It's the season's penultimate "X Factor" performance show. Sniffle.
Sunrise, sunset and all that good stuff.
Click through for a full live-blog of the performances by Marcus Canty, Melanie Amaro, Burrio Josh and Chris Rene...
8:00 p.m. ET. I'm still pissed off at Nicole Scherzinger. How 'bout y'all? This recap of last Thursday's fiasco isn't making things better. Is tonight going to be all about getting revenge on Nicole? I don't know how I'd go about doing it, but I'd find a way. Steve Jones should keep asking Nicole to say something substantive whenever she offers her typically banal "judging" blather. All night long, Steve Jones should keep going, "Really, Nicole? Do you have anything better than that? Surely we're paying you for SOMETHING here, right?"
8:03 p.m. Final 4. WOO! Oh yeah. I meant to say this earlier: FOX, please stop calling "I Hate My Teenage Daughter" a hit. That's just a lie. If NBC were airing it on Friday, NBC could call it a hit with those numbers. But airing after "X Factor" on FOX on Wednesdays? That show is NOT a hit.
8:05 p.m. It's all up to us this week. Or, as Nicole calls it, "Whatever."
8:05 p.m. We start with our Pepsi Challenge song. "X Factor" and Pepsi screwed this up last week. Will it be worth the effort tonight? The contestants are all thinking the Pepsi Challenge is very important.
8:06 p.m. Simon says that he hasn't seen Rachel Crow since last week, but he predicts "She'll be fine."
8:06 p.m. Nicole gets booed, but she insists the boos will make her stronger. Does that mean "capable of doing the job you're paid to do," Nicole?
8:07 p.m. Our first performer tonight is...
Marcus Canty: "This is for that special lady," Marcus coos. So... that means his mom? Oh. Maybe not. He's singing "I'll Make Love To You," so I hope not. It's am amusingly staged performance. Marcus is singing out on a platform behind the judges. On the actual stage, there's a woman in red doing a modern dance routine in a pool of billowing fog. One has nothing to do with the other. Marcus is nasally and average. He should have been gone two or three weeks ago. At this point, he's been crafted into an ultimate underdog. "You are bringing sexy back," Nicole judges wisely. Paula can count on Marcus giving 150 percent. Simon criticizes the staging with "the zombie dancers" and gets boos from the crowd. Simon also wanted more changing to the song. "It takes great taste to know great taste," L.A. Reid says pointlessly. Also, L.A. Reid keeps calling Marcus "The Three-time Save Me Song Champion." This is inaccurate. He did not win the Save Me Song last week. Even if you think he out-performed Rachel on Thursday (he didn't), he survived because of a vote from the night before.
8:16 p.m. It's funny, because the only thing the "American Idol" commercials are making me realize I missed about That Other Show is Ryan Seacrest. Our next performer is...
Chris Rene: The lyric is "All around the world," Chris. After waking us up to his talent with last week's original performance, Chris is mumbling and napping his way through some classic Sugar Ray. His original verse bringing a little life to his performance and the audience is singing along enthusiastically with the chorus. I don't know what any of it has to do with Chris. He's a party DJ in moments like this. He's making it possible for people to have fun without doing anything himself to distract. His vocals aren't getting better, but his styling improves with each week. He's being crafted into the eventual winner of this show, even if the transformation is only external. "You just make us feel good, whether we're off-stage or on-stage," Nicole says. The audience is very pleased with Chris. This is a strongly pro-Chris audience. "You don't look like a million bucks. You look like five million bucks, after taxes," Paula says. The audience is so stoned the boo Simon for saying this wasn't Chris' best vocal. They also boo Chris when Simon says that the performance was "A seven out of 10." L.A. Reid says that Chris looks like a major star.
8:25 p.m. I should retract that "only external" part of the previous paragraph. There's no doubt that getting clean and leaving healthy is a MAJOR part of Chris' ongoing transformation and that that's not an "external" change at all. Anyway... On to...
Melanie Amaro: What did Pepsi choose for Melanie? Yawn. More Mariah Carey, specifically "Hero." Not very creative, viewers. Then again, I guess asking Chris Rene to be Mark McGrath wasn't especially creative either. How has Simon changed "Hero" up for Melanie? Fog! That's everybody's answer at this point. The key problem to this song and this performance is that we already knew Melanie could do this. Yes, she's the best remaining vocalist. By a lot. I wish America had tried pushing Melanie to do something that showed more warmth and more personality, because it's very obvious that "voice" isn't what America is voting on. Melanie's performance is precise and perfectly executed, albeit cold. L.A. Reid calls it "really, really good." He calls it "predictable," but says he can't criticize the choice. L.A. Reid says that he didn't feel Melanie's usual passion. People boo. Nicole is scared of booing. She praises America for the song choice, calling it "perfect and fitting." Nicole raves that Melanie is "inspiring" and "liberating." Steve doesn't ask Nicole to explain "liberating." Paula Abdul invited the writer of the song to sit in the audience and calls Melanie "impeccable." Paula, however, criticizes Simon for changing the major keys to minor and removing the "uplift" from the song. WOW. That is genuine analysis from Paula Abdul. I'm impressed. Simon calls it "bloody fantastic."
8:33 p.m. That one-minute trailer for "War Horse" makes me "feel" in a way that no Melanie performance ever has. Is that her fault? Probably not entirely. But make no mistake that America is voting based on "feeling," not technical excellence. It's time now for...
Burrito Josh: Interestingly, it's Burrito Josh's second Beatles song of the season, though this isn't the original arrangement of "Come Together." I fear that Josh suffers from the same problem as Melanie. We know he's darned good with this sort of classic rock bellowing, but the eye-popping, jowl-shaking, hair-flopping mannerisms don't change very much. His energy level is consistent, but not high. Everybody's competing with Chris Rene's sob story and star power and I don't know that Josh has it in him to win that war. Still, this would be a terrific performance at a county fair or at any spacious outdoor venue. It's good, but it's not unique. "I rather enjoyed that," L.A. Reid says, calling this the best Josh has been for a couple weeks. Paula says that Josh is attacking our souls and that she'd pay anything to see him on stage. "You've come back and you've come back strong this week," Simon says, adding that it would be "a massive shame" if Josh didn't make the Finals. "You're never rehearsed," Nicole says, happily. She calls Josh's "crazy-eyes" "the look of steel." Simon is confused.
8:46 p.m. So that was it for our Pepsi songs. Now let's see what Coke chooses! No? Oh well. Time for...
Marcus Canty: Once again, we must relive the shocking departure of Rachel Crow. And once again, we must relive Marcus Canty's love for his mom. Clad in a white Colonel Sanders suit and submerged in confetti and background dancers, Marcus does a nasally New Year's Rockin' Eve rendition of "Careless Whisper." This is far better as a vocal and a performance than Marcus' first performance of the night. Nicole loved that Marcus did his thing on it. "The whole thing worked," Paula says. "That was horrific," Simon complains, calling the performance "grotesque" and like a Vegas show from 1983. "That was as bad as I've ever seen," Simon grumbles. Shockingly, L.A. Reid disagrees. Steve Jones tells Marcus that the judges comments were "redundant." The word he means is "superfluous." Or maybe just "irrelevant." But definitely not "redundant."
8:57 p.m. Come on, Steve Jones. Read my tweet correcting your vocabulary! READ MY TWEETS, STEVE. Sigh. On to...
Chris Rene: Starting on a piano, Chris launches into a decent rendition of "No One," which is practically designed to be half-listened to by viewers still crying from Chris' story about saying good-bye to his late father. Like if you're listening to the singing? Whatever. There's no point in resisting, America. This is your winner. We've all become as useless as Nicole. Uh-oh. The real Nicole vows to keep it real with Chris. She says that Chris doesn't have the best voice in the competition, but that this isn't what this competition is about. His "spirit transcends across the universe." Paula says, "Plain and simple, I love you." Simon reassures Chris that his dad would be incredibly proud. "You may be the dark horse in the competition," Simon says several weeks too late. "Stardom is about lovability and you have lovability," L.A. Reid tells Chris.
9:07 p.m. I'm pretty sure I don't have lovability.
Melanie Amaro: Mariah Carey tweeted Melanie. Omigod! Simon has chosen "a real old-school classic for Melanie," but he worries that it may have been a mistake. I'm not sure this is quite as outside the box as Simon thinks. "Feeling Good" has been a reality singing staple for years. It's unquestionable a small change-up for Melanie. This is jazzier and sassier than anything we've gotten from Melanie before. I'm not sure that all of the extra vocal flourishes are *quite* necessary. But she closes SO darned strong. America, This is the performance of the night and it may well be the performance of the season. Or maybe things have been so lackluster for weeks that I NEED a reason to believe in something and I'm latching onto Melanie. I don't care if you need to let Chris Rene win. That's your sentimental right. But Melanie absolutely, positive needs to be in the Finals, yo. "It was not predictable and you KILLED it girl," L.A. Reid says. "You should be feeling so good right now," Nicole says. "You're letting go and we love it," Paula says. "Mel, this is why we brought the show to America," Simon says.
9:20 p.m. See? That ad for "I Hate My Teenage Daughter" DIDN'T call it a "hit."
Burrito Josh: Three cheers for Burrito Josh's Brother. He believed in Burrito Josh. This is courageous. Burrito Josh is on a piano rockin' out to "Hallelujah," steering at least somewhat away from the predictable Jeff Buckley cover. It's not quite Leonard Cohen either. Yup. I definitely need something to latch onto, because this is the best performance of the night and it may well be the best performance of the season. Yeah, I'm just messing with y'all. A little. But it's very good. But this is Josh at his best. I needed a reason to root for Burrito Josh again and this was that reason. Go Burrito Josh. "That lacked excitement for me," L.A. Reid says. Paula is crying and confused at L.A. Reid's lack of emotion. "I've never seen a contestant quite like you," Paula cries, calling Josh "the one to beat." Simon agrees with Paula. "That was like a beautiful prayer," Nicole says.
9:27 p.m. Once again, we have to get rid of Marcus, right? I mean, we've been saying that for around a month now. But it's as true today as it ever was.
Who'd you like tonight? Who should go home? Other than Nicole, I mean...
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