The X Factor Recap: Melanie Amaro Breaks the Whitney Rule

The Boys

I’ve been wondering about Astro and whether or not he’s actually fourteen years old. He might have a fourteen-year old body, but consider the following scenario: the scientists at Fox stole DNA from both the dudes from Das EFX, Billy Danze and Jeru the Damaja, grew a hybrid brain in a jar, and implanted the resulting pulpy mush into the head of a very nice young man from Brooklyn. And then made that very nice young man rap about not doing his homework because he’s out pumping up the crowd at X Factor. It’s an impressive act, I guess, but it’s still too weird.

The rest of the boys are kind of boring. Marcus Canty has one good dance move — he hunches forward on his left knee, bends his back and works it out. This, admittedly, is a great dance move, but when his head finally gets put on the chopping block and it’s time to break out the ballad that will make Paula Abdul cry, I don’t know where Marcus can go. My prediction: he’ll butcher “What’s Going On,” and be sent home in third place.

The Groups

I’d rather not talk about this category because of my previously stated belief that singing competitions shouldn’t feature groups. But I’d like to ask: Can a lead singer go solo in the middle of a singing competition? Cause the leader of the Stereohogz is, in Simon’s parlance, absolutely fantastic. Hopefully the producers of the show invent some twist where an eliminated group can either choose to all go home or sacrifice themselves to let their best member go through to the next week.

Over 30s

In last week’s preview, I predicted that Dexter would get in early trouble, panic, and, in an over-corrective move, try to work out a teeny bop anthem like, “Party in the USA.” Well, it seems like old Dex was in a bit more trouble than I thought because he already got to that sad, bad moment last night when he growled his way through, “I Kissed a Girl.”

The video below is from Xavion, Dexter’s band from Memphis.

Not exactly something you could package and sell at WalMart, right? And because he can’t go to his comfort zone (not to mention the way he’s been singing for the past few decades), it might be better that he left before things got really ugly. Where do you go after “I Kissed a Girl?” Can you growl and spit your way through “MmmmBop?”

Speaking of things that make me uncomfortable, the sparkles on Stacy Francis’ pants didn’t remind me so much of diamonds or crystal, but more of the way the night sky must look like after the Zombie Rapture, when the lights of city have all been extinguished and you peek your head out of the dumpster to take your first look at the Milky Way as God intended it. You feel the slight shiver of death and realize that things will never be the same again.

As for her singing, Stacy Francis will always have that problem where she can’t sing the low, soft parts of any song, so whenever she sings a ballad, she just kind of mumbles and looks constipated until it’s time to belt out the chorus. Everything Simon said about her was right — Stacy Francis only knows how to take everyone to church. She needs to develop a second look as soon as possible, (might I suggest “No More Drama” followed by “Feelings” and then a Lauryn Hill-ish “Killing me Softly”?) cause we’re already a bit bored.

The Girls

Have you heard the good news? Simon Cowell is back! For the last month, he’s been subjecting us to the awfulness of Simone Battle, alienating the X-Factor’s viewership and making us all question whether or not the King of Snark had lost a few spangles off his spectacular jumpsuit. But last night, Simon finally pulled the curtain off the birdcage and revealed his plans for the show’s most hatable contestant. Making Simone rap was the first of what I hope will be a series of humiliations. Next week, he’ll bring her back (surprise!) to make her sing a song that’s way, way, way too big for her (my prediction: “You are Beautiful”), while gyrating next to a gilded pole. And if that doesn’t get America to expunge her in glorious fashion, he’ll make her do “Straight out of Compton,” while wearing Reggie Bush’s USC varsity jacket.

Also, for those who are curious, here’s the video of Simone Battle’s first single: “He Likes Boys.”

I don’t know if I’m more offended by the title of the song, Simone’s five-inch makeup, her Katy Perry phrasing, or the fact that she so thoroughly desecrated one of the plotlines from Clueless.

Which reminds me…

Nicole Scherzinger Accent Watch: A whole lot of Arrested Development-era Liza, two parts Hapsburg Empire princess and a dash of blacked-out drunk speech therapist. Except when she’s talking to black contestants, at which point she starts yelling like Da Brat.

Melanie Amaro took a bit of a step back last night. Here are the rules for singing Whitney songs in singing competition TV shows.

1. Just don’t.
2. Seriously, don’t.
3. If you have to, go for “The Greatest Love of All,” or “How Will I Know.”
4. Stay away from “I Will Always Love You.” If you need to go there, do the Dolly Parton version.
5. Never, ever, ever sing “I Have Nothing.”

Melanie! You violated rules 1-5 on the first night of live shows! And while you did an okay job, the reason why rules 1-5 exist is because you’ll always sound bad next to Whitney Houston. There’s are no wins in that casa. And how do you go bigger than “I Have Nothing?” What are you building towards?

Drew R. kept it a bit safe last night, singing another slowed down version of an eighties song. But maybe that’s enough? She already kind of looks like what would happen if a teenager decided to dress up like Carly Simon for Halloween. And given that we’re living in an era of nostalgia, where twenty-three year olds who were 4 years old when Jodeci broke up can pretend like they really felt “Forever My Lady,” maybe there’s a career to be made by Cat Powering up some eighties standards.

I’d buy that album. Actually, I’d just buy anything by Drew. She’s gets a <3<3<3<3<3 rating, so here’s some unsolicited advice — at some point they’re going to tell you to change it up. Get out ahead of that inevitability. You’ve got a lot of good will built up right now, so go ahead and take a dive next week. Do something awful and very modern like, “Hey Soul Sister,” follow that up with “Confessions Part II,” and when the curtain seems to be dropping on your chances in the competition, go straight back into your comfort zone and destroy America with your version of "Take on Me." Jay Caspian Kang is an editor at Grantland. His debut novel, The Dead Do Not Improve, will be published by Hogarth/Random House in Summer 2012. Follow him on Twitter at @jaycaspiankang.

Previously: The X Factor Preview: In Defense of TV Singing Competitions

Filed Under: Nicole Scherzinger, Recaps, Simon Cowell, Whitney Houston, X Factor