So the show is changing up the semi-finals and finals process this year, and we started to see some of that come into play as we started Vegas Week tonight. Only 20 guys and 20 girls will make it to semi-finals this year, and there will be only a Top 10 -- no wild cards, no Top 12/13. More than that, the genders will be split up until we reach the finals. This week it’s the guys, next week it’s the girls. I always find semifinals to be deadly dull on this show, so I’ll take whatever changes they have to offer. But I also reserve the right to bitch freely about them at a later date.
There wasn’t much of note in the first round of Vegas Week, the sudden-death a cappella cuts. Most of the people you expected to do well did well. There was debate amongst the judges as to whether Cortez Shaw was openly pissing on the grave of Whitney Houston with his rendition of “I Will Always Love You” -- Nicki Minaj was not having it at all. I thought it was fine, if a bit overboard. But I could see where Nicki was coming from in her critique.
Speaking of Nicki, she pulled one of the absolute meanest tricks I have ever seenon a contestant when she asked if a guy was tired. H e said yes, and then she said good news: they were sending him home, so he could get lots of rest. But she was kidding! The lesson: never tell anyone you’re tired. Absolutely vicious, but kind of hilarious.
Half the guy contestants were slashed in Day 1, and then we went right on to Group Round. And there was a TWIST! For the first time in the show’s history the producers selected the groups. Wow, that’s some pretty blatant behind-the-scenes manipulation.
I did the best I could to keep with all the groups as they came up, but it’s always such a crapshoot with these things. Here’s what I saw:
The Mathheads -- Nick Boddington, MatheneeTreco, MatheusFernandes, Gabe Brown -- did “Somebody to Love.” It opened with an absolutely beautiful a cappella intro, but it kind of went downhill from there. Boddington was easily the weak link on this group, and Matheus really stepped it up. Mathenee -- who I believe I remember from previous seasons -- was also really strong. Gabe’s voice didn’t really mesh with the other three, but they used it to their advantage. Nicki continued to twist the knife with these guys by drawing out the verdict. She is absolutely vicious. Anyway, all four straight through.
Normal Hills, featuring Johnny Keyser, Kareem Clark, and two guys they didn’t bother to name, did “Reach Out, I’ll Be There.” And it was dreadful. Johnny pushed for the song and then regretted it because he couldn’t remember the lyrics. His voice was good, but he was a mess with the words. Kareem was straight-up off pitch. Kareem was cut, the others got put through. I feel like this was redemption for Johnny after his baffling elimination in Vegas one or two years back.
Curtis Finch, Jr., a ginger moppet named Charlie, and some guy I don’t remember being identified did “Today I’m Not Doing Anything.” It was great -- really awesome. Curtis can sing like a mothertrucker, but he is also a first-class diva bitch and he was throwing mad amounts of shade behind the scenes at odd little Charlie. That’s going to come back to bite him should he make it to the live voting rounds. They were all put through.
The Four Tones, featuring Micah Johnson, Vincent Powell, Marvin Calderon, David Willis, did “Hold On, I’m Coming” and nailed it. Similarly Zach Birnbaum, Nate Tao, Cortez Shaw, Elijah Liu, did a totally solid job on “Some Kind of Wonderful.”
A group called The B Sides, who were never identified by name but included The Turbantor and some dweeby guy and a dude in a head wrap, murdered “Payphone” by Maroon 5. For reasons that escape me NickiMinaj really pushed for them and, somehow, they were all put through. I’m kind of floored by that.
Another group featuring Jason Jones, Dan Wood, Jessie Lawrence, and some other guy came out dedicating One Direction’s “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful” to Nicki and Mariah, and that was probably a bad idea, because it was DREADFUL. Full implosion. All four axed.
Devan Jones, Devin Velez, and two other guys who weren’t named did “Payphone” but decided to do it a cappella. This had an interesting effect, in that the song was much slower and sadder sounding. Three out of four of them went through to the next round.
Tony Foster, Jr. Mario Jost, Burnell Taylor, Darien Moses nailed “Some Kind of Wonderful.” Keith pointed out the fact that Burnell was getting lost a bit amongst the other members of the group -- he just doesn’t pop. I got confused as to who got cut and who went through on that group.
Super 55, the group featuring Josh Stephens, Scott Fleenor, Christian Lopez, and Lazaro Alvaro, did “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys. The rest of the group complained about Lazaro quite a bit and his “limitations,” but honestly, Lazaro seemed to have held up his end of the bargain, while several of the others did not impress vocally. And the two main complainers got cut while Lazaro and Christian were allowed to continue. That’s got to be a swift kick to the butt. But at least they got some sour grapes to snack on for the plane ride home.
Country Queen, a team featuring polar opposites Lee Pritchard and JDA, Joel Wayman, Trevor Blakney, did “More Than Words” from Extreme. I felt bad for Trevor, because his voice was really lovely on this song and then he blew the lyrics spectacularly. All of them except Joel did, actually. It just fell apart on stage. Unfortunately Lee and Trevor were cut, and that’s especially unfortunate because Lee was crazy hot. Trevor handled it really badly, but thankfully didn’t lash out as his group members.
David Leathers Jr., Kevin Quinn, Kayden Stephenson, SanniM’Mamairua did “For the Longest Time” by Billy Joel. Randy said that David was the best of the group, but I thought Kevin was also quite good. Kayden has the sweetest little voice, but he just doesn’t have a voice for this competition. Ultimately both Kayden and Kevin got cut.
Team Oz, featuring Papa Peachez, Adam Sanders, Frankie Ford, and Charles Allen closed out the night. Frankie Ford definitely wins the Drama Queen Award for this episode. I didn’t care for him in his initial audition -- there was something about him I found off. Something is not right there mentally. He completely collapsed on stage, and leading up to their performance was a gigantic pain in the ass for the rest of his team. I though Papa and Charles were both great. Nicki told Papa Peachez that he’s becoming too complacent, and he needs to step up. And Frankie was cut despite Keith advocating for him strongly. And Frankie had a meltdown outside, suggesting that his group sabotaged him. Mess. Complete mess.I hope we never see him on this show again.
Tomorrow we go from 43 guys down to 20. That is a HUGE cut.