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'American Idol' recap: Group night's triumphs and tears

February 17, 2011 |  9:23 am

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"American Idol" squeezed some real drama out of Season 10's group night in Hollywood Week on Wednesday night. And the lowering of the minimum age to 15 for contestants this year played no small part in that, paving the way for us to fret over sweet, moon-faced Jaycee Badeaux and to celebrate with the hilarious stage moms who directed their children to a knockout version of Queen's "Somebody to Love."

"They just gave the performance of their life right there," Jennifer Lopez told Steven Tyler as the judges gave the stage-mom-coached group, cutely named The Minors, a standing ovation. Tyler then informed the talented teens that they were the reason he joined "American Idol," adding, "That was as good as it gets."



The contestants' overwhelming youth also allowed one group's tease-y Tyler serenade to come off as a cute slumber-party-esque lark. Ryan Seacrest kept marveling at how much fun Steven was having. And the truth was, we were having a lot of fun too.

But the night wasn't a total barrel of laughs. I shed tears of sadness and relief along with Jaycee Badeaux, whose suspenseful move through to the next round seemed like a moment of triumph for any kid who knows what it feels like to routinely get picked last for the kickball team. When Jaycee's first group cruelly banished him (so not nice, karaoke host Clint Jun Gamboa), leaving him wandering among the other groups like a newborn birdie in search of its mother, we took some comfort in Jaycee's actual mom's words that these things happen for a reason. (Thanks, mom -- sniff, sniff.) Thank goodness for Brett Loewenstern's kindhearted group, who took Jaycee in and taught him the real meaning of mercy, which also happened to have been the name of the song that got them all through to the next round. Loewenstern, a 16-year-old who has told us he's no stranger to bullying himself, gave such a sweet whoop of joy when Jaycee made it through with the rest of the group that we dissolved into a puddle of emotion just like Jaycee. Bullied kid solidarity! Bullied kid pride!

Some other closely tracked contestants did not fare as well:

Rob Bolin, whose vocal tone and penchant for resigned, good-humored bluntness have made him one of my favorites, ultimately declared his independence from the "Idol" gods -- forgetting the lines to Cee Lo Green's "Forget You" and instead singing "trying my best," which of course was exactly what he wasn't doing. He was promptly sent home for it -- in a kind of you can't quit, we fire you gesture -- while the ex-girlfriend, Chelsee Oaks, who was the blessing and the curse of his brief "Idol" run, was allowed to stay, along with the third member of the aptly named "Three's Company," the very blonde Jacqueline Dunford.

Tiffany Rios will be compelled to take her sparkly hair, superior attitude, Snooki look and wherever she's tucked her jujube oo-oo-bes and head back to New Jersey. She went down in a flame of off-key singing and combative behavior, swallowing up her partner Jessica Yantz in "Idol's" highly irregular group night duet on her way out the door.

And sadly, quirky-voiced Emily Anne Reed (whose unusual voice Jennifer Lopez and I really liked) didn't make it through -- and "Idol" watchers were left with no explanation. We didn't even get to hear her sing. What happened there?

Paris Tassin was released to return home to her adorable special-needs daughter, Kira, in whom she found inspiration.

Country boy Matt Dillard may or may not have prettied himself up as promised -- ditching the overall/tank-top look he wore to auditions, but not his hat -- but his voice didn't sound too pretty, and the judges sent him back to the farm.

The judges reacted to singing waitress Devyn Rush's performance as if she had left a hair in their soup. They ditched her without so much as a tip, and she was pretty bitter about it, which is understandable considering her "Idol" audition reportedly cost her her job.

And the Gutierrez brothers will duet on "Idol" no more. One of them -- who can tell which was which? -- was sent home, we were told, while the other will remain.

Who did you think was robbed? And which contestants were your group night favorites?

-- Amy Reiter

Photo: Contestants at the Hollywood rounds of "American  Idol."  Credit: Michael Becker / Fox

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