Can you feel it, 'X Factor' fans? I'm not so sure that Michael Jackson's kids did -- the poor moppets were trapped front row center as the contestants cycled through some of their father's greatest hits, but it seemed like Blanket was not at all amused by their shenanigans (grandma Katherine Jackson, on the other hand, seems to be the series' biggest fan).
Thankfully, now that we've trimmed a few of the extraneous acts -- and thirty minutes of the show's airtime -- I was feeling it, for the most part (except for the part with 'Can You Feel It,' I wasn't feeling that). The M.J. love was infectious, and though some of the acts hit a few sour notes, by the time we reached the end of Melanie's powerhouse performance, it was hard to be grumpy; even L.A. found complimentary things to say this week.
Hit the jump for our verdict on the top 7, and weigh in with your own reactions in the comments.
Simon Cowell's Girls
Drew: Once again, Drew gave a very ... Drew performance, but this week it was through no fault of her own. I found her intro video very telling, since she actually called Simon out for making her sit down yet again, insisting that Michael Jackson would never sit down for a performance. She was right on the money in that respect, and I wish Simon had allowed her to take a risk this week, because as gorgeous as her interpretation of 'Billie Jean' was (and it was gorgeous), it lost a lot of its impact purely because it's exactly the same arrangement and staging we've seen from Drew every week up to this point. That said, I'd buy it immediately, because it was a pleasure to listen to and showed her range to great effect. Even L.A. couldn't find fault with it, telling her, "you took 'Billie Jean,' you made it your own, and it pains me to say this ... but I liked it." Paula and Nicole both chided Simon for playing it safe, begging Drew to sing so mething up-tempo, but Paula did say it was her best vocal performance thus far.
Rachel Crow: Sadly, I really wasn't feeling Rachel's take on 'Can You Feel It,' since -- as the judges observed -- she didn't seem connected to the song. It didn't fit her voice, and she seemed to get lost amid the choreography and visuals, missing the tune a couple of times while she was moving. The judges all tried to convey this in as twee and condescending a way as possible, with Paula and Nicole digging out the baby voices and pet names to soften the blow. "I absolutely adore you," Paula promised, before adding, "I don't feel the song did you justice." L.A. admitted it wasn't the best he'd seen of her, while Simon blamed their criticisms on it being "Anti-Simon" night, instead of the fact that he just made a sucky song choice.
Melanie Amaro: As the last act of the night, Melanie had both an advantage and a responsibility to knock it out of the park, which she effortlessly managed with 'Earth Song.' Unlike Simon's other fumbles, it was the perfect choice for her voice, allowing Melanie to hit some truly staggering high notes and, by the looks of things, a few tears from Katherine Jackson. It's one of the most powerful songs in the world when it's in the right hands, and Melanie absolutely nailed it, since she has the intensity to give it a real emotional resonance. L.A. commented that he forgot they were in a competition and thought they were at a Melanie concert, while Nicole gushed that it was one of the best performances of the entire competition -- I'm actually inclined to agree with her.
L.A. Reid's Boys
Astro: At this point, the haters gon' hate and the lovers gon' love, but I'm still trying to judge Astro on his performances and not his behavior (or the politics going on backstage), and I thoroughly enjoyed his version of 'Black or White' -- if you can even call it that when he was basically just sampling the chorus. His lyrics were smart and more meaningful than most of the hip hop songs on the market today, and I think he should be commended for putting in double the work of the other contestants by writing his own lyrics every week, even if you don't dig his attitude. I think Chris Rene could stand to take a page out of his playbook, if he survives another week. Nicole said it wasn't her favorite out of all his performances, but that she loved his lyrics and it seemed like he was finally having fun on the stage. Simon disagreed, saying that it was his favorite of Astro's performances, and that he was glad America had decided to keep him on the show. Pau la called him inspirational and influential, and that he was hip hop's past and present as well as future.
Marcus Canty: As charismatic a performer Marcus is, I think he's in serious danger of going home this week; his rendition of 'Pretty Young Thing' was vocally weak, even if the spectacle was impressive. He sounded very nasal (which is a problem I think he's had all along), lost his notes in the choruses, and really got upstaged by the choreography. He pulled off a nice backflip, but unlike L.A., I don't think it's going to win him any extra votes. Simon wisely observed that the vocals weren't very good, predicting that it probably didn't sound very good to those watching at home (he was right). Paula waxed poetic about his perspiration and exhilaration, pointing out that he's a great entertainer -- which he is, he just won't ever sell out an arena.
Chris Rene: Another performer in the danger zone, Chris couldn't overcome his inconsistency as a singer this week, although his pitchy performance did make his rapping sound much stronger by comparison. I was kind of hoping he'd find a way to tackle 'Rockin' Robin,' since his grandfather wrote it, but the slow rhythm of 'I'll Be There' just didn't connect with his style, and he really was missing more notes than he was hitting. But has America's sympathy for his sob story run out? (I doubt it.) Nicole lied and said it was the best he'd ever sang (faint praise), and enthused on his fresh take for the song, while Simon was unduly lenient, admitting that the vocals were weak at the start but deciding that he started feeling it at the end. Paula rambled "You manifest with abundance in the heart department," which was either some New Age-y gibberish, or a sign of a psychotic break. Simon was just as perplexed by that comment as he was by the performance.
Nicole Scherzinger's Over 30
Josh Krajcik: Nicole's remaining hope (and one of the most consistent performers) had a tough night, since Michael Jackson is decidedly out of his wheelhouse. I thought 'Dirty Diana' was a smart song choice, since it's fairly rocky by M.J. standards, but the arrangement was bizarre (I choose to blame Nicole) and considering how much emphasis was placed on Josh playing his guitar in the intro video, it was strange that it only appeared towards the end of the track. He definitely grew more comfortable as soon as he was allowed to rock out, but by that point the vocals were almost over anyway. I think he would've benefited more from going acoustic and taking it slower this week, because the song didn't really do his voice justice. L.A. told him that it was a cool performance and he had landed on his feet, while Paula mumbled some nonsense about how he'd learned to be comfortable in the uncomfortable (no, Paula, he was just uncomfortable). Simon said, "As a spectacle, i t was great ... however, you were overproduced, you got lost in all the choreography." He's right.
I feel like Marcus and Chris are in the most danger of going home this week, if we're going on performances, although Astro's continued presence might have galvanized his detractors into voting even harder against him, I suppose. I don't think Rachel is in any danger, thanks to audience goodwill, even if her song was one of the weakest. In any case, it's another double elimination tomorrow, so it seems like Cowell and Co. are really determined to cull the herd.
'The X Factor' airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8PM ET on Fox.
Were you as bored as the Jackson children by Michael Jackson night, or did you think it was a 'Thriller'? (Sorry.) Which two acts do you think are in danger of going home tomorrow? Share your predictions in the comments!
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'The X Factor' Sneak Peek
- 'The X Factor' Cast
- 'The X Factor' Cast
- 'The X Factor' Judges
- Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell
- Host Steve Jones Backstage
- 'The X Factor' Judges
- Simon Cowell, Judge
- Steve Jones, Host of 'The X Factor'
- L.A. Reid, Judge
- Paula Abdul, Judge
- Nicole Scherzinger, Judge