American Idol – Hollywood Week #1 – Recap & Review

It’s Hollywood Week on American Idol and you know what that means.

It’s time to separate the contenders from the pretenders.

Let’s run through what happened earlier this evening.

Wednesday’s episode started with the contestants arriving in California and the judges randomly asking 38 of them to get on stage (at the Orpheum Theater) and perform. Immediately, my thinking was that something smelled fishy. Why were only a handful asked to sing while the others served as nothing more than spectators?  We would have to wait for this answer.

JAX
East Brunswick, NJ
Age: 18

Jax was up first and an early favorite from the auditions. Before, we get into her song choice, it’s important to note the Andrew Garcia precedent. Longtime Idol fans will remember Andrew Garcia from the show’s ninth season. He holds the distinction of performing the most memorable Hollywood audition as his cover of Paula Abdul’s cover of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” during the Hollywood Week of his season is believed by many to be the best Hollywood performance ever. And even though that is considered to be one of the show’s most memorable moments of of all-time, it appeared Andrew had set the initial bar so high for himself, he was never really quite able to top his first performance.

I bring this case study up only because it is the first thing I thought of when Jax took the stage on Wednesday. She came out strong with an original take on Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” Channeling her inner Colton Dixson, Jax sang a stunning rendition of the tune and it will be interesting to see if her other performances will be just as good if not better.

MARK ANDREW
Eden Prairie, MN
Age: 29

While Mark is a good singer, I think he might get lost in the shuffle. During his audition, Mark reminded me a lot of Casey Abrams from the show’s tenth season (an obvious comparison with their respective beards and affinity for guitars) and not much has changed in Hollywood. Mark sang “Jolene” by Ray LaMontagne but when I started to reflect on tonight’s performances, I had to go back to remember his.  That isn’t a good thing considering that tonight basically highlighted the best of the best.

EMILY BROOKE
West Palm Beach, FL
Age: 15

Like her predecessor, there is no doubting the fact that Emily can sing (as she wouldn’t have made it to Hollywood otherwise). The problem is that she is also slightly forgettable. On a previous season of Idol Emily would have likely been a contender to go to the end. On this season, however, she just seems a little out of her league. Remember, however, that she is only 15 and will be a killer in another season or two. I thought her take on Little Big Town’s “Little White Church” was okay.

SAL VALENTINETTI
Bethpage, NY
Age: 19

This hilarious crooner can always be counted upon to be entertaining. And no matter how many times they flash his age across the screen where he claims to be 19, I will always have a hard time believing it as he just looks a lot older to me. My take is that while he is great comic relief (as he later attempted to ask Jennifer Lopez out on a date), his schtick isn’t enough to move him forward. He’s good, but not great.

ADAM EZEGELIAN
Wantagh, NY
Age: 21

This loveable muffin-topped toy designer is definitely popular as it was clear all of his competitors were excited to see him take stage. It only took a couple of seconds of his“Demons” cover to turn me and the rest of the viewing audience into believers as well. Adam sounded strong and powerful while making sure his voice was always in the pocket. The funny thing is that despite singing not being his primarily method of employment, Adam looked like a polished pro.

TYANNA JONES
Jacksonville, FL
Age: 16

Prior to Hollywood Week, I genuinely thought that Tyanna had the second best audition (after Hollywood Anderson). In her second appearance of what I am sure will be many, Tyanna didn’t disappoint, choosing to go with a cheeky version of Olly Murs’ “Dance With Me Tonight” (although my disclaimer is that it might be possible I only liked it because ‘Murs’ sounds like Murtz?) Anyway, after her performance Harry talked about her slow vibrato and how fresh it sounded while the other judges agreed that she showcased her ‘big voice.’ There is no doubt that we will be seeing a lot more from Tyanna.

SAVION WRIGHT
Jasper, TX
Age: 22

I have had the pleasure of meeting Savion J. Wright a couple of times. During last year’s Hollywood Week, I randomly ended up staying at the same hotel that the Idol finalists stayed at and saw Savion there. After he was cut, he came back to cover the 2014 American Idol finale as a reporter and I ended up talking to him on the red carpet for a few minutes. I certainly believe that the extra year helped him. He has a profoundly improved stage presence and even sounds cleaner. I believe that he is now truly aware of who he is as a musical artist and I loved his solid version of “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk. He is easily one of the most experienced singers on the show this season, and is one of my early picks to win.

‘HOLLYWOOD’ ANDERSON
New York, NY
Age: 22

Hollywood Anderson is intoxicating. His original song “My Bestfriend” is still stuck in my head and I genuinely don’t see it leaving anytime soon. Anderson has a hauntingly memorably voice and it is one that sticks with you and refuses to go away. While Jennifer Lopez didn’t like the fact that he changed the lyrics to Adele’s “Someone Like You” classic, I loved it. Anderson isn’t afraid to take risks and this is especially great because he seems to make phenomenal choices. He is up there with Savion as an early fave.

SHANNON BERTHIAUME
St. Paul, MN
Age: 17

There are few things that are set in stone. Keith Urban nodding during every performance is an example. Another is Harry Connick Jr. inevitably referencing himself in all of his critiques. One more is that at least one contestant per episode will forget the lyrics. It’s an American Idol staple. Tonight’s unfortunate casualty was Shannon who struggled through Steve Wonder’s “Sir Duke.” It’s too bad as she definitely has the pipes.

ADAM LASHER
Danville, CA
Age: 27

If you don’t remember Adam Lasher, he was the one who looked like Jimmy Fallon (at least according to the judges). Fallon also dressed up like Lasher (yes you read that correctly), on a recent episode of The Tonight Show, so he has already received more TV time than every other contestant. With Harry Connick Jr. saying he is “superstar,” after his cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” Lasher is in this thing for the long haul. I also don’t need to tell you how well guys with guitars do on this show (see Phillip Phillips, Scotty McCreery, Lee DeWyze, Kris Allen, and David Cook). If I was in Vegas and betting on the winner, I definitely throw a few bucks down on Lasher.

GARRETT MILES
Phenix City, AL
Age: 25

Garrett Miles is a tough one. He’s good and has a great story, but for some reason… I don’t think this is his year. His version of Garth Brooks’ “To Make You Feel My Love” was decent, but I just don’t feel like he will be in the finals. That said, I could be very wrong as we need only look at the last few winners of The Voice to see how popular country music is right now .

From there, we got a quick montage of contestants who had 99 problems with their respective guitars being #1. These contestants all had issues with tuning their instrument and while none were identified, they simply served as tune-up (pun intended) for Trevor Douglas.

TREVOR DOUGLAS
Fort Worth, TX
Age: 16

The quirky Bill Nye wannabe who is a self-admitted super geek took a shot at the contestants who had issues with their guitar, suggesting that he hoped his was in tune. This could actually cause issues for Douglas down the line when it is time for the finalists to get into groups (a notable Hollywood Week feature) as the contestants might not want to align with anyone who throws unnecessary shade. With that said, Trevor sounded amazing and offered what was easily one of the most memorable performances of the night.  Douglas also put his star quality on display and while I mentioned earlier that some of the competitors were forgettable, Douglas was anything but.

JOEY COOK
Woodbridge, CA
Age: 23

This purple-haired free spirit traded in her accordion (or as she calls it, her ‘squeezebox’) for a ukulele and churned out an endearing rendition of Miranda Lambert’s “Kerosene.” I think Joey is unique and that she is certainly easy to spot in a crowd (the anti-Waldo if you will). In that regard, I think she is fine for the rest of Hollywood but I can’t see her making the live shows.

AMBER KELECHI
Memphis, TN
Age: 16

Prior to Amber’s performance, we saw a scene of her being attended it to by Idol’s medical team because of a panic attack. The segment almost seemed like it had been lifted from this week’s episode of The Bachelor (a reference you will completely understand if you caught the voyeuristic ABC reality series, as I am ashamed to admit I did). Amber cited her nerves as the reason for her crying out in agony just minutes before her performance, but quickly was able to put things in perspective. She confessed that this was her one chance to make it big and that her entire family was depending on her. That’s a lot of pressure for a 16-year old, don’t you think? It doesn’t really matter as Kelechi was up to the challenge and I loved her impassioned take on “Radioactive.” A standout.

From there, the judges revealed that everyone who had performed up to that point (38 artists, although we were only shown 14), was safe until the next round. If you are wondering why those 38 were chosen when there are still a whopping 175 contestants still to go… it’s because the judges identified these 38 as having the most memorable auditions. Haha, I wonder how that made everyone else feel?

Then, as promised, the rest of the contestants got to sing in ‘lines of 10.’ That’s where you singers take the stage in a group of 10 and each get a few seconds to sing (after which the judges separate each line into two groups, advancing one and cutting the other).

The first group of 10 featured:

RENO ANOA’I
San Francisco, CA
Age: 16

Reno said that he was performing for his family and that it was hard to see his mother struggle. Some of the girls that I watched this episode with immediately said “awww,” and I think this small murtzroscopic focus group is indicative of the kind of connection that Reno will be able to build with the audience. If he makes it to the live shows, he could be dangerous.

PRISCILLA BARKER
Amory, MS
Age: 20

Even though she bears no resemblance to Miley Cyrus (at all), Priscilla went with Cyrus’ “Butterfly Fly Away” ballad for her solo. I thought it was quite good and that the understated performance was a nice change of pace from everything we had seen so far.

JAQ MACKENZIE
Santa Monica, CA
Age: 15

Jaq opened her performance by admitting that it was spooky to perform in the Orpheum, because her aunt and great grandmother both performed there as vaudeville actresses of yesteryear. She also said that she was the next American Idol because she just is. I am not sure how that translated to the viewing audience, but Keith Urban said that this was his favorite answer of the day. Jaq sang “Cool Kids” by Echo Smith, and couldn’t have picked a better song. Not only did it fit her voice, but it also matched her slick personality. While I like her, I am not sure if others will find her likeable.

The judges then made their first cut and decided to eliminate Priscilla and keep both Reno and Jaq.

A quick montage showed us that Courtney Gunns, Tara Honda and Courtney Zahn would also not be advancing.

ERICA WASHINGTON
Mobile, AL
Age: 24

The judges then heard Erica Washington’s cover of “Girl On Fire” by Alicia Keyes and it was highlight. Erica clearly had worked on the song and delivered a fiery version that impressed. She advanced in what probably the easiest decision of the day.

We were treated to a ridiculous segment that showed Michael Simeon slow-dancing with Jennifer Lopez during his audition and “Big Ron” Wilson telling the former Fly Girl to call him “Big Sexy.” While that certainly happens every year (contestants hitting on Lopez, not asking to be called ‘Big Sexy’) my favourite part of this episode was a segment between Michael and Big Ron, just as they were getting ready to take the stage.

Michael asked Ron who he was the most excited to see and Ron gleefully said “Jennifer Lopez!”

It was hilarious because this was clearly a coerced scene, produced to compliment the pair’s previous interactions with Lopez as a lead-in to their performances (sidenote, what are the odds that they would both be in the same line?)???  Hilarious! If you still have the episode on your DVR, I recommend going back to this.

MICHAEL SIMEON
Lumberton, MS
Age: 21

Before he took the stage, Michael and his dad saluted each other which I loved. Michael embraced Demi Lovato’s “Warrior” and coupled with him tickling the ivories on a keyboard, his performance was an enjoyable experience.

”BIG RON” Wilson
Gretna, FL
Age: 24

I didn’t give “Big Ron” much credit during his audition (simply because it looked like he was there only to hit on J-Lo), but he certainly surprised me on Wednesday’s episode. Wilson chose “A Song For You” and really delivered. He is much more than a punchline. A singer with a lot of upside potential.

The judges decided to advance both of Lopez’s admirers.

The episode ended abruptly with St. Paul’s Gabby Zonneveld telling the judges that she is the next American Idol because she isn’t just a singer, but also a “performer, guitarist and songwriter.” She then attemped “Bottom Of The River” by Delta Ray but forgot the lyrics halfway through the song.

All of a sudden the credits rolled and we were done!

What will happen to Gabby?!!!

Duh duh duh.

Tune in tomorrow.

Same Idol time. Same Idol channel.

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