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American Idol
Season 4
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In the world's ultimate talent search - where the eyes of a nation are upon the best undiscovered singers in the country, where the audience has the power to make or break you, and where a million-dollar recording contract is on the line, there is only one rule: If you can sing it, bring it.

Recaps by Chico Alexander & Gordon Pepper, GSNN


FACT FILE:

Host: Ryan Seacrest
Judges: Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson
Creator: Simon Fuller (based upon "Pop Idol")
EP: Nigel Lythgoe, Ken Warwick, Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Simon Fuller
Packager: 19 Entertainment, FremantleMedia North America
Airs: Tuesdays at 8pm ET and Wednesdays at 9pm ET on Fox


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"Back to Hollywood" - February 8

From all across America, by bus, by train, by plane, 193 of the best undiscovered singers are about to convene on the same stage that will either make or break their chances of becoming the next American Idol. For the next two weeks, it's sudden death time, as the dream ends for 169 of them.

First... We have to cut it down to half. As Mario Vasquez says, "It's American Idol, it's season 4, it's a competition. Simply put." To that end, some slept while some worked on words and appearance, and some just chilled.

Monday, 7am: Boot camp (aka "Five Days in Pop Star Hell") begins. The first phase is split over two days. The players are divided into two groups and two buses. One bus sings TODAY. The other sings TOMORROW. In this phase, they have to sing one of 12 songs picked by the producers. They had one week to learn the melody and the lyrics (which is what they will have should they make the Top 12). Meanwhile, we work with a pianist and vocal coach Debra Byrd.

Meanwhile, Bus 2 is touring Hollywood. Back in the theatre, the contestants are divided boy-girl and grouped into 10.

First up, farm girl Carrie Underwood. She sings "Young Hearts Run Free" Still as nice as ever. Definitely a contender after a shaky start. Now to wait while we hear Jaclyn Crum ("Ain't No Mountain High Enough") and Sarah Mather ("You Don't Have to Say You Love Me") belt gold. Mother of twins Tamesha Foote climbs the "Mountain" without a sherpa... and it sure sounds like it. She blames the pianist for not playing in key. Now to decision time... Simply put, yes or no.

Carrie: Unanimous YES
Jaclyn: YES
Sarah: YES
Tamesha: NO

And Sarah... has a baby waiting at home. Damn. Anyway, Tamesha still has choice words for Carrie, who, to Tamesha's benefit, did bungle a lyric or two.

Now the guys, as we have tracheotomy-survivor Anthony Fedorov, whose rendition of Coco Lee & Julio Iglesias' "When You Tell Me That You Love Me" reminds me of Clay Aiken. Has a little overtone, but he shrugs it off. Next is Michael Liuzza, who was distinct in New Orleans. He was different and unique... but now, just off-pitch. WAY off-pitch.

Anthony: YES
Michael: NO

Back at the tour, they seem to forget that they too have to protect their instrument for tomorrow. Well, almost all of them. Shunta Warthen seems to have gotten on the wrong bus and now has to find a way to get back to the theatre. "Get a cab and go!" So all of a sudden, American Idol becomes "The Amazing Race".

Back at the Orpheum Theatre, as Rashida Johnson is having the worst morning ever. With a cold and laryngitis, she may have to bow out. She belts "Baby Come To Me" with a Toni Braxton vibe. It should be noted... I LOVE Toni Braxton. Her decision...

Rashida: Unanimous... YES

And Shunta is still looking for her cab. Ah, there it is, but will she make it?

Back at the theatre, Amanda Avila, Travis Tucker, and Lindsey Cardinale move their "Mountain"s to the delight of the judges.

Lindsey: YES
Travis: YES
Amanda: YES

On that note, we get to another question, "Why should you become the next American Idol?" If you remember from last year, Fantasia said that she has a big mouth and a bigger talent. QED on both accounts. This year... we have long, complicated, explanations that you could read out of ANY beauty pageant handbook. And an overuse of the words "inspire" and "Role model". But then there are these!

"I think it'll give me a better chance to meet Johnny Depp."
"I'm worth idolizing."
"Bald is beautiful."
"I'm FFT, fat, fashionable, and of course, talented."
"I enunciate."
"I clean up well."
"I don't look like I sound."
"I'm a nice Greek boy."
"My job sucks."
"I'm Simon's little brother."

With that, we get another performance from Rich Molfetta... after we get Ross Williams croon his way through "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and bald-is-beautiful posterchild Sean McNeill run Stevie's "You Are the Sunshine of My Life". Both rather well. Now Rich with "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart." Sounds like he will be joining JP Molfetta sooner rather than later.

Ross: Unanimous YES
Sean: YES
Rich: Unanimous NO

"I choked." Yeah, that's about right. And back at the theatre is Shunta with minutes to spare! On stage, it's "Sunshine" with Nadia Turner, David Brown, Scott Savol, Anwar Robinson, and Jeffery Johnson. The verdicts...

Nadia: Unanimous YES
David: Unanimous YES YES YES
Scott: Unanimous YES
Anwar: See you tomorrow.
Jeffery: NO.

Now for the racer, Shunta belts out "Young Hearts". Sounds like the trip was well-worth it.

Shunta: Unanimous YES

The sun goes down at the beach, and it proves to be an emotional experience for Francisco Torres. "Brooklyn beaches don't look like this."

Theatre pan: Melissa Figueroa wants to know "How Will I Know". Not the best I've heard. Vonzell Solomon also "Knows". See above. Regina Brooks (the woman who pawned her wedding rings to be here) lost 40 pounds is next with "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". She believes in it... but she tried to do more with less, frankly.

Melissa: YES
Vonzell: YES
Regina: Unanimous NO

A heartbreak for her and 54 others. For 48 others, the dream continues as they tour Hollyweird. For the bus 2ers... it's D-Day. First up, farm boy Patrick Norman and New Yorker Mario Vasquez sing "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart".  Again, Patrick does more with less. Mario does more with more. Mario wins this one. Sorry, Patrick. Francisco is next with "Baby Come To Me." He just sings out. Not bad. Now the decision...

Mario: Unanimous YES
Patrick: NO
Francisco: NO

Now to Marlea Stroman, who found boot camp to be a little tiring compared to caring for her child (C-Note: This is relevant. You'll see why later). She sings "Let There Be Love". Very hip.

Marlea: Unanimous YES.

She's in with no problem. She's in shock. Meanwhile, Bus 1 is on the set of "The OC". Yeah. Okay. Back at the theatre, Marlea is still in recovery mode AND feeling the cuts of everyone else. Now to Constantine Maroulis, the nice Greek boy who quit his band to try out for Idol. Other rockers include Aaron Kelly and Bo Bice. And all three pick "The Letter". All are better than some of the stuff on top 40 radio. They're all in.

But what about opera chick Briana Davis? Will she have luck with the Letter? Umm... no.

Briana: (Simon: "The nerves got to you. It's a no, sweetheart.")

And while Briana is escorting herself off stage, Marlea is having second thoughts as well. In contrast, Mikalah Gordon, the singer who wanted to buy her mom implants. She personalizes "You Don't Have To Tell Me You Love Me" after Simon calls her the most confident 16-year-old in the contest. And rightly so. She threatens the object of her desire with a date to the prom (she missed homecoming) if she's not picked to go on. Well, he's not going to the prom...

Mikalah: YES

But the mood isn't as rosy for Marlea, as EPs Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe (yes, the host of "The Enemy Within" on BBC America) have a heart-to-heart-to-heart with her. "I really miss my son. I want to go home. I love the entertainment world, but this is my life, mother. I've decided to leave the competition." So for the first time, a potential Idoler walks away. Meanwhile the show continues for Janay Castile (in), and others. As the day draws to a close, we are halved at 97. And the worse was yet to come with group performances. And what's so bad that Nigel has to step in? The Enemy is still Within tomorrow...

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