Over the next two nights 162 acts will be whittled down to 32 acts. The judges will also find out which group they are meant to mentor. The opening montage is at once exhilarating and overly dramatic, ending with Paula in a weepy puddle of tears.
Styling, attitude (dance), and voices will be judged – every day the judges will make cuts until they get down to 8 boys, 8 girls, 8 over 30s and 8 groups. This is pretty intense but also separates itself from The Voice or American Idol by truly looking for a complete package. Your voice is important, of course, but how you look and move is equally as important. Only 100 from the first 162 will survive the first day. I am extremely excited to see Brian Friedman (from SYTYCD fame) here as a choreographer and as one of the pairs of eyes the judges will rely on to help them decide.
First up is an attitude/dance check. Brian F. is really taking them through their paces and a young man showing some true attitude is Brian Bradley (14) by refusing to dance. I am going to chalk it up to the brashness of youth, but he says MC’s don’t dance…we’ll see what that looks like for him by the end of the day.
After most contestants have danced (and many have collapsed) they move on to the singing. Up first is Siameze Floyd (More Than A Feeling – Boston). I was not a fan from the start and was not really sure why they put him through. He is followed by a montage of very good singers. We do discover that Chris Rene (the young man recently out of rehab) is up against his sister in this competition. Her voice is also very strong and her name is Emily Rene. One to watch.
They break everyone into three groups the first and third groups go through the second group is sent home with a bit a of drama. Brian who didn’t dance made it through and so did brother and sister Chris and Emily. They close the montage by showing some of the kids celebrating with alcohol and partying and some others going to bed early…I am pretty sure that partying may have an effect on those performing the next day.
The contestants are woken up and told they have to face LA Reid. He is putting them into groups and then they will have to perform in front of the judges. The stylists and such will be helping them polish their look and sound.
Group 1 – Drew Ryniewicz, Caitlin Koch, The Anser, Audrey Turner, Elaine Gibbs, Clayton Senna and Dexter Haygood – Creep (Radiohead) – the group gets five hours to put something together and for many of the group members, this is the first time they have ever even heard the song. Each person gets a chance to shine and show their strengths, Drew was particularly good as were Audrey Turner (former wife of Ike Turner) and Elaine Gibbs the 53-year-old grandma/wedding singer. Actually – they were all strong with the exception of Dexter. He may not be long for the competition.
Group 2 – Jazzlyn Little, Melanie Amaro, Heather Gayle, Aaron Surgeon, Arin Ray, Special Guest, and Stacy Francis – Where The Streets Have No Name (U2) – the arrangement of this song has quite a gospel flavor and Jazzlyn comes out strong but forgets the lyrics, Stacy ramps her vocal down a bit but still brings it. Melanie (one of my early faves) brings it on her part. The others, unfortunately fade into the background. Jazzlyn is visibly upset about her performance.
Group 3 – Dani Knights, Ben Rue, Skyelor Anderson, Leroy Bell, Chelsea Musick, Paige Ogle, and Cari Fletcher – Desperado (Eagles) – this is a tough song and a lot of the kids are truly kids in this group and they have never heard this song. This group also consists of a lot of country singers that may be able to make this there own thing. Paige Ogle was not very good, I have to say. Leroy Bell was brilliant though. Skyelor messed up his words but powered through with conviction. Dani and Paige were the standouts.
Group 4 – Tinuke Oyefule, Jennifay Joy Nichols, Lauren Ashley, Tatiana “Reina” Williams, and Brian Bradley - Wishing on a Star (Jay Z) – Brian is the only one that has true rapping experience but Reina decides to step up and hit it as well. The coaching that he receives tells him that he needs to stay connected to his group. Again – it is a moment of him being a little, bitty too big for his 14-year-old britches. Reina and Lauren were the standouts in this group. Brian messed up words and stepped on some people (vocally).
Group 5 – Josh Krajcik, Tiger Budbill, Nick Dean, Kompl3te, Andrew Muccitelli, James Kenney, Thomas McAbee – Superman (Five for Fighting) – this is the first all male group and another of my favorites Josh is in this group. I am not a fan of this song, so let’s see if these men can make me like it. Nick fell apart it was hard to watch. Tiger started weak and then came up at the end. Josh saved this group. Because overall they were a hot damn mess.
I have to give the producers mad props tonight. The show is moving along at a brisk pace and there is very little time or room for filler nonsense. It is pretty refreshing.
Group 6 – Phillip Lomax, Tiah Tolliver, Chesi Spriggs, Robert Cruz, Kelly Warner, Austin Simmons, and Nick Voss – Feeling Good (Nina Simone) – Tiah was a contentious pick, the lady judges were not loving her. Chesi and Phillip were amazing and Tiah came out to prove that Nicole and Paula were wrong. She tore it up and absolutely stood out over most others in the group.
Group 7 – Rachel Crow, Joshua Maddox, 4Shore, Hayley Orrantia, Illusion Confusion, Caylie Gregorio, De’Quan Allen, and Ellona Santiago – I Have Nothing (Whitney Houston) – the judges have chosen all of the songs this evening and this is one of the hardest, I would have to say. This group is SO large the contestants are really going to have to step it up if they want to be memorable. The group is having a hard time with the harmonies in their practice sessions and awesome Rachel is having a particularly tough time. I hope she can pull it out. Most of this group forgot thier words but when it came to Rachel – she got it together and did a really nice job. Ellona Santiago (14) was the strongest. Ellona reminds me of Charice.
Group 8 – Siameze Floyd, Jeremiah Pagan, Song Preservation Society, Cesar de la Rosa, Makenna and Brock, The Stereo Hogzz and Emily Michalak (12) – Light Up (Snow Patrol) – this is the last group of the night and 12-year-old Emily has some major butterflies going on before her performance but knocks it out of the park when it is time to step up. I was also pleasantly surprised by the subtlety Siameze brought to the vocal.
Tonight was action packed and we did not even hear all of the people sing. So far I think a few obvious folks are not moving on – but – this is going to be a tougher and tougher decision for the judges to make. Tomorrow the rest of the groups perform and the top 32 are revealed and broken into categories. What did you think of the talent tonight?