jasmine Murray)

Tatiana and ensemble are next, doing "I Want You Back." Mila Hiluf, doesn't sound bad, but the backing harmonies are horrendous. The group is stopped while Tatiana is still doing her solo, and she continues past the cutoff, then steps back in line. As the singers await their fates, Tatiana, thinking she is being cute, makes another attempt to be noticed, by singing "I wanna get through," but is quickly chastised by the judges, who hold up their hands and tell her, "None of that today." There's no question she would have been cut for that alone if she hadn't cut some kind of deal with the producers. The group sounded like such crap together that we're stunned when all of them are put through. And now we're really beginning to fear the prophesy of Tatiana's psychic friend who said she'd make it to the Top 12.

Watch video of Muna Hiluf and Tatiana Del Toro

Finally, the last group, Team Compromise, or should that be Compromised? Minus Tatiana, they're back to the original three, Nathanial Marshall, Nancy Wilson and Kristin McNamara. After del Toto's departure the evening before, the drama continued for the group when Kristin insisted she needed to rest her voice and Nancy got on her case because they needed to rehearse, while Nate stood on the sidelines, crying and carrying on like a girl. Bleech! It's ironic, because Nancy who seemed to be taking the assignment very seriously will get cut, while the two others will remain safe. When they come on stage and Nate says their name is Compromise, Cowell asks if they got along. Nancy immediately says, "no," so Simon asks Kristin, who he calls Blondie, how she responds to that. She's whines that she's just so tired of the drama, that it's so distracting and she wants it to go away. Simon says, "So you won't be having dinner together tonight?" And Blondie, wide-eyed, says "Me and you?" Oy. They begin to sing Duffy's "Mercy." Crying boy looks and sounds good and Blondie sounds better than good. Nancy, well, she sucks. Screws up the lyrics and is totally off key. Simon says it's obvious they don't like each other and they sounded like they were trying to sabotage each other on backups. He then says that he thinks one of the girls is safe and the other isn't. It's as simple as that. Kristin tries to make a supportive move toward the crying Nancy, who moves away from Kristin. Paula pronounces the judges results and Crying Boy tries to hug Nancy, the only one cut, but she turns away from him and walks off. There's no love in this room tonight. Nancy walks past Kristin, and from the double bleep we're pretty sure she says f**k you to her. And so it goes.

Watch video of Team Compromise (Nathanial Marshall, Nancy Wilson, Kristin McNamara)

Next week: Hollywood Week continues and the Top 36 are announced.

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