How ironic that nearly none of the songs performed on X Factor last night were nearly as iconic as the one that played as the judges took the stage. While it’s true that host Steve Jones promised us that the performers would be singing musical selections from “iconic movie soundtracks”, most chose songs that left me scratching my head as to what movie they were featured in. Most I had to look up for the purpose of this column. Not the songs, of course, but what movie they were in.
As far as the host goes, after several weeks I now have decided that I most definitely do not care for him. I was on the fence for a while, but now I have a definitive feeling toward him rather than ambivalence. He reminds me of the game show hosts that used to be on the Jetsons and the Flintstones. Very fake and plasticy, right out of the mid-1960’s mold.
Well, I digressed a bit. Last night, the Top 11 performed “Iconic” movie songs, and here is how it turned out:
GIRLS UNDER 30 (SIMON COWELL)
Drew: I’m not sure what to say about this girl. Her voice is absolutely haunting, but it truly sounds like she is singing the same song every week. Last night she sang Fix You by Cold Play, from the movie You, Me, and Dupree. Could Simon have picked a more obscure movie reference? I would love to hear this girl sing something different, in a different tempo and key for a change. Let’s see at least a little bit of versatility out of this girl.
Melanie Amaro: Last night, Melanie sang Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror, from his dress rehearsal release This Is It, shot weeks before his death. I’m not really sure that this can even be considered a movie. Well, it showed on the big screen, and was released on DVD, and shows often enough on HBO and Showtime, but is it really a movie? I think it’s pretty borderline. They are obviously just taking advantage of MJ being in the news so much this week. Whatever. She was still very good. Not quite as good as last week, but very good. This wasn’t even the best track on the DVD. I think Earth Song is, and would have showcased her vocal abilities even more, but that’s just my opinion.
Rachel Crowe: Last week, Rachel was given awful advice from her mentor, Simon, as she gave us her worse performance to date with a bastardized version of Katrina and the Waves’ song Walking on Sunshine. This week, the 13-year old more than redeemed herself with what might have been her best performance so far, including her fantastic audition as she blew away the field with Etta James’ I’d Rather Go Blind, from Cadillac Records. It was soulful, and sounded like it was coming out of a 30-year old , not a young teen. Screw bubble gum music. This is what this girl needs to be singing. Best performance of the night by a mile.
GROUPS (PAULA ABDUL)
Stereo Hoggzz: Sadly, this group is in quick decline. When I first heard them in the first week of auditions, I had them pegged as the act to beat. I said they were going all the way. I stuck to that for a few weeks. I’m proud to say that I’m not a man afraid to admit his mistakes. This is not the same group from a month ago. They have either not bought into the mentoring that Paula has provided, or it has completely backfired. It didn’t help that Christina Aguilera’s Ain’t No Other Man, changed up to a man’s point of view, was an awful song choice. I can’t see this group lasting much longer if they don’t go back to the amazing R & B harmonies that made them so special during the auditions. Side note: I couldn’t find the movie this came from to save my life.
Lakoda Rayne: Having them sing solo was a nice idea, and showed off their voices individually, but as a group they were just OK. They sang Keith Urban’s Somebody Like You, from the movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. I don’t know what it is with these groups, but I am just not digging them. Maybe Paula’s observation last week was right. Maybe we just can’t identify with groups. Whatever it is, I am just not enjoying them as much as the individuals. Maybe it’s just something as simple as they’re not as good.
BOYS UNDER 30 (L.A. REID)
Marcus Canty: Marcus went old-school last night with Rose Royce’s I’m Going Down, from the 1976 movie, Car Wash (who remembers that gem?). For the first time in several weeks, we got to hear Marcus’s voice and not worry so much about his dancing technique. And it was good. I have no doubt that he’s going to be around for a while, and he needs to concentrate on keeping us focused on his vocal chops and not his moves. That is what will keep people voting for him.
Astro: As much as I think that Astro is a punk, and make no mistake, I do, I think he’s an extraordinarily talented punk. Consider that he took an already well written rap song, one that already speaks to various cultures and races, in Eminem’s Losin’ It, from 8 Mile, and added his own lyrics to it, paying some serious respect to both Heavy D and Joe Frazier, who just died the day before. And he’s only 14. He’s been writing his own music and lyrics since he was ten. TEN. That’s crazy, yo! This kid isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Chris Rene: Chris went back to his roots with what I thought was his own version of Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise, from the movie Dangerous Minds. After a little research, I found that the version he sang last night, Pastime Paradise, wasn’t a rewrite at all. It was, in fact, the original lyrics that Stevie Wonder wrote back in 1976 on the album Songs in the Key of Life. Chris was shaky at times and didn’t seem completely comfortable singing the chorus. It’s a shame, really. The song choice had the potential to be one of the best performances of the night. We’ve seen him better.
OVER 30 (NICOLE SCHERZINGER)
Stacy Francis: Stacy sang Queen of the Night, one of Whitney Houston’s lesser known songs from The Bodyguard. She could have easily gone with the infamous I Will Always Love You, but alas, didn’t. And based on the way she sang, we’re probably better off for it. She was off-key and off her game. She needs to go back to the type of music that will show off her vocal abilities in the best possible light, not necessarily what she wants to sing. She’ll be able to sing what she wants when she gets closer to the finals.
LeRoy Bell: LeRoy once again hit all the right notes with U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, from the movie Runaway Bride. This guy is good, and consistent, but one word I would not use to describe him is exciting. I really don’t think he’s in any danger of going home yet, but he and Nicole need to pick a song for him that ratchet up the tempo a little and see what he can do with it. Unlike Josh, LeRoy is missing that certain element that allows him to sing a slower tempo and still give you the chills. Oh, that’s called hard core emotion and connection. That’s what he’s missing and that’s why he can never win this.
Josh Krajcik: Josh lets that emotion and connection with the music and lyrics pour out of him with every song he sings. It’s the elixir that’s going to get him into the finals. He did it again last night with Joe Cocker’s version (finally!!!) of The Beatle’s I Get By (with a Little Help from My Friends), from the movie Across the Universe. I was wondering how long it would take before he sang some Joe Cocker. Last night he pulled it off, effortlessly.
So, there you have it. A handful of “Iconic movie soundtracks” that I would be willing to bet you wouldn’t have known 90% of had I not told you. In a world where dozens of movie soundtracks come out each year, don’t you think the judges could have found eleven that we’re familiar with? Hell, they could have found eleven James Bond movie themes that we’re more familiar with than some of the gems they presented last night.
The point here is, and it’s been the case over and over again on these types of shows: It’s almost always more advantageous for a performer to sing something the voters know and are familiar with instead of singing something they haven’t really heard before. Even if Stacy was awesome, her little known Queen of the Night had the potential to be in the bottom two to a more weakly performed but much better known I still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, by LeRoy. I’m not saying it will be, I’m just saying it had the potential to be.
GOING HOME: STEREO HOGGZZ