Fleeing the sanctity of the judges' homes, the competition goes live in front of a stadium-sized audience, extending the show's already-formidable length to two-and-a-half hours. Fortunately for us, the judges can now slam each other over song selection and arrangements, so the floodgates are open for personal attacks. Let the games begin!
Over the bloated runtime, five acts must be eliminated – one by each judge except for Simon, who has to lose two Girls to make up for resurrecting Melanie Amaro last week. After contestant introductions by some announcer on leave from the monster truck rally, LA Reid's Boys are up first.
Kicking things off, Astro (who has now shed his birth name altogether) is handed the shockingly classic-sounding beat from Kriss Kross's "Jump," and he completely makes it his own. His lyrics are solid, and he switches up his flow more than some rappers do over whole careers. "This is what you're going to be doing your entire life," Paula Abdul decrees. "You just killed everybody," confirms Simon, in an attempt to talk "street."
Chris Rene's take on "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" offers more style than substance, but the kid's got undeniable charisma. Phillip Lomax, who does Sinatra by way of Bruno Mars, got this far along on his uniqueness within the group. This time, however, it just isn't enough to save his wonky "I'm a Believer" cover. "I just wish you had a personality and a voice," Nicole says, and it's the first brutal blow of the night. "You were like a racecar driver and LA put you in a tractor," Simon says of the song choice. He then dismisses the performance, correctly, as "too throwaway" and "too cabaret." "Thank you for the constructive criticism," LA retorts, witheringly.
Before Marcus Canty walks onstage, we flash back to LA assuring him, "You got that Bobby Brown in you," which sounds more like a threat than anything. The alarming song selection, "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me," is not in the soul singer's pocket, though, and he sounds uneven. During the elimination, LA pardons Astro first. His next pick is Marcus, and Chris barely looks nervous when it's down to him and Phillip. Sure enough, LA calls his name next. Host Steve Jones then gets to interview the newly axed Lomax and awkwardly tell him, "I did not want to be speaking to you in this capacity." Poor Steve Jones!
Paula's Groups are up next, lead by the Stereo Hogzz, in a series of outfits loaned from hitmen and limo drivers. The guys perform "Try a Little Tenderness," a perennial with increased relevance lately, due to Jay-Z and Kanye's "Otis." Weirdly, none of the judges seems aware of that song's direct influence when they praise the "originality" of throwing a rap verse onto this particular Otis Redding tune. At least Simon takes this opportunity to give some long-awaited props: "My mouth won't say it . . . Paula, you did a really good job."
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