X Factor USA 1.10 – Top 17

The gloves are off and it’s time for the live shows. What does that mean for us, the semi-loyal viewers? It means the judges are no longer a team, they’re now blood-thirsty competitors who are going to spend the entire show at each others’ throats trying to piss off and psych each other out. Yay! 

Astro: I gave Astro Boy a hard time last week because he’s such a smug little jerk. As it turns out, when you think you’re all that, it makes you fearless even if you’re just 14 and performing in front of millions of fans who aren’t even 12 year old girls. Astro sings “Jump Jump” like he was born singing it, and he’s damn good at it, regardless of the Solid Gold Dancers around him who are more likely to be his babysitter than objects of carnal affection.  As Simon says, “You just killed everybody.”  Props to him.

Chris Rene: “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.” That’s because Chris scared it off with his vocals of doom.  He has a voice with such a glorious sweet spot, but his nerves jangle right past it tonight. The judges’ snarking begins with Nicole telling Chris that LA picked the wrong song for him. Paula says Chris has a genuine truthfulness (as opposed to a fake one), and Simon says Chris is definitely a good recording artist even if he isn’t the best singer (translation: autotune to the rescue).

Phillip Lomax: My confidence in LA Reid starts to waver the second Phillip starts singing “I’m a Believer”. Yes, because Frank Sinatra is way too dated to be be enjoyed by today’s marketplace, but the Monkees are timeless classics. Poor Phillip tries to overcome with his winning smile and hot bod in a suit, but not everyone is supposed to be a pop star, and he’s forced to play to his weaknesses instead of his strengths. LA has stripped him of what makes him special, and now he’s just another corny act. Simon says as much to him, and chastises LA for wrecking Phillip’s potential.

Marcus Canty:  I can never understand why reality shows that purport to be looking for fresh and current talent always make their contestants sing songs that came out before GaGa was even born.  Which brings us to Marcus, who sings “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me”. He works the audience like it’s a rented mule, and what he lacks in vocal control he makes up for in sheer force of will. The judges love him, and Simon says that of the four boys, Marcus is the one who performed like he’s trying to win five million bucks.

And the Loser Is: We don’t even have to wait to the end of the episode to find out who gets the boot. Phillip Lomax is immediately sent home, and nobody is surprised, not even him. Phillip and his cute dimples graciously thank LA for the opportunity.(Yeah, the opportunity for LA to royally screw it up for him! Heh, I’m not as gracious as Phillip.) Note to LA: Dancers and strobe lights and pyrotechnics do NOT turn a bad act good. You’re welcome.

The Groups:

The Stereo Hogzz: You know who wants to win this competition? These dudes. You can tell they practiced their “Try A Little Tenderness” act until they were a well-oiled machine. The singing isn’t perfect, but that never stopped any boyband ever, and their dance moves are professional-grade. They also dress like whoa. Their performance makes Paula cry with pride, and even Simon has to reluctantly admit that  Paula did a really good job with them.

The Brewer Boys: Oh, Brewer boys, what did they do to you? Paula thought it would be a fantastic idea for them to do a mash-up  of“Rich Girl” and “Faith” while sitting on hay bales. Okay, maybe there was no hay, but there was corn everywhere. And dancing cowgirls. Paula also told them that they had to smile, smile so they’ll connect with the audience, and so they do through the entire song, until it gets downright creepy. The judges are lukewarm at best (except Paula), and it makes me wonder what might have been if she’d gotten them to sing a Simon and Garfunkel song instead. SIGH.

InTENsity: You know I love this group, and they don’t let me down. Because it’s all about me around here. They do another mash-up of “Footloose” and “The Clapping Song”, which is so fun and catchy, and if one of them is a little shaky, there are three more right there to make up for it. No, really, there are ten kids in this group. They can cover for each other until the cows come home. Nicole calls them her little pumpkins (in honour of the holiday I guess?), and Simon says they’re the new, young Glee. That’s right they are!

Lakoda Rayne:  Note to X Factor: “Come On Eileen” is a song about trying to coax a girl to take off her panties. Not that I’m against these lovely ladies singing about that (I think I read a fanfic like that once), but it’s unusual to say the least. Whatever the case, the girls are light years better than they were in Paula’s back yard. LA says he’d sign the girls to a recording contract in a New York (or is that LA?) minute, and once again, Simon is forced to compliment Paula on her success. Paula says that this group had a lot to prove tonight…and boy did they prove it.

And the Loser Is: Aw, it’s the Brewer Boys. I guess I didn’t have to find out their first names after all. Not a shock, but it still hurts. They seem super talented, and I hope they push back and become wildly successful on their own, and screw The X Factor! Paula’s trying to buoy them up when Steve the host barges in mid-affirmation and cuts her off so they don’t run late (unlike that Ryan guy who always lets the judges babble). Ha! Steve is growing on me. PS. Their names are Nathan and Justin.

The Over 30s:

Dexter Haygood: Oh, Dexter, Dexter, Dexter. He “sings” Britney Spears’ “Womanizer” and Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl”. Yes, you read that right. Also, he’s wearing a table runner. There is much growling and strutting, and the dancers are sexy and fun. It’s a glam car wreck. The judges hilariously say that a man singing a song meant for a woman is weird (see: “Come on Eilleen, With you in that dress My thoughts I confess Verge on dirty”)  Nicole tells him he has the “Dex Factor.” She probably put him through just so she could use that line. Elaine Gibbs must want to cut a bitch right about now.

Leroy Bell: Leroy sings “Nobody Knows” and once again he almost breaks loose and soars, but then doesn’t. Maybe he’s scared his voice will crack and, who knows, maybe it will. But it feels like all foreplay and no sex to me, which is frustrating. LA can’t figure out why Leroy has been such a failure up to now even though he’s so good, which is the world’s most backhanded compliment.

Stacy Francis: Stacy is dressed tonight in ostrich and lycra pants covered in blue glitter. My guess is Nicole is trying to make her current, but I would have preferred to see her glammed up old school instead. No matter, she sings yet another 80s song, “Teacher” by George Michael as well as she can, seeing how it has a range of, like, six notes. But she does sing the hell out of those notes. Simon hates all of it, even though he likes her, and calls her a “church singer” though not as an insult. Nicole is insulted regardless, and they snipe at each other like they’re brother and sister at the breakfast table.

Josh Krajcik: As we age, we also get smarter (in theory *cough*Lindsay Lohan*cough*), and Josh is smart enough to know when to pull back that amazing voice of his.  He sings “Forever Young,” beautifully, without showing off, and also ignoring the inexplicable ballet dancers that try to steal his thunder behind him, and the judges love it. Paula even says it’s the best voice she’s heard in the last decade (David Cook, we hardly knew ye). The best compliment of all: Simon says Josh is the artist he fears because he’s going to be so hard to beat. Fist bump!

And the Loser Is: Dexter Haygood, thank all the gods. He’s so stunned he can’t really string together a coherent sentence. I hope this experience has given Dexter the tools and confidence to bounce back, but I don’t know. It’s not like he can go work in a Home Hardware now….although that would be pretty cool.

The Girls:

Simone Battle: Gone is the beautiful and smooth Simone we saw by Simon’s pool last week. This week Simone is singing “Just Be Good To Me”, and she kills it. No, I mean she MURDERS it as it kicks and screams for its life. She’s also wearing…I don’t know what it is exactly, but the muppets called and said they want it back.  With our first truly awful performance, the gloves come off for the judges. “Simon, you have some explaining to do,” says LA. “Everything was right except your choice in contestant. I never did understand why you put her though and now this.” Ouch! Nicole also takes the opportunity to criticize Simon’s mentoring choices, which is petty but accurate.

Rachel Crow: Rachel Crow shows the old people how it’s done during her mash-up of “Where Did Our Love Go” and Justin Bieber’s “Baby.” Her voice is so unusual even when singing the classics (heh) that I could listen to her all night. She looks fantastic, too, and at the risk of giving her bulimia just by saying it, her recent weight loss was a smart move. I love it when she stops singing, and changes instantly back into Rachel, normal 13 year old. LA tells he she could be an actress if she wants, and Nicole needlessly needles Simon’s song choice in an unattractive tit-for-tat. She also calls Rachel her Little Miss Sunshine, which isn’t a compliment if you’ve seen the movie, yo.

Drew: Drew has mysteriously decided to drop her last name, which, as you may recall, is Rynowkiwkschricz.  She sings ANOTHER 80s song,“Flashdance (What A Feeling)”, because if it’s one thing you want to associate with an 14 year old, it’s a stripper movie. Anyway, she transforms it from pop junk food to something Sara McLachlan would love to sing. I’m not sure how she’s going to handle something with a quick tempo (maybe by never singing one ever), but she nails this to the wall even as a thousand doves fly out of her head. The judges finally have to admit that Simon did something right, which hurts them like a punch to the stomach.

Tiah Tolliver: Maybe Simon secretly hated Tiah all along, if you go by what he makes the poor girl do this week in front of millions of people. He dresses her in a Thunderdome outfit and gets her to sing “Sweet Dreams (are Made of This)” as interpreted by Evanescence.  Oh, it was so bad. Nicole’s zinger: “If that was a sweet dream, I’d hate to see what one of the scary ones were like”. Paula can’t help but talk about Tiah’s freaking pitch again, which honestly was the least of the sins of that performance. Simon accuses Nicole and Paula of being “two spiteful little cats” to the bitter end, and I don’t disagree. Poor, poor Tiah. She says she’s going to do exactly what the cats have advised her instead of being mad, and I have a feeling she’s going to persevere because she plain refuses to give up.

Melanie Amaro: Melanie also has something to prove tonight, namely that Simon wasn’t an idiot to go to all the trouble to bring her back. She belts out  “I Have Nothing” by Miz Houston, and although she isn’t perfect (which makes me like her more), she blows the roof off the place. It would have been nice to hear her sing something contemporary (like an Adele song), but why mess around with today’s music when you can scavenge the 80s decade so easily? The judges are thrilled with her, and I’ve never seen Simon clap so hard in my life. She gets a huge ovation from the crowd, which makes her well up, which makes Nicole and Paula well up. Aww. He then goes to all the trouble to say his decision is going to be soooo hard to make, which he also said to Drew. Could Simon be…I don’t know…trying to create drama when we KNOW he’s putting these two through short of a zombie horde storming the building? Not Simon, surely!

And the Losers Are: He has to boot two girls tonight, and both of them are so very bootable. Tiah and Simone get their walking papers, no surprise there. It’s funny, because Simon said he really wished he could put four girls through. I wonder which one didn’t please him enough to keep his loyalty? The girls who make it through squeal and cry, and Simone takes her goodbye moment to announce the drop of her first video. Ha! She’s got spunk. I hate spunk. (JK)

Now comes the hard part, because I like every single contestant who’s left, so it’s not going to be easy to see any of them go home. See you there!