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'The X Factor' Recap: The Top 9 Perform Songs That Give Thanks (VIDEO)

by Laura Prudom, posted Nov 23rd 2011 12:45AM
Josh KrajcikIt seemed as though the 'X Factor' mentors had a far better grasp of this week's nebulous theme of "songs that give thanks" than they did of "rock" or "songs from movies," but were you thankful for the performances?

Paula spent two hours in a perpetual state of teary-eyed incoherence (no change there), Astro was ... vaguely repentant over last week's "incident," and were it not for Paula and Nicole, I think Simon and L.A. would've started a slap-fight over Drew's performance. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Hit the jump for our verdict on this week's especially tearful thankful installment, and weigh in on your favorite performances.

Simon Cowell's Girls

Rachel Crow:
Between Rachel's inspirational story and the uplifting song choice, it was hard not to get a little misty at the opening number, a belting rendition of 'I Believe' that likely made a believer out of America. Rachel got a little lost on the high notes, and her outfit was a new brand of crazy, but she showed maturity and control that you'd be hard-pressed to find fault with. Even grumpy L.A. couldn't criticize the song, which is more than could be said for poor Drew's later performance. Still, it's a little baffling that L.A. constantly criticizes Drew (and Simon) for choosing numbers that are too mature for her age (like ... Demi Lovato?) but he's perfectly content with Rachel's sometimes retro song choices. I guess he just feels more threatened by Drew.

Melanie Amaro: Though Melanie is a consistently strong performer, it was actually her performance after the song that truly made me connect with her this week. She chose to dedicate the song to God, and her version of 'The World's Greatest' obviously energized more than any other number she's performed so far, prompting her to tearfully thank Simon, God, her friends, family and fans for the opportunity to be on the show, since it meant everything to her. After Astro's arrogant outburst last week, such a dramatic declaration could've seemed fake or calculated from another performer, but Melanie's gratitude was both genuine and touching, and more than the song, her humility brought tears to my eyes. It's the first time I've truly related to her all season. I also had no idea that her accent was that strong, but I loved seeing the "real" Melanie finally make an appearance. I didn't think the song was the best showcase for her range, though the a capella section was utterly gorgeous, and, like Paula, I didn't think she needed the choral accompaniment. (I think Simon just loves choirs.)

Drew: If Astro was the performer to spark discussion last week, Drew might earn that dubious honor this week, through no fault of her own. She dedicated Demi Lovato's 'Skyscraper' to her best friend, Shelby, and it was typically Drew: haunting, raspy and heartfelt. It wasn't my favorite of Drew's performances to date, since she seemed a little rougher than usual -- perhaps because of the personal connection she had to the song -- but it's hard to criticize someone with such a naturally gorgeous tone.

It was obviously a song that Drew had chosen because it was significant to her and Shelby, and it was made famous by a 19-year-old artist, so both of L.A.'s criticisms (that Simon had clearly picked the song and that Simon was picking songs that were designed for much older artists) were, as Simon said, utterly baseless. "I am sick to death of your pointless, stupid criticism of this girl," her mentor snapped. "This is unfounded, it is inaccurate -- you are talking complete and utter rubbish. It's a young girl's song." The two then began arguing across each other, much to Paula's disapproval, before Steve Jones was forced to desperately declare "Thanksgiving!" as if that was the magic word that could render bitchy reality judges mute. Poor Drew looked very uncomfortable throughout the ordeal, although she calmly and determinedly tried to defend the song choice to L.A., and came out of it looking far better than L.A. did. Apparently, unless she's singing Justin Bieber, he's not interested.

L.A. Reid's Boys

Marcus Canty:
Our resident momma's boy predictably dedicated his song to his momma, so it should come as no surprise that he ended up performing 'A Song for Mama' by Boyz II Men. This tactic was smart, since it apparently made him bulletproof as far as the judges were concerned, perhaps because Marcus' mother was in the audience. For me, the song was pitchy and inconsistent, and though it seemed to be music to his mom's ears, it certainly wasn't to mine. It was probably Marcus' most emotionally resonant performance, and he certainly poured a lot of passion into it, but that passion didn't translate to hitting all of the right notes. Still, the judges gushed, with Nicole calling it "so beautiful and so precious," Paula deeming it "top notch," and Simon saying "I think you put yourself back in the competition tonight."

Chris Rene: Humbly dedicating his song to his counsellor, Tim, Chris started out with a wobbly rendition of 'Let it Be' that, since it was more singing than rap, he couldn't seem to find the right rhythm for. Things picked up considerably when the song merged into an encore of his original audition song, fan-favorite 'Young Homie,' where he found his groove and instantly became more comfortable, acting like a true performer. The problem is, no matter how much goodwill that song now has with the audience, Chris cannot keep relying on a single original composition to carry him through the competition. It was a nice callback to his roots and was appropriate for the theme of the week, but I do worry that he's become a one-trick pony. Nicole praised the power of Chris' lyrics and thanked him for being a great example in the competition, while Paula seemed touched that he chose to thank the counsellors and sponsors who save lives every day. Simon was a little more even-handed, admitting that he didn't like the first song but enjoyed the second, and also remarked that Chris had probably given thousands of people the courage to change their lives just like he has. (Sidebar: I hope I wasn't the only one who was creeped out by the odd heaven's gate imagery on the video screens behind him, which seemed a little insensitive.)

Astro: Instead of humbling himself this week, Astro went the somewhat inadvisable route of thanking his apparently vast fanbase for their support, once again using his own lyrics set to Jay-Z's 'Show Me What You Got,' although he did use the rapper's spoken apology to begin. It's an interesting strategy, appealing to existing fans rather than trying to woo new ones, but it's entirely possible that the people who were offended last week are the people who have always been rooting against him, and they weren't about to suddenly change their voting habits this week anyway.

I wasn't overly enamored of his opening video, which had Astro's mother, stepfather, sister and L.A. all making excuses for him, but I agree that the kid is 15 and is clearly putting on a tough-guy act, and that's not really a reason to vilify him. His arrogance is tacky, but in the hip-hop industry, it will probably serve him well. Whatever else we say about him, Astro is certainly the hardest worker in the competition at this point, since he is writing his own lyrics every week and performing them like a seasoned pro. No matter what the audience thinks of him, the judges have certainly forgiven him, with Paula enthusing "you are well on your way to becoming prolific," and Simon admitting, "I admire you ... the music business needs unpredictability and I like people who are passionate." Nicole wisely warned him, "Remember to never expect and always to remain grateful, that's what's going to take you all the way."

Nicole Scherzinger's Over 30s

LeRoy Bell:
The immortal LeRoy also dedicated his song, the poignant but overused 'Angel' by Sarah McLachlan, to his mother, and though he's finally starting to chip away at his reserve on stage, I still wasn't particularly moved by it. My only note was "still so boring," and I think that sums it up. He has control and he has a pleasant voice, but he just can't imbue the same meaning into his work as an artist like Josh does, and that's why he won't win. The judges wore kid gloves with LeRoy too, with Paula and Simon both feeling that the performance was the first time LeRoy really connected with a song. L.A. said he loved the message but didn't feel that it was LeRoy's best, while Nicole, once again making it all about her, used a bunch of "I" statements and told him to enjoy his moment.

Josh Krajcik: For me, Josh's 'Wild Horses' was by far the most accomplished number of the night; it was controlled, pitch-perfect, sincere and 100 percent professional, like something that should be on an album and being performed for sold-out stadiums already. I was reminded of Elton John at his best, especially with Josh's piano accompaniment, and even though Simon praised Nicole for doing a great job with the song choice when it was blatantly Josh's pick, the rest of the judges' comments were right on the money. "You have everything it takes to win this competition," L.A. insisted, praising his authenticity and voice, Paula called him "larger than life," and Nicole told him that his music can change the world.

Paula Abdul's Group

Lakoda Rayne:
I can't wait for us to be rid of this bland, interchangable group already; I know that they have deprived country fans on their side, but the song choice -- Taylor Swift's 'You Belong With Me' -- was completely wrong for the theme, the girls were missing notes and couldn't keep up with the music amid all their running around, and most of the time they seemed off-key. "You managed to drum up some excitement," L.A. offered, apparently trying to damn them with faint praise, calling them "pretty good," while Nicole continued her hyperbolic nonsense critique by calling them amazing and gushing that it was like watching them in concert. Simon got somewhere in the vicinity of reality by admitting, "I'm not going to say the vocals were perfect ..." but he did call it their best performance to date.

Tomorrow, the act with the lowest vote goes home, while the second and third lowest must perform for the judges for a chance to stay. I hope Lakoda will be our first exit, and it remains to be seen whether Astro's behavior last week will carry over to this week's results. If we're going based on performance instead of popularity (who am I kidding?) I'd say that LeRoy and Marcus are probably the others in danger of elimination, but I'm sure America will prove me wrong.

'The X Factor' airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8PM ET on Fox. This week, the results will air tomorrow, Wednesday Nov. 23, at 8PM.

Who do you think is in danger of elimination this week? Which were your favorite thanksgiving performances?

Follow Laura on Twitter: @LauinLA

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Ms Prudom: Another well-written review that kicks EW and Buddy TVs' butts.

November 23 2011 at 8:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I understand what you're saying and know exactly what you mean in re: to song choices...I like LeRoy, not just because of his voice, but because he just goes out there & sings..he doesn't have to hop around all over on the stage...alot of people say that's boring...well, is Alan Jackson boring? Far from it (unless you absolutely hate country music)...just my preference tho. I was touched with Josh last night, and I'm kind of rooting for him too....seems like most of the performers who win these kind of competions, you don't hear much about them afterwards..some you do, but alot you don't....I like Joe Cocker too...we shall see what happens tonight..

November 23 2011 at 2:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Josh and Astro have both made terrible song choices. When Astro did Eminem and not nearly as well, he showed that he is not good enough at hip hop, even though entertaining at a terrific high school level. That lost him votes. I love Eminem. When Josh did a Joe Cocker, it came off nearly like a SNL skit spoofing Joe Cocker. I love Joe Cocker. It's like the girls doing Whitney Houston and the like, they'd better nail the song without sounding karaoke, or they will show that they cannot be stars and therefore should not win the competition.

The judges need to stop giving only positive feedback, and Simon's got to back off L.A. when he does get critical. I was floored when no one called Marcus on how he struggled off key. The voters will be tougher than L.A. or Simon ever considered being. Josh will stay because he was better than others. But he cannot win, and will not be a star if he does win, doing what he's doing.

I like LeRoy too. But he now has two songs where he shows what he's best at. Last night and when he sang U2, it sounded like The LeRoy Bell Tabernacle Choir. That's where he shines, even while he loves classic rock. I remember Richard Carpenter of the Carpenters on the Johnny Carson Show I think it was, saying how he would love to do music like what he listens to, Led Zeppelin style, but what comes out of him as an artist is the wedding songs.

November 23 2011 at 12:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Here's my 2 cents: I happen to really like LeRoy - will he win? I don't think so...I also like Josh & Melanie..Josh nailed it last night. If it comes down to Astro & LeRoy and Astro stays, then thats it for me - I won't watch this show again....Astro's arrogant ego, and all the judges comments, just makes his ego even bigger. He never should of lasted this long...Its because of him that has made me disappointed in this show and the judges...its like the judges are just competing against one another...I think I do like Idol better.

November 23 2011 at 11:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

While I won't say that Marcus was not pitchy (he was), I am concerned that you felt Drew's performance was due to her connection to the song. Drew sounds like a boring version of the singer from the Cranberries. Her pitch changes constantly and I don't believe it's done because that's how she wants to sing, I believe it's because it's hard for her to maintain a constant note, so she adapted to this format of singing. While the tone of her voice is nice (when it's a solid tone and not changing octaves at a rate of 300 per minute) she is not as good as Simon wants her to be. L.A. is right on the money with her every time.

Every song sounds the exact same. Last night she was absolutely terrible. She sounded worse than the brunette from Lakoda Rain normally sounds (The brunette by some miracle was the best in the group last night).

Josh's simple stage, perfect singing and heartfelt meaning to his daughter stole the show, as he always does.

November 23 2011 at 10:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Some of these people are so bad we should send home 3 or 4 of them this week. Leroy, Drew and Lakoda where absolutely terrible. Astro just needs to go home because he is an annoying kid that already has an ego that is too big. I agree with most people that he won's win but Josh and Melanie are really the only ones with any talent. The kids will not vote for either of these people to win the competition, so like all of these so called reality shows it will become a popularity contest instead of a talent contest. What makes this worse is that the judges Simon, LA and Nicole do not really critisise when they should (I don't include Paula because she is just a waste of space anyway).

November 23 2011 at 9:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I find Josh overdone, but Wild Horses was better than the Foo Fighters, and anything is better than the poor imitation of the great Joe Cocker two weeks ago. He peaked at Roberta Flack, which is when I started watching him. He's not a rocker, and does better as a balladeer.

Drew has the most unique and strongest voice, but is having trouble as she makes every song sound like a slowed down With of Without You. L.A. is right on that score, she should have rocked it up last week, even if wrong in that she is appealing to the 40 crowd.

But the show last night seemed less to showcase what they would be as recording artists and more what they might do on holiday specials. And the others of Simon's girls Rachel and Melanie have those pure-toned soulful ballad-bound voices that are great for the occasion, and they were.

L.A.'s boys, Chris, Marcus and Astro didn't cut it, and I would not be surprised if I just named two of the bottom three, and you can pick which two, the third being LeRoy if I had to bet, who will go home on the vote if he is not last--even though he is not as bad as Chris and did not do as badly as Marcus and Astro last night.

Lakoda Reine might be one of the three, but if they were not bottom two last week, and they did better this week than last, they might not be bottom three this week. If they are bottom three, but not dead last, then they might be saved in sympathy as the last of Paula's singers.

This was Rachel's and Melanie's week on the vocals, not Josh's. I voted for Drew.

November 23 2011 at 9:48 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Steve Woodall

We could just end it right now and declare Josh the winner. He is so far and away the best.

November 23 2011 at 1:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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