The X Factor Review: Top 17 Fight for a Spot in Top 12
Last week on The X Factor, after surviving the Judges’ Homes’ Round, the Top 17 remaining contestants returned to L.A. for one vital performance in front of a studio audience to fight for a spot in the Top 12. Each contestant performed in categorical order, and then their mentor/judge decided immediately which contestant to send home (Simon has to send 2 girls home since he was an idiot last week and let Melanie Amaro GO HOME and then had to fly to her house to go grovel and beg her to come back), leaving us with a final Top 12, which will begin live performances next week for America’s votes. What makes this show so different and compelling, however, is that not only are the contestants fighting to win the $5 million dollar contract and starring role in a Pepsi commercial, but the judges are competing against one another too. Each judge wants a contestant from THEIR category to win the prize, and so each judge is not just watching the performances, but critiquing their fellow judges’ song choices, choreography, and mentoring with their contestants. It is quite fun and fascinating to watch, and makes for a lot of banter between the judges.
Since this is the first season that I watched The X Factor, I’m always feeling like there are new and fun things to discover each week. Mostly good, some bad, others just interesting or weird. This week, I’ve discovered that the shows theme music sounds a hell of a lot like the theme music to America’s Got Talent. Listen to it. Trust me. I have also noticed that host Steve Jones has very little patience. It actually cracks me up. He kept cutting off the judges, cutting off the contestants, and saying things like: “Alright then. Off you go. . .” while pushing them off the stage in the middle of their sentence. I would normally say that this is due to time constraints, but Holy Hell, the show was 2.5 hours this week!!! If you have a 2.5 hour show and you are STILL rushing, perhaps you should rethink your scheduling. Anyway, this dude’s accent makes him sound as if he is reporting live from The Outback Steakhouse, and he comes across a bit like he would rather be just about anywhere else. He delivers his dialogue like he’s in a huge rush to go off on some big date. He also seems void of all human emotion. Contestants have broken down on his shoulders, cried on him, screamed and hugged into him; and yet he just sort of stands there. He is like that non-maternal woman who pats the head of a child awkwardly while saying: “Now now . . . there there.” Steve Jones is an enigma wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in hair gel. I kinda like him. One final and inconsequential thing I have noticed is that L.A. Reid looks like a potato. Okay, moving on to the performances . . .
L.A. Reid / The Boys:
Astro: This little 14 yr. old obnoxious, conceited, yet extremely talented firecracker opened the show with “Jump,” and immediately came across like he was already a star. His extreme confidence is almost shocking, and while watching him, you just sort of wonder “where the hell did this kid come from?” He is very good. A natural, and a good song choice by L.A. Reid on this one.
Chris Rene: Weirdest song choice ever on this one. Madonna??? Really??? Yup. Really. And not just Madonna, but the most random Madonna song ever. “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” was what Reid chose for Rene, which didn’t show off his immense unique vocal phrasing or ability at all. I mean, he did the best he could with it, but to me, his best performance was his first audition, when he blew the roof off the place with his original song/rap, which remained in my head for days afterwards; it was so damn catchy. What the hell are you gonna make this kid sing next week? Tiffany? Debbie Gibson? Come ON!
Philip Lomax: Another stupid song choice here. They put this kid through because he has something special and different. He is a modern-day crooner; another Harry Connick Jr., with his own flare and personality. So what do they do? They give him a song that has ZERO Jazz or crooner qualities in it (“I’m A Believer”), and that strips his voice of all of its original qualities, making him sound just like everybody else. Makes no sense to me. Simon agreed, saying that Reid “failed this kid.” Correct.
Marcus Canty: My favorite of this category, because with his charm, talent, and rubber legs, this kid’s got it all. The song choice for him was Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” which gave him a great opportunity to show off his fantastic phrasing, soul, and vocals. He has so much life inside of him that just comes out onstage. Still found it an odd song choice, but he totally put his stamp on it. All the judges loved this performance. Go Marcus!
GOING HOME: Philip Lomax (not surprising, considering they pretty much sent him packing with that awful, throwaway song choice.)
Paula / The Groups:
The Stereo Hogzz: Their performance of the song “Try A Little Tenderness” was pretty incredible. Not sure who came up with this unique version of the song, but it was great. Sort of a mix of standard, old school and hip-hop, all meshed together. Paula’s choreography was excellent, and the group’s unique talent definitely showed through in this performance. Simon had trouble getting the words out while complimenting Paula: “I’m trying to say something, but my mouth won’t say it,” he laughed. Then: “Paula, you did a great job.” Yes she did.
The Brewer Boys: This group was given an acoustic version of the song “Faith.” Their harmonies were very pretty, and the song was quite good, but it really felt like they set this band up to be sent home just like with Lomax in the men’s category. The song just didn’t show them off in the way it should have, and the show seems really set on using one of the two groups that THEY “created” out of individual soloist contestants. Personally, I think these boys got a bit left behind.
Instensity: This is one of the two groups formed by the judges, and they are quite good and seem to gel very well together. However, to me, it looked as if they were lipsyncing the entire song, and this really distracted me and made me annoyed. Simon called them the next “Glee,” which he meant as a compliment, but I think it’s more like “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.” Very cheesy. By the way, they did a weird version of “Footloose.” Yeah. Like I said. . . cheesy. Nicole called them “yummy pumpkins.” I have not a clue what that means.
Lakoda Rayne: The other of the two “created” groups, these 4 girls definitely have something to offer, but it’s all a little too “marketed” and “packaged” looking for me. It seems like they are trying to create the next Dixie Chicks or something with these four. They also looked as if they were lip syncing, which gave the whole performance a cheesy “music video” vibe that I wasn’t really digging. Apparently all the judges enjoyed this though, Paula cried at how much she loves these girls, and Simon quipped: “Paula, you’ve done incredible job with these groups. It’s really annoying.”
GOING HOME: The Brewer Boys. Surprise surprise ….
Nicole Schwarzinger / Over 30′s:
Dexter Haywood: Most bizarre song choice of the night, with Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl.” WTF??? First of all . . . huh??? Second of all, he is a man, not a woman, so the lyrics make no sense whatsoever, unless he changes them to say the opposite sex, which he didn’t. Third, WHY DID YOU PICK THIS SONG? I still have not a clue who Nicole is (I guess she won the British version of this show? Is this what she did? I have no idea. I just know she is incredibly overdramatic and has the most giant eyelashes I’ve ever seen.) Despite the song choice from hell, the judges seemed to like it, and Reid told him that he finally “found himself.” I didn’t think so. I thought that although talented as hell, he still came across as a cross between Mick Jagger and James Brown.
Leroy Bell: I love this 60 year old dude with the voice of an Angel. And finally, a perfect song choice with “Nobody Knows.” You can feel the raw, pure soul in his voice when he sings. He is awesome, and he doesn’t even really have to do anything. He just has that thing . . . you know . . . that thing . . . what’s it called? Oh, I know! THE X FACTOR!!! Get it? See what I did there? The judges loved it, but Simon criticized Nicole’s song choice and told Leroy “I wish I was mentoring you.” Then in the middle of Simon talking, Steve Jones brutally and quickly cut him off, saying abruptly “Okay then, gotta go, gotta go. Times up.” Man, this guy really wants to get outta there and go home.
Stacey Francis: The song choice was George Micheal’s “One More Try” (what’s with all the George Michael stuff?). A bit odd, but Stacey absolutely pulled it off with her extreme, pain-filled, emotional vocals. Why they dressed her like a two-bit hooker is beyond me, but this girl is talented. Simon loved her, but didn’t seem to like ANY of Nicole’s choices : “Didn’t like the song, didn’t like what you were wearing . . .” Nicole’s response was that the song “gave you wings.” Simon wanted to know what the hell that even means, and then Steve Jones cut them both off angrily.
Josh Kracjik: Definitely the performance of the night. Singing “Forever Young” the almost all a capella version of this song completely showed off Josh’s intense and big vocals, which are very reminiscent of Joe Cocker to me. He is great. Reid said “one of the greatest singers in the competition.” Simon agreed, and then Nicole BEGGED for a compliment or props from Simon, and got none. It was very sad.
GOING HOME: Dexter Haygood Since he is pretty much homeless, I am not sure where the heck he goes from here, but wherever it is, Steve Jones was in a huge rush for him to get the hell outta there and LEAVE already.
Simon / The Girls:
Simone Battle: Ugh. No idea what the hell Simon ever saw in this girl. No, wait. That’s not true. Of course I know. He wants to sleep with her. Obviously. This performance was simply awful. Terrible. As in, why is this on TV? Absolutely horrible song choice (“Just Be Good To Me”), and the really bad part is that she cannot sing. She pretty much aimlessly wandered back and forth in a ridiculous outfit with weird dancers and lights and smoke and all kinds of WEIRDNESS happening around her. All of it just made me think: “Really? HER over Caitlin Koch? Really???” Apparently I’m not alone in this thought, as Reid bluntly said “I don’t get it. Why’d you put her through, Simon?” Of course, Simon tried to justify it by saying she is relevant, blah blah blah . . . no one cared, and Steve Jones looked angry.
Rachel Crow: This song was a mash-up of “Where Did Our Love Go” and Beiber’s “Baby, Baby.” Did it work? For me, not really. This girl is extremely cute and extremely talented, however, so it almost didn’t matter that the song was . . . well . . . odd. There were way too many dancers on the stage, too much going on around her, and too much of everything except RACHEL up there. The song itself was weird, and it didn’t feel like something Rachel would naturally sing if she had chosen the song herself. She absolutely pulled it off, but seriously, were these people on drugs when making these song choices? I just don’t understand half of them at all.
Drew: So apparently the producers realized that this girl’s last name was a huge clusterf**k, so now she is just going by, simply, Drew. Like Cher. Madonna. Beyonce. I don’t know. The name Drew doesn’t really stand alone, but this chick is soooo talented. As Simon said, she has the perfect voice to be a recording artist. I love listening to her; one of the most gorgeous vocals I have heard in a long time. The tone, the pitch, the phrasing . . . it’s all just beautiful. The song choice was excellent and unique. A slowed down, piano version of “Flashdance: What A Feeling.” Perfect.
Tiah Tolliver: And now, back to the “WTF?” section of the show. Simon has stood up for this girl from the beginning, when none of the other judges believe she belongs there. I’m kind of in the middle with her. I get what Simon sees in her, but I also don’t think she’s the greatest thing since sliced bread either. And really, what the hell is so great about sliced bread anyway? It’s just bread. Sliced. The song was The Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams” and it was just . . . odd. The choreography going on behind her was something I just didn’t even understand; it was like a bad version of the Thriller video. The song, the melody, was repetitive and boring, and just not all that pleasant sounding. Again, during the judges comments, Steve Jones cut everybody off, citing “no time! no time! let’s go . . .” Jesus dude. Relax. Where else you gotta be?
Melanie Amaro: Now, if we had only listened to Steve Jones telling us to hurry the hell up, maybe Amaro’s performance of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” wouldn’t have felt like it was going at warp speed. Did anyone else feel like they were totally rushing her through that song? Her voice is mind-bogglingly good. She is simply incredible, and they don’t need to touch her. LEAVE HER ALONE. Why were they trying to turn her into J.Lo? The extensions, the extreme makeup … she didn’t even look like herself. There’s no need to glam her up that way. It’s just not necessary. Melanie is AWESOME! And to think, Simon almost let her go. Moron.
Going Home: Simone and Tiah - DUH!!!!
Next week, the Top 12 performs for your votes, and for the first time ever, America can vote via Twitter!!!! Yayyy!!! Isn’t that exciting? #WhoCares
Season 1, Episode 10 (originally aired October 25, 2011)
X Factor airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8/7c on FOX.
Photos courtesy of xfactorusa.com