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AMERICAN IDOL: Drama and desperation escalate behind the scenes as the pressure mounts during the intense Hollywood Rounds. The girls get their chance to win over the judges beginning Wednesday, Feb. 13 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT). / Michael Becker/FOX

We've seen the guys (and, maybe it's just me, but I think we were a little underwhelmed). Now, it's time to see what this year's group of American Idol female singers can do. Share your thoughts tonight, as the girls try to survive their Hollywood Round. - Brian Mansfield

Be my baby Ban: Kez Ban's behavior has been so erratic that you know they'd have to save The Misfits performance for last.

"Just go to bed, wake up, and we'll meet before breakfast," one says to the other two when Kez Ban can't be found.

Kez Ban's just getting up while the other three are rehearsing.

Kez Band starts, putting on a faux British accent as she sings the first verse of Be My Baby.

The song's obviously not in Breanna Steer's, and she sounds like she's trying to modulate it by sheer force of will. Angela Miller and Janelle Arthur both make the best of a bad situation, shining in their solo spots. A breakdown chorus almost -- almost, I say -- works.

The judges are cackling with laughter as Kez Ban falls to her knees for the big showbiz ending.

Nicki Minaj thinks they're all stars. "Kez Ban, of course, you know you're a crazy psycho, and I love that."

They all get through. Even Kez Ban.

***

Sing to the hand: Four You decided at the last minute to change their selection from Total Eclipse of the Heart to Somebody That I Used to Know. Either way, it looks like they were going to have to do some serious learning on the material.

Stephanie Schimel says she would rather change their song and learn something completely new than go onstage with a song they don't know.

That's good, because she clearly doesn't know this song. Can't imagine how bad Total Eclipse of the Heart would have sounded.

Kalli Therinae and Holly Miller sound as bad as Schimel, but at least Miller knew some of the words.

Schimel and Miller survive, but it's hard to figure how Schimel made it. Unless the judges like her platinum blond hair and bright red lipstick.

"Why did they let me through?" she wonders. "I totally botched it."

The members of Four You, like many other groups, have been writing problematic lyrics on their hands. But it's not helping, and they're not very subtle.

Now Nicki Minaj is writing on hers: "They suck."

Brandy Neelly, Hayley Davis, Kree Harrison, Britnee Kellogg have been struggling with rehearsals and personality conflicts. Davis even went to bed while the others stayed up and rehearsed.

"At this point, it's just each man for their own," one says.

They've picked Sin Wagon, but they're not nearly as good or exciting as the first group that did it. When Brandy's solo turn comes, she oversings and blows it -- you can tell from the look on Nicki Minaj's face.

Minaj finally calls out Davis for reading the lyrics off her hand and for bailing on her fellow singers.

"You don't just go to sleep and leave every one else to work," Minaj says. "But we'll vote."

When it's all said and done, Neelly's the only one going home. Shame.

"Hey, this is not the last time you're going to see Brandy Neelly," Neelly says as she leaves the stage. And it probably isn't -- this is her third trip to Hollywood, and she's still a teenager.

***

Oh, Snaps: The Pooh Snaps may have had their share of drama last night, but they're ready to go today. Zoanette Johnson's presence has given Isabelle, Lauren Bettes and Erin Christine some attitude that they probably could have used.

Johnson's not much of a singer, but she's a heckuva front woman. She actually might be fun to watch for a few weeks.

"I think overall, you girls, it was cool," Nicki Minaj tells them. The judges confer, and everybody but Bettes makes it through.

Gotta admit, that was a lot better than I thought it would be.

Handsome Women also has a trouble contestant -- and, shortly before they're supposed to go on, she can't be found.

But Liz Bills didn't have the same effect on Shira Gavrielov, Alisha Dixon and the other Courtney Calle that Johnson had on her group. They sound horrible, out of tune, and very amateurish. I wouldn't keep a one of them.

Bills, however, the girl who was searching for her group, won't have to search for them any longer. 'Cause she's staying, and they're all going home. Go figure.

Shira's not happy and wants an explanation.

"It just really wasn't great today," Randy Jackson tells her. Mariah Carey says that today might not have been the day that she shined the best. "The American Idol stage may not be it for you," she says.

"Have a great season," Gavrielov says as she stalks off.

***

Save the drama for your mama: Cristabel Clack's group, The Dramatics, seems to be living up to its name. One member, Janel Stinney, is singing so hard she's wearing out her voice. And when the other singers try to talk to her, she gets up and walks away to sit and sing by herself.

"I am a solo artist, so working with these girls has taught me so much," she says on camera. Everybody else starts laughing.

Whatever Stinney was doing off by herself, it wasn't learning the words. Her solo part is nothing but a long series of improvised "Whoa-oh-ohs." Clack does better, as does Kriss Mincey

"I enjoyed you guys messing up the words more than I have enjoyed any other performance today," Nicki Minaj says. Keith Urban and Mariah Carey asked Stinney if they rehearsed a lot together. When she says yes, laughter erupts from the back of the hall.

Eventually, all four get through -- a result that's a little bit mind-boggling.

Other groups aren't so fortunate, but Shubha Vedula, Sarina-Joi Crowe and Aubrey Cleland make the best of bad situations.

Urban Hue -- which features Kiara Lanier, Tenna Torres and Seretha Guinn -- doesn't have much of a blend, as they sing Estelle's American Boy.

"That was so painful!" Nicki Minaj says. "What was that?" She liked Guinn's voice but thinks she lacks star power. Torres, she says, is the one everyone will remember. But "I forgot what I loved about you before."

After the judges discuss, Minaj isn't happy with the result. Guinn is the only one getting sent home. To the rest, she says, "You have to step it up."

Guinn gets a big kiss from her young daughter as she leaves.

***

Sweet 'Sin' and sour grapes: We've seen Janelle Arthur and Rachel Hale, but they're not the only country singers in the bunch. "Lot of cowgirl boots up there," Keith Urban says, as Raisin' Cain -- a quartet that includes Morgan Leigh Boberg, Lauren Mink, Brandy Hotard -- takes the stage and begins singing the Dixie Chicks' Sin Wagon.

"I do declare, my, my, my," says Nicki Minaj. "Southern girls, I think that was a mighty fine job."

They're as good in their own way as the Swagettes, so they get through.

Savannah Votion has been given the task of building harmonies for Almost Famous, which has chosen Somebody That I Used to Know.

Votion gives an OK performance, but the rest of the group -- which includes Lizz Weiss, Daysia Hall and J'Leigh Chauvin -- just doesn't blend at all. They seem more interested, in fact, in dancing than harmonizing. Daysia's the only one of the three who makes the cut.

Votion, having worked out the harmonies for the group, is ticked that she got cut -- especially since Hall apparently forgot her lyrics.

"Everybody entitled to their own opinion," Hall says. "I'm a very positive individual."

***

Swagettes have style: Kez Ban is not a morning person and would like the camera person to turn off the camera while she gets ready. "Thank you for visiting me this morning," she says, blinking, from behind a curtain.

Randy Jackson's booked in the studio today, so Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey will be the only judges.

Up first: The Swagettes, with Candice Glover, Kamaria Ousley, Melinda Ademi and Denise Jackson. They've got serious Destiny's Child action as they sing Blu Cantrell's Hit 'Em Up Style. They were one of the first groups to finish rehearsing last night, and they lay out the judges and everybody in the hall.

"That was a great, great song choice," Keith Urban. "I love how you came out and nailed all the harmonies. ? You put it all together."

The judges confer and quickly put all four Swagettes through to the next round.

***

Ban on the run: Only 76 girls remain after what, apparently, was a brutal first round. Now it's time to see who works and plays well with others.

The girls got a heads-up that the producers are choosing the groups.

I'm guessing this mean that you know if Kez Ban is in your group that the judges hate you. Or maybe not, because Janelle Arthur and Angela Miller, two clear favorites, get grouped with her.

"I think some claws are going to come out tonight," says Brandy Neelly.

They'll pick a song from a list of 20, arrange the harmonies and choreograph their routine.

Kez Ban is determined to sing California Dreamin', to the point that the other girls are getting clearly put out with her.

Neelly, Haley Davis, Brittany Kellogg and Kree Harrison get along well and pick their song quickly. But tensions rise in the rehearsal room.

Zoanette Johnson's group has chosen the R&B chestnut Knock on Wood, but Johnson's "not feeling the song" and has started sulking. "It's like they're all country singers," she says. "It's not going to work."

Kez Ban's group, called The Misfits, is the last group to pick a song and finally goes with The Ronettes' Be My Baby. Kez Ban's behavior grows more eccentric. She offers a back-rub circle, spits some phlegm into a trash can and wonders where dinner is.

"I just think that this is a test," one of the singers says. "Someone's testing me."

The others decide to keep rehearsing and maybe not make a big deal about letting Kez Ban know.

***

Tough competition: We're moving fast today: It's already 4:30. Candice Glover, a returning Idol contestant from Seasons 9 and 11, continues to blow the judges away. Megan Miller, the girl who had the accident just before her audition, is completely healed and back in heels. She sounds good, too, but not quite so impressive.

Keith Urban calls forth five singers, including Glover but not Miller. Which suggests that this is a seriously talented group of girls.

Isabelle, who has yet to be identified by her last name on this show, does a version of Summertime where she's sliding hard into the notes. She's in, too.

"I don't necessarily think I fit in where anywhere," says Kez Ban, the odd girl who wore yellow tape on her shoe during her audition. Most of the other girls, she says, "have very different musical tastes than I do." She's a little hoarse, because she's fighting a cold and she's been rooting hard for the contestants she likes.

"If I go home, I still had fun," Kez Ban says. "If I don't go home, that's even scarier."

She belts out a version of Nights in White Satin. It's not very good. Or even interesting in a bad way. Hope they don't keep her around just to screw with Group Day.

Briana Oakley, from the Long Beach auditions, sounds much better.

The judges liked both -- Kez Ban and Oakley go through, as do the two other groups. You should also know that Ashley Feliciano and Melinda Ademi survived this round.

***

Idol country girls: Two country singers go head to head in this next group: Rachel Hale and Janelle Arthur.

Is there room for both?

Nicki Minaj is particularly impressed with Rachel Hale's presence, as she sings Grace Potter's Nothing but the Water.

Arthur says she's the next American Idol because "I'm a dreamer, y'all," as she launches into a mournful version of Hank Williams' I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry.

If they're getting rid of one, it's a tough call. I think both should last at least into group rounds.

Mariah Carey calls both of them forward, so they're in -- no way they'll send both of them home. But they've also officially been pitted against each other for purposes of the show.

"I'm just so blown away," a wide-eyed Arthur says. "Oh my gosh."

***

Wishful thinking. "This year, there's going to be a girl winner."

We call this wishful thinking.

But the producers have changed so much of the system this year -- separating the guys and the girls, picking the members of each group, etc. -- that maybe the process will produce something different.

We'll see.

"Let's hope we have just a group of girls that want to make their dreams come true," says Mariah Carey. Keith Urban says he'd love to see a girl winner. A lot of us would.

This year, Ryan Seacrest says, they brought in a lot more girls than guys. So they'll be dumping a hundred or so pretty quickly.

Angela Miller and Victoria Acosta and Mariah Pulice, from the Chicago auditions, are in the first group to sing for the judges in Hollywood.

Pulice sings well, eliciting a "wow" from Urban. Miller takes a moment to tell the judges that it's definitely the girls' year. She warms up as she gets into Jessie J's Who You Are, surprising the judges with the quality of her performance. Acosta covers Killing Me Softly With His Song and has some pitch issues, though she's got a strong voice.

Urban asks Miller and Acosta to move forward, but Pulice is out. "There's a plan for everything," she says, through tears, "and this just wasn't it."

Ashley Smith, Ann Difani and Sarah Restuccio (the Super Bass girl from New York) all go home without us hearing so much as another note.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: 'American Idol': Now it's the girls' turn

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