X-Factor USA: Round of 7

A few random thoughts before we dive into another double-elimination round, which is also Michael Jackson Week…

First, the performance show is down to 90 minutes starting this week, making room for FOX’s new awful “comedy”, (I Hate My) Teenage Daughter.  I’ve only seen commercials, but it’s enough to tell me that I never want to see the show.  If the general viewing audience agrees, how long before FOX pushes Simon Cowell to go back to two hours?  And will Cowell push back that he cut the field from 9 to 5 in two weeks because FOX wanted the half-hour back?

Speaking of Cowell, he’s got some decisions to make for Season Two.  The rumor came out this week that he’s looking to do a job swap – sending Nicole Scherzinger to X-Factor UK and bringing Kelly Rowland over here.  I suspect that’s not the only change this show will make for next season – Steve Jones is a Dead Host Walking, and I think Cowell (despite an ego the size of England) will realize that his sniping with the other judges is hurting the show.  Unfortunately, that will probably mean he’ll also dismiss L.A. Reid and keep himself on the panel – where it might be best for him and the show for him to go back to the UK version instead.  We’ll find out shortly into the new year…

Finally (yes, the recap is coming!), reality blogger “MJ” from mjsbigblog.com asked a logical question yesterday: “Can any of these singers sell records?”  She’s got a point.  While they’re getting votes (mostly from tweens with cell phones and bored housewives), will that audience pay real money to hear them sing?  If the American Idol experience is any indication, the answer might well be “no”.

OK… let’s fire up the DVR, fast-forward past the Charisma Vacuum, and get to the recap…

It’s Time.  To Face.  The Music.

After a few minutes, we get to the reason for MJ Week – it’s a tie-in with Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson: The Immortal” World Tour, and a chance for three of the Jackson Brothers to get some television time at the top of the show, along with MJ’s (adopted) kids, who look utterly thrilled to be there… and his mother, who at least made the effort to look interested.   Good to see the Jacksons are letting Michael rest in peace…


Hey, we’re finally getting to the singing now – after a Twitter plug, asking X-Factor fans to tell the stories of their personal challenges, and how they “Beat It” with inspiration from Michael Jackson’s music.

Josh Krajcik – “Dirty Diana”
Can he sell records?  Well, Nickelback can, so I don’t see why not… Good choice to pick up one of MJ’s most rock-oriented singles… and I like how they reworked the arrangement.  Although this is a putative singing competition, he broke out a guitar solo mid-song… I guess he wants us to see who he’ll be as an artist, if we haven’t already guess.  Pretty good way to start the show, although going first is going to hurt him a bit.


Astro – rap based on “Black or White”
Can he sell records?  Yes, there’s a tween audience for a faux-edgy teen rapper, if marketed right… As usual, I can’t really judge this.  I am so far from his intended audience that there’s nothing I can say that would matter. At least this week, the source track was at least somewhat recognizable…  I think he did enough to get through, but the real question is whether the novelty has played out for the X-Factor voting audience.

Break… and they’re actually teasing more sniping between L.A. and Simon?   The show is about the singers, right?   Right?

Oh, look, they gave a microphone to Katherine Jackson, who says she’s a big fan of the X-Factor.  Well, there’s one.  And they even handed a microphone to Prince Michael and Paris… sure, let’s market these kids who’ve been through so much already.  Ugh.

Drew – “Billie Jean”
Can she sell records?  She needs to get out of Simon’s image of her as a little china doll and be a teenager.  If she does, she’s got the Disney Girl audience waiting… however, letting Simon talk her into watering down “Billie Jean” might be the last mistake she makes in this competition.  She should have done this in a more up-tempo style.  She’s heading for the Bottom Three, and possibly the door, and it’s her mentor’s fault.  You have to wonder if Simon cynically set this up so he’d get another sound bite with L.A. for the results show montage.  If he did, L.A. didn’t take the bait.  Nicole and Paula did, though, so the staged sniping will continue.  And if it costs Drew her chance to win, hey, Simon’s happy, so no big deal, right?


Rachel Crow – “Can You Feel It” (The Jacksons)
Can she sell records?  Maybe.  She may be a bit young, but she does have a killer voice.  Will it be enough?  Depends on who signs her and how much they invest in her. OK, maybe this is why Simon is protecting Drew – if he gave her a stage set and dancers like Rachel gets, they’d split votes.  Am I giving him too much credit?  Anyway, Rachel scores again with another energetic performance, although the judges have decided to turn on her tonight (they have to gang up on someone each week, I guess).  I enjoyed it, and I suspect the voting audience did as well.  I think she’s safe for next week.

Break… and we come back with more Twitter pimping.  I don’t know why… I mean, does ANYONE make money off of Twitter?  Anyone?

Marcus Canty – “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)”
Can he sell records?  I honestly don’t know.  He’s kind of… there.  He’d be a project for a record label – he probably has to win it all to have a real shot.  Technically, this was a solid performance.  But it wasn’t really entertaining.  It felt forced, and Marcus seemed well out of his zone tonight.  I think he’s back in the Bottom Three again, and not even a backflip off the riser will be enough to change that.

Break… and they’re going to let the audience choose songs for the Round of 5?  Oh… my…

Chris Rene – “I’ll Be There” (Jackson 5)
Can he sell records?  He’s got an inspiring story, but I don’t know that he stands out otherwise… he’s going to be a hard sell.  Interestingly, Chris Rene’s grandfather wrote “Rockin’ Robin”, so – of course – Chris picked “I’ll Be There”.  Wait… what?   I think the rap may have saved the performance, because he underwhelmed when he stuck to the song… he probably should’ve done his grandfather’s song.   Kind of low-energy – a bit flat, actually.  He’s probably got the third ticket into the Bottom Three.

Break… and Melanie gets pimped, like she needs the boost?

Melanie Amaro- “Earth Song”
Can she sell records?  If a label puts as much effort into her as Simon has, absolutely… but no more flip-outs like last week’s post-song babble, please… Good stuff, but far from her best… I’m not sure if she held back or if this was just the wrong song, but it didn’t feel right… I think the song swallowed her up.  That said, she’s got the fanbase and the Pimp Spot, so she is probably safe.

And, of course, after the Charisma Vacuum rushed the judges and the show along, we wind up with several minutes to kill with the judges heaping praise on the Jacksons, and the Jackson family heaping praise on the singers – in other words, filler.

So yeah… kind of an underwhelming show, but let’s face it, this group really isn’t up to tackling Michael Jackson, especially with some of the weird song, arrangement, and staging choices the judges made.

I’d say your Bottom Three is Drew, Marcus Canty, and Chris Rene… with Marcus getting the audience boot and the judges saving Drew over Chris.   This prediction is for entertainment purposes only… don’t run to a Vegas casino and bet it, ok?

The results show is tonight, the recap will be up tomorrow morning.  See you then.

Final thought: My DVR caught the first minute of “(I Hate My) Teenage Daughter”.  I can’t recall the last time I saw a writing cliché factory played out this obviously on camera.  I think I’m more put off by the fact that Jamie Pressly is playing the mother of a teenager… we’re all getting older, aren’t we?  See you tomorrow.


Author: Rob Hoffmann

Occasional blogger, slightly less occasional improv player/ref/tech, full-time computer techie, radio producer (basketball, mostly), generally nice person (if you ask me).

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