Hollywood Week kicked off this Wednesday on "American Idol." (Well, technically the contestants were shipped to Northridge, a quiet San Fernando Valley suburb...but I guess "Northridge Week" just didn't have as nice a ring to it.) This meant, of course, that the focus shifted from the fussing and feuding between the judges, and back to the usual drama between the contestants. However, while this week's inter-contestant Hollywood Week tension was typical of any "Idol" season, there was a twist this year: This was the week that didn't just figuratively separate the men from the boys, but also literally separated the girls from the boys, with the show's male and female contestants sequestered in different groups--thus taking the series' gender-quota rules to an entirely new extreme.
photo courtesy of Fox
So this week, it was the boys' turn to compete for coveted spots in Season 12's top 40; viewers will have to wait until next week to see any of the female hopefuls sing. "I kind of wish the girls were here," muttered one disappointed contestant. And I kind of did too. And I wondered why the show's producers had decided to divvy up the ladies and gentlemen like this. Was it all part of a longer-term master plan to give the girls an edge, for once, so that the show could finally crown a female champion this season? Who knows; the mind of "Idol" producer Nigel Lythgoe works in mysterious ways. But, probably, yes.
Thankfully, one contestant brought a little bit of feminine energy, or at least androgyny, to this Wednesday's otherwise testosterone-soaked proceedings. Josh "JDA" Davila, a slinky sylph all decked out with guylinered Adam Lambert eyes, pomade-slicked Bow Wow Wow/Dead Or Alive hair, Miss Jay stilettos, and a "Single Ladies"-style unitard, definitely stole the show, even though he didn't receive nearly enough screentime. (Viewers never even got to see his first audition, which I imagine must have been fab-u-lous.) This guy seriously made last week's Steven Tyler-in-drag look positively plain. Excitingly, JDA and his fellow "resident diva," flamboyantly chrome-domed rocker Joel Wayman (whose first audition also tragically never aired), were put together for the group rounds--and if their group, amusingly christened Country Queen, had been just a dynamic duo, it surely would have been awesome.
JDA adds androgyny to the boys' week
But of course, nasty Nigel got sneaky and forced JDA 'n' Joel to join forces with conservative Army sergeant Trevor Blakney and everyman equipment operator Lee Pritchard. (In another new Season 12 twist, to generate even more TV drama, the contestants weren't allowed to choose their own teams for the group round--nor were they free to switch group assignments if rehearsals weren't working out.) Unsurprisingly, Trevor was less than thrilled with his abfab/prefab group, griping that JDA and Joel were too preoccupied with "Solid Gold"-worthy choreography and theatricality to concentrate on any actual singing. ("Why not just put dresses on all of us?" Trevor grunted. Well, that definitely would've made for some interesting television...)
The members of Country Queen don't see eye-to-guylinered-eye
When Country Queen finally hit the stage, it was JDA and Joel who stood out, natch. Well, that was no surprise--JDA was resplendent in sausage-casing-snug silver leggings and Joel was rocking a fun-fur caveman vest, while the schlubbier Trevor and Lee looked like they'd just finished their shifts at a nearby Northridge construction site. However, considering that Trevor had complained about JDA and Joel's alleged lack of emphasis on singing technique, I would have expected Trevor to nail it vocally. Instead, it was ironically Trevor and Lee who forgot most of the words to Extreme's "More Than Words." It was more like "Less Than Words," or "No Words," and the judges appeared downright baffled. (Perhaps less surprisingly, Trevor and Lee didn't do so well with the choreography, either.) And so, the two regular Joes got sent home, and the two fearless freaks prevailed.
JDA and Joel survive
While I was tickled glittery-pink to see JDA and Joel move on to the next round, overall, I was disappointed by Wednesday's episode. I don't think I'd ever seen a Hollywood Week episode featuring so many singers whose first auditions were never even shown, and this made it difficult for me to root for (or at least recognize) anyone. And then many of these nameless, faceless singers, finally getting a chance to make a first impression on me and the rest of America, so horrifically messed up their lyrics (to well-known karaoke staples like "I'll Be There" and "What Makes You Beautiful," yet), they made Trevor and Lee look like consummate professionals.
Mariah Carey appears unimpressed
Thankfully, there were a few genuinely good guy groups this Wednesday--like the Mathheads, featuring pint-sized "Glee Project" alum Matheus Fernandes, wild-eyed rock belter Gabe Brown, and two returning contestants from last season, Mathenee Treco and Nick Boddington. ("Idol" diehards may remember Nick as the only member of last year's fantastic group Groove Sauce who didn't make it to the live semifinals.) Taking on Queen's "Somebody To Love," all four Mathheads really stood out: Matheus nailed the falsetto, Gabe captured the anthem's feisty rock 'n' roll spirit, and Nick and Mathenee performed like "Idol" vets. It should be noted that these guys actually got along during their rehearsal, and their teamwork truly seemed to pay off. All four singers easily sailed through to this Thursday's solo round.
Her Minajesty is not amused
Another, much odder grouping that I didn't expect to work was the Couch Potatoes, which teamed jazz-handy ginger hippie-nerd Charlie Askew (my favorite Season 12 boy so far) with gospel showboater Curtis Finch Jr. This combo seemed like a disaster in the making (especially when Curtis didn't show much sympathy after Charlie fell ill), but somehow it all came together onstage, and the Couch Potatoes' not-at-all-lazy cover of Bruno Mars's "Lazy Song" earned a standing ovation from the hooting judges.