X-Factor USA: Semi-Finals

I don’t know… I think I’m over this… it’s really less than Idol in every way, and I’m not even going to be around for the finals (where Simon Cowell will get his comeuppance as Melanie loses to one of the guys) next week… but I started this, and I’m damn sure going to go as far as I can with it.

Besides, it’s this or the Baba Wawa special.

It’s Time.  To Face.  The Music.

And we start with the montage of Nicole Scherzinger’s abject failure to do the job she was hired to do.  Oh, and the fact that there’s 4 singers being cut to the 3 finalists… but that’s second to the judges’ drama.  Again.  Enough.

LIVE! (except for the Charisma Vacuum, who is actually a malfunctioning android), here we go…

Tonight is the second attempt to do the Soft-Drink Challenge, where the first song was chosen by the audience.  Apparently, last week, a production assistant gave out the songs in the order they appeared on the website instead of in audience vote order… thus, the conveniently-dramatic “screwup”.

Big surprise – no “Final Showdown” tomorrow night.  This round is all about the audience vote.  Gee, what a stunner.  Right after Nicole chokes, they take the judges out of play. 

Jumping right into the Soft-Drink Challenge…

Marcus Canty – “I’ll Make Love To You”, Boys II Men
FIRE!!  Oh, no, that’s a fog machine.  Carry on.  And Marcus did.  He gave it the old college try, but this song was too big for him – it was written for a multi-part vocal group, not a solo artist, after all.  Of course, he’s also several weeks past his expiration date, so I guess I can’t predict the audience reaction.  I didn’t feel it, but I’m not the part of the audience that’s voting for him.

More Soft-Drink Challenge songs… after the break…

Chris Rene – “Fly”, Sugar Ray
Really?  A song for the group best known for making a semi-competent TV presenter out of Mark McGrath (who probably would have been a better host for this show)?  As usual, it’s not about the song, but the rap that Chris drops in between hooks.   He sounds a bit off on the hooks, so it’s good the background singers are drowning him out… I’m with Simon (again), I’m not terribly impressed.

Up next… the last girl in the competition, the one with the part-time accent…

Melanie Amaro – “Hero”, Mariah Carey
The audience picked the song that matches the singer Simon’s trying to make her into.  So help me, if Simon goes all Tommy Mottola on this… anyway, for what they’re trying to sell, this was the perfect song.  I just don’t know that being “the next Mariah” is a career path you want to see anyone pushed into.  Especially if you do nothing to differentiate yourself from Mariah.  She’s got a great voice, but I suspect that she really is doomed to finish second.

The first round ends with the last over-30… after the break…

Josh Krajcik – “Come Together”, The Beatles
You have to wonder if there’ll be any blowback from Nicole’s antics last week… you know, people not voting for Josh because of his mentor.   At least Josh avoided doing the Joe Cocker impression again… I think he did a good job with it, pretty much what he’s been doing through the series.   I think I’m with Simon, it was an honest performance and honestly deserves to go through.

Now we let the singers and/or their mentors pick the songs… the audience did a fair job… how are the judges going to screw this up?

Marcus Canty – “Careless Whisper”, George Michael
It would have been hysterical to see him do the Seether arrangement… but they came up with one that fits Marcus and still works for the song.  I remain convinced he’s outstayed his talent, but this song does a better job showcasing what he can do.  The only issue is that it might be too safe – too bland – but that’ll only be in comparison to what follows…

Off to break, before we get back to the poster child for sobriety who never really explained that tweet… and, of course, the Twitter plug comes here… as does the first sign of genuine humor from CV… too little, too late…

Chris Rene – “No One”, Alicia Keys
Interesting arrangement – half the song as a ballad on piano, half in a reggae-ish style on stage… I guess he wanted to show himself in a different light, and while it seemed to work, I wonder if this much of a change is a good idea this late in the competition.  We’ll see.   It was good, but… I felt like something was missing.

It’ll be interesting to see if Melanie stays in the same lane, or tries to break out of the ballad track… after the break…

Melanie Amaro – “Feeling Good”, Nina Simone (and many others)
Well, it’s not a ballad.  But she’s still standing static at center stage behind a microphone belting out a song.  I would have liked to see her, you know… interact a little?  She comes off a little standoffish when she never moves from center stage… and, of course, as I type this, she does move – three feet forward.  Very good performance, but I don’t know how this translates after the X-Factor.  I still think she’s doomed to finish second.

And in the Pimp Spot… the guy who probably would have done well on The Voice… think about it…

Josh Krajcik – “Hallelujah”, Leonard Cohen (and, it seems, half the world)
This has been a go-to singing-competition song for years, which is why it might wind up being a bit of a mistake.  Don’t get me wrong, Josh did it well, but the song is a bit tired… it might hurt.  Then again, if the audience reacts like Paula did, it might help.

As we go to the montage, I can’t figure this out.  My gut feeling is that Marcus and Chris are splitting a segment of the vote, and that’s going to be what sends one of them home.  If so, it’s Marcus, as he’s run out of people to sneak past.   On the other hand, if either Melanie or Josh’s fans figure “they’re safe”… well, this is the point where surprises happen on other competitions.   I’m picking Marcus to go home, but nothing would surprise me.

Of course, with no Final Showdown tomorrow, the 60-minute results show is going to be padded more than (tasteless joke removed).  Florence and the Machine perform tomorrow, so does Nicole Scherzinger, there may be a group performance, and you can count on a ton of montages.  And the Final Three are determined tomorrow.  See you then.

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Author: Rob Hoffmann

Occasional blogger, full-time computer techie, radio producer (basketball, mostly), generally nice person (if you ask me).

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