Stop me if you think that you've heard this one before.
At the top of the first night of Hollywood Week on "American Idol" on Thursday (February 10), Randy Jackson and host Ryan Seacrest assured us that without a doubt, for sure, guaranteed, the 327 singers who snagged their golden tickets at the outset of season 10 are the very best group of singers they've ever had. Ever.
But by night's end, half of them were headed home as the biggest group to ever make it to Hollywood was cut down in a hurry.
With lots of bodies to move, the judges got down to business right away, bringing out redheaded bullied Boca Raton, Florida, 16-year-old Brett Loewenstern for a soul-licked take on the Beatles' "Let it Be." As it would be for all the contestants, though, the painful wait to find out if he made the cut required Loewenstern to hang out until all 10 members of his group had sung without the benefit of any feedback from the judges. With newbie panelist Jennifer Lopez sweating the harsh task of making quick cuts — "God, this is awful," she moaned, her head in her hands — Loewenstern and a girl named (yes) Symphony learned they'd live to sing another day.
Also making it through was brassy New Yorker Rachel Zevita, old soul Thia Megia and Taylor Hicks-alike blues belter Casey Abrams. The unbelievably perky Victoria Huggins, 17, brought her giant personality to Tinseltown, but her uneven cover of Julianne Hough's "My Hallelujah Song" just didn't cut it, and she was sent packing.
Hollywood meant a lot more to Paris Tassin, 23, a mother of a special-needs daughter and James Durbin, the unemployed young dad we met on Wednesday night whose rock-star charisma wowed the judges. Tassin's "My Heart Will Go On" was just OK, but Durbin again brought his Adam Lambert-esque high-and-mighty wail to the Beatles' "Oh! Darling."
They were joined by 15-year-old early favorite Lauren Alaina and former Miss Teen USA looker Stormi Henley, with the former showing some nerves during "Unchained Melody" and the latter washing out thanks to the weak vocals Lopez had pegged earlier. Durbin, Alaina and Tassin made the cut, putting some of the most buzzed-about contenders into the next round.
Amid all the hard-luck stories this season, few pulled the heartstrings as much as Chris Medina, whose fiancée was seriously injured in a car crash. The 27-year-old barista did an uneven pass through Jason Mraz's "You and I Both," but it was good enough to put him through to the group competition.
Preternaturally soulful Jacee Badeaux, 15, proved he earned his trip to Hollywood with some sweet falsetto goodness that got howls of approval from the other contestants, while 16-year-old jazzbo Robbie Rosen reached high up in the rafters and Texas belter Hollie Cavanaugh, 17, overcame her nerves to put up a solid second effort. All three made the cut.
Next up was accountant Steve Beghun, 27, whose regular-guy persona and just OK singing weren't enough on second look. Also missing out were Sarah Sellers and Jacqueline Dupree as well as Los Angeles belly dancer Heidi Khzam.
Unbelievably civil exes Rob Bolin and Chelsee Oaks made some beautiful music again, proving that they may not be getting back together, but they earned another shot. In a twist of cruel fate, "Idol" producers bunked them with the show's first power couple, Nick Fink and Jacqueline Dunford. Fink bit the dust thanks to a bizarre shiny silver jacket and cheesy lounge act, while Dunford's smoky slink through Sam Cooke's "Bring It on Home to Me" got her ticket punched, breaking up the adorable duo.
Fink made the rookie mistake of making a cringe-worthy plea for another chance. "One shot. You gotta leave it all on the stage," Randy said sternly. "It didn't quite happen." Then Fink only made it worse by trying to pathetically sing one more time in the aisle as he slowly walked out of the auditorium.
Country rumbler Scotty McCreery, 17, busted out the baritone again by reprising his low-rumbling cover of Josh Turner's "Your Man" and Milwaukee soul man Jerome Bell stuck with his towering take on Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On." The second time was a charm for both.
The night's last line included the kid with the rough Bronx tale, Travis Orlando, 17, who struggled to find his groove on Maroon 5's "This Love," perhaps overshadowed by mega-diva Tiffany Rios, who promised to bring the thunder. "I'm gonna be honest," she said before singing. "I'm tired of seeing people try to do what I know I can." She then tore into Etta James' "All I Could Do Was Cry," belting it out with dramatic flair and some gospel fire that again impressed the judges.
Also making it were Clint Gamboa, Julie Zorrilla, Naima Adedapo, the Gutierrez brothers, White House intern Molly DeWolf Swenson, quirky redhead Emily Anne Reed, weepy Ashley Sullivan and Stefano Langone.
And so there you have it. The 327 were down to 168, with some early stars flaming out and other hopefuls living to sing again next Wednesday during the always-tense group rounds.
Did your favorites make it? Let us know in comments below!
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