Recap: 'The X Factor' - Top 5 Performances Live-Blog
A double-dip of Rachel, Chris, Marcus, Melanie and Burrito Josh
Oh come on, Drew fans... I'm sad too...
But surely it's time to wipe away the runny mascara and settle in for Wednesday (December 7) night's episode of "The X Factor," featuring two performances apiece from the "X Factor" Top 5. Yes, that means two performances from Chris Rene. Sorry about that. but it also means a double-serving of Burrito Josh.
Buckle in for the entire live-blog journey...
7:59 p.m. Pacific. First off, apologies that this live-blog isn't actually especially live anymore. I experienced the West Coast live-blogger's great nightmare: A Slingbox outage. I tried scrambling to find other East Coast feeds, but none were reliable enough to blog by. As a result, this recap is obviously late and my "Survivor" recap will obviously be even later. Oh well.
8:00 p.m. Is Simon going to declare war on the other three judges? That's what Anonymous Announcer Man tells me as the episode begins... This would, indeed, be the perfect night... FOR REVENGE.
8:02 p.m. "Big, big night!" promises Steve Jones, who also promises "a major twist" upcoming. Uh-oh. The first performances will be "dance hits." I don't have a clue what this means, but there's no chance it's going to be a good idea. Best case scenario: Everybody cheats the theme.
8:03 p.m. I'm just waiting patiently for the foam to start falling. It's "Tron" Disco Night on "The X Factor."
8:04 p.m. Steve Jones prods Simon for his opinion on last week's show, which he jokingly says made him "really, really happy." Of our Top 5, some (Marcus, Rachel) are excited with the Dance theme. Some (Burrito Josh) are not happy. Burrito Josh hasn't been happy with a theme for a while.
8:06 p.m. Our first singer tonight is...
Melanie Amaro: And not only is Melanie our first performer, but she's our first theme cheater, unless you accept that just putting an "untz-untz-untz" beat behind The Ubiquitous Adele Song makes it a Dance Song. It's not quite up-tempo for Melanie, but it's close enough and with confetti flying and black-clad dancers bending and twitching, it's definitely the closest she's come to coming a "fun" performance. "That was really good," says L.A. Reid. Way to use your words, L.A. Nicole says that Melanie "looked and sounded like the rock star diva you are tonight." That's confusing. I believe Nicole said Melanie looked and sounded like herself. For Paula, the only problem is that it was too short. "You would have a hit record with that version," Simon raves. "I love all those comments," Melanie agrees.
8:14 p.m. This is my first time watching "The X Factor" in high-definition this season. It's very flashy. Why is L.A. Reid calling our next contestant "a two-time champion"? How about "A two-time next-to-last-place finisher." Anyway, it's time for...
Marcus Canty: How many times this season has Marcus sung songs written for female artists? Tonight, he's channeling Chaka Khan on "Ain't Nobody." Unlike Melanie, Marcus is at least on the floor with the dancers. But he isn't dancing. He isn't really doing anything. He's like a C- version of Usher as a singer and a D- version of Usher as a dancer. There's not much substance to Marcus. He's not bad, but he's not as good as he should be. At anything. And why the heck are the performances tonight to short? "Marcus, you took us to church and the dance club at the same time," Nicole says meaninglessly, warning Marcus that God has a plan for him. Paula says... nothing. "I shouldn't be very happy with you, should I?" Simon asks Marcus. Simon eventually calls Marcus "very, very good." Yawn. And L.A. Reid tells people to vote for Marcus. He doesn't ask enthusiastically. It's more like, "I'm probably not gonna bother voting, so you should."
8:23 p.m. Steve Jones is balancing a giant Pepsi can on his head. Our next performer is...
Rachel Crow: Because it's a "dance" song, Rachel Crow spend the first 30 seconds of "Nothin' On You" sitting on the chair. When she's sitting, Rachel isn't quite in pitch. Then when she stands and gets into the performance, her voice gets lost behind the arrangement and the background singers. There's almost no Rachel Crow there. L.A. Reid liked the performance, but he doesn't understand who Rachel Crow was singing to, but Rachel has the quick answer that the beautiful girls she was singing to were Paula and Nicole. Nicole is waiting for the Rachel Crow Doll. The thing I don't get is that Rachel is marvelously endearing and none of her personality came through in that performance. Paula, however, calls this Rachel's best performance in the competition. That's RIDICULOUS. Simon makes a joke about Rachel's background as a stand-up comic. Huh? Simon thinks it was a great choice of song.
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Burrito Josh: No time to waste on commercials! Burrito Josh has taken as much of the dance out of "We Found Love" as possible. It's practically a Coldplay song at this point. Surrounded by the flashing lights and with dancers doing weird, modernist choreography to his sides, Josh looks astoundingly uncomfortable. He sounds very good. L.A. Reid says that he couldn't believe Josh would ever do a song like that, but Paula disagrees. Simon, however, agrees with L.A. and calls the song "completely inappropriate." Simon also very correctly calls the dance routine "ridiculous." Simon gets booed into silence as he tries blaming Nicole for spending too much time in England. Nicole calls Josh "versatile, relevant and current." Nicole has finally found a way to be so absurd that she's brought Simon and L.A. Reid together in an unholy and hopefully temporary alliance.
8:33 p.m. So... um... None of these performances have been very good so far. Is it OK to say that I miss both Drew and Astro? Then again, Drew wouldn't have been comfortable with a dance track probably. Or would she have? Anyway, Melanie is stretching out her talent advantage over the field and I have pre-existing reservations about our last Dance Music performer...
Chris Rene: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Uh. Uh. Uh. Chris Rene really isn't very good at the singing or the writing or the rapping, but I want to give him credit for being the most comfortable performer in the dance-floor context. He's actually moving -- surviving a movie conveyor belt -- and interacting with the dancers and DJs around him. He's not afraid of the theme. Nicole says that she loves him. But Nicole also calls Chris "Josh." Chris thanks her and even calls her Nicole. Paula loved it. Simon suggests that Chris is doing "brilliant" as an overall artist. L.A. Reid wisely observes that all Chris Rene needs is votes to stay in the competition.
8:44 p.m. Is it time for that twist that Steve Jones foretold? Heh. The Pepsi Challenge got screwed up. The audience boos Steve. So instead, the contestants are singing songs that they chose themselves. Lukewarm applause. They were only told this twist last night... Everybody looks stressed in the music room. Will this be a disaster? Up first...
Melanie Amaro: She's singing that Whitney Houston song from "The Prince of Egypt." She looks fantastic. She sounds great. And at least for the first half of the performance, she hasn't been hideously over-produced. Then the firefly lights start flashing. Then the gospel choir arrives behind her. Then fog starts cascading across the stage. Disappointingly, nobody constructs a pyramid behind her. She's like Cleopatra up there. In a good way. Before the judging, Melanie asks to make a little speech. She explains that she chose "When You Believe" because she believes in herself. She gushes again about Simon rejecting her and resurrecting her and all of that. "You really thought of that last night and it was that good today?" L.A. Reid says. He also calls it "safe, but amazing." Nicole is covered with goosebumps and she felt like Melanie believed every single word. Paula calls it "less is more." Simon asks L.A. Reid to give Melanie credit and then points to The Legendary Crypt-Keeper Clive Davis in the audience. Frankly, after last week's eliminations, the gulf between Melanie and the rest of the field has only grown.
8:56 p.m. Those are some really stupid tweets. Thanks Steve. Now it's time for...
Marcus Canty: Oh, Marcus. Drew's blood is on your hands! And her tears are on your collar. Marcus is singing a nasally version of "A Song For You." I don't know if he's being engulfed in fresh fog or if it's still leftover fog from Melanie's performance. Marcus is less emotional on this song than on several of his slower performances, so his voice isn't cracking on the high notes. He's also not quite getting the low notes. His closing falsetto sounds very sweet, though the half-closed eyes and kissy-lips are a bit cheesy. "That was so honest and with so much grace and poise," Nicole says. Then Nicole compares Marcus to "a young Al Green." OK. That's out of control. That can't stand. Marcus can't hold a Young Al Green's... anything. Paula says Marcus has a timeless quality. Simon isn't jumping out of his chair. "Muhammad Ali got knocked down twice and he came back like a champion," L.A. Reid says. REALLY? Please explain. Muhammad Ali got knocked down more than two times. He lost more than two times. What the heck is the analogy that you think you're making, L.A. Reid?
9:06 p.m. I didn't like her first performance, but will the second time be the charm for...
Rachel Crow: Thanks, Nicole, for telling us that you don't know if a 24-hour turnaround will help or hurt Rachel. I'm not sure the turnaround has had any impact on Rachel, who tears into "Music and Me," a little uncertainly at first, but with building confidence as she professes. I like that nobody had time to do choreography around these performances, so it's basically Rachel standing on a trampoline. And fog. "I love that you picked that song for yourself," L.A. Reid says. He adds, "You're the star that we always thought you were." Sigh. Nicole calls her an "old soul." Rachel adds, "My mission is just to inspire the kids." That didn't sound at all programmed. Gracious. Rachel Crow has become Teddy Ruxpin before our very eyes. I'm awed and terrified. "Hello, Kids of America. My name is Rachel Crow. Can you and I be friends?"
Burrito Josh: Why is every theme or twist in the game stressing Josh out so badly? The guy used to make burritos. He's seen the worst life has to offer. Roll with the punches like you'd roll a burrito, Josh! Burrito Josh is swinging for the fences with "Something." He's really into the performance, complete with some crazy-eyes and some righteous jowl-shaking. The red skies are a bit much, but I like this as a vocal performance. After Melanie's two performances, this was the third best vocal of the night. L.A. Reid calls it ever-so-slightly karaoke. Paula observes that adjectives no longer describe Josh's brilliance. Yay, Simon calls Josh on looking insane, which Nicole calls "getting lost in the music." Simon asks Nicole to get lost -- earning a standing ovation from L.A. Reid -- and tells Josh to do what he does best. Nicole calls the performance "Krajcik Magic."
9:17 p.m. I'm told that Josh's first performance was, in fact, just note-for-note version of the Coldplay cover of "We Found Love." The more I know... Good thing I didn't call it "creative" or "original" or "good."
9:22 p.m. Time for our last performance...
Chris Rene: Not only did Chris choose this song, but he wrote it. Earlier this week, Stevie Wonder called Chris to tell him that he was inspired by "Young Homie." The decision to sing an original is mighty ballsy at this point in the competition. This is a disturbingly clean-cut Chris, just sitting on a chair strumming his guitar. It's not a Chris we've seen before and it is... BRILLIANT. Chris has transformed himself into exactly the sort of preppy white boy with a guitar who "American Idol" voters love with a compulsive inertia. With the exception of a couple pointless grunts and sighs, this could be a Kris Allen "American Idol" performance. It's the smartest thing Chris possibly could have done. The song itself? A bit formless and mediocre, but not offensive in any way. That performance put Chris in the semis for sure. Nicole calls it "amazing." Paula thinks that the universe made Chris sing that song. "That was a stroke of genius," Simon says. "I'm so proud of you," L.A. Reid says.
9:28 p.m. FOX is going to EAGERLY let "X Factor" run into the "I Hate My Teenage Daughter" slot.
Bottom Line: Marcus Canty should be going home tomorrow. Not much else to say. Rachel was probably the night's second weakest performer.
What'd you think? Who'd you like? Who's going home?
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