It was all Bruno Mars, almost all of the time on "American Idol's" Hollywood group round episode Wednesday night (Feb. 16), as nearly half of the contestants pinned their hopes on the breakout pop crooner's earnest melodies.
Mars' solo Hot 100 No. 1 singles "Grenade" and "Just the Way You Are," as well as Cee-Lo Green's "Forget You," were among the songs performed most frequently in the group round, with wildly varied results. New York natives Pia Toscano, Alessandra Guercio and Brielle Von Hugel sailed through with their rendition of "Grenade," while a "Just the Way You Are" cover by a group of Latino contestants rendered only two them safe: Miami native (and six-pack sporting) Jovanny Barreto and MySpace auditioner Karen Rodriguez.
Video: "Idol" hopefuls sing Bruno Mars' "Grenade"
Another contemporary song, Rihanna's "Only Girl in the World," did an all-female group no favors, as all of its members, including single mom Paris Tassin, were eliminated. Other early favorites who were cut by judges Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson included New York waitress Devyn Rush, country singer Janelle Arthur and Aaron Gutierrez, whose twin brother made it to the next round.
"Idol's" Hollywood group auditions are notorious for drama, as hopefuls become worn down by tireless rehearsing and competitive pressures, and this year producers raised the stakes even more, requiring that each group be comprised of singers from each day of the solo auditions and disrupting the contestants' plans. What followed was nearly an hour of juicy bickering and frustration -- some contestants, like Jordan Dorsey, demanded that others prove themselves worthy by auditioning for them, while outliers like Tiffany Rios and Scotty McCreery struggled to be recruited by anyone. A strung-out Ashley Sullivan nearly walked out on the show altogether, only to change her mind and return to perform Blu Cantrell's "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)" with her group.
The night's most emotional moment came when 15-year-old Jacee Badeaux, who has already become a sentimental favorite, was booted from his original group by Clint Jun Gamboa, a 26-year-old faux-hipster who feared Badeaux was a weak link. Both contestants made it through to the next round, but it was a tearful Badeaux who likely gained more momentum with fans, while Jun Gamboa, despite his strong vocals, came away looking more like a bully than a good sport -- not a safe position to be in as he'll likely be depending on fan votes in the weeks to come.
"American Idol's" Hollywood round continues tomorrow with more solo auditions and, no doubt, plenty of tears.