X Factor USA 1.21 – Top 5

We start this week with a peek back at last week’s drama, narrated by the announcer guy who sounds just the announcer guy from Super Smash Brothers. Failure! Simon swears that if it’s a war Nicole and Paula want, it’s a war they’ll get (as Simon’s eye gets bigger and bigger until it fills the cosmos). Because nothing about this show is faked and planned out to increase the tension and angst to boost ratings! Honest! 

Now that we’re down to five, each contestant gets to sing two songs. The first round’s theme is Dance Music. Which…what? It’s supposed to shake the contestants up and out of their comfort zones, but it just shakes my faith in the chances of anybody singing anything good tonight. BUT — open mind, open heart. Ommm. Let us begin.

Melanie Amaro /  Someone Like You  by Adele:  I love this song with all my heart, so I’m not thrilled at the way they’ve sped it up to meet the theme. However, I understand why they did it so Melanie could pretend to sing dance music without actually singing dance music. Of course Melanie sounds fantastic, but she also sounds confident and dare I say sassy. She’s come a long way, and the Robocops dancing in snow are coolio but superfluous. Like Paula, my only complaint is that it’s too short!

Marcus Canty /  Ain’t Nobody by Chaka Khan: Well, Marcus is nothing if not consistent. That’s not a compliment, if you’re wondering. He performs yet again with many backup hos and flashing lights, and although he’s earnest he’s also a little bit greasy…like cheese. Having said that, he is lots of fun and Simon is right on when he says “I like people who don’t act like victims or blame other people. You came back strong, proved a point – good for you.”

Rachel Crow / Nothin’ On You by Bruno Mars: Is it just me or is Rachel cracking under the pressure? Not emotionally, mind you. She’s just as perky as the day we met her. But to my ear her voice sounds strained for the first time. Nevertheless, she still has her moments of glory. LA wonders why she’s singing a song about beautiful girls (because Simon does love to gender bend a song). It’s a valid point, but the implication is still creepy. She zings right back by saying she’s singing to Nicole and Paula. She’s a quick one, I guess because she did stand up “years ago” according to Simon. Years ago? Like, when she was seven?? I did enjoy Nicole singing “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” to Simon in a New Yawk accent.

Josh Krajcik / We Found Love by Rhianna: Josh says he sings soul, so dance music is going to be difficult for him. Yeah, he’s right. It’s kinda hard to convey emotion singing the shallowest (yet catchiest) song on the radio. Once again, to make up for it there’s dancing weirdos and a light show. At least no cage this week, so that’s something. Nicole is off her rocker when she says that Josh proves how current and relevant he is by singing this. Josh is a wonderful singer, but he’s not original. I sincerely wonder what songs he’d chose for his album if he wins, because I have a feeling it wouldn’t be songs I’d buy.

Chris Rene / Live Your Life by T.I.: Chris comes out and gives the exact same performance that he’s given every week since we started this show, except with a moving sidewalk. Heh. I actually love that sidewalk! Chris has written his own lyrics for the verses, and they’re workmanlike but Eminem won’t be tossing and turning with envy tonight in bed. But forget about all that – he’s clearly enjoying himself and practically sweating charisma, and that goes a long way on shows like this.

It’s halftime, and the contestants are supposed to perform the Pepsi Challenge songs now, which the public chose for them. However! There’s an “error in communications” and they won’t be singing those songs until next week. Now they have to sing their Save Me songs with only 24 hours practice. I totally call shenanigans on this flimsy excuse for suspense, but whatever. Let’s see how they fare.

Melanie Amaro / When You Believe by Mariah and Whitney: Good heavens, but this girl can sing. Unlike the first song, Melanie is right where she belongs singing this song and she nails it like she’s a sledgehammer. It might be my very favourite performance of hers. It’s perfection, but she can’t let her talent speak for itself – she has to give a little speech (and not for the first time) about how grateful she is to be here and OMG thank you Simon for bringing her back. Melanie. Shut up now. You can be a motivational speaker AFTER you win this thing. All the judges love her, but I laughed so hard when Simon outright tells America that if they don’t vote to keep Melanie out of the bottom two, Nicole and Paula (“the piranha pool”) will boot her off.  Snort! I think there’d be an uprising if they dared to keep Marcus over Melanie, don’t you?

Marcus Canty / A Song For You by Donny Hathaway:  Hands down, this is my favourite Marcus performance of the entire season. Which puts me in an awkward position, because I was all ready to write Mr. Canty off. Finally, no dancers, no props, just Marcus and his big heart. I’m so pleased for him, but not so much Simon, who tries his best to throw Marcus under the bus. We’ll see tomorrow night if it works.

Rachel Crow / Music and Me by Michael Jackson: This is miles better than her first song, and Rachel is soulful and serious way beyond her young age. I’m glad LA mentions how Hollywood (Disney, rumour has it), is circling the wagons waiting to scoop her up. That’s because I don’t think she’s going to win the competition, and I desperately want to hear her on the radio/her own TV show. “My mission is just to inspire the kids,” Rachel tells Nichole, which is so heartfelt it makes me LOL.

Josh Krajcik /  Something by The Beatles: This kind of song is exactly where Josh is most comfortable – and I don’t know if that’s a good thing. Josh is turning into a bit of a one trick pony for me. He’s wonderful, and you know what you’re going to get with him because it’s the exact same kind of wonderful every week. At least he was alone on stage, which is when he’s strongest. “Adjectives don’t describe your brilliance anymore,” says Paula, which is the line of the night for me. Simon cautions him not to be so weird looking when he sings in the future, which is hilarious yet true.

Chris Rene / Where Do We Go From Here by Chris Rene : OMG finally! Chris sits down with his guitar and sings! And there’s no reggae or rap! Does he crash and burn like I feared? NO HE DOES NOT, MOFO. He’s great and the song is great and he’s just smokin’ hot. I can’t really impress upon you how sexy he is without breaking out the porn thesaurus. Simon says singing an original song at this stage in the game is either stupidity or a stroke of genius, and he’s not gonna lie…it was a stroke of genius. Yay!

Should be going home: The first round of songs were predictable, but the second round of songs were game changers. Based on the first round, I’d say Marcus. Second round, I’d say Josh. As always, I’m talking out of my ass.

Will be going home: Ummmmmmmmmm. Marcus. Or Josh. Or possibly Rachel. Dammit, this is hard!

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