February 9, 2013 - 4:56pm
BY GIBSON JOHNS
Almost every season, “American Idol” tweaks a few aspects of the competition in an effort to liven things up and this year is no different. Hollywood Week is usually the first time all of the contestants — male and female — come together and see who they’re competing against. But this year, the producers decided to have two separate Hollywood Weeks — one for the men and one for the women. First up: the men.
Disclaimer: I can never decide if I enjoy watching “Idol” ‘s Hollywood Week or not. On the plus side, a few new standouts slowly emerge throughout the week’s three rounds and the group round often delivers a few unforgettable performances when a season’s major voices come together. But it all feels rushed. And the group round exists for the sole purpose of creating drama that, really, has no place on a singing show like “Idol.”
Regardless, this week the male contestants made their way through Hollywood Week and while most of the early standouts came out alive, a few favorites couldn’t handle the pressure.
Micah Johnson was (apparently) one of those who buckled. Despite delivering a version of “Bennie and the Jets” that possessed more soul than most of the contestants could only hope for, Micah made it through the group stage only have Mariah and Co. cut him after a boring song choice. After seeing some other lesser singers make it through that last round, his elimination became much more difficult to understand.
One of the unexpected standouts from the week was Nick Boddington, who got sent home last year in the Las Vegas rounds without making much of an impact. The Math Heads, his group for the group round, delivered perhaps the best performance of the day with their cover of “Somebody To Love.” Nick really shined during the individual performances — showing off his well-rounded musical talents by playing the keyboard while singing “Stars.” Nick possesses a look and style that “Idol” voters might not know how to react to — they could love his unique appearance but it could also slightly intimidate them. Only time will tell what America will think of Nick (assuming if he makes it far enough for them to judge him).
Devin Velez is similar to Nick in that he came into his own during Hollywood Week — he has a lovely inflection in his voice and a strong range that could take him far but, probably because he’s only eighteen, he shows less desperation when performing than Nick does. He delivered a version of “What A Wonderful World” with so much ease and composure that impressed the judges and solidified him as a contender.
After his audition, Gurpreet “The Turbinator” Singh Sarin seemed overrated to me. I saw potential in him with his slight Middle Eastern tonality but didn’t think he was taking full advantage of that. Well, if his rendition of “Georgia” is any indication, Gurpreet has the possibility to bring something different to the competition that “Idol” hasn’t had in its previous eleven seasons.
My favorite male contestant that I’ve seen so far is Burnell Taylor. He has this lackadaisical comportment which he uses to give himself this long-hair-don’t-care confidence. His voice is powerful but also restrained. Sure, he may have been one of the many contestants that Seacrest says chose to sing “Jar of Hearts,” but I’d bet my rights to vote this season that none of the other contestants’ versions held a candle to Burnell’s rendition.
The men’s Hollywood Week delivered a few unexpected (and undeserved) casualties, but overall separated the contenders from the pretenders, which is exactly what the week is designed to do.
Now for the women’s turn.