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Hollywood Week has begun on American Idol, and we all know what that means – drama, tears and disappointment for many. But for those contestants who make it through this intense week, it means earning their spot in the Top 40.
Out of the hundreds of contestants that made it through to Hollywood, only 20 girls and 20 boys will make the cut. This week, only the boys will compete, which Keith Urban says makes it “feel a bit like the Hunger Games.”
After Urban joins the other judges - Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj – in giving the contestants some words of encouragement, host Ryan Seacrest explains that for the first round, the guys will come out in a line of 10 and will have to sing a capella to prove themselves. The intensity is high, as it is sudden death and each contestant will be told to either go home or stay immediately following their audition.
The first line of 10 includes Micah Johnson, who revealed in his first audition that he has a speech problem due to his doctor hitting some nerves while removing his tonsils. He sings “Benny and the Jets” and Urban gives him a standing ovation, so he is safe for now.
Other contestants also safe are Nate Tao, Gabe Brown and Gupreet Singh Sarin, better known as The Turbanator.
Karl Skinner was another favorite from the auditions, but his “killer dance moves,” as Urban describes it, don’t compare with his singing, and his Idol journey ends there.
Also leaving after the first round is firefighter Dustin Watts and singing doctor Calvin Peters.
Cortez Shaw is next, and he sings Whitney’s Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” Although Carey enjoyed his performance, Minaj tells him, “I honestly felt that you did poor. I was very, very disgusted by it.” Jackson agrees with her, telling him, “You ain’t Whitney.” After the judges deliberate, Minaj says it’s not unanimous, but that they’re keeping him safe.
Curtis Finch, Jr. and Frankie Ford are then the next to stay safe until the next round.
Lazaro Arbos is next, who has a severe stuttering problem. He sings “Angels” by Robbie Williams and Urban tells him that, “It’s extraordinary how when you start singing it flows. It was beautiful. You must simply go on.”
Trevor Blakney, Bryan Tadeo and Charles Allen are then the next to stay safe.
Brian Rittenberry, who revealed during the auditions stage that his wife had battled cancer, then sings Brian McKnight’s “Back At One.” The judges then tell him that although it’s not unanimous, it’s a no for him.
Half of the men contestants have now gone home – which only means that the dreaded group stage is next. For the past 11 seasons the group night has proved to be the most difficult for all contestants, and this year they’re making it even harder for them.
Executive Producers Ken Warwick and Nygel Lythgoe announce that for the first time in the show history, it won’t be up to the contestants to choose their group. Instead, they have already chosen their group members for them.
Just choosing a song is already proving difficult for many groups. This is only the first part, of course, as groups still have to learn the lyrics, choreograph dance moves, and master the whole routine – all in just one night.
While some groups feel confident, others are having a harder time. Arbos’ group is an example of this, as they’re not meshing well due to Arbos not knowing the song, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys. Another group having problems is that of Lee Pritchard and Army Sergeant Trevor Blakney, who are singing with Jda and Joel Wayman. The group, who name themselves Country Queen, argue over focusing on the dancing instead of the singing.
As morning rolls in, the judges have arrived, and they all say they’re a bit worried about how they day will turn out. Carey says, “I’m a little concerned over some of the contestants and how they’re going to hold up.”
For the group stage, contestants get to sing with a live band, and if they make it through they’re on to the solo round. If they don’t, they are eliminated on the spot.
The Mathheads are up first, which includes Nick Boddington, Mathene Treco, Matheus Fernandes and Gabe Brown. The judges love their performance and send them all through, with Jackson saying, “What a way to start the day.”
The Normal Hills are up next, and they all struggle with the lyrics on stage. Johnny Keyser forgets the lyrics, but he and two other members of the group still go through, leaving only Kareem Clark to go home.
While some groups are bonding and becoming friends, Charlie Askew’s group is doing the opposite. Askew, who said in his audition he was socially awkward, gets sick the night before which creates tension in the group. They’re still somehow able to pull it through and all get a yes from the judges.
The Four Tones then all get a yes, which includes Micah Johnson, Vincent Powell, Marvin Calderon and David Willis.
The group Unstoppable are then able to live up to their name, as all members go through. This includes Zach Birbaum, Nate Tao, Cortez Shaw and Elijah Liu.
The next two groups then both forget the lyrics to their songs, causing only two contestants to go through after this.
The group B-Side is next, and although they are arguably one of the worst and the judges say it was terrible, they are all sent through. Minaj especially loves this group, as she repeatedly says that they are her favorite group because of their stage presence.
The group Last Minute, which includes Jason Jones, Dan Wood and Jessie Lawrence, then sing “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction. Urban describes it best when he says, “If the word wrongest can be used, that was the wrongest song for you guys. The song was One Direction but you all went in four directions.” The group isn’t as lucky as the previous group, and they are all sent home.
The next group then takes a risk as being the only group to sing without the band. They sing “Payphone” by Maroon 5, and although the judges liked it, they agree it would have been a lot better had they used the band. Devan, Adrian and Devon get a yes, while Ryan, who first came up with the idea to sing a capella, gets sent home.
Moflo is next, which includes Burnell Taylor, who impressed the judges in Baton Rouge. This stage is harder for Taylor, as he struggles with learning “Some Kind of Wonderful.” He ends up getting a yes from the judges, while Mario Jose and Darian Moses get a no.
The group Super 55 is next, which includes Lazaro Arbos, Josh Stephens, Scott Fleenor and Christian Lopez. Although Arbos had struggled with the song, only he and Lopez get a yes.
Country Queen is next, but only Jda and Joel Wayman go through, leaving Lee Pritchard and Trevor Blakney to go home.
The group DKSK is next, which includes David Leathers, Jr. (who was cut late in the competition last season), Kayden Stephenson (who revealed his emotional story about dealing with Cystric Fibrosis), Kevin Quinn, and Sanni M’Mairura – all teenage boys. Stephenson and Quinn are sent home, something Carey has a hard time dealing with.
Also going home are Griffin Peterson, one of Minaj’s favorites, and Clifton Duffin, whose parents heard him sing for the first time at his audition.
The last group of the day is Oz, which includes Frankie Ford (who sings on NYC Subways), Papa Peachez, Adam Sanders and Charles Allen. The other group members are having a hard time dealing with Ford, who begins crying before the group’s performance. Although Urban fights for him to stay, Ford is the only from the group that is sent home. He leaves crying, but says he’s “coming back next year with a vengeance.”
Although it was a tough and emotional day for both the contestants and the judges, things are only getting started. The drama continues tomorrow night, as contestants face the solo round, where 20 men will go through while 23 will go home.