This time on X Factor USA: Rihanna having carnal feelings for one of the contestants! Paula roughing up her guest judge! Simon in bare feet with chest hair shimmering in the late afternoon Paris sun! All that and much more, right this way…
Jazzlyn Little: You know how some singers are born to be on stage, fearlessly performing and loving every second of it? That is not Jazzlyn. She’s terrified, shaking, near tears. But she’s not going to let that stop her from doing her best, and isn’t that what courage really is? She’s so freaking pretty too, so she really is clueless as to how amazing she might be. She sings a jazzed-up (get it?) version of I Will Survive, and her voice is straining against her nerves. If Simon puts her through she might completely crumble under the pressure — but her mettle might be steeled in the fires of the live shows, verily I say unto you! I think Simon will see past her jitters to her long-term potential and put her though.
Rachel Crow: The polar opposite of Jazzlyn, Rachel knows she belongs in this competition. She knows she’s young, she knows it’s an uphill battle, but she also knows she’s good. Really good. I’d buy her damn record, and that hurts to admit because she’s, you know, all cute and shit. Anyway, Simon thinks she’s “unbelievable”, but will she be better able to handle adult pressures than more than half of the others in her group? Heck, she’s doing that now!
Tiah Tolliver: I don’t know who’s more nervous for her performance, Tiah or Simon. They both want her to do well, and his need to be right in backing her gives her a distinct advantage over the other girls. Having said that, I like her too. She’s sassy and memorable. I don’t like the song as much, but she does all she can with it. Simon claps when she’s done, and talks about how much he feels she’s a perfect fit for what the show is trying to accomplish. I think she’s going through, and Simon considers her the dark horse nobody will see coming.
Melanie Amaro: She closes the show. Fair or not, expectations on her are high because she’s been remarkable so far, especially her audition performance. Her nerves are showing a little bit, but she once again belts it out like nobody’s business. I try not to be distracted by her unfortunate choice of short orange and brown dress and knee high boots; I think I even see Simon’s chest hairs start droop a bit at the sight. After she’s done and gone, Simon collapses onto his back, he’s so impressed. He tells his minions she gave him a look as she left that said “You wrote me off. Now write me off.” I think Melanie Amaro is something special. However… as Simon is making his final selections at the end of the show, when he says he’s eliminating the girl everyone expected to get through — I think he means Melanie. I’ll be glad to be wrong on this one, if I am.
Brenin Hunt: Brenin is so handsome and worldly! And he’s never, ever going to let you forget it. He’s unfazed by Rihanna and LA starting at him (everyone stares at him, darling), and sings…pretty well. Rihanna gets it just right when she says he’s beautiful, but corny. He would indeed be a welcome addition to any ’90s boy band. But if you haven’t noticed, this isn’t the ’90s. I assume Brenin will get through just because he annoys me so much.
Tim Cifers: Tim is a throwback to a simpler time. A better time. That’s why he’s the only guy who actually thinks to shake LA and Rihanna’s hands before he sings for them. Good for him! He sings Dance With My Father (countrified, of course), and it’s as moving and sad as you might expect. This is probably the first time Rihanna has ever actually heard a country song, but she takes it in stride. Rihanna likes him, but LA says he wanted more from him. I’m not sure what that means, but I guess the hair didn’t stand up on the back of his neck or whatever the hell. I want to make a Justin Bieber joke right now, but will refrain.
Marcus Canty: Under different circumstances, Rihanna totally would have hooked up with Marcus, possibly right there on her patio chair. And no wonder, the way he sings to her as if she were the only girl in the world (see what I did there?). Marcus is smooth as a Brazilian, confident, sounds great, and is handsome without being a dink about it. If he doesn’t advance to the live shows, I’ll be gobsmacked. Come to think of it, maybe he should have sang that way to LA Reid.
Chris Rene: I’m scared for Chris, as his performances thus far have been as uneven as a four year old’s bangs. But he’s just so adorable, I needn’t have worried; he kills Everyday People. Interestingly, as I’m writing this I’m listening to him sing even though I can’t see the video…and he’s even better than I first thought. The boy is radio-ready, is what I’m saying. I hope he gets that far, and more. LA thinks he looked uncomfortable, and teases Rihanna that maybe she intimidated him. Rihanna shoots back, “Are you sure it wasn’t you, with them legs crossed and them wing tipped shoes?” Ha! I’m warming up to Rihanna.
Stereo Hoggz: This is definitely the farthest the Stereo Hoggz have been from the ‘hood. They’re tolling around on Paula’s grass like excited puppies, breathing the fresh rich-people air. They’re very endearing, I must admit. But! That doesn’t make their singing any better. You know what makes their singing better? All the practice they’ve been doing. They’re real pros, with the moves, the grooves, and the sweet dulcet tones of Heard it Through the Grapevine. It doesn’t hurt that they’re easy on the eyes, either. They’ve improved by leaps and bounds in every way since the auditions. When Pharrell compares them to ye old-tyme Motown acts, Paula gets so excited she smacks him around, and fervently wishes he was sitting to the left of her at the judges panel. Heh, poor Simon.
2Squar’d: These lovely ladies haven’t had much camera time. They’re the group who dressed all in white at the auditions, to refresh your memory. They’re gorgeous, stylish, charming…and they get Bohemian Rhapsody in a headlock and make it cry a little bit. It’s a hard song for everybody to sing, and they’re no exception. Paula and Pharrell are more wishy than washy, so they’re not out of the running yet. I can’t help but wonder if being female will help them, since it seems hard to believe Paula will choose all male groups.
Illusion Confusion: Here’s another group who’ve flown under the radar so far. I really enjoyed them and thought they were strong and charming, but from the abbreviated song we got to see them perform and the judges’ comments about their drive vs their talent, I’m in the minority. Paula and Pharrell should know better than anyone that drive sure as heck can take you as far as talent, if not farther. I gnash my teeth on this group’s behalf.
Intensity: This is one of the manufactured groups, and may I say: WOW. I love them so much. They’re young, fun, talented, eager. They do a mash-up of That’s Not My Name and You Make My Dreams Come True and it’s outta the park. They’ve got a strong Glee or High School Musical vibe, and while that may be an insult in some circles, just look at how huge those franchises are, both in dollars and pop culture popularity. Hands down, they’re the ones I’ll be most disappointed to see not make it through. They are very young though; they ask for hugs from Paula and Pharrell (and get them), but it’s not exactly the mark of seasoned professionals.
Tiger Budbill: Poor Tiger doesn’t just want to win, he needs to win due to his financial problems, and I have a feeling that will be his undoing. I hate to say it, but he performs his song just like a wedding singer, all earnest and cheese-filled. He’s got such a pure voice, even though some genius (Nicole?) makes him sing a song with lines like, “If I don’t make the grade/If your expectations of me aren’t met today”. Seriously, WTF. Even Enrique thinks that song sucks. I wish Tiger well, but I have a feeling that he’s going to have to start thinking about getting a real job after this competition.
Leroy Bell: Leroy has been telling people he’s in his ’40s for years and years (he’s actually 60), but now the cat is truly out of the bag. He’s not exaggerating when he says this is his last chance; he’ll probably retire from music if he doesn’t make it. And that would be a shame, because he’s so talented. He sings Feel My Love, and baby, I feel it allll over. Nicole likes him, but that may not be enough to get him past the other extremely strong contenders in this group.
Josh Krajcik: He’s my pookie bear, I’m not even going to pretend he’s not, and he sings so, so pretty. The notes go right into my soul and settle there like flower blossoms. That’s right, I said FLOWER BLOSSOMS, bitches. However. He’s the most over-confident fella in the competition, and that’s saying something. He’s so sure he’s going to blow everyone away that it’s off-putting. Humility, it’s not just a river in Egypt. No, really. It’s isn’t. Will this hurt his chances of getting through? I pray to the gods it doesn’t, because I want to see him in a suit before this is all over. Nicole closes her teary eyes as he finishes, which I take as a good sign.
Christa Collins: I don’t like Christa very much. I’m faintly sure she’s a lovely person in real life, but I find her a little bit creepy emo. Creemopy. She has a history as a child star of some sort, and she’s definitely in the Olsen twins realm. Anyway, she sings well and Enrique squees all over her, so what do I know? I do not look forward to her eye makeup if she makes it through. SIGH.
So that’s it for this week. We’ll see you on Tuesday, when the judges reveal their top 16, and are promptly washed away in a deluge of tears.