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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 02/18/2011

'American Idol' 2011 rolls on through Hollywood Week

By Lisa de Moraes

The judges continued to whittle down the crowd that made it to Hollywood Week on "Idol." (Fox)

Thank you "American Idol" for ratcheting down the drama on Thursday's solo night in Hollywood-on-Pasadena, so we can catch our breath after Wednesday's interpersonal relationship-a-thon.

Thursday's show opens with three consecutive chicks who are just entertaining singers.

Haley Reinhart throws everything into her version of "God Bless the Child" in hopes of pulling her feet out of the fire after Wednesday's Group Hell, when she appeared to be weaving around her group on stage like a confused Metro passenger trying to exit a station.

Why is judge Randy Jackson laughing throughout her performance?

"Good job - redemption!" judge Jennifer Lopez tells Haley.

Hey -- there's a flash of Crazy Ashley Sullivan from the previous night, looking like Edvard Munch's "The Scream," but just by way of letting us know that Ashthon Jones was part of Ashley's group Wednesday night.

Why has Ashthon decided to sing "And I Am Telling You"? Doesn't she know the first rule of "Idol": do not invite the Jennifer Hudson comparisons? In fairness, Ashthon appears not to embarrass herself, though we don't get to hear enough of her.

And why haven't we seen more of Thia Megia before? She fits into the whole can't-believe-how-young-he/she-is thing the "Idol" producers have been pushing so far this season. And, her rendition of the usually gag-inducing treacle-tune, "What a Wonderful World" is terrific. And yet, she's been kept pretty well hidden until now.

Time for some comic relief after those three strong performances: How about two lousy singers who blame the backup band? We particularly like Caleb Johnson's "Wait, is that in G?" gag. But if this season really has coughed up, as the producers keep assuring us, the best batch of Idolettes ever, how did these people make it this far?

This episode is raising a lot of questions.

Let's bring out Frances Coontz who, unlike the two who went before her, can stay in key - just not the key the band is playing. Judge Steven Tyler the Merciful lets her start over; it doesn't seem to help much.

Clint Jun Gamboa -- aka June Bug, aka the Jacee Axeman -- begins his solo number, while Seabiscuit reminds us of his reminds us of his "cutthroat move" earlier in the week - some might call it "sound musical judgment" - when he tossed Jacee Badeaux out of their group because Jacee had a "different vibe." June Bug's "Georgia on My Mind" is choc-a-bloc with clever moves and the other singers in the audience gobble it up, as do the judges. We're still taking Jacee's side and want to see June Bug squashed.

Two more Georgia's are on the minds of two blondes - Kendra Chantelle and Sofia Shoria. It's easier to find the melody in their versions.

Chris Medina "tried to think outside the box" when he picked the Bobby Brown tune "My Prerogative" to perform as his solo number because it's the "most unlike a 'Glee' song that any one would pick," he explains, and immediately becomes our hero.

But, guess what? This year's "Idol" wind-up toy, Carson Higgins of Malibu, has also picked "My Prerogative" to sing. I mean, what are the odds? We've got a "My Prerogative" Standoff: Outside the Box vs. Straight Ahead Bobby Brown tribute.

Chris's idea of Outside the Box turns out to be doing the song like a folk tune, in the great tradition of beige scruffy guitar-playing "Idol" winners. Carson meanwhile is the entertainer, but we remember all those other "Idol" goofball singers who've been cut down by dullards behind guitars, and take heart.

Julie Zorrilla, daughter of Colombian refugees and already a recurrent character on the show, sings well, looks great, plays piano well, and is a definite player.

Robbie Rosen also plays the piano - ish. He's got a nice pop voice and a cute personality - girls should love him. Too bad about the piano - can he learn guitar real quick?

Solo Day carries a little more weight, show host Ryan Seacrest explains, because the singers get to use instruments.

Caleb Hawley can play the guitar. But how would he look emerging from an egg?

Colton Dixon is at the keyboard. He's pretty bad, but the producers keep showing him to us, so he must be a comer.

Brett Loewenstern, another fave, is pitchy behind his guitar. Enough with the guitars, already!

Here comes Casey Abrams wheeling - a standing bass! Seabiscuit tells him the bass is breaking new ground on the show - because, of course, it's not a guitar.

"Am I, like, Neil Armstrong?" Casey asks? Casey ALSO sings "Georgia on My Mind" and shows us we haven't really heard "Georgia on My Mind" tonight until now. It's oddly great. We think Tyler thinks so too -- he starts singing with Casey. Would Simon Cowell have liked this guy? He's got stage sense, musicality, and sense of humor - but he's no teener heartthrob. He does, however, look like a guy who could fix your plumbing, so maybe middle-aged women will go for him. Nope, Simon wouldn't like him. Happily for Casey, Simon's gone.

Judge Randy Jackson to Casey: "I love it, being a bass player." Oh, right, so easy to forget Randy is a musician. Casey invites Randy to come up on stage and play. But Randy, who fancies himself The New Simon, is not game for going up on stage to interact with the wannabe's.

Judging by the tone in Seabiscuit's voice, it's Time for Tragedy. Tragedy has chosen Chelsee Oaks. First, Seabiscuit notes, she loses her ex-boyfriend, Rob Bolin the day before. Wait a minute, didn't she and her new BFF, Jacqueline Dunford - the other two thirds of the pop-up group Sadistic Three-Way - orchestrate the crash of Bolin, who was the group's third member?

Now, Seabiscuit says sadly, Chelsee is losing Jacqueline, who has become "incredibly ill." Chelsee gushes that Jacqueline is her best friend in the world. Wait a minute, didn't they just meet, like a couple days ago?

And by "incredibly ill" Seabiscuit means "able to meet with the judges on-camera," (some assistant producer's idea of good TV?) so that Randy and JLo - this incredible illness appears to not be contagious -- can fight to be first to say to her, "Your health is the most important thing." Then and only then is she taken off to the hospital.

Now Chelsee must go on stage, in this shattered condition, and sing, Seabiscuit says. We are sensing a lot of preemptive excusifying.

Chelsee's chosen a safety song, "Because of You," but she is plenty pitchy and, as we go to commercial, her fate is undecided.

If there's a god in heaven, The Curse of Rob Bolin is going to reach out from somewhere beyond Hollywood and take out, not just Jacqueline, but Chelsee as well.

Judges' fave, Lauren Alaina is still just 15-year-old, and yet she continues to sing with the breath control of a 75-year-old. The judges don't seem to notice.

In marked contrast, Jacob Lusk, who sang that memorable very-low note in some group or another's performance on Wednesday, brings people to their feet with "God Bless the Child" during his solo performance. His voice is kind of Al Jarreau-y, and the judges give him a standing O.

"He's like, 'In case you had any doubt!'," JLo marvels of his performance. But Jacob has run right past them and out into the foyer of the theater, where he starts weeping buckets.

"I'm not a crier - I don't cry" Jacob tells the camera.

"You could have fooled me," Seabiscuit snarks, killing the moment.

That's a tough act to follow for cowboy John Wayne Schulz. He does his best.

Emotional Time Bomb Ashley Sullivan, as Seabiscuit likes to call her, forgets the lyrics of her tune, though she says she sings it all the time, to her boyfriend.

"I messed up the words!!! Oh, mygawd!!! I'm so sorry!!" Ashley gasps and twitches at the judges, who let her start over.

"Oh, mygawd!! I'm freaking out!!! I can't believe I'm freaking out!!" Ashely continues. They let her try again. What happened to Randy's "no second chances" promise?

"So Ashley falls apart - again," Seabiscuit chortles. "Would this be her final performance on 'American Idol'?" he asks rhetorically.

Um, no? Because she's -- great TV? Just a guess.

"Plus a surprise that NO ONE sees coming!" Seabiscuit promises as we go to commercial break.

When Fox returns, a few million dollars richer, three guys take the stage in a row: Stefano Langone, Jovany Barreto, and adorable Jacee Badeaux. Does anyone think any of these guys has the remotest chance of winning this competition? Me neither. Moving on...

That brings us to Scotty McCreery. Scotty sings one tune, "Your Man" really well. Unfortunately, the "Idol" audience can only take so much of:

Baby lock the door and turn the lights down low
Put some music on that's soft and slow

So Scotty's got to learn a second country song. Which he does. Except for the lyrics.

"I don't think I deserve to keep going," Scotty mourns after his lyric-challenged number. "The only thing that keeps me here is my deep voice."

"So, baby lock the door and turn the lights down low," he concludes.

Okay, I made that last part up.

But, Seabiscuit reminds us, "there are no second chances."

Ha! - we fell for that BEFORE Ashley Sullivan's performance!

Time to divide the wannabe's into rooms.

Those in Room 1 are sticking around. That includes Crazy Ashley who forgot her lyrics and melted down. Alsos in the room is Jacee, who is cute as a button and has a pleasant voice, but a serious contender for "American Idol" - really?

Room 2 is going home. Ditto Room 3. Chelsee Oaks has been brought down by The Curse of Rob Bolin.

Room 4 tenants are safe. Phew.

And now, the surprise we none of us expected, please?

Seabiscuit announces that, next Wednesday, the 60 surviving singers will go to Las Vegas to sing Beatles tunes and plug Cirque du Soleil's The Beatles LOVE.

But we already knew that.

By Lisa de Moraes  | February 18, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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Next: Serene Branson: stricken TV reporter explains her Grammys nightmare


I think the new judges are really great. Much more business like and the show is more about the contestants than the judges. Plus it moves along faster

Posted by: mac7 | February 18, 2011 8:59 AM | Report abuse

June Bug was mean to Justin Blubber, but dang that boy can sing. Now he just needs to get some contacts and ditch the goofy glasses. Stand up bass guy was pretty awesome, but RuPaul minus the drag totally stole the whole show with "Bless the Child" and his flitty little run off stage...

Posted by: ozpunk | February 18, 2011 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Even though they spent so much time over the past few weeks showing us auditioners with sad stories, what a surprise! hardly any of those were among the best singers. Nor were many of them even the most interesting performers onstage, so that a number of the most impressive people over the past couple of nights seem to have come out of nowhere -- like Carson. And the kid with the dreads in the group number with five 15 and 16 year olds -- indeed that whole group -- seemed way better than Jacee. More confident, more practiced -- I guess that's a bad thing? They've done a better job of focusing on actual talent this year, but wish they'd dare to take it farther. I know, I know, not happening.

Oh, and every time Seacrest intoned before some singer went on that this was the most important moment of their lives or some such it made me grouchy. You're talking about someone who is still in their teens or early 20s! As if, if they don't win a spot on American Idol, their lives are over; their career is finished. Jeez! Wanted to throw something at him every time he said that.

Posted by: owingsmills | February 18, 2011 10:07 AM | Report abuse

"Justin Blubber"? If that's been posted beforem I missed it. Hysterical!

Posted by: FulhamDC | February 18, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I'm reading this and thinking..."Did I fall asleep through most of this"? And then I realize, Lisa must have already seen next week's episode(s). She just spoiled it for alot of us. The "dividing into rooms" thing has not been shown yet. Shame on you, Lisa!

Posted by: hlef | February 18, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I'm reading this and thinking..."Did I fall asleep through most of this"? And then I realize, Lisa must have already seen next week's episode(s). She just spoiled it for alot of us. The "dividing into rooms" thing has not been shown yet. Shame on you, Lisa!

Posted by: hlef


Yes, you fell asleep.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | February 18, 2011 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Ummm, I saw the dividing into rooms thing last ight ...

Posted by: peachieone | February 18, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Geez louise ... last "NIGHT"!

Posted by: peachieone | February 18, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

"His voice is kind of Al Jarreau-y, and the judges give him a standing O."

It was more like Phil Perry, former Apollo Theater winner.

Posted by: kdinsd | February 18, 2011 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Is there anybody left this season that sings worse than Lee DeWyze? How are those Lee DeWyze album sales (or should I say sale) going?

At least he won't be out of tune on the album. They can fix those minor details in the editing.

Posted by: niceshoes1 | February 18, 2011 7:00 PM | Report abuse

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