(Photo: MIchael Becker/FOX)
USA TODAY - What a difference a week makes.
Last week, American Idol's producers couldn't wait to show guys singing badly, forgetting their words and acting horribly. Tonight, faced with an apparent surplus of female talent, they picked their nightmare contestants carefully -- and then sent them through the rounds anyway.
Kez Ban, the hat-wearing fire-eater who auditioned with I've Got No Strings, continued to make her presence known during Wednesday's Hollywood Round, refusing to sing anything with her group that wasn't California Dreamin' (she eventually compromised on Be My Baby). Then she disrupted rehearsals to the point where her fellow singers abandoned her to rehearse on their own.
The result? "You're a crazy psycho, and I love that," said Nicki Minaj, shortly before the judges put the entire group -- which included legitimate contestants (and potential finalists) Angela Miller and Janelle Arthur.
And so it was the entire night.
After a brutal initial round that whittled the field of females to just 76 -- leaving several good singers who had impressive auditions wondering what had just hit them -- the Group Round seemed designed to provide comic relief, with no real rhyme or reason for any of the decisions made afterwards.
When Daysia Hall forgot the words to Somebody That I Used to Know, she still stayed, even though Savannah Votion, who created most of the group's arrangement, got cut. Janell Stinney went all drama-queen on her group and learned hardly any of the words to If I Die Young, but somehow she survived. (Fortunately, she didn't take down Cristabel Clack, also in her group, in the process.) Platinum blonde Stephanie Schimel convinced her group to change their song at the last minute. Two members of the group paid dearly for her decision, but Schimel survived. Nicki Minaj chastised girls for reading lyrics off their hands, yet didn't cut them on the spot.
Zoanette Johnson sulked her way through rehearsal, then stomped her way through a performance of Knock on Wood that not only allowed her to continue but also gave the other singers in her group enough reflected attitude that some of them survived, too. Johnson may not be much of a singer, but she's one of the most riveting performer the show has seen - even though she's compelling like a car crash.
A few of the groups nailed their performance, including Candice Glover's Swagettes, who performed Blu Cantrell's Hit 'Em Up Style. Glover's looking like one of the women to beat this year, as is Miller.
One thing the Group Round did do: It cleared the field of would-be country singers. Janelle Arthur and Rachel Hale got pitted against each other early on. Both of them survived, meaning that singers like Brandy Neelly -- now a three-time Hollywood contestant -- were superfluous.
By the end of the night, some of the women -- including Angela Miller (whose Thursday solo performance got a big tease), Janelle Arthur, Rachel Hale and Candice Glover -- came out looking like strong contenders, possibly stronger than any of the guys at the same point last week.
After watching both sets of Hollywood Rounds, it wouldn't be hard to think that the show's producers intentionally made the female contestants look better than the males in an effort to produce a female winner this year.
But they wouldn't do that, would they?
Nah. Never happen.
(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)