The Group Rounds of American Idol Hollywood Week are typically known for the sort of reality-TV cattiness than can only come from forcing sleep-deprived drama queens (and kings) to spend hours together in close quarters, practicing step-touch choreography to a Shawn Mendes songs under the critical eye of Katharine McPhee’s stage mother. Those bad vibes can make for admittedly good TV. But this Sunday, as Idol Season 17’s Hollywood Week commenced, we got some unexpected feel-good entertainment from Unexpected Vibe -- a group comprising contestants Dimitrius Graham, Williams Oliver Jr., Assata Renay, and blind teenager Shayy -- when Shayy’s groupmates wore blackout goggles onstage in solidarity.
Shayy only went blind last year and is still struggling to adapt, which made group rehearsals difficult when it came to her picking up the choreography and especially reading/remembering the lyrics to Unexpected Vibe’s assigned song, the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.” But thanks to the support of her new Idol friends, Shayy didn’t just manage to soldier through the performance, but was actually the standout contestant of the entire nicely harmonized number. William later explained the goggles’ meaning to the judges, saying he, Assata, and Dimitrius wore them so they “could be in perspective with Shayy]. … We could not have done this without wearing these glasses.”
Softie judge Lionel Richie was particularly moved by the gesture, rushing onstage to hug the singers and marveling, “Every time you think you know just about everything and you’ve seen everything, you come on to a show like this and you just remind us of what God’s gift really looks like.”