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'American Idol' group rounds recap: JLo gets misty eyed

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Thursday, January 27, 2016

I'm not sure whether the group round really indicates much in terms of who can win but over the years, it's purely entertaining to see the often dysfunctional interactions. So for one last time, we get to see people scramble for groups, contestants feeling left out, singers who get sick, singers who clash, singers who don't get enough sleep, folks who forget lyrics and some terrible dancing.

But we'll get a few groups who click with no drama as well.

JLo tries to explain: "It's an exercise to see who are the born leaders, who are the followers."

HCJ: "It's designed to be brutal, working with people you're not comfortable with, performing while you're sick. These are all things performers have to do."

Indeed, the pressure gets to some of the contestants before they even hit the group round stage.

Quickly, we find out Poh Schott (Shi's sister) has done a disappearing act. "She can't do this," Poh's dad says. We literally never see her again. Poof!

There are 108 people, who break into groups of three or four.  That means there will be around 30 groups. We end up seeing at least parts of about 22 of them. And we heard at least bits of about 64 of the 108 singers. That's a lot over two hours.

Ultimately, there is a balance between rest and preparation. Some got plenty of the former. Many focused on the latter. "Idol" skips over the all-night preparations this year to get straight to the next morning and the performances. (We will see some of that prep work later on.)

Studies show that staying up all night does not help your memory or your test performance. I can't imagine it helps singing either. Every year, there are groups where lyrical amnesia hits, despite the fact no one person has to remember an entire song. We only see a bit of that this year.

Check out the spoiler list of the top 24. Tonight, we ended up hearing from 20 of them.

Team Blue Eyes (“Treasure” Bruno Mars) – Kory Wheeler, Jenna Renae, Kelsie Watts, Jordan Sasser (who is now in Atlanta). In this case, rest helped.  Their performances are uniformly solid though I don't know if I loved anybody in particular. HCJ proceeds to annoy everyone by having two step forward, then letting all four through.

Ladies of Milk and Cookies ("Drag Me Down" One Direction) -  Jenn Blosil, Bri Ray, Lynnzee Fraye, Sara Sturm. Unlike Team Blue Eyes, these four chose to stay up late. Fortunately, they do just fine. Jenn again is both notable and annoying at the same time. They all make it through.

We hear some more groups featuring people who we will probably hear more from in the future: Lee Jean, Amelia Eisenhauer, Avalon Young, Jeneve Rose Mitchell (pining in "Need You Now") and Tristan McIntosh.

Chynna Sherrod and Terrian both do an exceptional job with Clean Bandit's  "I'd Rather Be." (The two others in the group are not identifed. Sorry!) JLo get very emotional about how much she loves her job and how much she'll miss "Idol."

They allow Trent Harmon ("I'd Rather Be") to perform alone because of his mono, doctor's only. He's contagious! This is the first time "Idol" has ever allowed this in "group" round. Fortunately, he's worth it. He's got a great grasp of his voice and he shows off his range and style.

Singing Out Loud (“Undo It” Carrie Underwood) – Michelle Marie, Ashley Lusk Lindsey Carrier. They have trouble picking a song but finally hone in on a Carrie classic. Shelbie Z joins them later.  Shelbie clearly stands out. Michelle does, too, to a lesser degree. Three make it. Lindsey doesn't.

Elvie Shane was cut, looking fatigued. Ashley Lilinoe was off. Cameron Richard tried but didn't pull it off. MackEnize Bourg showed verve. Kayla and Juno also make it through.

After the break, we see Envy and Chicken Noodle Soup struggling. Anatalia Villaranda doesn't feel comfortable in the key of their song and her mom tries to get them to change it. In the meantime, Poh appears gone and Kassy Levels and Dalton Rapattoni have to find a third person. Anatalia's mom found them. Anatalia felt abandoned so joins Chicken Noodle Soup. Their "Treasure" sounded sharp. They melded.

Envy ("Problem" Iggy Azalea) - Sonika Vaid, Stephany Negrete, Andrew Nezerbakian – Michael Orland said they were horrible in morning rehearsals and felt the drama threw them off. So how do they do when they go before the judges? While I loved Sonika in early rounds, this song doesn't really fit her. But Stephany and Andrew stand out. Keith felt Andrew needs more stage presence. All three make it through.

We don't actually hear Josiah, rocker Jaci and Brian but see a lot of bad dancing and they are cut.

Trick or Treat ("Uptown Funk" Mark Ronson) – Marcio Donaldson , Jon Klaasen, Kylle Thomasson , Kacye Haynes. All make it through with an impressively funky version of this song. This was clearly such a strong group, the producers showed it despite the fact I don't know if their original auditions were ever featured.

Smooth Soul ("Domino" Jessie J) -  Joy Dove, Daniel Farmer, Lindita. We saw all three of them in early auditions. Lindita goes a bit overboard. HCJ can't believe Lindita let Joy get overshadowed. Surprise! Daniel gets cut! The other two are through.

Las Varequas (Hit Me Up Style" Blu Cantrell) – Eliz Camacho, Gianna Isabella, Dana Ordway. Eliz is so bossy, a fourth lady just leaves. Gianna is annoyed by her dominance. Brenda K. Starr gets in Eliz's face but Eliz doesn't care. Gianna doesn't seem ready for this. The entire performance has its moments but it's also a bit messy. "Obvious tension," said JLo. "If you don't play well with others, you won't last very long." HCJ said Brianna blew out the other two as a 15 year old despite missing lyrics. Karma: Eliz is cut.

Time for a languid performance: The Good Vibes ("Me and My Broken Heart" Rixton) - Alesana Tolai, Olivia Thai, Jessica Paige, Joe Dahmen just look exhausted. HCJ: "You seem complacent. I don't get it." Jessica is the only one who makes the cut.

CJ Johnson Jess Kellner, Jessica Baker and Zach Joseph ("Renegades" X Ambassadors) - They lacked any superstar power. CJ, Jess and Jessica make it.

Thomas Muslea, Joey Hendricks, Bryson Dunn, Thomas Stringfellow ("Renegades") - They slow it down. It's just okay. "Average performances," HCJ said.  The two Thomases make it through.

Rebirth ("Too Close' Alex Clare) - Manny Torres, Malie Delgado, Christian Easen. They lost LaPorsha but managed just fine. Manny pours on the smarm. And the trio shows plenty of energy. I really enjoyed Malie. Keith gives them a standing ovation. They get more praise than anybody else.

But for contrast, there's Soul Cats. Laurel Wright, Marshall Cunningham, Drew Angus and John Arthur Greene got eaten up by "Stayin' Alive." All forgot lyrics and did a poor job hiding it. HCJ is angry: "Stand your ground and be a performer!" Laurel and Marshall make it through anyway.

They close with The Sistas. Tonie Starr, La'Porsha Renae and Marlena Johnson. They also opt for "Stayin' Alive." The lyrics for this song are difficult to memorize in reality. They definitely bring a "Dreamgirls" vibe. La'Porsha and Tonie kill it. Marlena completely forgets all her lyrics just like she anticipated but fakes it the best she could. "That's how you forget words," said HCJ. The judges give her a pass given how good her voice is.


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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.