This week on our stroll down Idol Memory Lane, we are going to venture to the ugly side of the town. While we love the good and the cheesy, there is no doubt that Idol plays to all sides of the story-telling spectrum. They give us people to root for and people to root against.
Almost every year in Hollywood, Idol creates antagonists for us. Perhaps it is because ratings tended to drop during Hollywood week. Perhaps it is because they felt we needed more drama in our lives. Perhaps it is because the producers are sociopaths. But, each year, somebody with a dream becomes somebody who must be stopped.
The Villain comes to the forefront during the Group rounds – rounds designed to give us conflict (and perhaps to weed out the psychologically weak before they hit the big stage). Some years, the Villain is just lazy. We are told that they take this fantastic opportunity that tens of thousands of people dream about and they don’t take it seriously. They go out partying or sitting in hot tubs and their group suffers from their negligence as everybody stumbles around on stage followed by a stern lecture by the judges.
On the flip-side, we have those that take the group rounds too seriously. They hound their members to practice all night, demand perfection and cut people who are useless. These harridans make life difficult for everybody but the editors.
I’m sure if we had cameras following our every move, they would find moments that could be spliced together to make us look either lazy or crazed obsessives. Put us in a pressure cooker like Hollywood week and the group rounds and the likelihood increases. Add in some clever edits and we too could be the Villain of the Week.
Hollywood Villains are generally cut in Hollywood, but sometimes they are sent to the audience so that we can deliver the final, well-deserved blow. So that we may hiss at the Pantomime Villain and give him his just reward.
Let’s review some of the more infamous ones:
1) Season 5 – Brittenum Twins – These guys were the gift that just kept on giving. Obsessed perfectionists with delusions of grandeur and an ability to jump to conclusions. These twins hit Group rounds like a truck on fire.
Terrell ended up in a group with popular Sway, hapless Anthony and a little known guy called Elliott. Elliott and Sway turned out to be “lazy”. They did not stay up until 5:30 in the morning and Elliott even had the gaul to eat breakfast. If Terrell wasn’t so unbearable, we might think that Elliott and Sway were the bad guys. Their group performance blew chunks and the animosity on stage was palatable. The judges gaped. When they finished, Terrell kicked into offence mode (as he and Anthony had agreed to do in the wee hours of the morning). He immediately started telling the judges why they sounded so bad as the two “lazy” ones squirmed in the middle. This proved too much for even Simon who had to clarify if he was actually throwing them under the bus. Randy chimed in to inform them that “lazy” Elliott was the best of the group and Simon called Terrell a good backing singer, but a terrible soloist. In the end, only Anthony got cut. So, Terrell decided to blame his former ally for being tone deaf and ruining the entire performance.
Meanwhile, Terrell’s twin Derrell takes the stage with his own group and he is obviously pissed. He makes it through and then he too wants to speak. He goes on about how his “spirit has been broken” and he quits the show. Simon is okay with that, but Terrell is not. Turns out that Derrell thought Terrell had been cut and when Terrell points out that he was not, Derrell realizes his big mistake. No problem, the two end up back on stage asking for re-instatment. To the viewing audience’s amazement, Simon says yes (What?).
The two brothers would go on to be disqualified because they both ended up in jail between the Hollywood rounds and the start of the season when they were arrested on outstanding warrants for identify theft. They would go on to join the big lawsuit that was recently dismissed that accused Idol of discrimination. Elliott went on to third place that year. And we were later to discover that he is diabetic so eating regularly and sleeping is not being “lazy” – it’s called staying alive.
Here is the Group round disaster (love Elliott’s look of disbelief as Terrell trashes Anthony):
Here is Derrell quitting (love the shocked look on Daughtry’s face):
2) Season 10 – Clint – Clint Gamboa was a contestant who had done his research. He approached Hollywood with military precision. He was going to sound good no matter what. What he forgot was the PR battle.
Idol had long split Hollywood contestants into two groups for initial auditions. The smart first day auditioners would quickly form groups and have an extra day to click before the Group round songs were announced. This gave them an advantage over the Day 2 contestants. In Season 10, the producers threw a wrinkle in this to make it a little fairer. There needed to be at least one contestant from the other day in each group. Suddenly, fully formed groups were required to find another member and the new members tended to be treated like the outsiders they were.
We follow along as Scotty (Day 2) gets rejected by one group after another because his deep voice and country twang are hard to fit into a group. Finally, a group of three that has already taken on Day 2 contestant Jaycee agrees to take him on. The group leader, Clint, isn’t sure about having five people. He now has the freedom of making a choice and he chucks Jaycee out of the group for not being able to hit the notes. Jaycee is a very young looking 15 who we proceed to follow as he cries trying to find another group. Finally, another Day 1 group in need of a Day 2er welcomes him in. He messes up the words, but the judges have obviously been tipped to the story and the entire feel-good group goes through.
The very next group is the Clint/Scotty group and they start by getting a lecture about being mean. Steven himself says they should all take a step back. The group is clearly completely rattled, but they end up sounding darn good. Steven has Scotty, Monique and Frances step forward leaving Clint to suffer in a line of his own. Is he the only one making it or the only one cut? Steven tells the three in the front they are through plus Clint. Now, that was mean. We are meant to think Clint has been taught a lesson. Scotty ends up crying outside.
Clint and Scotty both make the top 24, but both are badly damaged by this PR. Scotty’s insistence on singing Josh Turner songs whenever he can makes him look like a one trick pony and he looks complicit in the Jaycee booting (turns out he was upstairs when it happened – if you look at the clips, he’s not in the scene where Jaycee is let go). He was pretty much loathed around these parts, but a strong semi-final performance started re-writing his story and he ended up winning the season. Clint showed up at the semi-finals knowing he was the villain and to the surprise of nobody, he did not make it through to the finals. His crime of wanting a cohesive group could not be forgiven.
Here is the drama:
Here is the group performance and the scoldings:
3) Season 11 – Richie – Richie Law is somewhat like the Brittenum twins. He is deluded, egotistical and insistent – a potent combination. Richie formed a group with an ailing Phillip, a wise-cracking Heejun and a smooth-voiced Jairon. It quickly becomes evident to everybody but Richie, that the other three know more about music and what to do than he does. Richie remains completely unfazed by his group members counter-arguments. Jairon would like to simplify things. To just have one set of chords they harmonize on. How with four singers, it will sound good and have less train wreck potential. But Richie patiently, and arrogantly explains to him that four key changes are necessary to stand out. Heejun would like to try some modern, non-cheesy dance moves. But Richie patiently, and arrogantly, explains complex dance moves like the box-step to him. Phillip would like to have his medical condition addressed. Richie worries about it eating into training time. At first, the group tries to work though the issue. Surely, reason will prevail. But Richie cannot be swayed from his calm, patronizing ways. He knows best and he is an unmovable mountain. By morning, the other three are clearly whipped. The performance turns out as expected – the other three sound great and harmonize well while Richie is tone deaf and moves like Bambi on ice. Richie thinks they all remain friends, but the next time we see the other three, they have a new fourth.
Heejun would go on to make the finals and Phillip to win the season.
Here Heejun flirts with villain status himself snarking all over the cowboy, but the cowboy’s arrogance still shines through:
Here, the cowboy hangs himself when he insists on a solo confessional. I wonder who he thought was going to get the boot? (includes the performance):
4) Season 6 – Antonella – Antonella Barba was lucky to make it to the Group Rounds of Hollywood with her BFF Amanda Coluccio (usually, Idol enjoys booting one friend or sibling for the drama). So, all they had to do was pick a similarly attractive girl to form a group with a minimum size of three and they were golden. Right? Nope. They ended up picking Baylie Brown who was fresh from the farm and only 16. The three struggled to pick a song they could sing and ended up picking a song that Baylie did not know. While Baylie wanted to practice, Amanda wanted to flirt and Antonella wanted to go to bed. As expected, their performance was horrible and Baylie forgot all the worlds – she gets cut. We ended up with a sobbing Baylie who felt that she deserved to go through because she worked so hard and the other two had not. Amanda and Antonella were shocked and made some comment about how maybe Baylie was not a good person.
The American Idol fanbase was outraged. Baylie had been dealt a raw hand and deserved a second chance. Nigel was even made to answer questions about it by the press. Amanda was eventually cut, but Antonella made it to the semi-finals. The outrage against Antonella only grew when pictures of her cavorting around the memorials in Washington and sitting on a toilet surfaced. Surely, such a wanton women could not be the next American Idol? An early lesson to people that anything on the internet lasts forever.
Antonella would go on to be eliminated Top 16 after several terrible performances while Baylie would eventually get her second chance in Season 11. She did not make it past the Top 12 girls.
Sorry, I couldn’t find any videos on this one. Actually, I’m not sorry. That was a mess.
So, how about you? Do you remember any villains? Any thoughts on how the villains are portrayed. Is it really such a big deal to cut somebody who clearly isn’t working with your group? Or is it better to soldier on and appear on stage completely demoralized? When is the right time to go to bed? Surely, sleeping in until noon the next day (as one contestant did) is clearly not on, but is going to bed at 2 am bad as well? Is less practice or no sleep worse?