Saturday, May 5, 2012

Byenyn's Review of ABDC Drake Challenge

Rated Next Generation- Their song is “HYFR,” which is going to be modified to “HYDR” to tone down the language. The Drake song is more suited to their style, although they struggle to keep up with the rapping. They decide, based on the lyric “time to revisit the past,” to perform a section of their routine in reverse, which is one of my favorite challenges. Heck, if only crews could do their entire routine backwards, except that would kind of be impossible.

They’re wearing black hats and camouflage outfits like they were military brats. They begin by marching and later grooving, and they’re changing formations quite a few times. Not quite sure why they have a military theme here, but it’s their choice. The grimy routine appears to be led by Erin, who looks a bit like Miranda Cosgrove. So much swag from an iCarly lookalike. Is it weird to think that this group could outkrump the Elektrolytes? They all tumble towards the center. Erin falls back as the others catch her and push her back up, and they get on one knee to do intricate stuff. Rewind! They reverse their choreo to the moment where Erin falls back. They continue acting rough and hard with their moves. In the end, they salute and drop to a crouch on the ground as Erin stands alone.

D-Trix says it was their best performance so far. JC liked the overall feel but wanted more levels and variation. Lil Mama thinks they’re gangster and “schlepped on.” Now that we’ve reached the third performance of each crew, patterns are emerging. RNG is consistently strong at the choreography portion, being able to change their dancing style to adapt to the artist, but they still have to work to make multiple wow moments. Succeeding on this show requires more than being capable dancers, it’s also about things that will make for a good highlight reel.
Mos Wanted Crew- Their song is “The Motto,” another song about Drake being famous. They pick out the lyric, “Light one, pass it like a relay.” Does Ian know that Drake’s talking about smoking a joint there? They decide their challenge will be to create a relay. It looks like they’re running into the problem of too many choreographers in the kitchen. Each one of them really wants to give their own input. I’m briefly amused by the idea of all eight members choosing to dance to their own thing on stage for a whole minute.

They’re wearing black jackets with white hats. It’s a slick look. They immediately get into the choreo. Three of them spin their bodies around; it’s a little similar to their spin in the first performance. They move to the right side of the stage and start grooving. For their relay, they line up and then peel out and use their hats to look like they’re passing it down the line. JP dances his way to the front for a little solo. They pretend to stir something in their hats after the music says “YOLO.” (Oops, I rhymed.) Even I’m not that familiar with Drake, and I know YOLO’s not food, MWC. They drop their hats in the end.

JC says it was another fantastic performance and loves their use of the stage. Lil Mama says they represent street crews and says their choreo is untouchable. I guess that’s technically true- choreography is not a tangible object. D-Trix says it wasn’t their best and thinks they can do better. The choreo is once again solid, and the hats were nicely highlighted in the routine. However, the performance had a lack of “unpredictable rhythms” (term borrowed from the AV Club) that MWC utilized so well in their earlier performances. The song tempo was consistent and monotonous, and the choreography didn’t compensate for that. Nothing they did came across as risky either, though it was well executed. I don’t think Mos Wanted Crew is in any danger of an implosion, but they need to make sure their choreographers’ individual talents complement each other rather than fight for airtime.
8 Flavahz- Their song is “Find Your Love,” which is actually about love and emotional vulnerability and not about Drake’s fortune. They like the lyric “Nothing's gonna tear us apart,” so at some point in their routine, they have to come connected. Mentally they’re in a rough place, as crew member Angel receives word from her sister that their mother is ailing from cancer (note: sadly, she recently passed away). They devote the routine to her.

They’re got bandanas, purple shrugs, and slightly bedazzled black tank tops. Yeah, I don’t think I can picture Drake wearing this. Then again, YOLO! The routine naturally features Angel, and it’s really emotional. They link up and rather creatively, twist off their shrugs to form a clothing circle with it for Angel to jump out of. They form loops using those clothes for two girls to leap through. Those two girls lift Angel up in the air, and the routine starts to remind me of a SYTYCD lyrical piece. Their biggest moments here lack the technical impressiveness they demonstrated last week, but it feels more like a conscientious choice to emphasize Angel’s character rather than a simple lack of creativity. Right in the middle is another quick moment where they’re all connected to each other for a brief pose. They form a mountain for Angel to dramatically climb as she leaps into another’s arms. After more choreo, two girls lift Angel (again!) for another trick. As the routine ends, Angel is visibly tearing up.

Lil Mama is weepy as well and says they’re supportive of each other. She tells Angel, based on deeply personal experiences, to hurry and bond with her mother. D-Trix says they went for the realness over the technique and wow moments. JC says the routine wasn’t complete but a long series of moments, though he appreciates their professionalism. Although I agree with wet blanket JC there, I also don’t really fault the group for their choice. Angel’s mother’s illness was a serious issue for them, and they’re just kids. I also note that 8 Flavahz has shown three different attitudes so far. Their first routine had them being mostly cute and twee, then last week they were sassy and showed “WERK”, and this time they were going for smoother and emotive. The problem is whether they can get in the right headspace for the future.
Collizion Crew- This crew is safe this week, so I can’t predict audience votes for beans (unofficially, I expected the Bottom Two to be Collizion and Stepboys). Their song is “Over,” a song about Drake’s reaction to being famous. They pick the lyric, “So I'm riding through this city with my high beams on.” They decide to recreate a car. Wow. Are they going to flip eight times as well? They note that forming cars have been done on this show before, so they need to make it unique.

They’re wearing shiny blue jackets and grey pants. The problem with their outfit is that it blends into the background a lot. There are a few nice tricks in the beginning, but nothing that hasn’t been done on this show before. In the middle, they really get into their Southern groove. They go into some creative tutting with a little waving, but one guy is off beat. A guy whips out flashlights when the song mentions “high beams,” and one dude grooves while squatting. They decide to form a side profile of a Gabriel riding a car, with pimped out hydraulics and everything. They get into more choreo, though it feels a little rushed. Two of them do backflips with twists, but one of them slips on the landing. In the end, they form a helicopter. It’s probably their preferred method of transportation since they don’t trust cars.

D-Trix thinks they made a statement for themselves and Atlanta, though he says there were moments that were off. Lil Mama says they’re continuously growing on the show. JC thinks they handled Drake’s music nicely and likes how they gave their tutting a Southern swag. The car was a nice touch, though the helicopter stunt felt shoehorned. I’m rather disappointed by the moments where Collizion messed up. When it’s Southern grooving, I usually let it slide. Much like krumping, it’s not judged on group synchronization, it’s about feeling. But the other moments were not as sharp as it could have been. It was still a good, memorable routine on the whole. The grooving was really nice though, and it’s their bread and butter.
Elektrolytes- Their song is “Headlines.” It’s another Drake song about fame. Shocker! “Floating in and out of consciousness” is their chosen lyric, so the task for these guys is to create the illusion that someone is levitating. That’s a tricky challenge. Jabbawockeez already did it once, and Blueprint did it with the aid of “magic.” Since it’s their choice, they need to make sure not to waste too much time on the set-up. Also, this is their first time performing as a full eight-man group, and Chris is eager to be back and to prove himself.

Except for the jackets that are neon green in the front, they’re dressed mostly in black. They start with two assisted backflips, and their beginning features Chris a lot. Their “levitating” dude does the Superman pose, and he tilts up and down. They do a great job staging it, even though it’s not too tricky to figure out how they did it. They make their standard arm pose (at least once per routine in case you forget who’s performing!) and bunch up for group choreo as the music wub-wubs. A few of them shimmy towards the ground. Two of them use jackets to try and make it look like a guy’s head is floating, even though it’s painfully obvious that guy is simply tall. One of them does a crabwalk across the stage, and then the rest surround another guy as he does finger tutting, later all joining in to make what JC calls the “Predator” face. Their ending pose is the one I always dislike, the “everybody on the ground except for person in the middle” ending pose.

JC says they were powerful and sharp. D-Trix thinks it was really great. Lil Mama says it was electric and explosive and nothing was boring. The judges are unanimously positive and criticism-free for the first time tonight. The Elektrolytes nailed their challenge and had a good performance, though I’m worried that they’re starting to settle into a certain rhythm. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did a silly jacket trick in their next routine, really. Much like MWC and RNG, they’re going to need to take a big risk at some point to gain an advantage, since the judges like variety.
Fanny Pak- Fanny Pak is in the Bottom Two, a place they are not unfamiliar with. Performing to a male hip hop artist is something they’re less familiar with though. Their song is “Make Me Proud,” a song about how Drake loves Nicki Minaj. Maybe. Anyways, they choose the lyric “runnin’ on a treadmill and only eating salad” and they want to create a treadmill. Not the most glamorous challenge, so they’ll have to find other ways to bring the glamour. I mean, what’s Lil Mama going to say about the treadmill? “I really believed you walked in place?” Matt also wants to find a way to showcase the four new members of the group.

Fanny Pak’s the only crew with any real costume variety tonight. The location is a café, Café Fanny (I think it’s French), where two people are on a date and the rest of them are waiters and chefs. The costume designer at some point thought, “Not glamorous enough!” and added some red sequins to everybody’s clothes. It’s quickly realized that the thuggishly dressed dude, played by Sohey, is an ass. The workers seem especially upset that he puts his feet on the table. The couple dance together briefly, and it’s clearly not meant to be romantic. For their treadmill, they drag three people on the ground as Natalie is carried over them. The tone shifts as Nicki Minaj’s breakdown comes in, as Natalie gets front and center. Their choreography here is unique too, as it’s more swag-infused and plays to the crowd a little more. Natalie brushes Sohey off, and in the end, the dude gets a face full of tossed salad.

I’m pleased as punch to see Fanny Pak go back to their story-telling, and it’s still top notch after all this time. Their commitment to acting feeds energy to the routines. Their better performances, on average, are the ones with the stories, but I can see why they don’t attempt it all the time due to the rule of diminishing returns. Nonetheless, a visit to the Bottom Two was a good time to whip one out.
Stepboys- Their song is “Best I Ever Had,” a song about love. But also about how Drake is famous. Whew, I nearly forgot he was a celebrity. Thanks for reminding me in your own song, Drake!  They pick the lyric “Every single show she out there reppin' like a mascot,” so they decide to incorporate a mascot. That’s not so much of a challenge as it is a costume choice, but the difficulty is there for at least that one member. That one guy’s saddled by limited peripheral vision and a heat-trapping outfit. The rest of them pretty much lucked out.

They’ve got purple and pink “tuxedos” on, and one of them is sitting down in a mustached bear costume.  They strut to the front of the stage. They flip and rotate the bear mascot into the air like he was a ragdoll. For a few seconds, I actually thought nobody was in that costume. But soon he comes to life and does a few flips and stunts, including a part where he spins a dude on the ground with his foot. He’s like a bear with the energy of two bears! He shakes his booty. He gets lifted into the arms of the dopey-looking crew member (Pocholo). The rest of the group does the Dougie for a while the two in the middle fool around. In the end, the bear mascot and a few others jump off stage and use their candy heart and flowers to try to woo Lil Mama, and soon afterwards, D-Trix.

Stepboys finally pulls off a great routine that improved on all fronts, successfully blending comedy with some genuinely impressive dancing that was much better in hyping up the crowd. It’s the first time I’m convinced that they can use their humor as a creative outlet for dancing rather than just an excuse to add butt jokes.
Judges’ Elimination- D-Trix compliments Sohey and especially Natalie, and likes their treadmill but generally doesn’t want them to rely too much on props. JC thinks Stepboys’ helicopter toss of the mascot was insane. He says there were a lot of great moments but doesn’t think the whole routine was solid as far as choreography goes and notes Jerel did a lot of the heavy lifting. Lil Mama says she was impressed by Jerel as well, but also says the choreo was A-B-C. D-Trix interrupts Lil Mama and calls the other two judges out, challenging them to do what Stepboys did. (Okay, whose idea was it to not have D-Trix comment on Stepboys?) Lil Mama replies, not even facing D-Trix, “Don’t test me.” I wouldn’t. She’s just crazy enough to wear a bear suit next week! Lil Mama moves on to Fanny Pak, calling them theatric and compares them to a flash mob. Even as the judges deliberate, things still look kind of heated between them.

Despite churning out their best performance to date, Stepboys is booted over Fanny Pak in the least surprising judging decision of the season thus far. It’s both a matter of “a little too late, Stepboys” and “Fanny Pak’s clearly not going anywhere, especially now that they’re picking up steam.” Stepboys, rather surprisingly, doesn’t dance or do anything goofy during their Walk It Out. 

Six crews are left. Which crews will be able to shine to the music Jennifer Lopez? Find out next week!
Click here to return to the first page and to leave comments. Thanks again Byenyn!