After last week's wild results, including the exit of Simon Cowell's darling Drew, “X Factor” producers turned up the hype, ending the recap package with Cowell declaring, “If they want a war, they're gonna get a war.”
So what did they get? Um, more ridiculous, tone-deaf niceness.
Let's put aside the pomposity of applying war rhetoric to a glitzy singing competition. There are way too many brave men and women serving in actual wars right now to somehow say that war needs to be waged over a singing teen being cut on “X Factor.” Of course, context has never been the show's strong suit.
Let's focus on whether the votes of Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul could really have been driven by anger towards Cowell instead of their belief that Marcus Canty was somehow better than Drew. Scherzinger and Abdul have praised the guy for weeks, while also strenuously pointing out that they didn't think Drew's seated delivery of a slowed-down “Billie Jean” really captured the essence of “Michael Jackson Week.” Isn't it more likely they were just following their (ultimately misguided) hearts? Does he really think people we'll believe that the ever-emotional Abdul would really use an already-crying teenager as a pawn to taunt Cowell?
So we get to last night's performances and Canty delivers a so-so version of “Ain't Nobody,” where he struggles to come close to Chaka Khan's original, going off key (as he often does) and changing registers so that he can more safely reach some of the notes. How does Cowell react to this? By praising him. Can they not hear in the arena? Or is this some weird kind of psychological "warfare"?
L.A. Reid points out the obvious to Canty – “Now, all you need is votes.” No, he needs a lot more than that, which is not necessarily his fault, just a sign of where he is in his development.
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Josh Krajcik, who somehow turned Rihanna's “We Found Love” into a Coldplay song being sung by Michael Bolton, is in control of his voice and uses it well, as he shows in his second song, a passionate version of The Beatles' “Something.”
Even little Rachel Crow had more polish than Canty, making the most of a great new arrangement of Bruno Mars' “Nothin' on You” that played up a girl group vibe and played to Crow's strengths and then sweetly delivering a simple take on Michael Jackson's “Music and Me.”
And never mind even comparing him to the vocal powerhouse that is Melanie Amaro. She can sing melismatic circles around him in her sleep. What her handlers have to work on is the rest of her performance, because her revved-up take on Adele's “Someone Like You” was a little cold and her bombastic take on Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey's “When You Believe” was technically on point, but emotionally disconnected.
No, the only one Canty can match vocally is Chris Rene – something Rene seems to understand. His vocals on “Live Your Life” were dismal, though he did better rapping the rhymes he wrote. His original song “Where Do We Go From Here” was simple, but completely suited his limited range and made the most of his warm personality.
Cowell said Rene's decision to do an original was “either stupidity or a stroke of genius,” before agreeing it was a stroke of genius. At least Cowell got that right.
We'll see if his other prediction about Amaro – “If this girl ends up in the piranha pool, she's out” – comes true. Then, he'll really want to go to war or something.
Rachel Crow, “Music and Me”
Josh Krajcik, “Something”
Chris Rene, “Where Do We Go From Here?”
Rachel Crow, “Nothin' on You”
Melanie Amaro, “Someone Like You”
Josh Krajcik, “We Found Love”
Melanie Amaro, “When You Believe”
Marcus Canty, “Song for You”
Marcus Canty, “Ain't Nobody”
Chris Rene, “Live Your Life”
BOTTOM TWO Marcus and Melanie
WILL BE ELIMINATED Marcus
SHOULD BE ELIMINATED Marcus
ACTUALLY ELIMINATED Rachel (Wow. The show is really going out of its way to maximize drama and minimize, well, likability. Congrats!)