Thank goodness the judge threw the book at Michael Jackson’s doctor this week — otherwise MJ’s mom and brothers acting all giddy on “X Factor’s” Michael Jackson Night might have been awkward.
Instead, it’s merely a total creep-out that Michael’s mom has accessorized with the three children (Prince, Paris, and Blanket) Michael tried so hard to keep out of the spotlight when he was alive.
Paula Abdul has no more mentees, which makes her “the only impartial judge” in this singing competition show, she explains correctly. Mentors LA Reid, Nicole Scherzinger and Simon Cowell, meanwhile, will continue to snipe at each other and make it all about each other, instead of the X-testants. We will therefore dispense with their comments this week, in honor of the King of Pop.
After we see a gigantic close-up of Michael Jackson’s face, and a mob of backup dancers prance about a bit, out walks show host Steve Jones.
“Thank you very much, sexy dancing people,” Steve says. Moments later, when three Jackson brothers come out on stage and start pointing and waving to people they recognize in the audience, Steve interrupts them to ask of one, “What does this night mean to an actual member of The Jackson Family?”
Don’t know about you, but we’re really liking the new, ironic Steve.
Josh Krajcik sings “Dirty Diana,” though it takes a while to recognize the Jackson tune, he’s so drowned out by the light show, the Victoria’s Secret Dancers and the wind machine. Poor Josh is performing from on top of a platform, shoulders hunched, looking like he’s been beamed in to Michael Jackson Night from some whole other dimension — a Lollapalooza concert, maybe?
Astro sings “Black or White,” the wonderfully up-tempo Jackson tune, and Astro seems to be in an up-tempo mood after not landing in the bottom batch last week. He’s bouncing around the stage and he’s added a whole lot of his own lyrics in a rap break. And it all works to mask Astro’s big limitation, which is that he’s kinda squeaky.
Simon has given Drew the angry, punchy “Billie Jean” to sing, then told her to sit still in a chair at center stage with her knees and her toes tight together and not move a muscle, and sing it like a dirge. Were this any other show than “X Factor” and the two involved parties people other than Drew and Simon, we’d call this a brilliant re-imagining of a Jackson classic. But since it’s Drew and Simon, and since every week we get the same down-tempo performance, let’s go with “mindless repetition” instead. Nice, clear tone to her voice, though!
Simon’s assigned “Can You Feel It” to Rachel Crowe — a Jackson 5 number. And you’d think that evoking the young Michael Jackson would be a good move for little Rachel but — maybe her earpiece fell out? She starts out off-tune and stays off-tune and it’s her weakest performance of the finals and no amount of cute can compensate.
At various points the camera cuts to Prince and Paris looking bored and Blanket looking taxidermied.
Next up: Marcus Canty — Mr. Entertainment! He’s going to perform “PYT.” Marcus is in a glitzy sleeveless jacket, collar turned up, and, if self-assurance is entertaining, then Marcus blows down the doors! If actual competence in singing and dancing is required, then not so much. If completing a single back flip is a show stopper, then he stops the show! If not, then never mind.
Chris Rene sings “I’ll Be There” — or, rather, just kinda walks through it, passing from chill to boring on his way. He’s singing without his hat and with a Michael Jackson letter jacket — 58 on one arm, for the year Jackson was born, and 09 on the other — the year Jackson died. Anyway, it all makes Chris look real clean-cut — not a good look for Chris. He gets back into the groove with a rapping break toward the end but overall, he comes off as a low-wattage poser.
Melanie Amaro, who had a breakthrough last week and started speaking with her native accent, is speaking with an even thicker accent this week. She’s tackling the shouty “Earth Song” which even pushed Jackson’s range, but Melanie — who is by far this competition’s best singer — is up to it. At last — a singer who can tame a Jackson tune AND an “X-Factor” musical arrangement.
GALLERY: View more photos from “X-Factor.”