Saturday, May 21, 2011

Byeynyn's review of ABDC6's Nicki Minaj Challenge

To be perfectly honest, I feel it’s been a rocky season so far. The music’s been pretty painful at times, and so were the voting results. There were moments where I watched and thought, “I waited a whole year for THIS?!” I’m not even convinced all the crews are living up to their full potential here. In general, the dancers this season are just as talented as the ones before, even though some of them didn’t get much of an opportunity to showcase it. I want to say this season has been a letdown, but it’s not over yet. There’s still a good chance that any of the remaining crews will whip out a performance of a lifetime and earn the crown. Will any of the four crews bust out a showstopper this week?

All four crews dance together to “Massive Attack.” There’s a whole savage theme to it, but as far as Top Four group performances go, it was okay but wasn’t particularly memorable. In a weird way, it felt like an off-Broadway performance that takes place in the jungle. It’s not as high energy as a good show opener should be. A lot of that was smoke and mirrors, and I’m not in the mood to describe it at all. I liked the opening performances in the first two weeks better, which is frustrating since, if anything, the Top Four performance should be much better.

IaMmE- Saved once again, IaMmE’s song is the slow-paced "Moment 4 Life." They have to create childhood games, in reference to Nicki’s alter ego, Cookie. They go to the playground for inspiration. They bring up the fact that their diverse backgrounds means they have different childhood memories (apparently one of Moon’s childhood games involved a chicken’s mom). They also attempt recreating Whack-A-Mole, which is a senselessly cruel game against moles. I don’t blame Jaja for not understanding that one.

So they’re dressed in red outfits, with shirts with random numbers on them. I have no idea what the numbers have to do with childhood. There’s plenty of numbers in adulthood, too! Emilio starts out in a headstand while the others are bent in different poses. Whoever figures out what childhood game they were trying to replicate there deserves a cookie. Two of them do half flares, while the others make a formation and wrap hands in the middle. Okay, whoever figures out that childhood game deserves two cookies. They use Jaja is a limbo stick and two of them go under while one does a backflip over her. They do some quick choreo. Moon pantomimes slitting Brandon’s throat (and once again I have to correct Lil Mama. She has no idea what a sling is, but it definitely WASN’T used to cut Goliath’s throat). Chachi does hopscotch while the others tut. They get into their Brain Banging moment by moving into two rows of three, and then warping their arms about, almost like a tic-tac-toe grid. Philip pretends to Whack-A-Mole to the drum roll. Jaja gets her first moment to shine, when she does isolations and ticking while the others sway along with just one hand and one foot on the ground. They finish with Chachi being pushed on a human swing.

There are a lot of great formations here, but half of what they tried to convey just went over my head the first time. They thought of many different ways to demonstrate childhood memories, though not all of them translated well to the stage. I do like how Jaja finally gets a solo to impress the crowd, because her skill set had been the most mysterious up to this point. There was a moment or two where they got kind of sloppy with their choreo, but the overall thoughtfulness of their performances always impress me. Or as Lil Mama would say, “cease to impress me.”
ICONic Boyz- They have to dance to "Check It Out,” straight from the album “Songs that Stole from the 80’s.” The song unmistakably samples from “Video Killed the Radio Star” and I am slightly disgusted. Their job is to create a marionette, like Nicki’s alter ego, Harajuku Barbie. They talk about missing their families, which is the only sob story they can contribute right now. They have no idea what a marionette is. To be frank, I don’t think they even know anything about Nicki Minaj either. Or even Harajuku. Or even Barbie.

They’re dressed in bright pink outfits. Every week their outfit is essentially their typical jacket-and-pants combo, but in a different color. They start out doing puppetry. Some kids do assisted aerials. They bunch up in the middle and do some, well, simple choreo. They never really hit their moves that hard or sharply, so it looks like they’re doing popping-lite or waving-lite or isolation-lite. It’s the “diet cola” of dancing, because while it looks similar, if people pay enough attention, they can easily spot a difference. A kid does a handstand and kicks his legs up and down for a few seconds. Later, two of them do handstands in the background while two others hold up and fiddle with their legs. The rest are in the front performing a ventriloquism scene, which is probably ANOTHER word they didn’t know (them and Lil Mama). They throw in a little b-boy toprock. Well, diet toprock. In the end, five of them sit on the edge of the stage and act like puppets while one person acts like a puppetmaster.

And, uh, I thought this was their best performance. I never really held this crew in high regard, and I still don’t, but I admit that I was wrong when I expected them to start slowing down as the weeks progressed. Their whole performance was a solid attempt in using the marionette theme throughout, their staging was better, and they didn’t lose whatever “mystery factor” they have that gets their fans to vote for them in the first place. They have a childish sense of humor that they can get away with because, well, they’re children. It remains to be seen whether they or IaMmE will be in the bottom two next week, if not both.

Phunk Phenomenon- They are first to perform out of the Bottom Two, which means this week all the crews performed in alphabetical order. They get "My Chick Bad" and they have to incorporate Indian bellydancing like Nicki’s alter ego, Nicki Teresa. This is the second week in a row the crew’s challenge is to incorporate another dance style. Chris talks about the challenges of belly dancing and outs Bebo as a poor belly dancer. To be fair, this is the first time a mostly male crew was given the task to belly dance, so is Kassandra going to end up bailing them out once again?

They are dressed with green jackets and blue pants, while Kassandra is donning funky striped pants and a pink wig, reminiscent of Nicki Minaj. By default, Kassandra has to be the Chick Bad. She is hoisted in the air, doing her best Nicki impersonation. She controls one of the guys like he was a leashed dog. Or perhaps a lawnmower. They pretend to kill a guy during “Jason,” and when the song gets to the lyric about “Freddy,” Bebo screams like a girl. When the belly dancing music kicks in, they use a purple flag to make a butterfly shape. Bebo is doing a headstand and shaking his legs while Trey is doing the actual belly work. Bebo spins from his headstand into a freeze, because he thinks plain old headstands are for suckas. They perform some choreography facing the right side of the stage. Also, this group got the best song of the night by far, and they take advantage of it. Bebo trips up at one point in the back, and I do appreciate JC for pointing it out. They go all out in the end, as Bebo is in the center going nuts with tricks and air flares which the others are doing worms and windmills in the surroundings.  Ever since 787 and Instant Noodles were booted in a one-two punch, it’s been up to Phunk Phenomenon to shoulder the athletic load.

Phunk Phenomenon definitely hit the stage hard, and although it wasn’t quite as crisp as last week, it also compensated with a lot more energy and Phunk. Street Kingdom needs a performance twice as amazing to overthrow Phunk Phenomenon. As a note, I don’t believe the judges when they say they always save the crew who performs better that night. I think the judges had their scales tipped slightly in favor of Phunk before either crew performed, based on the crews’ previous performances. If I were using numerical scores (and I usually don’t because numbers are dangerous and require proper handling), if Phunk had an 8, SK wouldn’t cut it with a 9, they’d need a perfect 10. But since D-Trix practically orgasmed in front of PP, it’s probably not an 8. As for Street Kingdom…
Street Kingdom- They have the song "Did It On'em," and they have to flex military drills like soldiers, much like Nicki’s alter ego, Roman Zolanski (pronounced Zol-lan-SKY). Not to be confused with director Roman Polanski. And for some reason, the show keeps emphasizing that this is Street Kingdom’s third time in the Bottom Two, despite it not being that unique of an occasion (it has happened to a crew every season so far). They talk about being performing as a unit, and Tight Eyez brings up his Christian faith and how Nicki’s racy lyrics might conflict with that. I never really imagined he’d think Nicki Minaj’s music was a bigger challenge to dance to than Justin Bieber’s.

They are dressed like police officers, with bright blue berets with stars on them. Actually, scratch that. Most police officers don’t wear blue berets. They’re dressed more like… that one female police officer from the Resident Evil game. If only they were given the task to kill zombies. Some of the dancers are holding red handkerchiefs with hats attached, which I guess conveys blood or maybe Phunk Phenomenon’s hats or something. I can’t tell if it’s another diss. They play around for a bit with those hats before tossing them. They focus on a guy and kick him around for a bit. Another guy does a monkey roll. They form monkey bars with their arms while others pretend to climb them. There’s a point in the routine where three of them are on their bellies while the other seven are swaying and then doing intricate choreography, and this is the closest they get to unified choreo for the week. They swing their elbows for a while. They form an airplane. They’ve already formed a spaceship and a helicopter earlier on this show, so they sure enjoy forming vehicles. That and punching through people. Two of them are back to back and start leaning forward, but the camera cuts off before I can see what happens (turns out they just take a huge step forward. Thanks, Instant Replay!) They finish with a united salute.

They really took the military persona well, but they wound up sacrificing a lot of dancing in sake of story-telling in the beginning. All three judges can’t help but admit the beginning was slow. D-Trix does bring up a good point on how quick and jerky their movements are, and it’s not really an aspect of krump that most people notice. I’d say a good percentage of the audience sees a bunch of out-of-control flailing, but it’s more complicated than that. It is interesting to see how this crew has adapted since their first performance, and they’ve probably grown the most out of all the crews this season. It’s been a very growth-heavy season, I might add.
So the judges send home Street Kingdom, resulting in the longest hugging ceremony with the judges ever on this show. Now it’s down to IaMmE, ICONic Boyz, and Phunk Phenomenon. For the first time ever, the winner will either represent the East or the South. And with Phunk Phenomenon being the only crew of the three to reach the Bottom Two (and, let’s face it, they will probably see it again next week), next week’s results could get ugly.

Click here to return to the first page and to leave comments. Thanks again Byeynyn for the insight all season!