There is one hour and one hour only to slice through the amped-up tension of Hollywood Week Solo Day. The hopefuls who remain after line-ups and group sings have to give one stand out performance in order to impress Steven Tyler, JLo and Randy. Perhaps then they can continue their journey and BE the next American Idol. Sounds like Ryan hype, doesn’t it? It isn’t. Instead he tells us that 327 chosen from the auditions have been winnowed to 100, and those have one more chance to prove their talent. Exhausted emotionally and drained physically, they will have to wait through a long day and night before the judges decide their fate.
The Story Kids from the auditions, who are still standing, will be highlighted, of course. I imagine that the producers put their packages together in the first place so we would become emotionally attached to them come LIVE performances. Smart programming or not, even this early in the competition one can’t help but root for those we’ve come to know, whether they stay or go.
In the solo round, the competitors may choose to use either the small ensemble with back-up singers led by Michael on the keyboard, play their own instrument or give it the old a cappella try.
Ryan finishes the opening with for-real Ryan hype: It is one final shot on the final day of Hollywood Week.
Haley Reinhart, 20, who stumbled during the group round, hits the stage first. She belts out a jazzy, growly version of “God Bless The Child” and kills it. JLo whispers to Randy, “We almost sent her home.”
Ashthon Jones, 24, follows her throwing in some soul and performance skill.
Randy: When you got it, you got it, no matter what age.
Cue up Thia Megia, 15, one of the story kids who croons, “What A Wonderful World,” to the quiet delight of the judges.
Blame The Band (or Ouchies)
Adrian Michael tries to tell Michael that the band is out of tune, not him. Caleb Johnson can’t find the beat and Frances Coontz lost her tuning fork. After a couple of false starts, each leaves the stage disappointed and with a sense of foreboding.
“Georgia On My Mind”
I’m taking some packages out of order as, from what looked to be a three page list of available songs, more than a few decided to sing the same melodies.
Clint Jun(bug) Gamboa, a story kid, is now known around the venue as “That Guy”, the one who cut Jacee Badeaux from his group during the previous round. This will be character redemption for him if he can pull it off. He does with a gospel flavored version that revs everyone up.
Kendra Chantelle, 22, takes it away with a traditional rendition and she morphs into Sophia Sharai, 28.
Casey Abrams, 19, also a story kid, pushes a double bass out on stage and starts the song with a jazz riff between strings and voice. The band joins in and he takes soulful jazz to a place that makes Steven give a high note compliment, and Ryan an accolade.
Dueling Bobby Brown
Serendipity. Two guys in the same group during the previous round show up to sing the same Bobby Brown song, “My Prerogative.” As performers they couldn’t be more different and their take on the song proves it.
Chris Medina, 27, a story kid, brings out his acoustic guitar while Carson Higgins, 22, takes advantage of the band and back up singers. They cut and splice between the two performances to show the contrast. While both perform admirably, the more subdued Chris leaves the same way, while the hyper Carson wants to do it all over again.
There is nary a clinker in this round as Julie Zorilla, 20, a story kid, plays the keyboard; Caleb Hawley, 25, strums acoustic guitar; Colton Dixon, 19, shines on the keyboard; Brett Lowenstern, 16, also a story kid, proves to also be an acoustic guitar kid; and Robbie Rosen, 16, uses a keyboard to back his soulfulness.
Chelsee Oaks first lost her ex-husband during the group round and now she loses her BFF of the last five days, Jacqueline Dunford to illness. Ryan trots a weakened Jacqueline out on stage so she can say goodbye. JLo and Randy offer the usual platitudes about “taking care of yourself,” and Jacqueline leaves for the hospital. Chelsee, 23, pulls herself together and manages to sing well enough to earn some weak smiles.
John Wayne Schulz, 23, he of the black cowboy hat and a story kid, will sing for his mother who watches with pride from the audience. He sings a soft, emotion packed song that has JLo singing along. Steven tells him that he always looks forward to him. I, however, wish that he would ditch the hat. He is in Hollywood, after all.
An overly emotional Ashley Sullivan, 26, who almost left during group round, sings a Michael Buble song directly to her boyfriend standing high up in the balcony. This is the song she always sang while he was serving in Iraq. Singing to him proved too much for her and she breaks. She tries again by focusing on the judges instead, but that doesn’t work either. After a third re-start, she gives up. JLo reminds her that singing a slower song is about control and controlling your emotions.
Lauren Alaina, 15, a story kid, sings a song that was a part of her audition. This is the song she urged Steven to sing with her as it is one of his – “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing”. This time she does it solo, with band, and earns the judges high praises.
Jacob Lusk, 23, gives a masters performance with “God Bless the Child,” and brings down the house. He garners a standing ovation, not only from the audience, but also the judges. After leaving the auditorium, he breaks down sobbing in his mother’s arms. He left it all on the stage and it shows.
All story kids - we are shown a quick montage of Stefano Langone, 21, singing with the band and feeling it all over; Jovany Barreto, 23, going a cappella; and Jacee Badeaux, 15, backed by the band, sweetly singing David Cook’s coronation song.
Scotty McCreery, 16, a story kid with a baritone range and a love of country songs, isn’t able to turn the lights down low this go around. His go to song is not on the list so he chooses another country song – one he doesn’t know and has a hard time learning the lyrics in the amount of allotted time. Once on stage, with the band behind him, he fumbles and glosses over the words to the point that production added subtitles so we could follow what he sort of sang. He leaves the stage dejected and disheartened fearing that the only reason they have kept him this long is his low voice.
Tatynisa Wilson, 20, also a country singer, chooses the same song and it proves to be out of her comfort zone also. She falls apart trying to remember the words – which once again Production has mockingly subtitled. Later she cries on the phone that JLo looked so disappointed.
The Sorting Hat
The 100 wait in a holding room for Production to sort them into four rooms based on whether they will stay or they will go. In the darkened auditorium the judges deliberate using photos as cards to play on their table.
Ryan hypes the building tension, “Who is an Idol in the making, and who has sung their last note?”
Once the decisions have been made and the contestants sorted into their rooms, the judges walk down the long hallway with ominous music playing in the background. They open the door to Room 1, which holds the majority of the Story Kids, and Randy tells them, “This is the most talented group we’ve ever, ever had.” JLo barely gets out her happy announcement that the whole room is continuing before everyone jumps and screams for joy.
Room 2 takes note of the celebration and gets even more nervous. When Steven gives them the bad news, they cry. Randy and JLo console them and give encouraging words.
Room 3 suffers the same fate as Room 2 and those contestants, including Chelsee Oaks, exchange hugs and goodbyes.
That leaves the anxious group in Room 4. Everyone in the room, including a down-pin Scotty McCreery, is moving forward. They erupt from their room to jubilantly collide in the hallway with the crowd from Room 1.
Sixty-one will sing Beatles songs in Las Vegas. How will 24 hours, travel and rehearsals treat the contestants? Tune in next Wednesday to view the meltdowns and the triumphs.
With thanks to the American Idol webpage, here are the names of those who made it through Hollywood Week. Las Vegas Hopefuls - American Idol
Aaron Sanders 26 years old Home: Atlanta, GA Audition: New Jersey
Adrian Michael 18 years old Home: Houston, TX Audition: New Orleans
Alex Ryan 17 years old Home: Glen Rock, NJ Audition: New Jersey
Ashley Sullivan 25 years old Home: Belchertown, MA Audition: New Jersey
Ashthon Jones 24 years old Home: Nashville, TN Audition: Nashville
Becca Boom 16 years old Home: Temecula, CA Audition: MySpace
Brett Loewenstern 16 years old Home: Boca Raton, FL Audition: New Orleans
Brittany Mazur 21 years old Home: Tucson, AZ Audition: San Francisco
Caleb Hawley 25 years old Home: Hudson, WI Audition: New Jersey
Carson Higgins 22 years old Home: Malibu, CA Audition: Los Angeles
Casey Abrams 19 years old Home: Idyllwild, CA Audition: Austin
Casey Schuber 17 years old Home: Toms River, NJ Audition: New Jersey
Chelsea Sorrell 22 years old Home: Stokesdale, NC Audition: Nashville
Chris Medina 26 years old Home: Oak Forest, IL Audition: Milwaukee
Chrissy Feliciano 23 years old Home: Chicago, IL Audition: Milwaukee
Clint Jun Gamboa 26 years old Home: Long Beach, CA Audition: San Francisco
Colton Dixon 18 years old Home: Murfreesboro, TN Audition: Nashville
Deandre Brackensick 15 years old Home: San Jose, CA Audition: San Francisco
Denise Jackson 20 years old Home: Mazomanie, WI Audition: Milwaukee
Erin Kelly 20 years old Home: Bradenton, FL Audition: New Orleans
Haley Reinhart 18 years old Home: Milwaukee, WI Audition: Milwaukee
Hollie Cavanagh 17 years old Home: McKinney, TX Audition: Austin
Jacee Badeaux 15 years old Home: Lafayette, LA Audition: New Orleans
Jackie Wilson 28 years old Home: Nashville, TN Audition: Nashville
Jacob Lusk 23 years old Home: Compton, CA Audition: Los Angeles
Jacqueline Elliot 24 years old Home: Austin/Houston, TX Audition: San Francisco
Jalen Harris 15 years old Home: Memphis, TN Audition: Nashville
James Durbin 21 years old Home: Santa Cruz, CA Audition: San Francisco
Jerome Bell 27 years old Home: New York, NY Audition: Milwaukee
Jessica Cunningham 24 years old Home: Bethpage, NY/Portland, ME Audition: New Jersey
Jimmie Allen 24 years old Home: Lewes Beach, DE Audition: Nashville
John Wayne Schulz 22 years old Home: Kenedy, TX Audition: Austin
Jonathas Ojeda 21 years old Home: Austin, TX Audition: Austin
Jordan Dorsey 21 years old Home: Laplace, LA Audition: New Orleans
Jovany Barreto 22 years old Home: Harvey, LA Audition: New Orleans
Julie Zorrilla 19 years old Home: Los Angeles, CA Audition: San Francisco
Karen Rodriguez 21 years old Home: New York, NY Audition: MySpace
Kendra Campbell 21 years old Home: Nashville, TN Audition: Nashville
LaKeisha Lewis 23 years old Home: Los Angeles, CA Audition: Los Angeles
Lauren Alaina 15 years old Home: Rossville, GA Audition: Nashville
Lauren Turner 24 years old Home: Slidell, LA Audition: New Orleans
Luke James Schaffer 25 years old Home: Wayne, OH Audition: New Jersey
Matthew Suyat 24 years old Home: East Orange, NJ Audition: New Jersey
Melinda Ademi 16 years old Home: Yonkers, NY Audition: New Jersey
Molly DeWolf 22 years old Home: Washington, DC Audition: Milwaukee
Naima Adedapo 25 years old Home: Milwaukee, WI Audition: Milwaukee
Natalie Hanson 20 years old Home: Greenwood, LA Audition: New Orleans
Paul McDonald 25 years old Home: Huntsville, AL Audition: Nashville
Phil Brooks 16 years old Home: Los Angeles, CA Audition: Los Angeles
Pia Toscano 21 years old Home: Queens, NY Audition: New Jersey
Rachel Zevita 21 years old Home: New York, NY Audition: New Jersey
Robbie Rosen 16 years old Home: Merrick, Long Island, NY Audition: New Jersey
Scotty McCreery 16 years old Home: Garner, NC Audition: Milwaukee
Sophia Shorai 28 years old Home: Minneapolis, MN Audition: Milwaukee
Stefano Langone 21 years old Home: Kent, WA Audition: San Francisco
Symphony Music Howlett 20 years old Home: Homestead, FL Audition: New Orleans
Tatynisa Wilson 20 years old Home: Aurora, IL Audition: Milwaukee
Thia Megia 15 years old Home: Mountain House, CA Audition: Milwaukee
Tim Halperin 23 years old Home: Fort Worth, TX Audition: MySpace
Tiwan Strong 28 years old Home: Racine, WI Audition: Milwaukee
Wade Brown 17 years old Home: Harvest, AL Audition: Nashville