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'The X Factor' Recap: 17 Get Cut To 12 On The First Live Show

October 26th, 2011 10:13am EDT

X Factor Lakoda Rayne With 17 performances last night, ‘The X Factor’ was clearly all about the contestants and the judges, with little time for anything else.

I’ll get to all that in a moment (to the tune of about 3,300 words), but before I do that I’m going to the unthinkable – defend human hat rack Steve Jones.

When I heard what tonight was going to be (17 performances with four eliminations) I didn’t understand how they could do it in less than three hours. After all, the most we ever got from ‘American Idol’ on a two-hour show was 13 performances, and that went about 15 minutes over.

So how did they manage to get it all in? By having world-class pocket square model Steve Jones essentially yell at everybody to keep the show moving, cutting of contestants, judges and I’m sure performances if he could have.

It was a completely thankless job and he actually managed to do a pretty good job keeping the show moving at a tight 150 minutes.

I guess we’ve found a use for him after all – as a jerk holding the same function as the music on an Oscar telecast.

Anyway, enough of that. Let’s get to last night’s show!

THE BOYS

Astro sang “Jump” by Kriss Kross

LA Reid Said: That was amazing.

Nicole Said: I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off live performances.

Paula Said: This is what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life.

Simon Said: You’ve just come out on this stage and killed everybody.

The Verdict:

I don’t know that there’s anything I didn’t like about this. Astro came out with enough swagger to start at Wide Receiver for any NFL team and still have enough left over to think he had a shot hitting on Scarlett Johansson.

I loved the way he worked the crowd, I loved the way he added his own lyrics, and I was absolutely impressed by his ability on the mic. This is a kid with a great flow who can really rap, changing up rhythm and absolutely slaying the mic.

I really can’t find anything wrong with it, even if I still find him bratty.

Grade: A

Chris Rene sang “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” by Rose Royce

LA Reid Said: I’m very impressed. You did a great job.

Nicole Said: I don’t know that I would’ve picked that song for you.

Paula Said: I wish you the best of luck. (About as critical as Paula gets)

Simon Said: I don’t think you’re the one of the best singers in this competition, but you’re one of the best recording artists in this competition.

The Verdict:

One thing was abundantly clear about five seconds into this performance – Chris can’t really sing. He was flat almost the entire time and had absolutely no bottom on his voice. At times, you could barely even hear him over the backing track. There’s just no oomph there on stage.

Having said that, he does handle the rhythm and melodies of the song very well. I also enjoyed the arrangement. He stripped it down and put some flavor on it – kind of like a Ryan Tedder record – which seems like the type of artist this guy could be.

I feel like there’s something there, but we didn’t really see it in this performance.

Grade: C

Phillip Lomax sang “I’m a Believer” by The Monkees

LA Reid Said: lajgljasgljdsg

Nicole Said: That was amazing. You were radiating up there.

Paula Said: You did it mighty fine.

Simon Said: Tonight you were like a racing driver put into a tractor. It was too cheap and cabaret.

The Verdict:

Kudos to Phillip for stepping out of his comfort zone and not doing a swing revival song. Instead, he went with some ancient pop rock (though more of the atrocious Smashmouth version than the original) in what I assume is some attempt to gradually evolve into something modern by the end of the show.

He probably should have stopped his evolution before this point. This performance was a total Cruise ship act. Between the go-go dancers, the ridiculous suit and the cheesy fireworks, there wasn’t anything about this that seemed like a star-making performance. Or even a mediocre singer-making performance.

Plus, there was the small problem that he didn’t really sing. He just sort of screamed the song as he tried to overcome the corny backing track and all the cheese being processed around him. There wasn’t much in this performance to get behind.

Grade: D

Marcus Canty sang “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” by Culture Club

LA Reid Said: You know I love you man.

Nicole Said: You just make it look too easy.

Paula Said: I feel like I’ve been watching a veteran on stage.

Simon Said: You gave it everything I would have wanted.

The Verdict:

Here he is! The contestant who I’ve been pretty sure is nothing more than a figment of LA Reid’s imagination, as I don’t remember seeing him at any point in this competition.

Here he put a cool New Edition-esque soul spin on the Culture Club standard and worked the stage like he’s been sitting here on the finals the entire time, just waiting to pounce – maybe that’s where he’s been this entire time.

There were a few iffy spots with his vocals, but it wasn’t anything too damning, and those were smoothed over by the cool radio-friendly R&B voice he flashed throughout. It’s too bad this was the first time I got to see him.

After this, I think I may remember him.

Grade: B+

LA Reid’s Final Decision:

We’re one-for-one on the judges’ decisions as LA Reid sent Phillip Lomax out. He was clearly the weakest of the boys and the one who didn’t really have a shot at making a contemporary record. He went out with class, so it’s hard to gloat in it, but I’ve been anticipating his early exit this entire time.

THE GROUPS

The Stereo Hogzz sang “Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding

LA Reid Said: I must admit it was really good.

Nicole Said: That was foolproof and solid all the way around.

Paula Said: Thank you so much for working so hard.

Simon Said: Paula, you did a really good job. I love this band!

The Verdict:

This was a performance in too distinct sections. The section that featured the group’s leader singing the song basically as a solo with some light harmonies underneath and some pretty nifty dancing around him, and the section where it broke down into some kind of strange hip-hop number.

I much preferred the former. Their leader has a great voice and could’ve easily made the top three in the boys group. That part was a great current R&B record, and considering they tackled such an old-school classic, that showed some real artistry.

I definitely could’ve done without the hip-hop portion which seemed like it came from a different group – one that belonged in a high school talent show, not on the pop charts, which is where the R&B portion seems to be headed.

Grade: B-

The Brewer Boys sang “Rich Girl” by Hall & Oates Mashed Up with “Faith” by George Michael

LA Reid Said: Paula, I got a sense this was a little bit outside your comfort zone. I don’t know if I was blown away.

Nicole Said: As a teenager I would have had you all over your walls.

Paula Said: I think you nailed it. I’m very proud of you.

Simon Said: I thought it was very throwaway. This to me didn’t shine.

The Verdict:

Good God if that didn’t start out like a slow collision. Absolutely nothing good came of the Hall & Oates version. Poor solo singing, dissonant harmonies and just utter boredom.

This improved a little bit with “Faith” as there was at least an element of fun to what they were doing as the Kidz Bop dance troupe or something like that joined them onstage.

I have no idea what the ending was – with the weird bluegrass/Irish folk rock spin on Hall & Oates at the end. I don’t understand why you’d sing a soul song like that. I don’t really understand anything about this performance.

Grade: D

Intensity sang “The Clapping Song” mashed up with “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins

LA Reid Said: That was really impressive and thoroughly entertaining.

Nicole Said: You’re like my little pumpkin patch of little pumpkins. (What?)

Paula Said: You rose to the occasion.

Simon Said: That was the equivalent of a music miracle.

The Verdict:

Look, I’m sure that everyone had a fun time watching the cast of High School Musical 27 waste about 2 minutes of my life, but I thought it was pure torture. Especially since several of the singers that got solos couldn’t sing a note.

Grade: F

Lakoda Rayne sang “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners

LA Reid Said: If the four of you walked into my office right now, you’d be signed to a worldwide recording contract.

Nicole Said: You make girl groups look good.

Paula Said: You made me really proud.

Simon Said: This is better than I could have thought.

The Verdict:

I thought I was going to start hating this performance the moment the song went up to the speed on the record, but once it hit that stride, I was blown away by how good their harmonies sounded. It actually got better in the part that seemed destined to be 30 seconds of corn.

Of course, I totally liked the beginning too. Loved the slowed-down country arrangement of a pop song, and completely dug how well they worked together and how they arranged the vocals.

I’m really looking forward to what they’re going to do next. I just really liked everything about them, and if they settle into their pop/country wheelhouse, they’re going to be really fun to watch.

Grade: B+

Paula’s Final Decision:

While I couldn’t stand Intensity for a second, I do think Paula made the right decision in cutting The Brewer Boys. There wasn’t much going on there, and they didn’t have much of a shot going forward.

Plus, I look forward to at least getting a good laugh out of Intensity every week. And, Vote For the Worst, I think you have your horse for this year’s race.

THE OVER-30s

Dexter Haygood sang “Womanizer” by Britney Spears Mashed Up with “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry

LA Reid Said: I think you found Dexter.

Nicole Said: You were just a rock star up there. You got the Dex Factor.

Paula Said: I know you like to kiss girls.

Simon Said: It’s like the weirdest milkshake in the world, but I kind of like the taste of it.

The Verdict:

I really wish Dexter could sing, because he’s a lot of fun to watch on stage and just seems like an absolute rock star. And not a rock star for this show either, a real honest-to-God rock star.

Still, he simply cannot sing. His soul-scream is pretty fun and he kind of understood the melody at points, but vocally it’s impossible to say that it wasn’t mostly a fiasco.

I really like watching Dexter, I just don’t like listening to him.

Grade: C-

LeRoy Bell sang “Nobody Knows” by Pink

LA Reid Said: I don’t get why you haven’t become a big star. There’s nothing missing.

Nicole Said: You represent what this competition is all about.

Paula Said: Your voice is velvet.

Simon Said: I think you have one of the best voices in this competition, but I see a lack of confidence. I wish I was mentoring you.

The Verdict:

Now this is a real singer right here. This is a man. An absolutely sterling vocal that stripped this pop song down to its core and made it into a soul ballad that I could’ve sworn was written by Bill Withers.

LeRoy, in his first performance, has already entered the realm of “not performing on a talent competition show and simply performing a concert for us all to watch”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone pull off that trick that fast.

Grade: A

Stacy Francis sang “One More Try” by George Michael

LA Reid Said: I’m really proud of you.

Nicole Said: This gave you wings. (Like Red Bull?)

Paula Said: It was a brilliant delivery.

Simon Said: I would not have chosen that song. You cannot sell records like that.

The Verdict:

It’s weird that this is happening right now, but I actually think this was Stacy’s worst performance so far. Out of the gate she was incredibly shaky with her vocals and just seemed incredibly nervous. No poise or polish whatsoever.

She recovered as the song went on and seemed to get her feet (and lungs) underneath her as the song went on, finding some of her signature power by the end, but it still all felt a touch wobbly throughout.

I did like how well she seemed to connect with the lyrics of the song, but seemed to fight against the melody and her own unease. Like Chris Rene, I know there’s something there, but it didn’t really show through tonight.

A strange (and bad) time to have your weakest performance.

Grade: C+

Josh Krajcik sang “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan

LA Reid Said: I love everything about you.

Nicole Said: That was a soul-stirring performance.

Paula Said: Your voice is my favorite voice I think I’ve heard in the last decade.

Simon Said: You’ve got it all going on. Best performance we’ve had.

The Verdict:

I guess singing on a dimly lit stage with nothing but a few tones for a backing track and hologram ballroom dancers as your only window dressing is one way to show off your voice. I’m not sure if it’s the right way to do it though.

Here’s the issue with what happened here. It proved that Josh doesn’t really have any soul. When you see a great artist strip down a performance in this way (like here) you feel a real honest connection to the song and the performance grows in its sparseness.

That didn’t happen with Josh here. It was simply a guy with a good voice doing a pretty technical rendition of this song without any real heart to it. It all felt dishonest to me and kind of boring. Sure he’s got a great voice, but I didn’t see any ability there to connect to a song in a meaningful way.

Grade: C-

Nicole’s Final Decision:

It’s sad to see Dexter Haygood go as he was a lot of fun to watch and it would’ve been fun to see what else he had in store going forward, but it was pretty clear he was out of his depth with these singers. This was really the only logical choice for Nicole and she made the right decision.

THE GIRLS

Simone Battle sang “Just Be Good to Me” by The SOS Band

LA Reid Said: I never did understand why you put her through, and now this. I just don’t get it. You must be really rich because $5 Million doesn’t mean that much to you.

Nicole Said: You did a great job. (Said after insulting everything about the performance)

Paula Said: I would have liked to see you perform more.

Simon Said: You are a pop star. It was right to come on with dancers.

The Verdict:

It didn’t seem like Simone knew the words to the song, the melody, the key, where to stand, her choreography, how to enunciate clear words, or how to sing at all.

Other than that, it was great.

Grade: F

Rachel Crow sang “Where Did Our Love Go?” by The Supremes Mashed Up with “Baby” by Justin Bieber

LA Reid Said: You can have a career that’s much bigger than music.

Nicole Said: I don’t know what your mentor was thinking with that song, but you did an amazing job.

Paula Said: You can run for President. (This is what I hate about this show. That sort of over-praise)

Simon Said: I showed that you’re a retro and a pop artist.

The Verdict:

I’m certain Rachel is America’s sweetheart at this point, but I just can’t share any of that acclaim. She just looks like a little kid singing grown-up songs for the amusement of her parents and family friends.

She looked so odd up there. Dressing her up in a suit makes her look like she’s about to pose for a family Christmas picture at the mall, not win $5 Million as a pop star. It was just weird.

Plus, she can’t really sing. Was there anything compelling about her voice? Did she hit a single “wow!” note? Did she do anything more than deliver a decent fourteen-year-old karaoke performance, just singing to the track?

Absolutely not. If she was 25, she wouldn’t have made it this far. I’m not an ageist and believe everyone should be on the same playing field regardless of age, and she simply isn’t a good enough singer at this point in her life.

Grade: D+

Drew sang “Flashdance. . .What a Feeling” by Irene Cara

LA Reid Said: You have an amazing voice. You’re the whole package.

Nicole Said: That was so ethereal, and you were like my little folk princess.

Paula Said: You are way beyond your years, my dear.

Simon Said: This is why I wanted to be back on American TV – to find someone like you.

The Verdict:

Firstly, I would like to thank whoever made the decision to call Drew by only her first name. As it’s made it much easier on my spelling muscles.

My only complaint about this performance is that we’ve seen this move from Drew a dozen times already – slowing down a fast pop song and turning it into a desperate little ballad. She’s going to have to do something new pretty quickly.

Of course, when she does it this well, maybe not. Everything I complain about with Rachel Crow does not apply to Drew at all. Drew already has a fully formed voice with drips of tone and real heart in there. She can connect to the melody in a meaningful way and shows a sophistication about performance that completely belies her age.

If I hadn’t seen her do this move several times already, I would have given it an “A”, but I will say that I’ll never hear that song the same way again.

Grade: B+

Thia Tolliver sang “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurhythmics

LA Reid Said: That was a great production, I was looking for the kitchen sink.

Nicole Said: If that was a sweet dream, I’d hate to see what a scary one was like.

Paula Said: If you want to do this for a living, you’re going to have to work on your pitch.

Simon Said: She just worked her nuts off there to prove a point, but you two (Nicole & Paula) are like spiteful cats who’ll never recognize her.

The Verdict:

Were you expecting to see Thia Tolliver sing a weird gothic version of a Eurhtymics song that sounded like Phillip Glass tried to remix the Marilyn Manson version to make it more disturbing against a backdrop that mixed “The Road Warrior” with “Kill Bill”?

Me neither. I was so shocked, I didn’t even hear a note she sang.

Grade: F

Melanie Amaro sang “Nothing” by Whitney Houston

LA Reid Said: Honey, you are unbelievable.

Nicole Said: I just connect with you every time. You’re just so special. I’m so grateful you’re on this show.

Paula Said: You are so special.

Simon Said: I want to thank the other three for brining her back.

The Verdict:

After seeing that performance, I now think Simon was completely right to kick Melanie off the show: She shouldn’t have to go through the motions of this competition to get a record deal; someone should just sign her right now.

They always say that you should never sing Whitney, Celine or Mariah on these shows because it’s so hard to live up to the original, but Melanie shattered that notion tonight with a blazing performance that was every bit Whitney’s equal.

Yes, it was basically a karaoke performance as she sang the record note-for-note, but there’s a big difference between karaoke with a solid vocal on an easy song to sing and karaoke with a vocal that matches one of the five best pop singers who ever lived.

Grade: A

Simon’s Final Decision:

I, obviously, would have liked to have seen Rachel go instead of Thia, but after that ridiculous performance from Thia tonight, there would not have been any way to justify keeping her around.

And obviously Simone should’ve been shown the door a long time ago.

That’s it for the first live show. Check back later this week as I preview the rest of the season with the first installment of ‘The X-Factor’ Power Rankings.

Related: L.A. Reid, Nicole Scherzinger, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, Steve Jones, The X Factor, Starpulse Exclusives, Recaps, Television, Reality, FOX

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Photo Credits: Frank Micelotta / FOX

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