If American Idol's Hollywood round last week seemed rather whirlwind and free of soapy "You stayed up late macking on that emo boy and as a result didn't memorize the words to our song!" drama, it was by design. Explaining the decision to do away with the group performances and all the cattiness that came with them, exec producer Nigel Lythgoe told reporters in a conference call, "We realized that people were being cut [during the group performances] because they couldn't remember the lyrics, and that is really not the reason to get rid of people, as far as I'm concerned."

Lythgoe appreciates that the group element gave the otherwise talent-driven competition some fun conflict - "It was always done for the contentious side of it, to get the [in-fighting]... to see how they coped under pressure," he notes - yet stands by the decision to focus on individuals. "This year, we just wanted to base it on talent." - Matt Mitovich

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