Now we’re getting somewhere (in no particular hurry). It’s Hollywood Week, and Ryan Seacrest promises it’s “sudden death,” meaning the 309 remaining singers will sing a quick a capella number and Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson will send half of them home immediately. The way it happens in sports.
Also, and please don’t tell anyone about this, because they are playing it very close to the vest, but someone falls off the stage. Be cool about it.
The show opens with the requisite 11 minutes of the hopefuls flopping down on their hotel beds. How’s about we skip this part next year? May we just assume the singers are excited to have gotten this far? Can it be like jazz, in that this is the note you do not play? (My suspicion is that we cannot.) We do learn that sweet Phillip Phillips has never landed in a plane, as his only other airborne experience has been skydiving. I tell you, between this and Max kissing James Wolk on “Happy Endings,” there are dangerous hotness levels on television tonight.
The judges address the crowd and also define themselves perfectly: Steven Tyler (which reminds me, have they cast Julianna Margulies’ mother on The Good Wife? Because I have an idea) quotes extensively from the Cowardly Lion’s “Courage” song from The Wizard of Oz. Jennifer tells the kids “Don’t let the nerves get to you,” which as a performer I can tell you is the least useful thing I can imagine a person saying in this situation, until Randy opens his mouth and bellows “SEASON 11 IS ON!” I will remind you that all of these people will receive millions of dollars for what we have just seen.
At last we’re on to the singing and sudden-killing. First up, a group that includes handsome, confident Johnny Keyser and nerdy, nervous Heejun Han. Johnny is much too tricky and runsy in his singing, and much too aware of his appeal overall, by which I mean he is going to make it to the top five. Heejun can’t stop flailing his arms and talking about how much better looking everyone else is, which is meant to look like self-deprecation but I’d wager is just Heejun working his personal brand. They both make it to the next round, along with a couple of other people we don’t bother to meet because they’re not hot or Asbergers-y enough to warrant our attention.
Also making it through: Baylie Brown, whose last Hollywood Week was destroyed by those evil Jersey girls. Elise Testone, who I remember liking but had forgotten how much she looks like Ke$ha at the end of a hot afternoon. Hallie Day, who jumps into the arms of her much-less-hot husband, which makes me wonder “what’s the deal with the looks disparity here,” and then I remember “oh, right, she moved to the big city to be in the girl group Plum Crazy and then there were addiction problems and she lost her way and nearly gave up on her dream and he guided her back and makes her believe that anything is possible and why am I talking to myself like this now?”
Overall, I’m being reminded of a lot of these singers’ backstories, and I must say they are all more appealing when they’re simply singing, as opposed to leading tours of their tent cities or divorcing their husbands right in front of us.
Jen Hirsh is warned by a disembodied British voice not to fidget. Is this Nigel Lythgoe? Is he really this involved? (If so, could he do something about Randy Jackson?) Either way, she sings “Up On The Mountain,” and it’s lovely, and Jennifer Lopez leans over to Randy and says “Melody.” Which is the sum total of the musical criticism we have heard so far in season 11. She’s through to the next round, as is Lauren Gray, the wedding singer from the St. Louis auditions. Not through: a long montage of pretty-girl singers who are uniformly sharp and screechy and probably all the ones the boy judges sent to Hollywood over Jennifer’s objections.
Adorable Phillip Phillips shouts his way through “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag,” and it’s a little irritating, but I take comfort in the fact that he is wearing shoes with sides and tops this time around. Reed Grimm does a fussy, scatty version of “I’ve Got A Golden Ticket” from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, except I’m not kidding about that. And then there’s Travis Orlando, who is currently homeless and whose mother ran off with a new guy and whose father is on the run from a vengeful French police inspector for having taken a forty-sou piece from a street urchin. He sings some R&B song I’ve never heard, but has managed to put together a snappy cardigan-and-button-down combo despite being homeless (as opposed to Reed, who we must assume is homeful but is dressed in a style I call Laundry Day). Two of these guys make it through, and you are correct in assuming that they are the white ones. I’m sorry for poor Travis, I’m deeply in love with Phillip, and I fear we’ll be seeing much more of that video of very young Reed playing air-guitar on stage with his family’s band, which is simply the most bone-chilling image I’ve seen on television in years.
Not making it through: git-fiddle-playing Wolf, no-ears-having Ramiro Garcia, and sexual-boundaries-eschewing Jenna Schick. All of these people have some pretty interesting stories which go un-retold, because — and again, keep this under your hat — someone is about to fall off the stage. It could happen any minute.
Adam Brock is one of those people the producers just realized could actually go far, so they quickly take us through his initial audition. In it, Jennifer Lopez compliments his very soulful voice thusly: “My favorite album of all times is Walking In Memphis, Marc Cohn, and you reminded me of that.” Which, of course, is not the name of that album at all. So, to review: A woman who makes millions of dollars judging music does not know the name of her own favorite album. (And her favorite album is by Marc Cohn. You guys.) He’s through!
The producers hasten to remind us that Jane Carrey is Jim Carrey’s daughter, and while she talks about the difficulties of forging an identity in his shadow, they underline and intensify those difficulties by cutting to a million pictures of her with Jim Carrey. She gets too nervous and kind of bonks and doesn’t make it through, and then they fucking make her call Jim Carrey. I realize that I am in no way deputized to do this, Jane, but I apologize on behalf of these monsters. I really do.
More teasing of the person falling off the stage. Ryan solemnly tells us “the search for fame will cost someone...everything.” Wait, does this person die?
David Leathers Jr. seems to have stopped calling himself Mr. Steal Your Girl, but the producers still want to cast him as some sort of prepubescent ladies’ man; after he, Shannon Magrane and Jessica Phillips make it through, they have him put his arms around them, wink, and tell the camera “Next, it’s group round.” Like, in a way that makes you wonder whether he is about to initiate a three-way.
Delightful bright-lip-shade aficionado Erika Van Pelt makes it to the next round, as does our generation’s Sam Harris, Creighton Fraker. Ditto for music teacher Aaron Marcellus, who we are just now seeing for the first time.
And finally we meet The Girl Who Fell Off The Stage. Her name is Symone Black, and she is 16 years old, so this moment will not haunt her until her dying breath at all. She is accompanied by her father, who is also her coach and who may be Elvin from “The Cosby Show.” Symone closes her eyes, starts belting “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay,” approaches the front of the stage, and...
TO BE CONTINUED.
Oh, you fucking people. You hack-ass billionaire ghouls. I will see you tomorrow.