~February 10, 2009~
More than 103,000 hopefuls were whittled down to 72 competing during the last two nights of brutal Hollywood week. Contestants made their last stand in a final solo format performance with a band, back-up singers and the option of playing an instrument. Many shined and some sunk while others treaded water. Meanwhile, a last minute switch meant life for one person who would not have gone through.

And the boys have it!
The guys started out the day and they started out strong.

  • Adam Lambert - first performance of the day was really surprising. Adam sang the unlikely choice of Cher's "Believe". He turned it into a piano ballad that he sang with passion and impressive soaring vocals. Before Hollywood, the judges were mixed on this contestant. After this performance, no more. Though the judges were not supposed to indicate their thoughts, forcing the verdict to wait until the end of the day, Simon gave Adam a thumbs up. Adam said he wants to show he can take a song you've heard a million times and twist it. I say, Dude, you nailed it.
  • Matt Giraud - dueling piano player who was part of the excellent first group during Group Day, this guy has been waiting months to show the judges what he can do best. Matt absolutely radiated as he played keyboards and sang "Georgia". It was soulful, it was excellent and even Simon was smiling. He got a standing "o" from judges and contestants alike.
  • Danny Gokey - It's no secret Danny is one of my favorites. His performances from auditions to group rounds have been consistently strong. He gave a solid, heartfelt performance of "I Hope You Dance". His strong voice coupled with really feeling the lyrics made a sweet combination.
  • Anoop Desai - I love to see this kid do well, not only because he's really good but because Simon had a hard time getting past his straight-laced appearance in the first round. Anoop nailed Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative".
  • Scott MacIntyre - this singer/songwriter's a favorite from the Phoenix auditions and today he got to perform in the place he's most comfortable: behind the piano. He got a standing ovation from Paula for his version of "I'm Going Home", but I was not wowed by this performance. He was decent but a little pitchy.

On to the chicas!

  • Kendall Beard - did not represent! She took on Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats". It felt labored, like plodding through molasses. Carrie is another one you should never take on unless you know you can do it well and this was a case where it wasn't done well at all.
  • Stevie Wright - is another one of my favorites, from the time she sounded fantastic on her first audition. She's had a rough road with the music industry and dissolved into tears when, at her first audition, Paula said "You're worthy". Tonight, she sang "Bubbly", another song that's difficult to shine on. The melody is choppy with a lot of intervals. Really worried about this song choice because it yielded a boring performance.
  • Lil Rounds - remember I always say stay away from Whitney? Lil is one of the exceptions. We only heard a snippet of her performance but she sounded really strong.

The Two Faces of Delilah
Two guys sang "Hey There Delilah". I would never pick this song for an audition. The notes are all over the place and the chorus is not enough of a pay-off to offset the choppy verses. Interestingly, one contestant proved me right and the other proved me wrong.

  • Jamar Rogers - .Jamar sounded a bit raspy but did decently for the song. Kara and Paula seemed to like it. I say he
  • 's good but needs to watch his song choices.
  • Ju' not Joyner - completely blew me away with his rendition. He made it slow and soulful and really showed off his nice voice. I would listen to this again.

Simon says, "You forget your lyrics, you're out."
Simon said these words at the beginning of Hollywood week, but it's hard to say if it still holds true. Forgotten lyrics were an issue for several including Joanna Pacitti, Casey Carlson and Stephen Fowler. The really sad part was Stephen had said the night before he wasn't worried about the lyrics. I don't envy these contestants - they're sleep deprived and stressed and likely have not had to endure any challenge in their lives like these. Any number of reasons could have contributed to spacing on the words.

The taste of crow
Comedian Nick Mitchell unbelievably showed-up as his persona "Norm Gentle" for this final solo round. Inconceivable. And yet, somehow, it worked. Nick would have been tossed-out a long time ago if he couldn't sing. However, he's got pipes. So I get to eat my prediction from my last entry and say, Hey, I was wrong. He's fun...he's entertaining... and he made it through as Norm when I said he wouldn't. I would love to say he can't make it through again as "Norm". But I have decided my stomach's already full.

How the rooms stacked up
This has got to be the worst - you're told to go to a room with a bunch of other people and wait. The decision is out of your hands, there is nothing more you can do. So you are left looking at the people around you wondering if this is the "good" group or the group going home.

  • Anoop Desai and Mike Giraud were in Room One and that to me says this is the no brainer group - these guys are going through.
  • Room Two included oil rigger Michael Sarver, "Diva" group survivor Jasmine Murray and Joanna Pacitti who forgot her lyrics.
  • Room Three had Jason Castro's brother Michael, India Morrison who had a stellar performance rapping in the first group on Group Day and Lanisha Young who was the only contestant ever to sing a really good original song at auditions.
  • Room Four housed comedian Norm Mitchell in addition to Anne Marie Boskavich and Ju' not Joyner.

Now hold on to your hats...

Nothing like a last bit of drama
And who better for the role than drama queen Tatiana Del Toro? She's grabbed at the last minute and taken to a different room. The eyes of people in Room Four bugged out as they were left wondering what the unexpected change means. Judges make their sweep, alternately telling Rooms 1 and 2 they're through and Room 3 they're not. Room 4 has already heard the excited screams twice. That coupled with Tatiana's late arrival and they're thinking they're going home. As the judges gear up with Kara saying, "all of you tried you're best, right?" and Randy saying that every year they have to set the bar higher and higher, Tatiana starts to cry saying "Oh no, please Paula, please." Then they announce the room made it through and everyone goes wild. Tatiana beelined for Paula and collapsed in her arms sobbing.
Bottom line: I've said before Tatiana drives me a little crazy, mainly because she's so dramatic and self-absorbed. But who can fault this young girl for having completely raw nerves after being put through a last minute change like that?

Tomorrow night, hopefuls head to the judges' mansion where the group will be pared down to 36. And a new twist is promised where contestants have the chance to sing for their lives. It's a two hour special starting at 8 - don't miss it!