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'American Idol' recap: Groups, solos and a lot of swooning

February 16, 2012 |  9:40 am

Here's what we saw a lot of during the two-hour episode of "American Idol" on Wednesday, which basically smooshed three-quarters of Hollywood Week -– from the group round to the solo round to the final eliminations and saves -– into one extended show: vomiting, fainting, medics repeatedly rushing in, people going on stage immediately after returning from the hospital or picking themselves off the floor, tears and I lost count of how many renditions of "Georgia on My Mind."

We were also treated to some squabbling, some patching things up, and at least one big (apparently controversial) belch. Oh, and a memorable moment when one contestant, new dad Adam Brock, revealed Steven Tyler, during an impromptu contestant-judge jam session, had wiped the sweat off his own brow with Brock's deceased grandfather's hanky, his treasured good-luck charm. Brock said the hanky was now "doubly blessed," but really, would you want Tyler's bodily fluids on the thing you keep close to remind you of a late loved one?

Here's what we didn't get a lot of in the group round: confident vocalists singing well together. We were, however, shown at least two really terrific group numbers: a grooving, tight take on "Hold On, I'm Comin' " by a collection of truly talented contestants calling themselves Groove Sauce (Reed Grimm, Nick Boddington, Creighton Fraker, Aaron Marcellus and Jen Hirsch) and a batch of youngsters (Ariel Sprague, Eben Franckewitz, Gabi Carrubba, David Leathers Jr., and Jeremy Rosado) whose "Mercy" probably had less solid hopefuls begging for just that.

Apart from those two rousing performances, there was a lot of wandering off-key and even more forgotten lyrics (I loved the contestant –- was it Brittany Zika? -- who made up her own lyrics about how she'd blown her chance and how surreal it all seemed), some awkward dancing and a fair amount of discomfort to be read on the judges' faces. And we probably all grimaced a bit when, after one ill contestant, Imani Handy, swooned and dropped like a stone onstage in the middle of a song, another member of her group, J.Lo fave Johnny Keyser, gamely tried to keep singing, even as Handy lay there in front of him, with medics huddled around. Yikes. Dude, if someone is potentially on death's door at your feet? Stop singing. ("Stop, stop, stop," said Randy Jackson, waving his arms and echoing our very thoughts.)

Ultimately, Handy recovered enough to be told she had not made it through, and Keyser stopped singing long enough to be told he had. Their fates underscored Hollywood Week's stalwart show-must-go-on, survival-of-the-fittest-and-most-ruthless storyline. And even though watching these kids practically kill themselves for their dreams can feel creepy, evoking contestants' hunger for success is a key component in the "Idol" formula and part of what makes it so effective. (Does any other singing-competition show do it better? I don't think so … )

Anyway, one person's burp and giggle is another person's infuriating evidence of lack of seriousness. And so it was on to the solo performances, in which the stakes were established by contestant Joshua Ledet, who overcame a crippling fear of flying to get to Hollywood. "Words can't even express how bad I want this," Ledet told us.

Ledet's passionate, Jacob Lusk-esque delivery of "Jar of Hearts" was one of the standout performances of the solo round, as were Jen Hirsch's "Georgia on My Mind," Creighton Fraker's "What a Wonderful World," Adam Brock's "Georgia on My Mind" (yes, we heard a lot of that song), and Reed Grimm's (you guessed it) "Georgia on My Mind," on which he spontaneously accompanied himself on drums, prompting Jackson to compare him to last year's unorthodox Casey Abrams.

Also prominently featured were performances by last year's near-miss Colton Dixon, who accompanied himself on piano; Phillip Phillips, who impressed Jackson with his fancy guitar; MLB offspring Shannon Magrane, who wowed the judges but didn't do much for me; Skylar Laine, who reminded Jennifer Lopez of Reba McEntire and earned high praise from Tyler; and single mom Rachelle Lamb, who sang beautifully, if with a deficit of confidence, but will probably be better remembered for that large, argument-sparking belch I keep mentioning.

So who made it out of Hollywood alive? Adam Brock, Jen Hirsch, Hallie Day, Joshua Ledet, Colton Dixon, David Leathers, Jr., Creighton Frakers, Jermaine Jones, Lauren Gray, Adam Brock, Joshua Ledet, Reed Grimm, Phillip Phillips, Skylar Laine, Shannon Magrane, Jessica Phillips, Baylie Brown, Gabi Carrubba, Eben Franckewitz, and a bunch of other people. (The full list is here.) The contestant I may be most excited to see move on is Heejun Han, who can elicit laughs with just a look. His group-round foil, cowboy Richie Lawson, made it through too -– so there should be some amusement ahead.

What happens in Vegas? Happily, we'll soon find out.


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-- Amy Reiter

Photo: The "American Idol" judges join contestants during Wednesday's extended show. Credit: Michael Becker / FOX