"It's designed to be brutal," Harry Connick Jr. said about the "infamous" American Idol group rounds. And boy, for the farewell season we got some DRAMA. American Idol oftentimes feels a little more dignified than other reality shows (because of its pedigree) but during Hollywood Week and group rounds in general, the tears, screams, sleep deprivation and claws truly come out.
Do the group rounds make much sense for a solo singing competition? Absolutely not. But do they make for some fine television viewing? Absolutely.
People crumbled, people soared, a disproportionate amount of full groups went through? Which were the most memorable... let's take a look.
Team Blue Eyes (Kory Wheeler, Jordan Sasser, Jenna Ranae, Kelsie Watts), "Treasure": The first group to tackle this round clearly set the standards high. Made up of early Idol favorites Jordan Sasser, Kory Wheeler and two girls who were solid but that we've never seen before. While a lot of groups had animosity, this foursome gelled quickly and flawlessly. Sasser's eyes may be buggy and his personality grating, but he showed off a new funkiness to his group. That combined with the producers' love of him seems to make him a sure thing for the Top 24. Meanwhile, Kory Wheeler redeemed himself from his first time on Idol (when he was cut during groups) to make a pass onto the next round. (All four did actually. Good job, kids!)
Milk and Cookies (Jenn Blosil, Bri Ray, Lynzee Fraze, Sara Sturm), "Drag Me Down": "Lacking personality" is not a phrase that should ever pop to mind when one thinks of Jenn Blosil (a.k.a., this season's quirky star), and maybe that's just because she sucks the life from everyone around her like a singing vampire? Jenn's group took on the One Direction hit "Drag Me Down," and their voices blended together really nicely. But, there's no denying a star when you hear one, and that's Jenn. She and her big, crazy personality dominated this group round, though all four ladies moved on.
Just Trent (Trent Harmon), "Rather Be": Trent Harmon is suffering from mono, so his doctor gave him two options: perform solo or go home. And, with Idol in its final season, what other choice does a guy have? Trent decided to soldier on solo. Immediately following a group rendition of Clean Bandit's "Rather Be," Trent went for it solo, wandering around the stage and fighting through his illness like a boss. Though Jennifer Lopez likened his performance to Phillip Phillips' illness throughout half of season 11, he just doesn't stand up to that level of talent, though his runs were relatively engaging.
Chicken Noodle Soup (Dalton Rapattoni, Kassy Levels, Anatalia Villarandra), "Treasure": Group week is always full of drama, but luckily for Anatalia Villarandra, her mama was around to clean it all up. Originally in the group N.V. (later described as her RIVALS), their song choice of "Problem" did not work for her - so she was either abandoned or left, depending on who you ask. All three of the remaining Chicken Noodle Soup group have totally different vocal abilities. Dalton has a rock edge, Anatalia leans pop and Kassy is for R&B. They didn't blend together all that well, but each individual group is unique and made it through.
N.V. (Sonica Vaid, Andrew Nazarbekian, Stephany Negrete), "Problem": Poor Sonica Vaid. She's clearly one of this season's biggest talents, but she got wrapped up in major drama when Anatalia Villarandra's mother decided to try and pick a song for her group. Despite those bumps in the road, these three sopranos gelled together nicely, tackling soprano Ariana Grande's hit "Problem" with plenty of flair. While some of their runs and high notes felt a little grating, at the end of the day, Andrea, Stephany and Sonica can sing really well. They all made it through and at least two of these guys feel like solid contenders for the live shows.
Eliz Camacho, Gianna Isabella, Dana Ordway, "Hit Em Up Style": Eliz Camacho was DIVA-licious and didn't want to gel with any group, let alone one with two other women with whom she'll eventually be directly competing. That's a total valid thought and a reason why the group rounds are always a little odd. For this take on "Hit Em Up Style" (a group rounds staple), neither Gianna nor Dana could remember the lyrics, but the truth was they still have better stage presence and raw voices than Eliz (no matter what she says). They made it through to the next round seemingly based on that, and Eliz was sent home to focus on her modeling and acting.
Sistas (La'Porsha Renae, Tonie Starr, Marlena Johnson), "Stayin' Alive": So none of these ladies knew the words to the Bee-Gees' "Stayin' Alive," but that didn't stop them from trying to sell it. Why did they pick this song? My only guess is the only tracks were already chosen by the time they finally formed (amidst some drama with Shelbie Z, who left the group). Despite more flubbed lyrics than accurate ones, the talent and soul in this group and they all made it through, rightfully soon.