Nicki Minaj spells it out for the contestantsAfter last week's less-than-impressive Hollywood Week group episode with "American Idol's" Season 12 guys, this week it was the ladies' time to shine. And with far more female than male contestants this year--and with Ryan Seacrest's desperate insistence that this'll be the year that a girl finally wins (hey, didn't Ryan say that last year? and the year before?)--the stakes seemed much higher than they did last week. But was the overall talent level higher? Was this really "the best girls we'd ever seen," as Ryan so boldly declared? Well, no. Many of the girls certainly didn't have any better luck remembering their lyrics, even when writing the words on their hands; it's a good thing they weren't auditioning on an "Idol" season still starring judge Simon Cowell (lyric-flubbing was always Simon's biggest pet peeve), or on "Don't Forget The Lyrics," for that matter, because they would have never survived.
"It's disrespectful to us, because we're sitting here wanting you to engage--it was a bit ridiculous," said straight-shooting judge Nicki Minaj, aka The New Simon Cowell, who seemed to share Simon's disdain for such amateur-hour antics. At one point, after she watched a string of forgetful contestants read lyrical cheat-sheets off their Sharpie-scrawled hands, two unforgettable words appeared on Nicki's own hand: "THEY SUCK."
What was particularly ridiculous, as Nicki might say, was the fact that many of the girls, all singing in groups, could not make it through even the first verse of Gotye's ubiquitous and universal "Somebody That I Used To Know." That song was THE most-played radio hit of 2012. It won a Grammy for Record of the Year. It has been performed multiple times on pretty much every reality show ever, including "Idol" last season. (It has been covered so much, in fact, that I'm considering officially petitioning Fox to have it added to "Idol's" blacklist of forbidden cover songs.) I am not even exaggerating when I say my grandma knows all the words to "Somebody That I Used To Know." So why couldn't these "Idol" contestants get it right? It was more like "Some Lyrics That I Used To Know" up in there.
One of the first groups to mess up the Gotye song was the all-too-fittingly named Almost Famous. When Savannah Votion, who'd taken control during rehearsal and had attempted to arrange the group's "harmonies," began singing what sounded like an almost entirely different song, Nicki quipped one of her best one-liners yet: "That's the remix!" Somehow the equally memory-challenged Daysia Hall survived this round (her superfly leopard outfit probably won her some points with Nicki and Randy Jackson), while the other girls were coldly, cattily told by judge Mariah Carey, "Good luck with the rest of your careers and lives." I'm personally wishing Daysia good luck with her memory going forward. She's going to need it. But I don't think even tattooing her hand would help.
Another big Gotye fail of the night came from For You, a group comprising Stephanie Schimel, Alex Delaney, Kalli Therinae, and Holly Miller, who only two hours before their performance decided to switch from their original song choice, "Total Eclipse Of The Heart." The result was a total eclipse of the memory bank, as they struggled to make it through their hodge-podge performance. Stephanie and Holly somehow survived (Alex and Kalli weren't so fortunate), but even Stephanie was surprised that she hadn't been axed. I was surprised too.
Shira Gav, Alisha Dixon, Liz Bills, and Courtney Calle, aka Handsome Women, didn't fare much better with their own "Somebody That I Used To Know" attempt--their performance was a pitchy, ear-bleeding mess than probably had Gotye sobbing in a fetal position, and/or seriously reconsidering licensing this song to anyone other than last week's "Idol" darling Charlie Askew from now on. Interestingly, Liz, the one member who didn't fully participate in the group's rehearsals, was the only girl who nailed the lyrics, and therefore the only one who advanced to the next round. Maybe when Liz wandered off earlier in the episode, she'd been secretly writing the lyrics on the insides of her eyelids or something.
But "Somebody" wasn't the only challenging song for these absentminded ladies on Wednesday. Two members of a group called the Dolly Chicks (Kree Harrison, Britnee Kellogg, Brandy Neely, and Haley Davis) committed the sin of lyric-forgetting when covering the Dixie Chicks' "Sin Wagon." While Brandy was the only Dolly Chick who was cut after their embarrassing performance, I think the attitudinal Haley--who'd gone to bed early while her groupmates continued to rehearse, and who also forgot her words--should have been eliminated as well. Judging by the disgusted expression on Nicki's face, it seemed like Her Minajesty would have sent Haley home too, if she hadn't been outvoted.
However, Nicki and her fellow judges weren't always so tough on the lyric-messer-uppers. Just as Nicki was somehow amused and entertained by the utter epic fail that was last week's boy group B Side, she seemed tickled pink-Friday by this week's equally awful Dramatics (Cristabel Clack, Kriss Mincey, and Janell Stinney). One of these girls, Janell, got so few words right, she might as well have been auditioning for "German Idol" or "Spanish Idol," or really any "Idol" other than the American one; she kind of sounded like she was singing in Esperanto. But insanely, Nicki gave the Dramatics a standing ovation (fellow judge Keith Urban almost fell out of his chair again, after he saw that), raving: "I enjoyed you guys messing up the words more than I have enjoyed any other performance today. You felt it!" When a weepy Janell whined about how she didn't feel like she fit in with her group or on the show in general, Nicki gushed, "That's what I love about you!" Okay, whatever. Nicki has been impressing me with her astute critiques this season, but every once in a while, one of her crazier alter egos creeps out and make a bizarrely bad decision. This was one of those times.
It wasn't all terrible performances this Wednesday--two groups in particular, the Swagettes (Melinda Ademi, Kararmia Ousley, Denise Jackson, and Candice Glover) and Raisin' Kane (Morgan Leigh Boberg, Lauren Mink, Brandy Hotard, and Jenny Beth Willis) truly stood out. They were so great, in fact, that if things don't work out for them on "Idol," they should stick together and audition for the Groups category on "The X Factor" next season. Or they should at least consider competing on "Don't Forget The Lyrics"!
And there were some superb standout solos earlier in the night--especially by the singularly named Isabelle (who has apparently dropped her tricky-to-fit-on-a-marquee surname, Pasqualone) and returning contestants Candice Glover and Janelle Arthur. But still. When Ryan Seacrest raved, for like the 187th time, "'Idol' has never seen so much talent from the ladies"...well, he was not entirely convincing. OKAY, WE GET IT. The "Idol" powers-that-be do not want another humble, baby-faced Southern boy in a plaid shirt--or probably any kind of boy, in any kind of shirt--to win Season 12. That much is clear. But let's face it: Ryan and the judges have spent the past five seasons aggressively shoving female contestants down viewers' proverbial throats, and it has all been for naught. Viewers simply do not like being told whom to like--especially when expectations are raised so unnecessarily high, like they were this Wednesday. So keep this up, Ryan, and it'll backfire and we'll probably end up with pretty-boy Johnny Keyser being crowned the winner of Season 12. Just sayin'.
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