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Group sing lets the inner crazy out on ‘Idol’

Simon Cowell called Ellen DeGeneres a sadist Tuesday night, but the real sadist in the “Idol” family is whoever came up with the concept of the group sing.
/ Source: contributor

Simon Cowell welcomed Ellen DeGeneres by calling her a sadist Tuesday night after the newest “American Idol” judge tortured some contestants before sending them to the next round. However, the real sadist in the “American Idol” family is whoever came up with the concept of the group sing, which was the focus of Wednesday’s episode.

I mean, seriously. You work your tail off to get to a position to audition for the show, wait in line for hours, get the ticket to Hollywood and make it out of the first round there … and now, your fate is in the hands of a bunch of yo-yos who can’t remember their lyrics, dance in rhythm or say anything at all without whining.

Whether it’s within groups or between groups, this is the only time in the “Idol” process where everyone isn’t putting on their sweet and innocent faces, and you get to see their inner crazy step out.

Take “The Dreamers,” or as it should have been called “The Mary Powers Project.” The 28-year-old ran roughshod over her five-person group, much to everyone’s consternation. “I didn’t come this far to put my confidence in someone else,” she said early in the episode, and then proved it by trying to make sure she left nothing to chance by controlling everything that happened within it.

Powers comes from the Bobby Knight school of motivation, and the constant domineering and criticism led to predictable friction within the quintet. And yet, despite the fact that Powers started in the wrong key and rolled her eyes before she was two notes into her vocals, she and two others survived the trainwreck.

Maybe the editors just have something against strong-willed women, because “The Phoenix” group was billed as the other dysfunctional group. Moorea Masa thought herself an expert on this stage, based on the fact that she was in Hollywood last year and was fortunate to be paired with Danny Gokey, and her confidence was predictably dashed.

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By the end of the day, group member Kat Nestel had quit right before the performance, her confidence so shattered that the reason she gave was, “I knew I would mess up and I didn’t want to humiliate myself.” Probably not the wisest move, but she spared herself the fate of Masa, who forgot her lyrics and got the boot.

“Team Awesome” had the best off-stage news, as Michael Lynche’s wife had their first baby and the “Idol” audience was treated to visual proof with footage from the hospital. Note to the producers for future reference: Most of us in the viewing audience are trusting enough to believe you when you say someone’s wife is in labor. The TLC footage isn’t really necessary.

But the guys didn’t do as well in their performance. While Lynche and Tim Urban made it, Seth Rollins and Michael Castro got tossed out, meaning that Rollins’ young son gets to see his daddy again sooner than either would like and Lynche won’t get to meet his own for at least a couple of days.

There was also drama between groups “Neapolitan” and “Destiny’s Wild” because both sang the same song and the latter accused the former of stealing their idea. Note to Todrick Hall, Jareb Liewer, Theiry Harden and Siobhan Magnus: deciding to sing a cappella isn’t exactly inventing color TV or the electric light bulb.

And of course, there are always the tears. And the misplaced lyrics. Often, the two go hand in hand, and no amount of begging can change the judges’ minds. “Can I please get one more chance? This is it for me. I don’t get to come back next year,” Mark Labriola cried. No dice.

The picture that summed up the day was Amanda Shechtman. The bubbly Boston auditioner didn’t perform well in her group sing, and got eliminated. As she tearfully said her goodbyes to the cameras, others were loudly celebrating their own good fortune, and Shechtman grabbed her stomach as though to avoid being sick.

And the moral of the story? If the contestants learned nothing else from the group sing experience, many can take the thoughtful words of “Idol” hopeful Jermaine Sellers to heart. “I know I am not meant to be in no group. I am not,” he said after surviving to live another day.

Most of the 70 others who made it through would agree.

Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at .