The power is in your hands, America. After the judges on The X Factor
have narrowed down the field to the Top 12 acts, three in each
category, they will now go head-to-head to your votes. It should be
interesting to see if it matches up with those viewer polls from last
week, the ones that showed performers like Ellona Santiago, Sweet
Suspense and Rachel Potter on top while Lillie McCloud was in the single digits.
So hold onto your hats, because it's time to enjoy some lavish, over-the-top productions that may or may not feature decent vocals. Because I've learned to adjust my expectations when it comes to The X Factor, and now I know that attitude, stage presence and star quality matter a whole lot more than the voice.
Taking a page out of American Idol's playbook, it's Motown Night.
The judges have decided to bring back an eliminated contestant as a Wild Card. It's Josh Levi! Why? This is the least deserving twist ever. James Kenney and Roxxy Montana were definitely better. Maybe they're trying to give Paulina Rubio a fighting chance with a fourth contestant because they know she's the worst mentor.
He just sings instead of dancing around like a fool, and it's actually pretty good. But I still don't like that he came back and I hope he gets eliminated just to prove the judges wrong. Simon Cowell says he went from "zero to hero," which makes me wonder why on Earth they brought him back if he was a "zero" last week.
Kelly Rowland says "she's not just a bartender." You're right, she's also a former Broadway star, but The X Factor is continuing to pretend that this never happened. Perhaps I'm letting her real background bother me, but the whole country thing feels inauthentic, like she's playing a role. She does a decent job singing but it's too upbeat and fast. I wonder if the fact that all country music fans are watching the CMAs tonight will affect her votes. Simon calls her out for not liking it. I agree, the arrangement is a bit like Kristy Lee Cook's "Eight Days a Week" from American Idol.
He sings Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" and the giant smile on his face makes me uncomfortable when he sings "There's far too many of you dying. I'm not sure he knows what's going on in the lyrics of this song. Kelly thinks it was a bad song choice and Simon thought he didn't have a moment and just lurked around the stage. Paulina delivers some incomprehensible word salad about how great he is.
We see them goofing around on a pool table and Simon even uses all of their names, as if to prove that his "the one in the middle" comment about Roxxy Montana wasn't par for the course. The boys are, indeed, easy like Sunday morning, and it's just fun, sweet and hits the mark for what they're trying to do. Paulina calls Colton pitchy and Kelly agrees. Vocals don't matter, and these boys are like a completely different kind of vibe from the other acts. The whole Groups vs. Individuals premise of this show doesn't feel right. Simon once again pushes his own agenda by vowing that Restless Road will be in the finale. He must be reading The Secret.
This week she also took the SATs and it's a lot of pressure. She prances around the purple stage and does a fantastic job with the performance aspect, as always. I like her, because she knows how to work a stage, and even though her vocals aren't blowing my mind, successful artists have auto-tuning in the studio. Kelly commends Ellona for sticking with education, missing the irony that Kelly herself never went to college because of Destiny's Child's success.
The show pushes the single dad thing some more. The way they overhype every single personal story as if each tale is an inspiring, powerful journey is almost as obnoxious as Mario Lopez trying to convince us that Motown has any relevance for today's youth. On the bright side, this is the first performance of the night I'm actually willing to call "good." It's sweeter and softer than usual, and I love that he showed a different side of him. Simon calls it outstanding and the best vocal of the night by a mile.
Alex and Sierra
During the introduction, Mario Lopez calls Simon a "cool cat" and Simon says "meow." It's weird and awesome. Just as cute is the way this couple jumps, fully clothed, into a pool to calm down. I'm so in love with their groove that I'm on board with whatever they do. Their arrangement of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" is great. Demi Lovato thinks it's sexy and Paulina wants them to kiss. I feel like Alex's voice went a bit wonky during the falsetto, but they're still solid.
Khaya's dad is there, urging his daughter to consider dentistry as an alternate profession. It's kind of endearing. Her performance is weird. The back-up dancers are distracting, a bunch of boys in school, one of whom gets pushed towards Khaya and then breakdances. Also, I find her vocals too stilted, despite how amazing she is. She really does sound like Amy Winehouse/Duffy. The judges rave about it and don't find it as off-putting as I did.
Paulina gets subtitled during rehearsals. Isn't that why Cheryl Cole was fired from the first season of The X Factor in the first place? He turns "Stop in the Name of Love" into a ballad, and I think it works. The performance aspect is good, but the vocals are iffy. He sounds too strained at points. Simon says it's too theatrical, and he's right. Halfway through I imagined this was a great ballad in a Broadway show.
After Simon called her dated last week, she's freaking out because it's Motown Night. Seriously, you can't criticize someone for not being current on a show that does a Motown Night. She ignores Simon's wise advice and oversings the whole thing. She really is so old-fashioned, like she should be singing a Bond song from the '70s. Demi jumps on the "old-fashioned" bandwagon and wishes she moved more, but Simon zigs when you think he's gonna zag and calls it fantastic.
It's very telling during the rehearsal footage that we see various vocal coaches and producers giving them advice. It makes it look like Simon barely does anything. They sing to some techno dance track dressed in silver. It's wonderfully staged and they look and feel like a pre-packaged pop act that could be opening for Justin Bieber on tour. Honestly, it doesn't even matter who these three are or what their voices sound like, because any or all of them could be replaced by different girls next week and no one would notice. This isn't necessarily meant as a criticism, because it works and I kind of love the shameless commercialism of it all. The judges love them, though Simon still takes time to con Demi into recording a song with Fifth Harmony.
I hated last week's fan-heavy performance, but this week she kills it. She's vulnerable and simple and all of the focus is on her powerful voice. I like the country twang that occasionally comes in and, in spite of Kelly's objections, I enjoy this weird, soft arrangement of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."
The Blackhole of Charisma gets the last performance of the night and Paulina actually gets his name right. His goal is to prove Simon wrong and show that he's a fun guy. He fails by singing "I'll Be There," another bland, generic, Groban-esque song that he sings well while standing in one place the whole time. Demi calls it an incredible karaoke performance. She's confused because he's talented, vocally, but he has absolutely no place in Top 40 radio, he's pure Adult Contemporary. Once again, Simon zigs and enjoyed it. He now understands that Tim is Donny Osmond, which is allegedly a compliment.
That does it for the Top 13. Tomorrow night we get the results and the complete leaderboard of where everyone ranked with the voters, which should be very revealing. One act will go home, and I'm hoping it's Josh Levi, just to prove that bringing him back was a total waste of everyone's time. Also, former Wizards of Waverly Place star and Justin Bieber's on-again, off-again girlfriend Selena Gomez will perform.
(Image and videos courtesy of FOX)