When I sat down last night to watch the first live show of Fox’s X Factor, I was almost dreading it. Two and a half hours long? Really? That’s one long-ass show. However, through the beautiful technology of the DVR (my new best friend) and several breaks throughout the night, I managed to stretch it out over about three and a half hours, with very few commercial interruptions (it’s great when you can fast forward through so many of those). So really, for me, it was about an hour and a half of actual X Factor time. Now this is the way to watch TV.
The breakdown of this show was a simple one:
All contestants from each of the four groups will sing, then the judge that mentored them over the past few weeks will select the three that will pass through to next week. For Simon Cowell’s group, the girls under 30, he would have to send two contestants home because he kept five for this round instead of four. He had made the “mistake” of eliminating Melanie Amaro, just to go back to her house and tell her that he made a mistake and wanted her back in the competition. But more on her later.
FIRST UP: MALES UNDER 30 (LA REID)
Brian Bradley (AKA Astro): This 14 year old has the moves of a seasoned rapper, but I just never got him. Some (like my daughters) would say this is because I’m a middle aged white dude, but I say it’s just because I just never got him. I think he’s young, pompous, arrogant, and too old for his years. Go age about 5 years and come back and see me. I’m not saying he doesn’t have talent because he does. I think that he hasn’t proved anything yet and he acts like he has three Grammy Awards on his shelf. But anyway, he came out with some old school Jump, and got the crowd going right from the start.
Chris Rene: I thought this guy was really, really good in his initial audition, and just OK in the 30 seconds that I’ve seen him in since. Last night he sang Love Don’t Live Here Anymore, and he was pretty good. I can certainly see him sticking around for a while. Paula had one of the most insightful comments of the night when she said there was truthfulness to him. You really do find yourself believing in this guy.
Phillip Lomax: Normally a Jazz crooner, Phillip came out of his comfort zone last night with the upbeat, pop hit, I’m a Believer. It wasn’t awful, but he didn’t look very comfortable singing it. This would be the first of several very poor song choices of the night.
Marcus Canty: I’ve been a fan of this guy since day one, and last night was no exception. I’m not going to say he’s my favorite, but I do like his voice. Last night Marcus sang the 80’s hit, Do You Really Want to Hurt Me. And he gave a nice, upbeat tempo to it. He livened it up a little more than Culture Club’s original. My biggest complaint is, like this past season’s American Idol’s Paul McDonald, you don’t smile during songs of personal destruction. Pay attention to what you’re singing. It looks stupid.
NOT MAKING IT THROUGH: PHILLIP LOMAX
NEXT: GROUPS (PAULA ABDUL)
The Stereo Hogzz: This has been my early pick to win it all since the very first audition. After last night’s show, I am sticking to that prediction. Yeah, they’re that good. Sure, there are a couple of others that will give them a run for their money and may come out on top, but I’ll be very surprised if this group is not in the finals. Last night, they sang a very modernized version of the Otis Redding classic, Try a Little Tenderness, and it was fantastic. This is exactly what we have come to expect from this group.
The Brewer Boys: These two young teens came out and in their own folksy way, did a boring mash-up of Hall and Oats’ Rich Girl and George Michael’s Faith, while sitting on large blocks. Overall, while their voices were pretty good, (but flat in some areas) the song choice was not. And the girls hanging around their feet sitting on large blocks around them was very stupid. We’ve seen them much better in past auditions.
InTENsity: This is an interesting group because it consists of ten individual performers that the producers put together to make one large “supergroup”, a la Glee. And it really works. They are actually quite good. Last night they sang the theme from Footloose, and they sounded like they’ve been together for years. Without question, Paula hit it out of the park with this one.
Lakoda Rayne: This was another group that the X Factor gods put together, made of up previous auditioners that they felt weren’t good enough to send forward on their own, but too good to let go. And like InTENsity, they were also very good, although maybe not quite as good. They sang Dexy’s Midnight Runner’s classic hit, Come on Eileen, and gave it a bit of a country flair. The beginning had a tremendously slowed down tempo, but by the middle of the song, we were “Tru la Luing” right along with them.
NOT MAKING IT THROUGH: THE BREWER BOYS (no surprise at all)
NEXT: OVER 30 (NICOLE SCHERZINGER)
Dexter Haygood: Dexter is an interesting character study in anyone’s book. But I was never sure that he was right for this show. A lighter, less contained version of James Brown, Dexter seems to just put it all out there and lets the chips fall where they may. After his one on one audition at Nicole’s house (was that REALLY her house???), I was sure that she was going to cut him then, but somehow, he made it through to the live round. Last night, he sang a bizarre mash-up of Brittany Spears Womanizer and Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl. Two awful song choices on their own, even worse together. I don’t know what kind of mentoring Nicole was giving him on this one, but it wasn’t good. Oh, and the futuristic dancers moving around him through the entire song were extremely distracting.
LeRoy Bell: I don’t care how many times you tell me, I cannot believe this dude is 60. I want to see a birth certificate. And he has got an awesome voice, by the way. The Michael Boltonesque raspiness quality that it has makes the tone nearly perfect and a joy to listen to. Last night he lent it to Pink’s Nobody Knows, and he might have made it better than the original.
Stacy Francis: There is no denying this woman’s talent. She absolutely rocked them in her first audition, then shined again singing Purple Rain for Nicole and Enrique Iglesias during the one on one auditions. But last night Stacy wasn’t quite as good as we’ve seen her in past performances as she belted out George Michael’s One More Try. She seemed to be more cautious and nervous than in the past, and her nerves got the better of her. The only thing that saved her was that Dexter was so bad.
Josh Krajcik: Josh does not look like anyone’s version of a star. He looks like what he is, a burrito slinger. But holy crap, this guy has some pipes. Just think of a cross between Michael Bolton and Joe Cocker, and you have this guy’s voice. Smooth and raspy at the same time. Last night, he sang an a cappella version of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young, and it was and it was brilliant (my daughter has accused me of watching too much BBCA. I’ll take it under advisement).
NOT MAKING IT THROUGH: DEXTER HAYWARD (again, no surprise at all)
LAST UP: GIRLS UNDER 30 (or as host Steve Jones says, “Guhhhls”) (SIMON COWELL)
Simone Battle: OK, this girl has a pretty good voice, in a Rihanna kinda way. But she has got to be one of the most annoying people this show has seen. I can’t even imagine why Simon put her through to this round. She is an obnoxious wannabe diva. But in reality, she’s not even close. Last night she made a half hearted effort to sing Mariah Carey’s Just be Good to Me. She should have put as much effort into practice as she did her outfit. LA Reid was blunt, asking Simon why he even put her through. My thoughts exactly. And once again, her dancers were annoying as hell.
Rachel Crowe: Rachel did her level best last night to sell us on her cutesiness, and for the most part, it worked. She is very cute, and she can certainly sing. Without question, she is one of Simon’s favorites and there was little doubt from the very first time we saw her as the first contestant on the show, that we were going to see her again on the live show. Last night she sang a very interesting mash-up (damn Glee and these stupid mash-ups) of The Supremes Baby Love and Justin Bieber’s Baby, Baby, Baby. Somehow, it actually went together. Her voice wasn’t as good as it’s been in the past, but on a pure entertainment level, it was pretty good.
Drew: This 14 year old has dropped her last name, which is good because it’s very long with about 10 consonants. She has been another one of Simon’s favorites, and she is very, very good. In her opening audition, she sang a scaled down version of Baby, Baby, Baby that was so good, Beiber posted it on his youtube page. Likewise, her version of Irene Cara’s What a Feeling last night was just as good. She seems to be at her best when she takes these pop songs and completely changes their arrangement to suit her.
Tiah Tolliver: I barely remember this girl from any of the auditions, and I was completely unimpressed with her version of Sweet Dreams, by The Eurythmics. As much as I normally enjoy this song, and Annie Lennox, I did not enjoy Tiah’s version very much. And there were more crazy dancers. But these looked like they were extras from the Thriller video that got lost on their way to the studio.
Melanie Amaro: Oh, these producers know exactly what they are doing when they save the best for last. At least they make every effort to. As I previously mentioned, Simon had originally cut her, then went to her house to tell her that he made a mistake and he wanted her back. I’m sure this was all contrived to amp up the drama for tonight, because this girl is, and always has been one of the best talents in this competition. And last night was no exception. Melanie sang Whitney Houston’s I Have Nothing, and with the exception of one bad note, she rocked it. I’ve been doing reviews on music shows for 5 years now, and this is the first time that I have said that I want to hear someone sing a Whitney song, a Mariah song, a Heart song. This girl is an absolute powerhouse vocalist with amazing control. There may not be any stopping her. We may be seeing her in the finals with my other pick, Stereo Hoggzz.
NOT MAKING IT THROUGH: SIMONE BATTLE AND TIAH TOLLIVER (after hearing the others, neither is a surprise, and now we know why he brought back Simone, to use as chaff)
Next week, it’s going to get much more difficult, particularly for Simon and Nicole as they have some tremendous talent to choose from. I sense that LA and Paula’s choices may be a little easier, but we’ll see.