American Idol – Episodes 9-08 and 9-09 Review

Thus far, Hollywood week has been about the same as it has always been – fairly brutal, but that may just be the perception brought on by slick editing. Since the initial auditions don’t seem geared to fill a quota, you never know how many people are going to show up on Day One. After that though, the culling starts to become more precise. The Acapella rounds usually pare things down to 100 singers, The Dreaded Group round gets us down to around 70-75, and the final solos get us to somewhere between 40 and 55 singers who get to do the walk of fame/shame and find out their fate.

Round 1 usually isn’t as bad as this year, but with 181 performers, bringing something less than your “A” game was likely to get you booted. 85 people got booted (a staggering 47%) and generally speaking, a combination of nerves and underpreparedness would seem to have done most of those people in. It’s a tough situation for everyone involved, but the contestants should by this point have been prepared given that they had at least 4 months before January’s boot camp. The fact that some singers were very well prepared and gave us some kick-ass covers kind of underlined this fact. In any case, this was not a good year to have a bad day.

Round 2 gets a lot of flak for being a group round in a solo singing competition, but I generally feel that it’s less about the singing and more about performing under pressure (as if they don’t have enough at this point). It’s definitely a grind, and it’s gotta suck if you end up with a song with difficult lines like “The Sweet Escape”, but this is where a memorable solo in Round 1 might help to save you, as by this point the judges have to hit their target number (which is 70-ish). 25 contestants were cut here, and I have to say – it felt like a lot more were let go. And I’m surprised that one girl quit before even performing. Yes, it’s embarrassing to fail but running away isn’t the answer. Plus, the judges do take into account how difficult a situation they put the contestants in – even if Simon says otherwise.

Overall, I can’t say that I’m disappointed with what’s happened thus far during the Hollywood rounds. Ellen has proved to be better than one would’ve hoped, and based on what we’ve seen, the Top 24 eliminators should be more competitive than last season’s Top 36 qualifiers. Not necessarily better, but at least tougher to call, as last year clearly had a group of singers who were – for lack of a better word – jobbers. There was very little chance that a Norman Gentle or Nate Marshall was getting through, but it did help to better showcase those who DID have a chance to get through.

So, next week, we get the final performances, the eliminations-by-room, plus the reveal show. The reveal show should in theory be the most boring show of this stage, but I have to hand it to the producers – they give us a slick presentation and it sucks you in. We’ll see if they continue the trend this year.

Kevin Wong keeps saying that he’ll stop watching Idol, yet he still does. It definitely beats doing the dishes though.

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