X Factor Recap: Stacy Francis Slays, Lakoda Rayne Butchers
I’m going to suspend my disbelief and accept that there are boot camps somewhere in Los Angeles where Nicole Scherzinger, Paula Abdul, Simon and L.A. Reid tend to their new protégés in complete privacy and that when the acts take the stage that nobody but their mentor has seen them perform.
If we put that much faith in the X Factor, then it’s not really fair to have Paula Abdul around, especially in a contest that apparently has an unlimited budget to hire back-up dancers. The Stereohogz performance was exciting and fun, but mostly because of Paula’s choreography and orchestration, not because of any great vocal performances. During his Idol years, Simon would always insist, “This is a singing competition.” The X Factor isn’t a singing competition — it’s more a contest to see which act can best wear the show’s heavily produced, full-bore theatrics.
It might be a more “realistic” way to conduct the show, but some of the intimacy of Idol has been lost.
L.A. Reid must have shorted all his shares in Chris Rene because there’s no other way to explain taking a kid who doesn’t have much depth in his voice, doesn’t have much range and can’t emote other people’s songs and throwing him a Luther song. It was exactly the wrong song, the staging, as Simon noted, was just weird and Chris Rene’s hair looked like it had been gently brushed with Crisco. It might already be time for “Young Homie: Remix.”
Look, I very much like Leroy and I’m all for following your dreams and I agree that age ain’t nothing but a number, but there’s something about Leroy that’s always been missing for me. I think I figured it out last night — Leroy just doesn’t look old enough. This is a man who is 60, has two kids in their thirties and six grandkids. If he looked like a grandfather and not like a well-groomed, uber-fit motivational speaker, the act might take.
But the reason why he can’t really “connect” with the audience is because nobody really believes he’s 60 years old. If he looked like George Burns or Uncle Phil, the emotional connection would be there because everyone would think of their grandfather and picture him trying something as outrageous as X Factor. Without that visual connection, Leroy’s more of an oddity.
I liked her hair. A lot. I liked her dance moves — the walking in place with the occasional dip and the stank-enhancer hand motions are all good things. And I don’t want to say anything mean about a twelve-year old, so I’ll just stop there and go to the weekly Nicole Scherzinger Accent Watch!
Last night, it was kind of Eliza Dolittle-ish — someone must have said something because you could really feel Nicole trying to suppress her fourteen different accents last night. It was like watching someone try to smother a litter of coked-up ferrets with a cocktail napkin. Shit keeps getting out. She also made up the words “Fun-omenal,” and “Fun-tastic” before feeling really embarrassed for herself. Although, I will admit: this made me kind of like her a bit more because it was kind of like when the really daft, but seriously beautiful girl in the room lets a big fart rip and she realizes that her machinations and airs just won’t really work anymore and that she’s just going to have to start being herself. I always think of Padma Lakshmi and call the move the “Padma Fart.”
By the way, the whole “judges fighting with one another” thing is really not working.
Fellow X Factor writer Sean Fennessy described this version of Landslide as “hateful,” which I think is spot-on. Let’s ignore the obvious problems with this performance: it was predictable, the girls, who were supposed to represent the season, were dressed like extras in a Technicolor remake of Caligula and the harmonies were boring and ripped off from the Dixie Chicks. All these things were secondary problems. You just can’t do a Countrytime Pageant Happytime treatment to one of the rare American songs that belong to the country’s collective consciousness, a song that cuts to the heart of every parent and anyone who has had that moment when he or she looks around and finally sees all the evidence of time’s passing.
Last week, I outlined the “Whitney Rule,” which was just four ways of saying, “Don’t ever sing ‘I Have Nothing.’” This week, I’m going to say that unless your name is Crystal Bowersox (<3<3<3), you should just avoid “Landslide.” I understand that the singers don’t choose their songs, but watching Lakoda Rayne butcher Stevie Nicks made me feel an anger I haven’t felt since I realized that Fantasia Barrino wasn’t going to respond to any of my fan mail.
Speaking of songs that should never be sung in public ever again, “Jar of Hearts” should also be retired, but only because poetry is a dying art and there is a generation of young kids who are watching the show and have to listen to the following chorus:
Who do you think you are,
Running around leaving scars,
Collecting your jar of hearts
And tearing love apart?
You’re going to catch a cold,
From the ice inside your soul,
Don’t come back for me
Don’t come back at all.
Not since Jewel’s You Were Meant For Me, has American poetry been at greater risk.
I like Josh, but I have a real problem with genuinely nice people on TV competitions. I root for them unconditionally, even if they’re not particularly talented. When it’s a kind of bleh sort of nice like Lee Dewyze or Kris Allen, I tend to turn on the singer, but when it’s a “Hey, this is a guy who kept his head up and kept trying to achieve his musical dreams with a modicum of good faith and dignity,” how can you not root for that?
Simon should have saved some of that for later. Melanie could have done a Celine song this week, built up some demerits for being “too predictable,” struggled through Mariah and then when America was wondering if this was just a very good church singer, she could have busted out “Desperado,” and gained some upwards momentum for the dog days of the season.
This song, by the way, was ruined by the Langley Schools Music Project.
You can’t really beat that, can you?
“Desperado” has been one of my karaoke mainstays for the past five years, especially whenever I would end up at Winnie’s in Chinatown, New York. This was my strategy: Before the song began, I’d sit at the edge of the stage, which, if memory serves, was about six inches high. Once it got to, “Don’t you draw the Queen of Diamonds, boy,” I’d stand up and walk to the red vinyl booths to touch hands with the crowd. And even though my words were slurred and my gait unstable, I’d like to think that I gave the song the somber treatment it deserves.
The problem with Melanie Amaro last night was that she couldn’t resist throwing in the oomph in a song that shouldn’t have any oomph in it at all.
Pia Toscano proved last year that you can’t just belt your way through 12 weeks. Melanie’s a bit more likable than Pia, but she’s also not dripping with personality. And because Melanie already used up her curveball song, I’m not really sure how long she’s going to be sticking around. She, like Pia, will probably be a surprise early exit.
Astro and InTENsity
Going to group them together because I think they have the same problem: it’s just hard to take performing children very seriously unless they’re doing a good job of convincing you that they’re not kids. I’m sure there is some party for the kids of some studio executive where Astro or InTENsity would be great and appropriate, but does anyone really want to go to that party? InTENsity goes home tonight.
Finally! Someone is using some goddamn strategy! Drew went with a Nelly song, stumbled a bit, but did well enough to not alienate her fan base. Next week, she’ll do another fast song before getting back into her comfort zone.
I think I’ve already said enough about Drew and how she’s pretty damn good and how I would buy her album and would root for her when she starting beefing with Taylor Swift. THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE BLONDE TEENAGE COUNTRY SINGING SENSATION!!! This would inevitably lead to a Kanye-Drew collaboration track, where Kanye un-apologized because why the hell should you apologize when you’re completely right about everything you just said?
Before Marcus went on, there was a shot of Simon in his dressing room asking, “Why do we need another Bobby Brown? Isn’t one enough?”
The answer, Simon, is no. What we actually desperately need is another Bobby Brown. Usher’s not enough. And Chris Brown can’t sing.
I’m not sure if Marcus Canty will be another Bobby Brown, but he’s actually pretty close. I think he might need to get a bit meaner, though — he just looks like too much of a nice guy.
Best performance of the night.
To borrow a Simon-ism, “I was completely wrong about Stacy Francis” when I said that she couldn’t do the slow parts of song because she was always just waiting to start belting out the big notes. Last night, she was steady through the slow, soft part, and when it was finally time to take everyone to church, she blew off the roof. At some point, the whole “I want it more” act will wear on America and they’ll ship Stacy off to her career as a cast member on the traveling production of A Raisin in the Sun.