X-Factor Top 12: Trading Skill For Spectacle

I’m a big fan of backup dancers and fire and light shows. This is why I watch X-Factor and love it so much. I don’t expect legitimately enjoyable performances. Truly. But I still managed to be underwhelmed this episode because the judges/mentors kept heaping on the hyperbole. I’m fine watching someone embarrass themselves on live TV. I just don’t want to watch them get praised for it afterwards. (Unless the praise is for the right things, but no one congratulated Drew on the fabulous rose petals that were projected all around her or Rachel for the gigantic pink stereo display she was perched on.)

On that note, the judges are not only awful at judging, they’re also awful at mentoring! It’s one thing when I can rage at unimaginative contestants for botched song choice after botch song choice. It’s a lot less fun to rage at the mentors for literally having zero clue. Paula gets a pass because she truly seems to understand how to embrace the ridiculousness of X-Factor and harness that into pure spectacle energy which shines on the stage. Everyone else is trying too hard to be artistic or relevant or something and it makes for some unfortunate performances.

Oh oh oh! But at least Steve Jones didn’t suck this week. He wasn’t the best. host. ever, but at least he managed to get by without making me wince. (Although, I was afraid that he was going to crush Rachel Crow when she tried to escape his grasp.)

Stereo Hogzz – “Rhythm Nation” (Janet Jackson)
I don’t know if we hadn’t been told before or if I just haven’t been paying attention, but we were introduced to the lovely members of Stereo Hogzz in their intro package. One of them goes by the name “Trae Badd.” This should be reason enough to want them to stay in the competition. If that’s not enough reason for you, how about the fact that they were all dressed as impeccable M. Bison impersonators surrounded by backup dancers in Halo suits while singing Janet Jackson? Hurrah Stereo Hogzz! Score one for Paula!

Chris Rene – “Superstar” (The Carpenters)
Honestly, I don’t get why Astro is labeled a rapper while Chris Rene tries to parade around as a singer. I don’t know what kind of singing talent Astro has, but it has gotta be at least as good as Chris’s. So yeah, Chris sounded horribly off-key and didn’t have proper support at all. (When I say support, I’m not referring to breath-support or something equally frivolous, I am referring to backup dancer-support.) He did, however, have FIRE. Lots of fire. It was thisclose to distracting me from the performance.

Leroy Bell – “I’m Already There” (Lonestar)
I don’t think Leroy has a confidence issue. He seems perfectly confident. He also has a really good voice. What he does lack, however, are backup dancers. Yes, my goal is to mention “backup dancers” for every performer because they really are the crucial aspect of the show. Leroy had a mildly capable performance that failed to captivate me in any way. That said, if we remove the LOL-Factor (hmmm… maybe I’ll petition for the show to have a name change), then he was still one of my favorites. I just wasn’t wowed, yo’.

Rachel Crow – “Walking On Sunshine” (Katrina and The Waves)
First things first: the lyric change from “walking on sunshine” to “your my sunshine” was entirely useless and completely ripped off from an X-Factor UK contestant. So it was also not original. Making it doubly useless. Rachel stood on top of her pink stereo platform while I waited for her to step down the entire performance. I don’t know why Simon insists on having Rachel do nothing but slightly sway on an elevated platform but it’s getting to be more and more awkward. It also robs us of more close-up shots of her backup dancers.

Lakoda Rayne – “Landslide” (Fleetwood Mac)
So, I watch X-Factor on a live stream because I don’t own a TV and if I don’t watch it while it’s airing there’s no chance in hell I’ll be able to work up the courage to trek through two hours of the show. My live stream this week died on my during Lakoda Rayne’s performance and I have zero desire to see what I missed (unless I find out what I missed was awesome backup dancers). I did catch their solid color dresses that made them look like half of a Crayola box. From the recap at the end of the show, it also looked like they had some fairly fantastic backdrops of stock landscape. I always love a good stock landscape picture, personally.

Josh Krajcik – “Jar Of Hearts” (Christina Perri)
I cannot stand the song “Jar Of Hearts.” It’s awful. Just hearing it makes me physically ill. I cannot stand Josh Krajcik. He’s awful. Just hearing him makes me physically ill. So you can imagine how I felt about resident burrito slinger singing “Jar Of Hearts” in the absence of any backup dancer-induced spectacle. Kill. Me. Now.

Melanie Amaro – “Desperado” (The Eagles)
I’m actually kind of upset that Simon had to go and bring Melanie back into the competition. Without her, I would totally have zero attachment to any of these people. But because of Melanie, I actually take the two minutes she’s on stage seriously. You have to understand that this is a fate worse than death for a sarcastic, caustic blogger. Anyway, Melanie is fantastic. Melanie’s voice is fantastic. Melanie could sing me the phone book. And now time for the ultimate compliment: Melanie don’t need no stinkin’ backup dancers! (Though, they would make her even more entertaining.)

Astro – “Hip Hop Hooray”/”Get Your Freak On” (Naughty By Nature/Missy Elliott)
My stream rescued me from having to listen to Astro which is great because I still don’t want to listen to a 14 year old rap. I did get to hear him proclaim he’d be better than Jay-Z in five years. (Dude, look at who Jay-Z is married to. You could be selling out arenas and walking on water in five years and he would still have you beat.)

Intensity – “Kids In America”/”Party Rock Anthem” (Kim Wilde/LMFAO)
LMFAO, indeed. Intensity provides all the LOL-factor one could ever want. They’re a gigantic group of teenagers who sing hilariously incongruous medleys. Seven of them or so do nothing but serve as awful backup dancers. The few who do sing are mostly bad at it. But who cares? They sing mashups of “Party Rock Anthem” and “Kids In America” while proclaiming that they’re true artists and not just made-for-Disney fluff.

Drew – “Just A Dream” (Nelly)
Okay, so normally I would have nothing but good things to say about a little white girl singing some Nelly while wearing her best princess dress in a bed of flower petals. I mean, that’s the ridiculousness I’m talking about. That’s the kind of thing X-Factor needs lots of. Sadly, this is not just any little white girl, this is Drew. Drew’s mission in life is to seek out every remotely fun song and suck out its lifeblood until there is nothing left but bare bones wisps and predictable lilts. She’s a funpire. Or a fun-sucking vampire. Except a funpire sounds like it’s something fun, so that’s clearly an ill-thought name on my part. She’s a borepire. (… I’ll work on it.) Even after the drums kicked in and her voice shattered into a billion tiny little pieces, one for each flower petal, I couldn’t enjoy the trainwreck factor of it all. I was too busy being slowly lulled to sleep by her black hole of a stage presence. Embrace the backup dancers! Embrace uptempo! Do something. Anything.

Marcus Canty – “Every Little Step” (Bobby Brown)
Marcus is one person who has no shortage of personality on stage. He’s fun and he always comes equipped with his own army of backup dancers. He even goes so far as to dance with them! The light show was also particularly spectacular. Oh and he sang too. Or at least tried to. I don’t know why. They should’ve just had him learn slightly more complicated choreography and then lip sync to a pre-recorded track. I mean, that’s what Lakoda Rayne did last week and they didn’t even have dance moves.

Stacy Francis – “Up To The Mountain” (Patty Griffin)
So the second I heard Simon going on about how Stacy needed to sing gospel songs, I tuned out. (Sidenote: The fact that Simon weighs in during the pre-performance clips on artists he isn’t mentoring is ridiculous and super annoying. Simon shouldn’t be allowed to both produce and judge on the same show, because it lets his ego run far too rampant.) I did manage to watch the performance long enough to notice that her staging included a backdrop of rows and rows of candles which reminded me of Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation singing “5000 Candles In The Wind.” So, that was pretty awesome. In fact, I’d probably buy a MouseRat CD before I bought a CD from any of the contestants on this show. (Mostly because MouseRat is awesome.)

I don’t know how X-Factor reveals their votes. I know the bottom 2 vote-getters have to sing for the judges who then decide who ultimately goes home. So I’ll just predict a B3 and a B2.

B3: Lakoda Rayne, Leroy Bell, Stereo Hogzz
B2: Lakoda Rayne, Leroy Bell

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