The Live Show: Where Insanity Meets Talentless

After weeks of manufactured drama and filler, we have finally arrived at the live portion of X-Factor. On the plus side, this means we got to hear Melanie Amaro sing live. On the down side, this means we had to hear everyone else sing live. Of course, none of that really matters on this show. The whole singing bit is mostly just a tedious detail necessitated by the whole “singing competition” genre. No, instead X-Factor is truly about Thriller-esque werewolf costumes, legions of backup dancers, seizure-inducing light shows, country-western backdrops and Justin Bieber mash-ups. The show was entirely insane in the best way possible. (Well, no, that’s not entirely true. The show was 2.5 hours long which is far too long for anything that isn’t the Super Bowl or a compilation of Youtube videos of funny cats.)

I guess I have to discuss the terrible awkwardness that was the judging panel and host, too. This wasn’t even a good terrible awkwardness. It was just uncomfortable. All the judges clearly hate each other and have no problem randomly bickering over nothing. On top of that, their opinions are all biased to the point of worthlessness and their inflated egos totally hinder their ability to mentor. But whatever, that’s all to be expected from a Simon Cowell-led judging panel. The real story is that Steve Jones is an impossibly bad host. Up until now, he’s been somewhere along a sliding scale of middling to insignificant. In his first live show at bat, he managed to be a stiff, uncomfortable time Nazi with all the subtlety of a James Durbin performance. Steve, I don’t care how late your show is running, you always let Queen Paula wax poetic about the colors and textures of her precious babies. Local news can wait ten minutes to run that story about killer beetles in your drinking water, so give Melanie Amaro her fifteen minutes, damnit. You are much more fun when you’re getting electrocuted.

Anyway, enough about all that nonsense, onto the insanity!

Brian “Astro” Bradley – “Jump” (Kris Kross)
Being a good rapper really only requires two things: 1) the ability to write good raps and 2) the ability to deliver said raps. Sadly for Astro (god, what an unapologetically stupid name), he has zero opportunity to showcase any writing ability he may have (judging from his audition, it’s limited at best) and he sounds like the male equivalent of that viral video of the four year old girl rapping “Super Bass.” The primary difference being that Astro is a total tool which makes him not cute at all and simply very annoying. Though, “Jump” is a perfectly ridiculous song and I’m glad we got to hear it on a reality TV show.

Chris Rene – “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” (Rose Royce)
Honestly, LA Reid did a disservice to this show. Where were the backup dancers, dude? Why did you leave Chris Rene to hang himself on stage all alone? Don’t you know Chris Rene needs you to fix him?!? That’s what the editors have been telling us, at least! It’s been readily apparent for some time now that Chris has zero-to-Simone-Battle levels of singing talent and doesn’t see himself as a pure rapper, a la Cosmo. This all means that he feels compelled to actually sing, which, in turn, makes me feel compelled to stick my head in a meat grinder. Say no to drug(addict)s, kids.

Phillip Lomax – “I’m A Believer” (The Monkees)
Poor Phillip never stood a chance. He was the pretentious crooner in a sea of arrogant hip-hop artists. Luckily, he got to go out with a ridiculous amped-up half-rock, half-soul arrangement of “I’m A Believer” while surrounded by droves of unnecessary backup dancers. So yeah, Phillip screeched and belted and burped out odd sounds in the presence of a baffling number of leggy female dancers and ended up getting the heave-ho from LA Reid when all was said and done.

Marcus Canty – “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” (Culture Club)
Seriously, the song choices on this show are horrible and totally brilliant all at the same time. Marcus is the only boy with marginal singing talent, but I cannot put enough emphasis on marginal. Like, he might hit eight or nine notes in a song where the others will hit one or two. But damnit, he certainly has the moves and the conviction behind those eight or nine notes! His Culture Club-appropriate backup dancers were oddly staged way the heck away from him the entire time. I don’t really know what to make of that. Perhaps Marcus has been taking personal hygiene tips from Josh Krajcik?

Stereo Hogzz – “Try A Little Tenderness” (Otis Redding)
At the very least, the Stereo Hogzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz stacked up favorably to Kanye and Jay-Z who managed to make a sample of “Try A Little Tenderness” even more annoying than the nine-year-old who sits behind you on an airplane and absentmindedly kicks the back of your seat all flight. The lead singer is a pretty solid vocalist and the other guys do a fine job filling up space when they need to. I’m seriously confused as to why they’re a group and what purpose the other dudes serve, but, hey, whatever works. They also had pretty unparalleled platform usage.

The Brewer Boys – “Rich Girl”/”Faith” (Hall & Oates/George Michael)
Blah blah blah, they have guitars and they can sing unspectacularly and they have floppy hair. In a normal competition, their performances would all be terribly boring and formulaic: stand/sit in one place, strum a guitar, weakly carry a tune and sway back and forth. However, this is no normal competition, and so we get treated to a performance where a drove of teenyboppers got to flock to the brothers on stage and sway with them! It was basically like having swaybots that worked, instead of the defunct ones that seem to occasionally show up around the Idol stage. Despite all their Bieber-do’d efforts, The Brewer Boys were axed by Paula so the older brother is now free to ditch his dead weight brother behind and go solo! Woo! Family!

Intensity – “369”/”Footloose” (Cupid/Kenny Loggins)
There exists nothing quite like ten teenagers spastically jumping around a playground structure under a frantic light show to the tune of “Footloose” to properly send one into epileptic fits of glee. Everything about them is so cheesy and ridiculous. Really, they perfectly capture the spirit of the show. The very existence of this ten-person, all-minors supergroup is insane and horribly manufactured. I hope they continue in the competition with snappier choreography and a worse lead singer. (Ellona’s voice just doesn’t work. They need a thinner, squeakier lead to truly forge their identity.)

Lakoda Rayne – “Come On Eileen” (Dexys Midnight Runners)
It’s a good thing this bunch of completely indistinguishable blondes (and a rogue brunette) were put together in a group and not let through individually, because there’s no way in hell I’d ever be able to tell them apart. (Racist? Maybe. About as racist as Paula saying Astro was LA Reid’s son.) “Come On Eileen” was an entertaining country hoedown complete with a Scotty McCreery approved desert sunset backdrop and some good ol’ fashioned cowboy boots. Also, in about the last fifteen seconds of the performance, the entire string section of an orchestra walked onto the wings of the stage. Why only for the last fifteen seconds? Who knows. But it made everything that much better.

Dexter Haygood – “Womanizer”/”I Kissed A Girl” (Britney Spears/Katy Perry)
Dexter was the ultimate fodder contestant who was only ever going to be good for one gigantic laugh. But Nicole really did make sure to milk that laugh for all it was worth. She managed to give him not one, but two very gender-specific pop songs from female perspectives with literally zero room to improvise. Then she gave him a fleet of oddly costumed backup dancers. And finally, she dressed him in some gaudy relic of the early 90s and set him loose. He flopped, flailed and writhed spectacularly as he failed to hit a single note throughout the entire song. I feared slightly for his mental stability when he got eliminated, but I think I would’ve feared more for Nicole’s mental stability if she had kept him around.

Leroy Bell – “Nobody Knows” (Pink)
Leroy still has absolutely flawless control over his voice, but with Nicole dictating his song choices and guiding other aspects of his performances, I fear Leroy might see an early exit. He sounded as good as he could on “Nobody Knows” but he really shouldn’t be singing a Pink song and certainly not to a backing track as cheesy as his was. That said, even with Nicole dragging him down, he’s still miles and miles better than most of the field.

Stacy Francis – “One More Try” (George Michael)
Stacy might be the most dramatic person ever to live. Everything she does is bigger and louder than it ever needed to be. Her singing, her gestures, her interviews, her staging, her costume. Everything. She’s drama incarnate. So of course, she’s a perfect fit for the no-subtlety-allowed production of X-Factor. Sure, Stacy could hit this one note, but instead she’s going to hit five higher notes, all at the same time! I welcome her ridiculously overwrought persona on this show and encourage her to burst into mascara-destroying tears at every opportunity. There is so little singing talent to be found that I have no problem occupying the space with hilarious drama.

Josh Krajcik – “Forever Young” (Bob Dylan)
I’ve decided I will start giving him proper critiques when he decides to start bathing.

Simone Battle – “Dub Be Good To Me” (Beats International)
First of all, what on earth is this song and who on earth is this band? Simone Battle brought back the hotpants! She’s a true diva. She had the starting pose down. She had the diva strut down. She even had the “how are y’all doing tonight?” intro down. When you add in her rainbow feather duster outfit and the aerobics class/village people backup dancers, it really seems like the perfect performance. Kind of unfortunately, she also can’t sing at all. Simon could no longer justify keeping her legs around and sent her off into the cruel music industry all on her own. But Simone’s a smart girl and threw in some promo. So go watch her Clueless reenactment music video for “He Likes Boys” because it’s kind of brilliant.

Rachel Crow – “Baby”/”Where Did Our Love Go” (Justin Bieber/The Supremes)
Apparently there was some requirement that all groups targeting pre-teen audiences perform medleys. Or maybe X-Factor just felt particularly medley-compelled because it was airing in Glee’s normal time slot. Rachel was styled to somehow appear even more grating than she is naturally, which was a feat in itself. On the bright side, she sang “Baby”, a song which, when listened to, stimulates pure euphoria. (Although, she definitely lost out by omitting the Ludacris rap.) Usually when a performer starts at the top of a set of stairs, they descend them at some point. Not Rachel, she just grooved in place on top of her perch like she was Simba surveying his land. I think she had dancers too. Honestly, there were so many dancers inserted randomly into so many performances that it’s hard to keep track.

Drew – “What A Feeling” (Irene Cara)
The best news of the night was that Drew has dropped her last name! No more attempting to spell Rhinowizards every recap! Bloggers everywhere, rejoice! Um, beyond that? Drew has a pretty voice, but good lord she is so boring it hurts. How she managed to make Flashdance into an unappealing, mundane dirge is beyond me. It was one thing when she axe-murdered the fun out of “Baby” in her initial audition, but now she’s done it again! It’s Flashdance! You have to have the payoff at the end. Where’s the boom? Where’s the fun? Where’s the dancing?!? Even American Idol Season 2’s long lost Julia DeMato attempted some thigh-slaps and enthusiastic snaps on “What A Feeling.” Drew’s performance, while wholly listenable, was absolutely the least fun of the entire night. Get a new schtick, girl, because you’re sure as hell not going to sell an album full of melancholy bleating, no matter how pretty it sounds.

Tiah Tolliver – “Sweet Dreams” (Eurythmics)
It’s a shame Tiah can’t sing, because I might like her if she could. At least she had the super ridiculous Halloween outfit and was entirely committed to her creepy rendition of “Sweet Dreams.” At this point, I think I’ve run out of adverbs to express new ideas about these performances. There was copious use of fog machine. Tiah was eventually eliminated but failed to promote any music video she might have about boys who like boys. What a failure.

Melanie Amaro – “I Have Nothing” (Whitney Houston)
Simon loves giving big-voiced girls Whitney Houston songs. He especially loves “I Have Nothing” because it is particularly cliche. Melanie is the best singer in the competition by a country mile. Yeah she botched the first big note pretty badly, but recovered quickly and then absolutely slayed the rest of the song. I love her and everything about her because I am predictable. I hope Simon gives her something to sing that’s not a gigantic diva song eventually, but I’m not holding my breath. (Seriously, go look at the songs Leona Lewis sang on X-Factor UK.) Anyway, I’ve firmly planted myself on Team Melanie Amaro and because of the gross lack of talent, I feel pretty confident that I’m not going to change my mind on this one.

Woo! TWO AND A HALF HOURS RECAPPED. This show is way too long.

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2 Responses to “The Live Show: Where Insanity Meets Talentless”


  1. 1 Viv October 28, 2011 at 6:35 am

    oh my god, your analysis of intensity made me laugh so hard I cried a little. I hope they win. (not really but kind of)

    the host was HORRIBLE. The Astro/LA Reid comment was super racist. The song choices was at least 85% horrendous. This show is ridiculous. The judging is pretty bad but AMAZINGLY the cuts were all good? None of them threw me into a violent rage so yay. I feel sad Simone and Tiah are bad singers bc they are fun performers. Oh well.

    Also, I watched this show a few days late.

  2. 2 Viv October 28, 2011 at 6:40 am

    PS! I’m a Drew fan, but this NYMag analysis killed me, lol:

    “You know how you’re listening to the slow beginning of “Flashdance,” and you’re saying to yourself, “I hope this song never speeds up and is just a giant bummer forever”? Drew has you covered.”

    Ok bye again


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