A wise man once said: “keep on, on the dance floor/don’t stop ‘til you get enough.” This same man reminded us that Billie Jean was not, in fact, his lover even though she claimed to be. You may be surprised to know that I am not talking about Herman Cain. No, Herman Cain was not the inspiration behind this week’s performance episode of The X Factor. It was Gary, IN native and plastic surgery enthusiast Michael Jackson whose extensive song list served as the basis for this week’s show.
Maybe you’ve heard of him?
In case you haven’t, The X Factor explains that he’s a recording artist who has the best-selling album in history. On Thanksgiving day, some channel aired an MJ concert video and the family and I watched it and I added “never seeing Michael Jackson live” to my list of regrets I have in this lifetime. Also on the list: not introducing myself to Mark Linn-Baker when I had the chance; also not obtaining a patent when I had the idea for what you all now call the Snuggie. I was going to call it the “Cozy-nator.” The tagline for the infomercials was going to be “cold is terminated, fucker.”
So even though the contestants were working with music from one of the greatest popstars of all time, this episode was not nearly as exciting as it should have been. Also, everyone seemed kind of tired. I guess they’re at that place in the competition where they’ve been working for so, so long and the end seems so, so far away. And adding to the intimidation factor was the fact that three of the Jackson brothers were in attendance along with Katherine Jackson (MJ’s mom) and his kids Prince, Paris and Blanket. And let’s be honest, if you were performing before these faces, you’d be nervous, too:
Josh Krajcik is up first and he’s nervous, mostly because this isn’t his style of music. Why are these people always surprised/bummed when they have to do a genre that’s different from the one they prefer? The X Factor is hardly exploring new frontiers of reality television. Same shit, different sponsor.
So Crackerjack is covering “Dirty Diana” and he’s going to be playing the guitar, which is something I don’t think we’ve seen anyone do on this show yet. During the pre-performance video segment, Paula looks into the camera with her one good eye and tells us that fear will make Crackerjack work harder, so that’s a good thing.
Someone forgot to tell her that makeup is supposed to improve your appearance.
Crackerjack starts the song off with his guitar on his back and he’s in some sort of caged area that’s littered with the bodies of strippers.
He sings in a low key and the arrangement has been slowed way down, so he sort of grinds out the lyrics. There’s a guitar solo about halfway through the performance, but oddly enough it’s not Crackerjack. Towards the end, though, he does get to play a little and the wind machine kicks up and blows his hair around, which was very curly sue this week. Why were there two guitar solos in one song? Who knows. It’s not like this was the high school jazz band playing at the local coffee shop and everybody gets a turn. The name of that band? A Touch of Brass. Anyway, Crackerjack’s performance was bizarre and wasn’t particularly comfortable to watch, but at least he committed to it and tried something new, right?
LA Reid, however, is proud that Crackerjack stepped out of his comfort zone and landed on his feet. Paula likes that he became comfortable in the uncomfortable. Simon thought that it was overproduced and Nicole’s ideas for the stage were good for Nicole – the type of artist who wants to be dancing in a cage – but not good for Josh. Nicole says she likes to take risks and Josh is just like Michael: powerful, dangerous and bold.
Astro is also nervous about this week’s theme, although he, too, is a big MJ fan. He’s doing “Black or White.” I don’t know. I don’t know about that song choice. If you had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform a Michael Jackson song in front of a huge audience, is that the song you’d choose? Not his strongest song, that one.
But apparently Astro found inspiration in it, and so did the costume designers, who dressed the backup dancers in ridiculous costumes that looked like the United Nations had diarrhea all over them.
Unsurprisingly, “Black or White” inspired Astro to rap about being color blind and all coming together as one. That one’s a gimme. After spitting out lyrics like a machine gun, he ends with a grin and a head scratch. I’m always impressed that he’s able to write and memorize complicated songs every week. But you know who’s not impressed?
Nicole says it was “b-a-a-d,” proving that you don’t have to pass any sort of spelling exam to join the Pussycat Dolls. She liked the lyrics but doesn’t think it was Astro’s best performance. Paula thinks he’s extraordinary, influential and inspirational and believes that he could win the competition.
Simon says that “Black or White” is one of the best pop songs of all time, which really makes me question his judgment. He likes the way Astro updated it. LA says he couldn’t be happier with the performance. Steve Jones comes out to tell Astro that the performance was dope. Shut up, tool.
Before her performance, Drew reflects on how much she’s grown since the beginning of the competition — more than any other time in her whole life, she tells us. And she’s been around for 13 years, so, like, forever. Totally wise, ya’ll.
Michael Jackson is “super, super inspirational” to her and she and Simon decide to do something risky with the classic “Billie Jean.” Drew questions the direction in which they’re headed, but Simon tells her to trust him. That’s the same thing he said to Cheryl Cole and look where that got her: replaced as a judge by a beautiful body with a gourd for a head.
Drew’s version of “Billie Jean” is very, verrry slow and soulful. She sings the entire song while sitting very awkwardly on an uncomfortable looking chair.
Should have peed before the show began…
Her voice sounds clear and beautiful and much older than her actual age. She finishes the last note this week instead of stopping abruptly the way she did last week.
LA tells her that he’s in a really “naughty mood” and was totally prepared to be an asshole. However… she made the song her own and it pains him to say that he actually liked it. Mission Not Being an Asshole ends in failure.
Nicole thinks Drew sounded beautiful but she didn’t get the chair thing and thinks Simon’s playing it too safe. Droopy Eye thought that it was Drew’s best vocal performance yet, but it wasn’t visual enough for a Michael Jackson homage. She asks Drew if she’d like to do something uptempo. Surprisingly enough, the teenager doesn’t want to continue to wallow in melancholy and Paula encourages her to do a different style.
Simon says that too much dancing is why all of Paula’s acts are gone. #ohsnap. He also calls Nicole garbage –well, her opinion anyway — and says that doing something simply and beautifully is how you pay homage to a great artist.
Rachel Crow hopes to be as successful as Michael Jackson who, according to her, had the x factor. In a pre-performance interview, Simon talks about Rachel’s terrifying ambition and fearlessness and she adds that she’s always wanted to be a star and that’s why she had to leave her tiny Colorado town.
She’s doing “Can You Feel It” and is dressed in all sequins from her afro to her high tops.
Comforter looks stunned.
Rachel’s vocals aren’t as strong as they usually are and her energy seems a little low. She does some weird over-emoting and looks like one of the little kids from Toddlers & Tiaras who suddenly comes out of their Pixie Stix coma and remembers they’re supposed to be whoring out their cuteness. Overall, it’s a meh performance.
LA says she didn’t seem to be having fun and it wasn’t the best he’s seen. She says she did the best she could. Nicole agrees that Rachel seemed disconnected. Paula thinks the song choice didn’t do her voice justice. Simon tells Rachel not to pay attention to the other judges because it’s anti-Simon night. I’m guessing he strokes his own ego multiple times a day. He thought that Rachel did a great job.
Simon’s favorite part of the show.
Last week, Marcus Canty was in the bottom two and his mom thinks that was good for him because it’s going to make him work harder. Like all of the other contestants, Marcus grew up listening to Michael Jackson. That’s when he wasn’t playing the role of Eddie Winslow on Family Matters.
Separated from Marcus at birth.
So after being in the bottom two, Marcus is dedicated to being an all-around performer again and sweating all over braless dancers. He starts with the chorus of “P.Y.T.” and doesn’t sound as good as he normally does. He’s a little off key, but he’s got some dance moves to go along with the dance remix they’ve done with the song. He’s also shaved his armpits, which, I have to say, looks very weird on men. Like same vast, crevassy wasteland.
During the second verse, he hands off his mic to one of the dancers so that he can do a backflip. Slanket, what do you think of that?
Marcus wraps up by getting the audience to help him with the “nah-nah-nah” part of the song and then ends on a weird “yeah” note.
Nicole says “I love you, PYT.” And she hopes that America recognizes that he’s the whole package and votes for him. Paula agrees that he’s the whole package and thought it was a beautiful homage to MJ. Hmmm. We’re just going to ignore the fact that he sounded terrible? We’re just not gonna think about that during the singing portion of the singing competition? Whatevs.
At least Egomonster points out that the vocals were not very good, that the backflip was the most interesting part of the performance, and that Marcus was out of breath much of the time. LA thought it was great and hopes the backflip flips Marcus into some votes.
This week, “trash collector Chris Rene” is excited to be covering a Michael Jackson song because his grandfather, who started the first black R&B label on the West Coast wrote “Rockin’ Robin,” which the Jackson 5 covered. That’s a pretty interesting factoid. Also interesting: Chris Rene is black. Who knew?
Despite the fact that “Rockin’ Robin” is in his blood, Chris is not performing that song, which is a little disappointing. I’d have liked to have seen his take on it. Instead he’s doing “I’ll Be There,” which is a weird choice because you have to have a really good voice to sing it and I’m not convinced that Chris has that. He’s got charm and charisma and a good story and some rap skills. But vocally he’s the weakest in the competition.
I’ll give him credit. He does try to confuse and distract us by attacking a varsity letter jacket with a bedazzler.
It still can’t hide the fact that the backup singers are the ones doing the heavy lifting on this one. By the time he gets to the rap verse that he’s added, his voice is all over the place and seems higher than usual and he sort of shouts out the last notes and grimaces at the sound of his own voice at the end.
Nicole proves that her head was surgically replaced with a leftover jack-o-lantern last month and says that she loved his fresh spin and it was the best she’s ever heard him. Even Chris looked shocked by that one.
Paula proves that her head was stuffed with formaldehyde-soaked cotton balls by saying that Chris manifests abundance in the heart department. She and Nicole need naps or something. They’re not even remotely making sense. Paula gets off the train to Crazytown long enough to add that Chris has trouble finding the right song because he’s a songwriter and doesn’t sound good singing other peoples’ songs.
Simon, who has been rolling his eyes about manifesting abundance, thought the vocals were shaky and that LA’s “Fugee-style” arrangement helped cover that. He adds that Chris is going to need an awful lot of votes from his hometown to stay in the competition. LA thought Chris was the beeses kneeses.
Melanie Amaro has the last spot of the night. Last week, everyone was shocked when she suddenly began speaking in a Caribbean accent. Apparently that accent is here to stay. She tells us that she’s been hiding it all this time because people used to make fun of her for it. But now it’s out and she got da freedom nah ta be herself. Ya heard?
So Simon says he chose “What About Us” because it’s one of MJ’s biggest hits and a song that most people wouldn’t dare to sing. Because it’s so awful. There. I said it. I hate that song. Also, definitely not one of his biggest hits. Anyway, Simon worries that it could all go terribly wrong, but he’s willing to take that risk because he gets paid either way.
Melanie’s voice can certainly handle the song and she comes out looking fierce and like she’s ready to whip someone and then beat that person and then handcuff him to a bed.
Her performance is a little boring though, even with scenes of destruction and devastation appearing in the video screens behind her. After droning on and on, she wakes me up with a note that sounds like a duck screaming. By the end, even Melanie looks disappointed with Melanie.
LA says he forgot that they were having a competition — he felt like he was at her concert and he thought it was the best performance of the night. Tweedledumb thinks Melanie’s performance saved a small country. From what? She doesn’t specify, but I’d guess either King Kong or a maniacal dictator.
Paula thinks that Melanie nailed it and Simon couldn’t have been more proud. “Oh, Lawd, I’m so ‘appy wit dose comments,” Melanie tells Steve in her new accent.
As the show wraps up, Katherine Jackson tells us that Michael would have been very proud and everyone did a great job. Prince stops chomping on his gum long enough to say that the show was really well put together. Um, thanks for your professional assessment, child. Paris thought that it was absolutely fantastic. Duvet, do you have anything to add?
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