American Idol Hollywood round two: Symone Black is okay, but the show is limping along

Listen here, American Idol producers: Spending a large majority of last night's show, the second part of the Hollywood round, on anything besides singing is absolutely absurd. While we're glad that Symone Black, whom we were left to wonder about after she fell off the Hollywood stage at the end of Wednesday's show, survived her embarrassing collapse, you don't need to give us 45 minutes setting Idol up like a challenge from America's Next Top Model. All future episodes should have the majority of air time devoted to the actual singing, not following the contestants around as they form groups and discover diva-like dynamics among their peers.

This is where American Idol loses its voice to, ironically, The Voice , its only major competition. While no fault of the newer judges, Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler, The Voice has taken the old Idol formula, which focused only on the music, and amplified it. Meanwhile, Idol is left to limp onwards through what's been formatted as a roller coaster season, trying to determine what works with viewers and what doesn't.

Showing us why contestants choose each other to be in their groups of four or five may provide insight into their personalities, but at this point, honestly, who cares about personality? Sure personality is a key component of what makes an American an Idol -- take Kelly Clarkson, the original Idol , for example -- but it's vocal chops that matter most -- again, consider Clarkson or even Carrie Underwood.

All this considered, few contestants stood out during last night's episode -- and some for all the wrong reasons. Black, whose collapse was the big build-up from Wednesday's show, is outshone by her stage dad, George, especially during the group scenes. Brielle von Hugel has her own stage-parent nightmare, too, and somehow stage mom is more a focus than von Hugel. And Amy Brumfield, the woman who lived in a tent prior to Idol, falls ill with the flu, and Idol naturally spends more time showing us why no one wants to sing with her than why she should be sent through to the next round.

Towards the end of the episode we're treated to what looks to be the first glimpse of singing in the whole hour-long episode, as the group called The Bettys, four female contestants take the...Wait! Time has run out. Cue the awkward Ryan Seacrest line giving us a reason to come back next week. At this rate, we will need more than just a Seacrest one-liner to prevent us from watching The Voice ; we'll need actual singing.

Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music

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