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Freelance entertainment writer, martial arts instructor, and mother of two.

American Idol, Feb. 8 – An Unnecessary Ending

After what seems like a really quick few weeks of auditions, we’re already into Hollywood Week. It’s not exactly like it once was, as they speed it up in order to devote one-and-a-half evenings to the Green Mile episode(s). This means all the drama we’re left with in the end is the tears from people getting cut and begging to say, as well as people staying up too late in group round, then not being able to get along with each other when they’re stressed and tired.

One-half of the contestants get ready to take the stage, while the other half are off doing something else. In the past they toured the city; are they doing that again this year? They’ll come out in groups of ten and perform singly with no feedback.

In the first group is Johnny Keyser, 22, a server from Pompano Beach, FL, and Heejun Han, 22, a non-profit organizer from Flushing, NY. Johnny goes first, singing Dreamin’, and the judges are clearly enjoying what they’re hearing. Heejun is worried, as he’s never heard anyone sing like that before, and feels Johnny is the type of guy everyone will fall in love with. The judges encourage him to shake out his nerves. He sings How Am I Supposed to Live Without You, and does really well. When it comes to the judgment, both get through to the next round. Suddenly, Heejun is seeing himself as one of the pretty people.

Elise Testone, 28, a vocal coach/musician from Charleston, SC, has a a great bluesy voice, and Steven Tyler cracks up about it … out of joy. Baylie Brown, 21, a nanny from Krum, TX, is gorgeous and has a pretty voice to match. Hallie Day, 24, a waitress from Baltimore, sings Natural Woman, and feels every note. Their entire group makes it through. So far we haven’t seen any tough goodbyes yet of any favorites from the auditions, but it has to be coming at some point.

It’s a look backstage with Ryan as one person is standing in line totally calm, the next person is drilling her legs back and forth, and the guy behind her seems to be giving himself a verbal beatdown. Another guy says his hands are sweaty and his heart is beating, and another girl is nervous about meeting Steven.

Jen Hirsh, 25, a winery employee from Agoura Hills, has a gameplan to not play with her hair. She watched the video and realized she does it all the time. She sings Up to the Mountain and has been successful in not touching her hair. Jennifer Lopez seems stunned that she actually has a melody in her performance, and Steven enjoys her with his eyes closed. Randy Jackson cuts her off, while Steven yells out, “Don’t stop.

Lauren Gray, 21, a waitress/musician from Hardy, AR, doesn’t stop when Randy tries to cut her off. He has to flag her down. Jen and Lauren both make it through.

Heather Youmans, 19, a performer from Vista, CA, sings Crazy on You and can’t seem to find the melody or pitch. J-Lo wrinkles her nose at her. Perhaps the headband is too tight. Saccha Julian, 18, from Tacoma, WA, and Candice Russell, 19, a teacher’s assistant from Tualatin, OR, both struggle as well. We don’t see if any of them make it, but we can only assume they don’t.

Steven has a pep talk with the next people to take the stage, and it’s not clear why, unless he’s just messing around. Phillip Phillips, 21, a pawn shop employee from Leesburg, GA, is the next one out, and he had a hard time getting there, as he had never flown in an airplane before. He sang a really unique version of Thriller with his guitar at the audition. He now has to perform without it. He sings Papa’s Gotta a Brand New Bag, and again, it’s totally unique. He can’t seem to stop that music from flowing out of him.

Reed Grimm, 25, a nanny from Ellsworth, WI, has been onstage since he was just a young boy. He sings I Got a Golden Ticket (you have to love the humor), and he reminds you somewhat of the video they show of him singing as a little boy. The other auditioning love it. Travis Orlando, 18, of the Bronx, was sent home from Hollywood right after week one last year. His mom walked out on the family and broke his dad’s heart, and his dad happens to be a very sick man. As Randy jams at the desk, J-Lo just smiles. While Reed and Phillip move on, Travis somehow misses it again. He cries, saying he has to go back to nothing. Reed and Johnny console him.

Others going home from this round are Ramiro Garcia, Jason “Wolf” Hamlin, and Jenny Schick go home as well. Sixty-eight people total are sent home home on this day.

It’s day two with the second group waiting to take the stage. Adam Brock notes everyone else is dropping like flies, but not him, as he’s flapping his wings. He’s been told there’s a large black woman trapped inside of him, because of his soulful voice. This is the first time he’s been away from his baby daughter for this long. He’s hopeful to get to stay, but knows some of him will be grateful to go home. Jennifer asked him to sing Walking in Memphis at the auditions, so he’s singing it for her now, and she seems appreciative. I think his baby girl will have to do without him a little longer.

Jane Carrey, daughter to Jim Carrey, is up next. She discusses how difficult it was to grow up in his shadow. Her expectation for this week is that she’ll be staying. Jane sings Lookin’ Out My Back Door, and needs a little phrasing help. It’s judgement time, Jane gets sent home, saying she’s disappointed, as she knows she could have done better, but Adam makes it through. Jane calls her dad who tells her he has heard no a lot, and it eventually worked out okay for him. Adam calls home as well, and shares his good/bad news.

David Leathers, Jr., 17, from Fayetteville, NC, was a ladies man at the auditions, and he’s keeping it up here in Hollywood. He calls the ladies here amazing, adding almost as much as the singing he is hearing. But first, Shannon Magrane, 16, of Tampa, sings Fallin’. steps up to the mic and sings Because You Love Me to everyone’s delight and amazement.

Jessica Phillips, 25, a receptionist from Brooklyn, is up. She’s the one whose fiancé had a stroke, and she’s acted as his caretaker since. She feels like she’s standing up on everyone’s shoulders. Fittingly, she sings All he Main I Need, and has a weak start, then pulls it out. David, Shannon, and Jessica all make it through. Angie Zeiderman and Britney Kerr make it as well.

Erika Van Pelt, 26, a mobile DJ/wedding singer from South Kingstown, RI, sings Glitter in the Air, and has perhaps the most powerful female voice I’ve heard this year. Next up is Creighton Fraker, 28, a starving artist from Queens, NY, singing Somebody to Love, and it doesn’t seem fair that he should be starving. Aaron Marcellus, 27, a music teacher from Atlanta, sings one for the ladies, and has some mad runs. They all make it easily through.

Lauren Mink, 25, a program director for adults with disabilities from Winchester, KY, knows everyone in their program will feel proud of her no matter what, but she knows they will miss her if she makes it. She sings Alone, and J-Lo notices she switched keys in the middle without warning. Jeremy Rosado, 19, a front desk clerk at a an infectious disease doctor’s office, and a germophobe, from Valrico, FL, sings Superstar. J-Lo shows off her goosebumps.

Symone Black, 16, of Rancho Cucamonga, CA, counts on her dad as a mentor, and she fully admits he’s a stage dad. She sings Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay, and we’re just waiting for it. We’ve all seen what happens in the previews, so we’re just waiting. Something really weird happens with this fall, though; it’s almost like she was beginning to pass out before it, as she started stumbling for no explicable reason. She falls off the stage, and everyone rushes in. The judges sit in silence at first, then approach her, along with Ryan Seacrest, as Nigel Lythgoe, who normally only sees these type of injuries on So You Think You Can Dance, tends to her.

I think it’s really sucky (this situation calls for such a term) for Nigel to have taken this moment and used it as a cliffhanger until last night. To use probably the scariest moment in someone’s life like that is terrible. We should have been told at that point how she was doing. It shouldn’t be a cliffhanger. For an audience that is still recovering from watching a 13-year-old girl have a breakdown on national TV during The X Factor, this was unnecessary to be given a cliffhanger on whether a 16-year-old broke her neck or not.

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