[Ratings update: "Idol" saw a slight uptick in ratings over last Wednesday, a good sign that the show has stabilized. Last season, ratings dropped steadily throughout the season.]
The new “American Idol” producers want to get to the live shows as quickly as possible.
So that means on night one of the Hollywood rounds, we saw 212 people cut down and cut down by more than half.
They added the “Hollywood or Home” round so that almost one quarter of the contestants don’t even make it to their hotel rooms. Instead, they go from the airport to an airport hangar, where many who the judges were originally on the fence about sing for their lives.
Quite a few who received only two out of three votes in the first place are cut after proving they weren’t all that good. Among those that went meh: that sound healer Adam Roth whose singing was indeed “Radioactive” and teen Morgan Deplitch (“Roar”? More like a whimper.) Season one finalist Nikki McKibbin‘s son Tristan didn’t make the cut either. He just isn’t ready yet.
A busload of about 50 folks end up going back to LAX and a ticket back home. The smaller crew of 20 survivors on another bus go to the hotel. This includes oil field worker Eric Wood and a confident Atlanta singer Neco Starr.
About 160 total go to the hotels and survive to the next day.
This leads to the traditional solo rounds, then a bit of the group singing.
Here are bits of the solo round, including Majesty Rose York, the preschool teacher who does a very pretty Feist:
Singer-songwriter Samantha Calmes sounds great to me but is cut. Worship leader John Fox and torch singer Brandy Neelly get through.
Spencer Lloyd, another worship leader, gets a lot of airtime emoting “Say Something.”
Austin Wolfe tackles Adele and shines. Bria Anai (her last name is gone!) from Lithonia is very stylized. Jessica Meuse, too, makes the cut. Both are in. Twin Selena Moreno didn’t impress me in her initial audition and still comes across as insincere to me. Then she can’t hit a high note. So she’s out.
Sam Woolf, who was absolutely stupendous in Boston auditions, does an okay John Mayer. Harry Connick seems impressed. Keri Lynn Roche is excellent. Ayla Stackhouse from Detroit does a solid R&B but is out. Alabama crooner C.J. Harris, who is sweet, has finalist written all over him. (J. Lo gives him a standing o.) The other three are through to group.
Alex Preston is quirky, doing “Scream and Shout” and goes through, along with Jesse Roach. Madeline Patterson is given the “will she or won’t she?” test as a commercial break.
Then there’s Kenzie Hall, who does a memorable Ryan & Macklemore. She’s through for sure.
Ben Briley, the server from Indiana I saw at Atlanta auditions, has an interesting tone to his voice as he does Grace Potter. Briston Maroney opts for Lorde. Dexter Roberts, the dog trainer/farm trainer, brings some bluesy flavor, then gets Keith to play his guitar.
Rachel Rolleri sounds stupendous. HCJ is rapt. Maurice Townsend and Casey Thrasher, two dads, are up next. Maurice is all gospel. Casey goes for the heartstrings. George Lovett, Tiquila Wilson, Emily Piriz and Malcolm Allen all get a few moments and a ticket to the group round.
And the kid Munfarid Zaldi who was cradled by Harry Connick Jr.. He is entertaining to say the least, causing the judges to laugh.
Ethan Thompson and Austin Percario (Justin Bieber redux) make it through along with Munfarid.
Returnee Caleb Johnson, a rocker from North Carolina, and Stephanie Purvey from Jersey are both excellent. We also see Kristen O’Connor, who I saw in Atlanta, and she is better than I remember her from her audition. All go through.
Atlanta’s Emmanuel Zidor, a Delta ramp agent, is all personality and smiles and moves on. We have the emotive ones, Brianna Oakley and Jesse Cline, celebrate. Keith London tries Beyonce “If I Were a Boy,” which befuddles J. Lo and HCJ and were so distracted, they ask him to sing something else. He does ‘Same Love” and survives. I like the dude.
Malaya Watson hits the keyboards and soars. Jena Asciutto, the one with odd intonations, is still bracing.
Savion Wright, whose brother just died before the Hollywood auditions, does an original song in homage. He’s through, of course, along with Malaya and Jena.
The 160 are cut down to 104. Now on to group day!
Jessica Meuse of Atlanta gets annoyed by another contestant Matthew’s inability to do harmonies. Another person from her group quits. So she and Matthew seeks new homes. Emmanuel Zidel, another Atlantan, cuts loose with one group and joins another.
Then there is more of the usual drama that isn’t all that relevant to anything.