Much like Chumbawamba’s earworm chorus, Jennifer Lopez may get knocked down, but she gets up again.
“If I fall flat on my ass,” the American Idol judge told the wide-eyed hopefuls of Season 15’s Hollywood Week Group Rounds, “I bounce right back up, and I kill the rest of that performance.”
Look, while no one’s going to confuse Jenny From the Block’s raw vocals for Jessie J or Nicole Scherzinger or (blasphemy alert) even Patti LaBelle, let’s not pretend the “Get Right” singer doesn’t have a point.
Because while it’s easy to feel bad for every contestant who enters Hell Week with a sore throat or a last-minute song change or a compatriot whose personality is similar to the Kraken after a 30-day fast (hi there, monstrously entertaining Eliz Camacho!), it’s also important to note that certain vocalists use the lack of sleep, frenzied schedule and tempestuous mix of personalities to soar to career-making new highs. Tell me, Idoloonies, if Kimberly Locke and Frenchie Davis’ scorching Season 2 cover of “Band of Gold” isn’t still seared in your memory? Mmmkay?
Knowing, then, that Group Rounds can bring out the best and the worst in future Haley Reinharts and Matt Girauds, let’s count down the five best and five worst moments from this season’s installment (along with a few other very important news tidbits):
* La’Porsha Renae tearing the price tag off “Stayin’ Alive” and thoroughly owning it. When she gave leg, face and strut on the line “You can tell by the way I use my walk,” her voice a low and rumbling delight, I let out a whoop so enthusiastic I’m surprised by upstairs neighbors didn’t bang on their floor with a broom.
* The group Rebirth — Manny Torres, Maile Delgado and Christian Eason — delivered a cover of “Too Close” (aka Hollywood Week’s new “Hit ‘Em Up Style”) so passionate and so gritty it made me wonder if the trio should drop out of Idol, form a vocal trio and become the show’s final gift to terrestrial radio.
* I wasn’t particularly optimistic about Trick or Treat Tribe — Kylle Thomasson, Kayce Haynes, Jon Klassen and Marcio Donaldson — but they brought rhythm, solid pitch and just a little touch of star quality to the telecast at exactly the point when most folks were probably reaching for the remote and wondering if maybe the Trump-less debate might be more entertaining.
* Bow down to uni-monikered Lindita for her sickeningly long, powerful run at the end of “Domino.” Yes, she did that! Her pals Joy Dove and Daniel Farmer brought some heat to the mix, too, though only the former advanced to the next round — without much supporting evidence to help us understand Daniel’s ouster.
* The judges definitely brought the right mix of “Yas, Queens!” and “Oh no, that won’t do!” critique to the hardest-to-process round. Harry still makes me groan (not in a good way) every time he deliberately tries to be funny, but four weeks in to the process and I’m not rooting for the ground beneath the panel to open up and swallow them whole. In other words, keep up the good work, Keith, J.Lo and Harry!
* Team Blue Eyes’ rendition of “Treasure” may have resulted in a resounding “yes!” from all the judges, but Jenna Renae and Kory Wheeler completely outperformed compatriots Kelsie Watts and Jordan Sasser.
* I know the Idol powers-that-be see nothing but dollar signs when they turn their cameras on youngsters Tristan McIntosh, Lee Jean and Amelia Eisenhauer, but their group rendition of “Too Close” (along with the unidentified AnnaLynne McCord-looking chica) was plagued by overshot notes and a lack of real stage presence. I’ve got doubts about all three if they’re lucky enough to advance to the live voting rounds.
* Look, Lindsey Carrier seemed like a nightmare during Singing Out Loud’s rehearsals, but her frenemies Shelbie Z, Ashley Lusk and Michelle Marie shouldn’t have needed Keith’s “don’t forget Lindsey” reminder to comfort their eliminated rival before celebrating their move to the next round. C’mon, Shelbie — you’re a veteran of The Voice. You ought to know by now the cameras catch everything.
* It felt like a full half hour was devoted to Anatalia Villaranda dropping out of the group Envy and joining Dalton Rapattoni and Kassy Levels’ Chicken Noodle Soup (after Poh’s voluntary exit). I just wish their collective vocals had been as interesting as their behind-the-scenes drama. And while the former group’s remaining members — Sonika Vaid, Stephany Negrete and Andrew Nazarbekian – got the “Mean Girls” edit, I honestly didn’t blame them for ditching the entitled Anatalia and her nightmare momager. (That said, how did Andrew advance after that shriek-y, sharp glory note?)
* While “Hit ‘Em Up Style” is often the Achilles’ Heel of the Group Rounds, for Season 15, it was “Renegades” that served as the vicious blade chopping down contestants from their ankles.
IN OTHER NEWS…
* Shi Scott’s sister Poh dropped out of the race a few hours into group rounds, explaining she just wasn’t ready for this jelly. (Spoiler alert: She wasn’t going to make it to the live shows anyhow!)
* Good news: Mentor Scott Borchetta lost his Terrifying Goatee of Doom (TM pending)!
* Whatever accompanist/arranger/counselor Michael Orland gets paid, it probably ought to be double. OK, maybe triple.
* Jenna Renae’s tone is as thick and juicy as a Wendy’s Baconator. Is it crazy to imagine a Jenna Renae vs. La’Porsha Renae finale?
* We’re not going to talk about Lynnzee Fraye’s black Lycra bodysuit, right?
* Trent Harmon’s mono diagnosis turned group rounds into yet another solo. He’s really, seriously, crazily talented — but, as I’ve said before, he needs to really be careful about the exaggerated facial expressions heading into the unforgiving closeups of the live rounds.
* Oh how I wish Mackenzie Bourg’s breath support matched his physical exuberance.
* Where do I get Jon Klaasen’s red pants with the black panels? And what diet/fitness regimen would I have to take up in order for them to fit me that enviably?
* If the hilarious Joy Dove doesn’t make it to the live shows, maybe she can become Idol’s new backstage correspondent for the live shows?
* Eliz Camacho’s thinking that her fellow group members were there merely as background vocalists was as ugly as that doll from The Conjuring, and yet… does it make me a terrible person that I also found her bitchery entertaining in a Bad Girls Club/reality trash type of way? Oh, and speaking of said fellow group members, how did Brenda K. Starr’s daughter Gianna Isabella advance despite completely whiffing her lyrics?
* C.J. Johnson’s snippet — right down to the “Hoo! Hah!” backup noises — makes me think he’s better than I’d originally assessed.
And now, it’s your turn. What did you think of American Idol‘s farewell season group rounds? Sound off in the comments!