The X Factor contestants slugged it out Wednesday night, vying for your love and more importantly your votes. It was movie night at the X Factor, so each of the acts performed a song that has been featured in a film. During the past couple of weeks, the mentors seem to have been missing the mark when choosing songs for the X Factor singers. This week, however, for the most part the mentors managed to select songs more suited to the particular talents of the X Factor contenders.
The X Factor kicked off with Stacy Francis singing Whitney Houston’s “Queen of the Night,” a song co-written by judge L.A. Reid back in the day when he went by Antonia Reid. Reid wondered why Francis chose to do the third most popular song from “The Bodyguard,” a flick that also featured “I Will Always Love You” and “I’m Every Woman.” Francis fans probably liked her performance. The judges and fans, ignoring a few pitch issues, gave her singing thumbs up, though judge Simon Cowell once again played fashion maven, questioning Francis’ red dress.
Marcus Canty did a smoky take on Rose Royce’s “I’m Going Down,” a song featured in the cult flick “Car Wash.” Canty pleased fans, wringing cheers and squeals from the live audience. All the X Factor judges approved of his singing, but Cowell once again gave fashion advice, saying he was glad Canty ditched the sparkly “cabaret” jacket half way through the song. Cowell suggested that Canty dress himself, rather than take fashion advice from mentor Reid. Canty noted in his pre-performance video package that his mom is still insisting that if he doesn’t win the five million dollar grand prize, he will have to give up on his singing career. Canty is a descent performer and he could very well have a future in the music business. However, given the competition, he just doesn’t have the chops to take the big prize on the X Factor. Many American Idol singers who get sent home before the finals still squeak out some sort of living in the business, so if Canty cuts the apron strings, he still might parlay his X Factor experience into a singing career.
Drew sang Coldplay’s “Fix You” from the movie “You, Me and Dupree.” The song selection didn’t really play to Drew’s strengths. Drew shines when she twists a popular, upbeat song into a soft, lustrous think-piece. Yes, it was simple enough for her to make “Fix You” all Drewy, but the revelations from her singing are more exciting and evocative when she applies them to a hither to light song, like she did when she made Justin Beiber’s “Baby” pensive during the X Factor auditions. Though I love her as a singer, Drew’s Wednesday X Factor performance was a bit sleepy. If she’s going to hit a song straight on, excite the judges and perform something that will sell records to her demographic – tweener girls – maybe she should try something more upbeat.All this aside, I wish Reid would get off his high horse on his critique of Drew being repetitious. Reid acknowledged that Drew sang well, but criticized her for making all of her songs the same. True enough, perhaps. But Reid doesn’t seem to worry about repetition during the X Factor competition when it comes to Astro and Rene rapping every week. Let’s hope that voters don’t take Reid’s comments too much to heart. Drew deserves to stay in the competition for a long time. Abdul created an awkward X Factor moment when she critiqued Cowell for dressing Drew the way he did. As it turns out, Drew designed the dress herself, and Cowell decided to support Drew’s still-maturing artistic vision. Yeah, the outfit was kind of Cinderella-on-acid-like, but giving Drew some artistic freedom seems like the right thing to do.
LeRoy Bell finally got to sing a song that fits in his comfort zone. He pulled off U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” with the all the aplomb you’d expect, plus a little more. Scherzinger fought back tears as Bell started strutting his stuff. All the judges gave Bell and Scherzinger props for the song choice and for his fine delivery.
Lakoda Rayne continued to go country, singing Keith Urban’s “Somebody Like You” from the movie “How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” This four-girl group has grown tighter since getting thrown together by the X Factor singing factory a few weeks ago. Each of them got some solo time at the mike, but it’s hard to gauge exactly how well their harmonies are gelling seeing as they had six back-up singers. I’ll admit that their harmonies sounded a bit dicey to me near the end of the song. Still, the judges and crowd didn’t seem troubled at all, lapping up Lakoda Rayne like kittens grooving on warm milk.
Astro once again contributed his own lyrics to the performance, doing his own take on Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” from the movie “8 Mile.” Based on how Reid was feeling Astro’s rap, this 14-year-old will probably get signed to a record deal with Reid no matter how Astro fares in the X Factor competition.
Melanie Amaro once again applied a liberal coating of diva to her X Factor performance. This time she Whitney Houstonized Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” Reid called it “predictably strong,” dissing Amaro and Cowell for, well, I guess, letting Amaro do a terrific job on a Michael Jackson song. Reid is getting predictable in his criticisms, calling many of the singers and mentors out for doing what Reid himself does with his own protégés. To give Reid his due, Amaro, more than any of Reid’s protégés, has the chords to expand her repertoire. Maybe Cowell should give Amaro something more current than the pre-millennium classics she has been singing so far on the X Factor.
The Stereo Hogzz sang Christina Aguilera’s “Ain’t No Other Man.” They gave a slick, professional performance, but once again, as happened with Dakoda Rayne, the Stereo Hogzz were at times overpowered by the six back up singers that Abdul and the X Factor worked into the production. X Factor, listen up. I don’t want to have to say this again. If voters are going to judge a group, let them hear the group. With all the audio bells and whistles, the Stereo Hogzz lose their individuality, so it’s hard for X Factor viewers to relate to them or their performance on an emotional level. I think the Stereo Hogzz might be pretty good, but let us, the voting public, hear their voices.
Josh Krajcik sang the Joe Cockerized version of The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends.” Krajcik has nailed every thing he’s sung so far on the X Factor, and this was no different. Cocker’s original version was a bit more soulful, but Krajcik still rocked it. You can figure Krajcik will be around for a while. Chris Rene upped his X Factor game over the past couple of weeks, adding his own lyrics to Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise.” Rene probably has hung on to a devoted fan base from his way-compelling audition, but he continues to struggle with pitch problems. This performance put him more in his element, with more rapping and less singing.
Cowell admitted on air that he has not done a great job selecting songs for Rachel Crow over the past couple of weeks. This week she picked her own song. Cowell concurred, and as they say in movie-land, they lived happily ever after. Or least happily for this one performance. Crow sang Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind.” Crow is no Etta James, but then again, she is just a 13 year-old kid, so all things considered, she gave a soulful, nuanced performance. She won kudos from all the judges. The usually prickly Reid, at least when he’s commenting on other judges’ talent, called Crow his favorite.
There were no massive fails during Wednesday’s X Factor, so it’s a tricky task to pick the most likely to be evicted. Personally, I wasn’t moved by Stacy Francis. The Stereo Hogzz were in the bottom two last week, and they weren’t given much opportunity to show their individuality this week, so they might find themselves in the bottom two again this week. There’s only one way to know for sure who is going and who is staying. Find out who makes the top 10 and who makes the walk of shame. Watch the X Factor results show Thursday at 7:00 Central on Fox.