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'The X Factor' Recap: The Top 12 Perform

by Laura Prudom, posted Nov 3rd 2011 12:15AM
The X Factor JudgesAfter weeks spent shaking our heads at the judges' questionable contestant choices, the power is finally in America's hands this week, with the Top 12 'X Factor' finalists competing for your votes to remain in the competition. And, since the show was officially renewed for a second season earlier today, expect to see a whole lot more of those questionable contestant choices to come.

We got a taste of the production value and format last week, but that was just a dry run, and this week, a mediocre performance could score any act a one-way ticket back home.

Which acts brought their A-game and which were content to coast on audience goodwill in the first week of voting? Will Stacy Francis' negative press affect her chances, or are audiences more likely to target Astro for being the only rapper in a singing contest?

Join us after the jump for our verdict.

Simon Cowell's Girls
Considering his reputation, I often question Simon's mentoring ability. Sure, he can identify talent (as can we all), but when it comes to staging and song choice, the boss misses as often as he hits. Rachel's staging was a mess this week, and unless his acts are simply standing still and singing a ballad, he seems to grossly overcompensate -- just look at Tiah and Simone's overblown performances last week. I think he needs to take the advice he gave to Drew; let his contestants mentor him and just get out of their way.

Rachel Crow: Though Rachel has enough charisma for twenty performers (perhaps she should lend some to InTENsity), I've always been underwhelmed by her voice, especially when compared to the other two contestants in Simon's category. Still, her upbeat version of 'Walking on Sunshine,' while ridiculously dated and completely irrelevant to the kind of artist she likely wants to be, was still her best performance yet in my eyes. She kept control even when the song started low, and employed surprising vocal dexterity, proving engaging and charming without being too cheesy. Then again, she's as cute as a button, so I'm guessing that America will keep her around long past her expiration date regardless of how she performs.

Melanie Amaro: Simon's "underdog" had another excellent week, with a pared-down performance of 'Desperado' that flawlessly demonstrated her range and control. Her voice is so pure and clear that Melanie always makes her performances seem effortless. Right now, I'm just dubious as to whether she could actually perform something mid- or up-tempo, since she seems to have stuck to her ballad comfort zone so far.
Drew: If this girl doesn't win the whole competition, there's no justice in the world. Week after week, I've been awed by the clarity and unique tones in Drew's voice, and she once again presented a maturity and confidence beyond her years with a rendition of Nelly's 'Just a Dream,' which I'd buy tonight and play all week. Simon says that Melanie is the one to beat right now (mostly because he's trying to orchestrate it that way), but I think Drew's sound is once in a lifetime, and Melanie has some serious competition.

L.A. Reid's Boys
It doesn't seem like L.A. really knows what to do with Chris, whereas he's got a great handle on what he wants Astro to be. Marcus is somewhere in the middle -- I think L.A. recognizes that he's the weak link, but he also seems to have confidence that Marcus can own a stage, which is more than we've seen from Chris of late.

Chris Rene: I think we can all agree that Chris' performance last week wasn't his best, a fact that he acknowledged in his video diary before hitting the stage. He still didn't look entirely comfortable (and why would he, standing in a ring of fire?) performing 'Superstar,' but his voice was a little smoother than last week's and he hit his stride during the bridge, loosening up and having a little more fun with the performance. Still, I wonder how much patience the audience will have for him if he continues failing to live up to the hype of his first audition. Voters can be fickle, after all. Here's hoping the judges let him sing a few more of his original songs before he's eliminated, or that L.A. figures out how to coach him in the meantime.
Astro: L.A. seems to have a much clearer idea of what to do with arrogant Astro, even if his vision is more Will Smith while Astro's is probably 50 Cent. The modified version of 'Get Your Freak On' was entertaining enough, with Nicole helpfully pointing out that he wrote the first verse and being duly impressed. His lyrical runs are impressively clear and he's got boundless energy, but I'll be interested to see if America embraces a non-singer in a "singing" contest, or whether his attitude has already turned too many voters off.
Marcus Canty: Although he has an interesting story and can move his hips in a way that would make Shakira jealous, Marcus was swallowed up by the song this week, lost amongst the production values and the dancers. He also seemed to get winded with all the choreography, and couldn't belt out the song the way it needed belting. I think the groups are probably in more danger than he is this week, but he's got to be hovering dangerously close to the chopping block at this stage, since his voice isn't quite spectacular enough to stand out from the crowd.

Paula Abdul's Groups
From the behind-the-scenes videos, it definitely seems like Paula is putting in more time with her acts than any of the other mentors (Simon, especially, seems to breeze in and out without really connecting with his acts; he barely seemed interested in Rachel at all), and her work with The Stereo Hogzz is definitely paying off. Lakoda Rayne ... not so much.

The Stereo Hogzz: While I'm not entirely sure that the hyperbolic praise from all of the judges was merited, the group's performance of 'Rhythm Nation' was sharply choreographed and competently performed, and it truly did look like a concert -- spanning the whole stage and utilizing militaristic dancers to impressive effect. The song choice didn't do much to demonstrate the group's vocal range, but they undeniably put on a show, and I think Simon was right in noting that there doesn't seem to be any other band like them in the world, currently.
Lakoda Rayne: In the immortal words of Chandler Bing, could they be any more boring? The seasonal prom dresses certainly didn't do the girl group any favors, but worse was the snoozeworthy rendition of 'Landslide,' which, if utilized correctly, can be a chill-inducing song. The only thing Lakoda Rayne's version induced was a feeling of slight nausea. Nicole told them that they put her into a trance and supposedly intended it as a compliment, but I say it was closer to a coma. If they survive the week, I'll be very shocked.
InTENsity: It's a good thing Paula has The Stereo Hogzz, because I don't think either of the judges' patchwork groups are long for this world. I don't care how many times you invoke 'Glee' or Disney, all of InTENsity's performances just feel like noise to me. There's no sense of any particular harmony, just a lot of shouting, jumping and grinning. 'Glee' is an hour long seralized drama and still hasn't fully developed half of its gigantic ensemble over two seasons; do the judges really believe that anyone is going to bother investing in this equally gigantic ensemble when we only spend seven minutes with them each week? Put the kids out of their misery, already.

Nicole Scherzinger's Over 30s
As I noted last week, I think if any of Nicole's acts succeed (and at this point, it's most likely to be Josh) it'll be in spite of her mentoring, not because of it. She definitely doesn't appear to know what to do with LeRoy, and seems to prefer to let Simon do Stacy's mentoring.

LeRoy Bell:
The GILF might be in trouble after this week's low-key performance of Lonestar's 'I'm Already There' -- LeRoy was attempting to imbue it with emotion, given that he's obviously missing his family, but the performance still fell flat. Perhaps it's just that his personality is more mellow than some of his fellow contestants (ahem, Stacy), but I have a feeling that voters will have a hard time connecting with him, especially when there are so many more energetic and vibrant performers to choose from. He could be in trouble this week.
Josh Krajcik: Once again, the burrito seller proved that he can sing absolutely anything like he owns it, performing a melancholy interpretation of 'Jar of Hearts' and leaving both the audience and the judges in awe. He has such control and such a deliciously varied range that even with such a simple, understated song, he can have us all in the palm of his hand. Josh and Drew for final two!
Stacy Francis: Despite the controversy that's been plaguing her (or perhaps because of it), Stacy scored the plum final slot for the night, with the "church singer" song choice of 'Up to the Mountain.' I still don't get the logic of Stacy and Nicole being offended by Simon's critique last week and then choosing to follow his advice, but it was certainly a solid entry, with enough vocal fireworks to end the show on a high note. As with many of the "diva" singers, I find myself growing weary of her incessant runs and penchant for shouting, and I didn't find this performance half as compelling as I found 'Purple Rain' a couple of weeks ago. I wonder if the swirling scandal concerning Stacy's past will influence the voting -- it'll be interesting to see what tomorrow's results hold.

'The X Factor' airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8PM ET on Fox.

Who do you think is most in danger of being sent home? Are you tired of Lakoda Rayne, or do you think LeRoy is too dull? Will Stacy Francis' negative press affect her performance, or will Astro's lack of singing ability hinder him? Share your reactions below.

Follow Laura on Twitter: @LauinLA

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i wonder if simon is having it off with both the woman judges, lets change this comment page to this Question, Is simon bonking both babes,

November 10 2011 at 9:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Drew is a true talent, as is Josh. Josh has the unique abiliyt to expressl a ful range of emotion in his singing.

Simon's narcissism is annoying. The whole show , with its neo-psychelic lighting and stage effects is overproduced, simply hiorrible and does the singers a grave disservice.

November 04 2011 at 7:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Naudia Yvette

Loved the review. I must admit Drew has the most beautiful voice. And without a doubt Melanie is a great performer with a big voice. Paula has hope only with Stereo Hoggz. Nicole doesn't know what she's doing. Maybe she should have been a co-host and given Steve Jones some personality since he seems to have none.

November 03 2011 at 1:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Excellent review--reads like a NY Times writer---much better than EW and Buddy TV. Song selection was WAY ahead of last week's debacle--although still some problems,particularly with the tendency to "overproduce" many of the numbers to the detriment of the actual SINGING. Drew and Josh remain my favorites---but see opportunities for Stereo Hogz with a good producer. Would like to see Lakoda Rayne singing some mainstream country music without trying to hack it to pieces. Wish someone would tell the "mentors"(sic) that overly glttzy productions tend to mask the singers' talent---or is that why they,re doing it.

November 03 2011 at 2:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great review! I like Drew..but I am a Melanie fan all the way. Her and Josh the top 2! Split the money. Drew is talented but I don't understand her style yet.

I like Stacy. She should be doing the power ballads. If Simon wants her to do gospel, do an old Christina Aguilera song or Man in the Mirror. Keep in mainstream. If not...she'll be gone soon.

Everyone else...just waiting until they go home.

November 03 2011 at 1:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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