Quick, name the last woman to win "American Idol."
Um, that would be Jordin Sparks. Season 6. 2007. In other words, a long time ago. How long? George Bush was still in the White House. The "Lost" castaways were still on that blasted island.
But as Hollywood Week continues, there are early indications that this could be the season when a girl rises back to the top.
Host Ryan Seacrest informs us that we're about to witness "some of the greatest female performances we've seen in years." And then he quickly adds: "And drama like we've never had before."
Oh, we like the sound of that. Let's get to it:
-- The first group of singers includes Angela Miller and mariachi singer Victoria Acosta, who both make it through to the group round. Failing to make it is Mariah Pulice, whose struggle with anorexia was featured during her original audition. A shaky rendition of "Gravity" did her in.
"There's a plan for everything," she says. "This just wasn't it."
Also cut are "Blondie" Ashley Smith, "Idol" nominee and newlywed Ann Difani and "Super Bass" girl Sarah Restuccio.
-- Our second group of 10 singers features a showdown of country crooners Rachel Hale ("Nothing But the Water") and Janelle Arthur ("I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"). The latter seems to have a bolder, richer voice, but Nicki Minaj detects a "Taylor Swift sweetness" in Rachel, who always seems to have a smile on her face.
Both of the country girls make it through, while all
-- A bunch of other jubilant singers -- all unidentified -- are shown getting the thumbs-up from the judges. Then Candice Glover -- the girl Nicki wanted to "skin and wear" steps up and delivers some big-time notes on Christina Aguilera's "Impossible." She's in, but Megan Miller, the lovely charmer who originally auditioned on crutches isn't so lucky.
-- The next on-screen line includes Antioch's Briana Oakley, who also belts out "Impossible." The curly-haired Carondelet High School junior makes it through to the group phase, along with Isabelle Pasqualone and quirky street performer Kez Ban. The latter qualified despite being hampered by a croaky voice she said she got from screaming and cheering for the other contestants.
And just like that, 76 contestants out of 162 are left standing. Now, onto the dreaded group round:
The aforementioned drama materializes quickly as the irritating Kez Ban (who looks like a guy) makes life difficult for her group, The Misfits, which includes Janelle Arthur, Rihanna Steele and Angela Miller. Kez wants to do "California Dreamin'" and will "fight to the death for it."
The others, however, manage to fend her off and choose "Be My Baby." During rehearsals, Kez is manic and disruptive. At one point, she even bails on the others to get something to eat. She makes things "tense" and "challenging, her group mates say.
Meanwhile, Brandy Neely, Kree Harrison, Haley Davis and Brittnee Kellogg (The Dolly Chicks) are struggling with each other over the choreography for their chosen song, the Dixie Chicks' "Sin Wagon." And a teary-eyed Zoanette Johnson isn't happy with the song choice ("Knock On Wood") made by her teammates Erin Christine, Lauren Bettes, and Isabelle.
-- First up to perform are The Swaggettes, made up of Oakland vocal coach Kamaria Ousley, Melinda Ademi, Denise Jackson, and Candice Glover. They do "Hit'em Up Style" by Blu Cantrell. Ousley, 29, starts things off and Glover again adds her booming voice to the lovely harmonies. Keith Urban calls is a "great song choice" and all four glide through easily.
"Swag on," says Mariah Carey.
-- Raisin' Cain -- Morgan Leigh Boberg, Lauren Mink, Brandy Hotard and fourth unidentified girl kick up their cowboy boots on a fun and twangy version of "Sin Wagon." Nicki does her best Southern belle impression and announces that they all pass muster.
-- Almost Famous -- Savannah Votion, Lizz Weiss, Daysia Hall and J'Leigh Chauvin take the stage in ratty outfits and sound totally flat on Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know." Only Daysia manages to emerge from the wreckage.
-- The Dramatics -- This is one dysfunctional group. Space cadet Janel Stinney is standoffish and repeatedly walked out on rehearsals. The result is an atrocious, screechy version of "If I Die Young" by the Band Perry, in which Janel totally botches the lyrics, as does Kriss Mincey. But the group, which includes Christabel Clack, inexplicably gets support from Nicki, who even praises Janel for her individuality, and they all advance. This is one of those decisions we see on "Idol" every season that makes you want to throw something at the TV. Unbelievable.
-- In a brief montage of much better performances, Shubha Vedula, Sarina Joi-Crowe, and Aubrey Cleland all win the judges' approval. They are followed by a lackluster overall performance by Seretha Guinn, a contestant Nicki dubbed a "superstar" during her initial audition, Teena Torres and Kiara Lanier. At the end of the song, Keith Urban asks if it is finished, and Mariah Carey replies that she "hopes so." Seretha is the only one sent home, but the others are told they need to step up.
-- Let's hear it for the Poo-Snaps (or at least that's what it sounded like). Zoanette has pulled herself together (and squeezed into some short shorts) and they do a flashy, over-the-top rendition of "Knock On Wood" that has the judges chuckling. But Lauren Bettes doesn't see the humor in it. She's the only member of the group sent home.
-- Handsome women is another group with a diva in the midst. She's the barefoot Liz Bills, who keeps walking out on her mates, Shira Gavrielov, Alisha Dixon, and Courtney Calle. But she's the only one to emerge from a sluggish performance to make it through. A stunned -- and tearful -- Shira asks for an explanation. "It just wasn't great today," says Randy Jackson.
-- The group For You blows it big time by making a last-minute song change, shifting from "Total Eclipse of the Heart" to the increasingly annoying "Somebody That I Used to Know." Dumb. It's so horrendous that Alex Delaney is seen reading lyrics off her hand. But Stephanie Schimel and Holly Miller somehow survive -- a fact that Holly can't even believe.
-- The Dolly Chicks. This is the group that struggled with the choreography. Then Haley Davis angered the others by abandoning rehearsals to hit the sack. During the song, Haley has to read the lyrics off her arm. Even so, she gets through, along with Britnee Kellogg and Kree Harrison.
-- The Misfits. Despite their problems with Kez Ban, they get a standing ovation from Nicki, who singles out Janelle ("You're just a star to me"). All four advance.