With only a couple of exceptions, last night’s tribute to Michael Jackson on X Factor was pretty disappointing. I had gone into it with eyes wide open, hope against hope for something special. After all, there was true Rock n Roll royalty in the house. The contestants were singing in front of members of the Jackson 5, as well as Momma Jackson (Katherine) herself, and Michael’s formerly hidden progenies, Prince, Paris, and Blanket.
What we got instead was several lackluster performances, Even the Jackson children seemed to wish they were anywhere else but in that audience. The cameras cut to them about ten times, but I’m not sure I saw a single smile from any of the three. But I will say that Paris and Prince were most polite each time Robot-host Steve Jones asked if they were enjoying the show. Except for Blanket, who didn’t appear to know where he was or why he was there. Paris even told the good robot that she loves the show very much. She was raised properly, that one.
By the way, like last week, there will again be two acts going home on tonight’s results show. Last week we saw Paula’s last group, Lakoda Rayne, and Nicole’s mentoree, LeRoy Bell get voted off. You can see my picks at the end of this column.
Here is the rundown of the Top Seven:
OVER 30 (NICOLE SCHERZINGER) (side note: there is rumor afoot that Simon Cowell is considering swapping Nicole out next season with UK X Factor Judge Kelly Rowland)
Josh Kracjick: After last week’s double elimination got rid of contestant LeRoy Bell, Josh is the only mentoree that Nicole has left. He stayed as true to his rock roots as he could on Michael Jackson Night, finding one of Jackson’s hardest rockers, Dirty Diana and he did what he could with it. Once again, there were crazy dancers everywhere, and once again it was overly distracting, taking much away from the performance. I think one of them actually threw underwear at him. That aside, he continues to be one of the few contestants to show range and diversity each week.
BOYS UNDER 30 (LA REID)
Astro: This week, Astro once again re-wrote the lyrics to a popular, no, an iconic song. This time he completely changed the lyrics to Black or White, while still keeping the main theme of what he perceived was Jackson’s intent in writing the original song. It wasn’t his best performance, but it was pretty close. I want to hear this kid do something else besides rap, or at least fuse some parts of another genre of music into a rap song the way Chris Rene manages to.
Marcus Canty: If nothing else, this guy knows how to put on a performance. Yeah, his vocals need a little work, but whew boy, can he entertain. And really, his vocals aren’t that bad. I can’t see him going much further in this competition, even if he makes it another week, but if he gets the right vocal coach and the right agent and manager, he could be really, really big. His biggest problem last night during his performance of Jackson’s PYT (Pretty Young Thing) was that he seemed to have trouble keeping up with the music. This seemed to be a perfect song choice for Canty, by the way. And once again, way too much nonsense going on up on the stage around him. Why does X Factor want to overproduce EVERYTHING???? And, 33 year old Nicole cannot call young, male contestants Pretty Young Things. That just ain’t cool. It’s kinda creepy. I don’t care if he is 20.
Chris Rene: Chris came out and did what has now become his standard rap/singing version of the Jackson 5 classic, I’ll Be There. I don’t know how he does it, but somehow, he almost always seems to make these blends work out for him. While this wasn’t his best performance, there certainly wasn’t anything to complain about. He has had the audience rooting for him since Day One, and rightfully so. It’s hard not to root for someone who is making a successful run of it out of rehab. It’s really one of the few back stories you want to know about. Paula, in one of her wackiest moments of the season, told Chris that he “Manifests with abundance in the heart department.” Um, ok. I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing.
GIRLS UNDER 30 (SIMON COWELL)
Drew: Over the course of this competition, Drew has been slammed repeatedly for sounding the same, week after week after week. And she has been terrible. I don’t even know how she has lasted this long in the competition, to be honest. My older daughter, Tara, tells me that she has a great voice. I don’t buy it. Well, her totally stripped down performance of Billie Jean last night was her best, by a mile. While I didn’t like the idea of her just sitting immobile in a chair with a spotlight on her, I loved the lone piano behind her. No, it wasn’t nearly as good as David Cook’s stripped down version on American Idol a couple of seasons ago, but it was still very good. For the first time Drew showed actual strength and range in her voice. And most important, it sounded different than anything else she has sung to date.
Rachel Crow: For one of the first times in this competition, young Rachel didn’t deliver the goods. Her version of Can You Feel It ironically left me rather unfeeling. And the judges didn’t feel it either. With the exception of Simon, her mentor, the other three judges rather pointedly told her that although they loved her, this was not a good night for her. It sounded strangely like a parent scolding a child. “Just because we are sending you to room with no TV tonight doesn’t mean that we don’t love you.” Most of the time, Rachel is totally invested and plugged in to the performance. Not the case this time. She was clearly just going through the motions. If someone told me she was lip synching I wouldn’t have been surprised. But, I still love her.
Melanie Amaro: Last week, we saw a new Melanie. No, I mean we really saw a new Melanie. All of a sudden, this girl started speaking with her true Caribbean accent as she threw off the yoke of trying to hide her true self. And as she did that, a whole new person emerged. We now have a much more confident, bold young woman up there. She always had an incredible voice, but now she appears to have the belief that she can actually take this to the end. That’s something that she was missing before. Last night, she slayed it, and the competition, with Jackson’s Earth Song. She sang it with all of the feeling and passion that it was meant to be sang with. The crowd was on their feet in a lengthy ovation. LA Reid told her that she may have had the best performance of the night. Ya think?? Nicole told her that it was one of the best of the show so far, but then tried to outdo Paula’s craziness with this gem, “If that doesn’t save a small country somewhere, I don’t know what will.” I’m still trying to figure out what the hell that means.