Producers promised us big shake-ups for Hollywood Week - apparently viewers hate the middle rounds (I know I can't stand semi-finals) - which thus far has translated to a new interstitial "Airport Round." Basically the kids got off their planes at Hollywood and were taken to an airplane hangar, where 50 of them were picked out as on-the-bubble contestants and asked to essentially sing for their lives.
This segment flew by awfully quickly, and it was impossible to keep track of all the contestants. A few of the notable Airport Round performancs:
-Johnny Newcomb auditioned in Salt Lake and was given a hard time by Harry Connick Jr. for putting on an affectation. This time he did "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People. It was a low-key vocal and the performance lacked energy and star power.
-Ali Jane Henderson from Atlanta auditions sang beautifully on a cool version of Britney Spears' "Toxic." She sounded like a straight-up recording.
-Caitlin Johnson did a terrible version of "Only Girl in the World" that had serious pitch problems. Harry literally said, "I don't know what we ever saw in her." Poor Caitlin admitted to have terrible stage fright.
-I thought Adam Roth, my beautiful furry sound healer, blew it with his version of Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive," which was a mess vocally and the judges hated the piano playing. Jennifer Lopez fought hard for him, which I respect.
-Tristen Langley is Nikki McKibben's kid, and he auditioned in Austin. We only got a little bit of his singing but the judges seemed thoroughly unimpressed.
-Morgan Deplitch did Sara Bareilles' "Brave" and it was absolutely terrible. I've heard better in karaoke bars. She megachoked, and she knew it.
-Neco Starr did Bruno Mars' "Gorillas," and he IS good but there's something about him that seems so fake and forced to me.
-KhristianD'avis has a decent r'n'b voice but, as Jennifer Lopez pointed out, she lacked flow. One of the other judges said that she "is in love with her own voice." She also got demerits for those hideous Bieber pants.
After the 50 bubble singers performed they were split into two groups and put on two busses. One was going to the hotel and on to the next rounds. The other was headed to the airport to send the kids straight home -- and the contestants purportedly had no idea which bus was which. If they really didn't tell the contestants where they were headed, that is one of the meanest things I have ever seen on this show. Not even Simon would have pulled such a vicious mindfuck. It was pretty obvious that Bus 1 was the cut group, which had 30 contestants. The show didn't bother to identify them, but it seemed like Tristen was among them. You know that McKibben was PISSED.
The next round was the standard knockout round. Singers were placed in lines and sang one by one, and the judges kept and cut who they pleased. There were literally dozens of contestants paraded across the screen - impossible to keep track of them all. Below are the ones that caught my attention. However, I want to say, on the whole: this is an EXCEPTIONALLY talented group of musicians. Best crop we've seen on this show in seasons, I truly believe that. Of course, both the judges and America could totally bollox this up before we get to finals. So...
-Majesty York is so lovely. She did "1234" by Feist and absolutely nailed it, and showed off more power than I expected from her. She's so wonderful! And I love her style.
-Spencer Lloyd did "Say Something" and did a solid job of it. He can play piano, too. And he's so pretty. The girls are going to devour this kid. Let me put it this way: he was already trending on Twitter last night.
-Austin Wolfe did not impress me terribly in her initial audition, but she did a very nice job with "Take It All" by Adele. And normally I hate when kids try Adele on this show.
-Bria Anai has a wonderful voice but she overdoes it. She needs to learn how to pull back.
-Selena Moreno was like a freight train plowing through some song I didn't recognize, and she was singing in like five different keys. Her voice cracked in the midst of a line. She was cut, as was country girl Lauren Ogburn, who never should have gotten this far to begin with.
-Sam Woolf, 17, did a solid job with "Waiting for the World to Change." He's got a really great-sounding voice, but he has to work on his presence. He was staring at his guitar the whole time.
-Keri Lynn Roche is a spectacular singer and I would love to hear her sing more.
-C.J. Harris did "Trouble" and he was much better than his initial audition. He's a very evocative singer. I was unimpressed with him the first time I saw him, but he totally changed my opinion this round.
-Alex Preston came out did some funky-ass guitar work before going into an awesome singer-songwriter version of Will.i.am and Britney's "Scream and Shout." He's amazing! I love him.
-Kenzie Hall did a cool version of "Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore and broke out into a great rap section. She is so awesome and I'm in love with her.
-BristonMaroney did Lorde's "Royals" and I HATED it. He is so affected and ridiculous sounding. I don't get him at all. NOBODY REALLY SINGS LIKE THAT.
-Dexter Roberts can really sing and play. He's a good ol' boy, but he's also a good ol' singer.
-Casey Thrasher is getting pushed so hard by this show, and I don't really get why. He's totally fine. A decent singer, a good guitar player, very old-school country. But there are MUCH better singers on this season.
-Briana Oakley has been trying out for this show for years. She has the goods, although I don't think she has what it takes to win. I notice that she tends to be involved in drama during group rounds, and that happened again tonight.
-Keith London did a ballsy song choice in Beyonce's "If I Were a Boy." The singing was really good. The judges admitted that they talked through the entire thing because they found the song choice so odd, and Keith sang another song, this time" Same Love." I feel like Keith was trying to send a deliberate message with those song choices and the judges were being disrespectful.
-Jena Asciutto grabbed my attention. She has a very mature sounding voice for a 17-year-old. She was so good that Keith Urban wanted to download her song.
A bunch of people got cut, but not really anyone surprising. The judges suggested they still had 100 contestants going into group round, and that they'd have to cut half of them. We got the beginnings of the group-round drama - and there was plenty of drama - and the actual performances will be tonight. But y'all, I am TORN, because the Olympics start tonight and there is a new team ice-skating competition. TEAM ICE-SKATING! That's even more dramatic than group rounds...