Roll the commercial, er, clip of The X-Testants going to the premiere of the Adam Sandler movie “Jack and Jill,”and gushing over Adam Sandler and Al Pacino on the red carpet. But there’s a lesson here for them, notes Too-Tall: some day all this glamour could be theirs. “It’s a little taste of what could be,” obligingly says X-testant Josh Krajcik, the singing burrito chef, whose charm, let’s hope he knows, is his utter lack of glamour.
First to perform is Sobbin’ Stacy Francis, the 42-year-old mentoree of Nicole Scherzinger, who promises us a “massive diva number,” singing a song from the soundtrack of “The Bodyguard.” How will Stacy diva her way through “I Will Always Love You,” the notorious singing competition quicksand? Turns out there’s another , forgotten, iconic song from that movie, “Queen of the Night.”
Stacy starts out well but begins to miss notes and seems thrown by her dance solo in the middle, when she’s hidden in a jungle gym set while the house dancers, The Corps de X, take center stage. Judge/mentor LA Reid asks her why she chose this semi-demi-iconic song and Stacy says that she wanted to dance. He says he liked her better when she cried all the time. But Nicole thinks she’s “empowering all women.”
Next up, Marcus Canty, coached by LA Reid to sing “I’m Going Down,” the Mary J. Blige classic that turns out to be from the movie “Carwash” -- who knew? Marcus is good, but the schtick is great: clouds of dry ice, kicking over of the mike stand, and a shiny silver jacket that refuses to come off no matter how hard Marcus tries, because, apparently, the X-Wardrobe department can’t afford silk coat linings. Marcus is the beneficiary of the creeping grade inflation we’re noticing among the “X Factor” judges which, we’re sure is just their natural exuberance, not the result of any desperation about the ratings for the show. Nicole calls him a “super-star”, LA calls him a “massive star” and judge/mentor Paula tAbdul ells him, “everything about you resonates star.”
Next up, the waifish Just Drew, as mentor/judge/producer/star Simon Cowell has dubbed his teenaged mentoree. Lots of set up in the taped bit that Drew is going to really step out of her waifish singing style. But she doesn’t. LA says he can’t tell this performance of a tune from “You Me and Dupree” from her earlier performances.And LA seems to want to call Simon on a technical foul, questioning whether this was a real movie or a home movie. Paula says her performance was “honest” but doesn’t like Drew’s dress – it’s a sort of prom dress that ran into a punch bowl and then took a bath in a shredder – which Simon gleefully tells Paula was designed by Drew. “This is why thank god I’m her mentor,” he says in high dudgeon. “My job is, take this girl of 14 years old and try to develop her into a recording artist!” He invokes the name of Lady Gaga. Girl’s got no range, so focus on the costume.
Next up, U2’s iconic “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” which, incidentally, was in the movie “Runaway Bride” years later, to be sung by the ageless LeRoy Bell, whose age, 60, is the second most mentioned number on “X Factor” after “5 million dollar recording contract.” It’s a good song choice for the low-key LeRoy. LA and Paula agree the song did LeRoy a lot of good. Simon says he’s used to working with older people -- and LeRoy sounded like a 20 year old, which makes it his best performance yet.
X-Factor’s nod to country, girl group Lakoda Rayne, will sing a song from “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, Keith Urban’s “I Want to Love Somebody Like You.” We’re inclined to spot these girls many points for swallowing their ambitions as soloists and seizing the opportunity given to them. But it was just generic likeable country. LA Reid apparently didn’t like them, calling them his favorite girl group in the competition. They are the only girl group. Simon seizes the opportunity to whack Paula by referring to their performance last week as a “horror show” of bad costuming, but concludes that now they’re the group he’d hoped they’d become. He follows that with some lame gag about Paula making the movie “How to Lose a Guy in One Day” to which she responds she’s been trying to lose him for 10 years. We’re reminded that one of the big buildups of “X Factor” was going to be the Paula/Simon re-match, and are glad the producers only go at that theme in fits and starts.
Astro takes an Eminem tune from flick “8 Mile” and breaks into freestyling with his own lyrics and this kid is plainly very talented. “You have audacity to take Eminem’s song… and rewrite his lyrics,” says LA. “That’s bravery, man, so I really applaud you.” Adds Simon, “You cleared an Eminem song!…You are incredibly creative…You have the X Factor”, which is, of course, the second highest accolade one can achieve on this show, right behind, “You could be in a Pepsi commercial.”
For Melanie Amaro, Simon has chosen Michael Jackson’s “The Man In The Mirror” -- because it appeared in the Jackson docu-flick “This Is It,” about his preparation for his final concert. The performance is a battle between Melanie’s considerable singing talent and Simon’s considerable lack of imagination in putting her through this heard-it-before arrangement. LA calls him out: “I didn’t find it that inventive…It was strong but predictably strong.” Anyway, to compensate, Nicole and Paula start inflating Melanie’s grades by biblical proportions. “Her voice is a vessel of light” says Nicole and Paula piles on with “music heals the world and your voice truly does that.” Simon’s counter to LA confirms LA’s analysis though Simon doesn’t seem aware: “That is called a tribute and that is what she did,” he says calling her “bloody fantastic”, which is, he explains to us, something they say in England.
StereoHoggz perform “Ain’t No Other Man,” the Cristina Aguilera song that apparently was in the movie “Get Smart.” We’re liking them in the period grey suits coming down the staircase—and then the girls in the period chorus line outfits that join them –we think we saw this number in “Chicago.” Anyway, it’s kinda hip Broadway, but we’re not looking at the next big pop stars, so Paula hasn’t done them any favor. LA is grumpy because he doesn’t like the song. “It was bananas,” says Nicole, cryptically. “It’s got nothing to do with bananas,” says Simon, and adds correctly, “you’re not performing the record you would make. You’ve got to become less cabaret.” Paula leaps to their defense, citing their work ethic.
Well, finally, a performance from an X-testant who sounds like he’s singing for his life up there. Josh Krajcik, the Joe Cocker-ish Over 30 will sing Joe Cocker’s version of the Beatles “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Sure, it’s a predictable choice, sure Josh virtually replicates Cocker’s performance, but you wanted it -- and you got it. “It’s like chicken soup for the soul,” gushes Paula. Simon who is coming on more and more as a bloody twit (that’s something they say in England) likens the performance to “Dracula and the brides” and advises Josh to come out on the stage next week and sing a straight ahead song and “lose all the gimmicks”. And Josh, for good measure, show you’re a true artist by wearing a dress you designed yourself.
Chris Rene will perform his remix of Coolio’s remix of Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise,” with his own lyrics about coming up from being a “skater boy in Santa Cruz.” In the “X-Factor” Rap Division, Astro has much better breath control than Chris, but Chris is the more interesting stage personality to watch, with his quirky gestures and facial expressions. “Welcome back, Chris,” Simon says, then tries to hog some credit by reminding everyone that he made a deal with Chris to stay sober though we feel pretty certain LA was seen on-camera making the same deal with Chris.
The last performer is little 14-year-old Rachel Crow who’s going to perform “I’d Rather Go Blind” which was sung by Beyonce in the movie “Cadillac Records.” Nicole starts into some riff about how Simon listened to her advice, when Rachel cuts her off and says she picked the song herself. “I’m so glad you’re teaching this man humility”, Paula says. OK, judge/mentors – it’s not all about you, so focus, please. But no, Simon begins to blather about how he’s not afraid to admit when he’s wrong -- unlike some other judges he could name -- and that he trusts and adores Rachel. Oh, and she’s a “mini-Beyonce”.
GALLERY: View more photos from “X-Factor.”