X Factor USA 1.11 – Top 12

Welcome to the Top 12, where your vote finally counts. Who was forced to dress up like the four seasons this episode? Has the show been picked up for next year? Which act gave me honest-to-goodness goosebumps? Why did Simon have to say he’s s-s-s…s-s-s…? All these and many more questions will be answered, tonight on The X Factor USA! 


Stereo Hogzz/Rhythm Nation by Janet Jackson: The Hogzz have da moves. They have futuristic dancers and a mad light show and elaborate matching costumes including metal knee pads for impromptu break dance moves on crushed glass. This is to make up for the fact they don’t sing very well. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s my TV…but I know when the other other singers are fab (or drab). These boys are performers to be sure, but my skin hurts when they sing the high notes. That’s not a good sign, is it? The judges violently disagree with me (they practically bitch-slap me through my PVR at my insolence), and I don’t even know what to say when Simon tells them there’s not a band in the world right now who are as good as them. In the world. IN THE WORLD. If Mumford and Sons were dead, they would surely be spinning in their graves.

Chris Rene/Superstar by The Carpenters : Chris is looking good tonight. Goooood. The boy cleans up like whoa, is what I’m saying. He starts out slow and easy, with his voice as pretty as a songbird, and then the drums kick in and the songbird is literally engulfed in flames all over the damn stage. It’s actually hard to tell how he’s doing because of the overpowering background vocals, but he sounds strained to me. The judges think I’m nuts, and Simon actually thinks he only got good when the drums kicked in, so. That’s why I’m not a talent agent, I guess. I love Chris, but I think he’s in over his head with the prodigious talent in this competition. However, there’s no telling on what basis America will choose their favourites. Did I mention how hot he looks tonight? Consider it mentioned.

Leroy Bell/I’m Already There by Lonestar: Forget about the singing — Leroy divulges that he has a 13 year old kid…and 6 grandkids! The man’s a machine. At least we don’t have to worry about his talent genes dying out, right? This is one of the most emotional songs ever written IMHO, and Leroy has a rich, smoky voice that does the lyrics justice. Then why does his performance still leave me cold?? I don’t know, but I want to take him by his stylish effete scarf and shake him. Feel it, bro. Feel it! I’m with Simon — this wasn’t the song for him. I’d love to hear him sing some blues. Did anyone write any blues in the ’80s? Cause otherwise the judges probably won’t use it. Heh.

Rachel Crow/Walking on Sunshine: Rachel and Simon decide that the best thing to do EVER would be to take an ’80s  song (natch) and revise the lyrics. And…I sort of like it! I enjoy the idea that instead of a peppy love song, it’s a peppy kiss-off song. Anyway, whatever it is, Rachel sings it like a seasoned professional who is standing on a gigantic Kleenex box. Nicole is outraged, outraged I tell you, that Simon dared to change the lyrics of a classic (snort), but he thinks she did a great job, to which Rachel replies, “Thank you Simon. I hope I made you proud.” Aww. We’ll see if and when her wide-eyed sincerity begins to grate on me. As long as she has that voice, maybe never.

Lakoda Rayne/Landslide by Fleetwood Mac: What better way to symbolize a classic song about life and aging than to dress your girl band up as the seasons? Hey, now that I write it, that actually makes sense! Don’t worry (and I did), Paula doesn’t put bird nest hats and snowflake earrings on them, she just gets them to wear ball gowns of four different colours. As Simon says, they look like they’re going to prom. To negate the inherent cheesiness of the dresses, Paula adds a wind machine to blow on them for the entire performance. Ha!  Their harmonies are lovely, although Miss Yellow (summer? and what the hell is purple supposed to be anyway?) sounds off-key to me. Says Nicole, “If I were a season,  I’d want to look just like you.” After they’re done and Steve is telling us the number to call to vote for them, Miss Blue flashes us five fingers to encourage us to call their phone number ending in five. Then she turns to Miss Yellow and excitedly mouths “I’ve always wanted to do that.” That makes me like her way more than her singing ability.

Josh Krajcik/Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri: Before I talk about his performance, let me say that Josh’s girlfriend who has supported him for seven YEARS while he tries to get famous is a bloody saint. I don’t know if I’d have been as patient — I probably would have thrown his talented ass to the curb years ago. Anyway, Josh is actually singing a relatively current song tonight! Somebody alert the media! Wait, that’s me — never mind. Nicole gets the wonderfully versatile Josh to sing a song with a range of six notes. But he makes those six notes beg for mercy, baby. It’s not his best performance, but the judges slather all over him anyway. “I’m like a proud mom, but we’re the same age so that doesn’t work,” says Nicole. If there’s such a thing as a male diva, Josh is it, and I hope one of these weeks Nicole picks a song that lets him blow it out of the water. If he can sing Christina Perri, he can sing Whitney Houston.

Melanie Amaro/Desperado by The Eagles: This is one of favourite songs, so I’m touchy about people messing with it. Melanie sings it as amazingly as you’d expect, although gone is the aching longing of the lyrics. It’s more Divarado now, but never mind. They straightened Melanie’s hair, and that’s all that matters. Paula says her voice is “like fine china. You only bring it out for special occasions.” That makes no sense, but I’m pretty sure it’s a compliment. Simon mentions that the song’s writers gave permission to use the song for the first time ever, and the thought of Glen Frey and Don Henley watching X Factor and saying, “Yeah! Let’s give Melanie a chance to make up for Simon unfairly cutting her!” fills my heart with fangirl glee.

Astro/Hip Hop Hooray by Naughty by Nature: I’ll give him props, Astro is a hard worker and that means a lot in my book. He writes the lyrics for his song  in two hours, and not even Melanie Amaro does that. He remembers all of them, too, and doesn’t stumble over them, and engages the audience. You can tell he’s willing to do what it takes to win this thing. But is his tender age a pro or a con? Does his genre limit his voting block?  Only time will tell.

InTENsity / Kids in America/Party Rock Anthem mashup: I love these kids. I know I shouldn’t, I know they’re schlocky and not the best singers. I don’t care. They’re so enjoyable, and Paula picks the perfect songs for them to sing. As Nicole says, “That was funtastic! Funominal!” Heh, she always has the best lines. Simon can’t actually bring himself to say sorry to Paula for saying she picked the wrong song for them, so he spells it instead.  And then Paula spells out P-R-O-U-D to the kids. Oh, Paula. What would we do without you?

Drew/Thinking About You by Nelly: You can tell Simon really likes Drew. He wants her to take the reins and make artistic decisions for herself, in anticipation of her ruling the world and we being her loyal servants. The problem with that plan is her voice. Hee. When she sings the folksy ballads, her sound is unique and gorgeous. When she sings, let’s say, Nelly, she sounds like every other young female singer out there, and maybe not even as good as some of them. The judges, especially Simon, thinks she can do no wrong whatsoever and we’ll see if the voting public ever gets tired of this. I’m tired of it already, but I’m Canadian, so I can’t even vote, dammit.

Marcus Canty/Every Little Step by Bobby Brown: Aw, for one exciting moment Marcus sings a relatively current song (Nothin’ on You),  but then segues into Bobby Brown. Not that he’s not great, because he is. Nicole says it was like being at his concert, and I agree with her. He’s a pretty fly dancer too, although he does sound winded as he sprints across the stage. I suppose that’s why so many artists lip-synch, because otherwise they sound like they have COPD. Simon points out that it might be a little narcissistic to have your own artist sing a song that you wrote (I didn’t know LA wrote that!), and LA replies, “We could have had him sing one of yours, but…” Oh, snap!

Stacy Francis/Up to the Mountain by Patty Griffin: Nicole was all insulted last week when Simon said Stacy is a church singer, but as Simon points out, “What Nicole doesn’t understand is church singers sell records.” So Nicole takes Simon’s advice (almost always a wise decision) and gets Stacy to sing the song probably best known for Kelly Clarkson’s performance of it on Idol Gives Back. I swear to God, I got chills and goosebumps listening to Stacy sing it. What an amazing performance; no wonder they gave her the glory spot at the end of the show. She also looks beautiful and dressed age-appropriate, which is always appreciated. I’m so sad when the song is over that I might mosey on over to iTunes later today to pick this one up. Simon pats himself so hard on the back he dislocates his shoulder, and Stacy give him not one but two smooches for his help. BUT…do the people who watch X Factor want to vote for a singer like Stacy? That’s not as certain as Simon’s love for himself.

This and That: 

  • I loved Nicole’s hand jewelry. I’ve never seen anything like it before. It was  like a leafy set of brass knuckles.
  • I don’t care if I’m the recapper, I’m not going to watch the Verison Facebook ad that’s built right into the freaking show, and you can ‘t make me. That’s why God invented the fast forward button, yo.
  • When each contestant is done singing and the judges are about to critique them, the spotlights zoom down to the sound of ominous music. That’s so you know the fun’s over, and now it’s Serious Business Time.
  • And yes, the show has been renewed another season despite tepid ratings. Of course, other shows would kill for those ratings, but for Simon they’re disappointing.

Should be going home: Lakoda Rayne
Will be going home: Leroy Bell