'The X Factor' Semi-Finals Performances Live Recap: Three Men and a Diva
'The X Factor' Semi-Finals Performances Live Recap: Three Men and a Diva
Meghan Carlson
Meghan Carlson
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
Tonight, the X Factor Top 4 take the stage twice each, and it's their last chance to convince us, the voters, that they deserve a spot in next week's two-part finale. But it's a bit hard to look ahead, when so many of us are still stuck in the painful past. If a little part of your heart died when adorable Rachel Crow was eliminated last week, you're not alone. Even Jimmy Kimmel, usually so strong and cynical, couldn't contain his anger over the "travesty."

But soldier on we must, and Rachel's untimely end on The X Factor just goes to show that our votes really DO matter, now more than ever. If you want your favorite performer to make the finals, and to escape the weepy, indecisive brain-clutches of Nicole Scherzinger in tomorrow's results show, you better vote, vote, VOTE.

First, though, it's time to hear Chris Rene, Marcus Canty, Melanie Amaro and Josh Krajcik woo those votes in their direction with two songs each tonight: One they've chosen, and one chosen for them by the "Pepsi Challenge" voters. They're probably not the songs I fantasized about, but I hope for the finalists' sakes, especially Marcus "Always on the Bubble" Canty, that the only vocal disappointment tonight is whatever comes out of (oh-so-pretty) Steve Jones' mouth.

It's time for the big show! Tell me, before you're swayed by the performances: Who's your favorite of the Top 4?

Now, then. To kick off the hour, the show treats us to a super-dramatic slow-motion reenactment of Rachel's elimination. Watching this, you'd think Nicole sentenced Rachel to death, rather than the unfortunate fate of finding superstardom on the Disney Channel.

The judges enter, and Nicole holds up her hands in prayer-stance and bows to the audience. That's appropriate, since I'm pretty sure she's going to be kissing our collective asses for the next two weeks in a last-ditch effort to not be declared Officially The Worst after the season is over. A minute later, Nicole says that the boos from the crowd "make her stronger," which only strengthens my theory that she's actually the slime from Ghostbusters 2.

First up, it's the Pepsi Challenge song for each act. L.A. Reid announces his "three time Save Me Song champion," which is a backhanded compliment if I ever heard one.

Marcus Canty, "I'll Make Love to You"

The voters chose Boyz II Men for Marcus, which is a fitting, if a little too predictable, choice. The stage is covered in smoke, and Marcus is a little lost in it. This wasn't my favorite Marcus vocal. For how focused he looked, his voice seemed all over the place. It was sweet, but forgettable. Marcus needs a game-changer, and I don't think this was it.

The judges say: Paula says he gave "150%," because Paula lives on another plane where normal math doesn't apply. Simon gets booed before he even gets his criticism out, which is that the staging ("the rose, the zombie dancers") didn't fit and were distracting and "corny." Simon also thinks they didn't change the song enough. L.A. says "it takes great taste to know great taste," and Marcus -- and therefore L.A. -- has it.

Chris Rene, "Fly"

Seriously, America, SUGAR RAY? Actually, despite my overwhelming desire to hate this on song choice alone ... it wasn't half-bad. At least the parts when Chris sang his original lyrics -- that's his "thing," you know -- weren't terribly outdated and stilted, as the rest of this song has come to be. Chris made this song feel fresh and new, and for that feat alone, I think he should be in the finale. Chris has proved that he's game, and versatile enough -- and through all his highs and lows, his charming personality has outshined his more inconsistent vocal.

The judges say: "You just make us feel good," says Professor Scherzinger. "You look like $5 million bucks after taxes," says Paula. Simon loved the song choice but wasn't so crazy about the vocal. "It was a good performance, it wasn't a mega vocal," he says, and then tells Chris he needs to come out with more conviction in his next song. "You look like a mega-star," says L.A., who contradicts Simon by saying "just keep doing what you're doing." Chris takes it in stride: "HOLLA!"

Oh, so it seems I was right about votes mattering, but wrong about something else: There will be no judges' votes tomorrow. Only our votes will decide which three performers make the finals. I don't know if that's a relief or not.

Melanie Amaro, "Hero"

Simon said Melanie would put a "twist" on this, her bajillionth mega-diva ballad, but I don't hear a twist at all, at least when it comes to what we expect from Melanie. It sounds exactly like Melanie: Mighty voice, lots of emotion ... but kind of a bore, speaking long-term. I love Melanie's voice, but she's always so serious. She even sounds angry a lot of the time. But who cares? Melanie's still killing this thing, and her fans are devoted. I just want to see her have some fun on stage for once.

The judges say: L.A. says that at the beginning, he didn't hear her "usual passion," but she took it there by the end. Nicole blathers about how Melanie is an inspiration and will cure the world or something. Paula name drops the songwriter and says she invited him to the show tonight, and then she reveals the "twist": Simon ruined the song by changing the major chords to minor, making it sadder. Simon says this wasn't "karaoke, unlike the first song we heard tonight," and Melanie was "bloody fantastic."

Josh Krajcik, "Come Together"

Now THIS is a song choice I can get behind. Josh's rock arrangement gives the Beatles' song a hard edge, which works well with his voice, which is bold and confident. I also like the staging, which reminds me of what a Krajcik concert might actually look like: Cool lighting and a backing band ... and that's about it. Simple and awesome.
The judges say: L.A. says it's the best he's seen Josh in a few weeks. Paula says, "When you sing, you have the ability to ... attack souls," and she'd "pay anything" to see him perform live. (She just DID.) Simon applauds Josh's "honest" performance, and then calls Nicole "Cruella de Vil." Nicole verges on baby voice as she oozes about how Josh is "living and breathing, like fire." Then she says something about "the look of steel." What's in the Pepsi cups tonight, ladies? Is it POETRY JUICE?

Now it's time for the last songs from the Top 4. First, Marcus talks about how sad he was to go up against Rachel last week, but he "dug deep" in his Save Me Song, and he's grateful there are still people out there voting for him. "This dream could be my reality," he says. I wish I was more optimistic for his chances tomorrow. If he can dig deeper than ever before with this next performance, it's possible.

Marcus Canty, "Careless Whisper"

He's striking in an all-white suit, and this song choice is pretty striking too, especially with its dance mix update. I like it. Well, I like seeing Marcus's range as a performer. But it might be a bit too overdone and hard to relate to, especially as the last chance for the guy who really needs to draw people into his corner.

The judges say: Nicole says the song was unexpected, but she loved how he "did his thing on it." Paula liked how they turned the ballad contemporary. Simon respects how Marcus has bounced back, but he thinks the performance was "horrific. The song was absolutely wrong. The grotesque performance. [...] This was a joke." OUCH. L.A. says Marcus was "fabulous."

Steve comforts Marcus by saying that the judges' comments, positive or negative, are "all redundant," because it's all up to the voters. Don't you think that's what Simon was thinking when he went so over-the-top with his criticism for Marcus? Simon knows America will listen to him. We just can't resist a strong-willed, opinionated Brit. We'll follow them anywhere.

It's Chris Rene's turn, and he's playing piano for the first time in front of a live audience. I'm a sucker for a contestant at a piano -- and a double-sucker for Chris and his positive message through all his struggles. Speaking of: This performance is for his late father. Chris cries a bit in his pre-package, saying he misses his dad and wants to make him proud.

Chris Rene, "No One"

With her super-strong voice, Alicia Keys is a risk, but this song is such a good choice for Chris: It's beautiful, with a lot of heart, and a lot of room for him to make it his own. He starts at the piano, all sweet and dapper in a sweater vest, but soon he's out of his seat, and some backup singers join in the chorus, the highlight of which is the line that seems to have the most meaning for Chris: "Everything's gonna be alright." I appreciate Chris's heart, in his performances and in his message. Even though I still would have liked a little bit more piano-time.

The judges say: Nicole says that even though Chris doesn't have the best voice in this competition, but his "spirit transcends across the universe. Because you believe, I believe." Paula says his confidence is "awe-inspiring," and she thinks he just made it into the finals. Simon says Chris "just delivered, big-time." L.A. says Chris has "lovable-ity." Or is it "love-ability"? I think he has both.

Before she sings, Melanie says that she really wants to win so she can give her family financial security. We also get to see Melanie receive The Tweet That Changed Her Life from Mariah Carey. Simon says he's chosen an "old school classic" for Melanie, and it's a big risk. Ooooh, I can't wait to see what it is...

Melanie Amaro, "Feeling Good"

YES. This is an epic song, and Melanie is epic in it. It's not predictable, but it still shows off Melanie in her best, most powerful light. And -- what I'm personally most happy about -- for the first time in a while, we actually get to see Melanie smile when she's singing. I was wavering about Melanie there for a bit, because I was getting bored by her song choices, but she just sucked me back in. She gets a standing ovation from the crowd and the judges.

The judges say: L.A. says "she's the greatest female that's ever graced this stage," and he loved the song choice. "You killed it, girl." Nicole says that was "the Melanie Amaro anthem." Paula "loves it." That simple. Simon repeats his anthem from auditions: "This is why we brought the show to America. We always dreamed we'd find someone like you."

And now, occupying the coveted Pimp Spot in the semi-finals, it's time for us to be rocked by Josh Krajcik. First, Josh admits that he's feeling a lot of pressure. Lest we forget he's the only "Over 30s" contestant remaining, Josh tells us about some of his past struggles trying to make ends meet with his band. He's been at this almost forever, and now he's so close to making it! And he's singing a "desperate, beautiful love song" that Nicole promises will be "the best version anyone's ever heard of this song." We'll see...

Josh Krajcik, "Hallelujah"

This is a risky choice as well, but for an entirely different reason. We've heard this song covered so many times, on American Idol and elsewhere ... can Josh stand out from the pack? Oh, you KNOW he can. Josh is at the piano, and there's a gorgeous glowing tree silhouette behind him as he sinks every atom of his guts into the song. I think Simon is going to hate all over it for the lack of originality, but it was beautiful.

The judges say: L.A. says that "lacked excitement" for him. Paula almost starts weeping when she talks about Josh's heart and soul and originality. I think she may literally worship him. Simon says he's gonna have to agree ... with ... PAULA! Great song, great emotion, and it was sincere, he says. Simon, always full of surprises. "That was like a beautiful prayer, breathtaking," says Nicole.

Well, that's IT, folks! I promise that nobody at FOX is telling me to say this, but if you're an intelligent, discerning X Factor viewer -- and if you're here, that means you are -- I highly encourage you to vote for your favorite(s) tonight. Tomorrow's elimination is going to be a rough one no matter what, but it will be even rougher your favorite goes home, and you did nothing to save him/her.

If you couldn't tell already, for their performances tonight and all season long, my votes and well-wishes are going to my personal favorites, Josh and Chris. Who do YOU think did the best on The X Factor tonight?

Speaking of tomorrow's results show (8pm, FOX): Nicole Scherzinger is performing. And I'll be back here, recapping and mocking it live.

(Image courtesy FOX)

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