The idea of giving each of the judges skin in the game, by making them mentors for one of the four groups, has added an extra oomph to “The X Factor” and its $5 million prize, but it also leads to nights like this, when the mentors are faced with either saving or sending their own charges home.
Tonight, the Top 10 was reduced to nine, as well as 60 minutes of self-promotion and filler, concluding with five minutes of sweat-inducing anguish.
So, it was that, 24 hours after Rock Night, it was time to eliminate someone, and after last night, with several desultory performances, there appeared to be any number of individuals in trouble, including previous favorites such as Stacy Francis and Chris Rene.
The show started off with a group performance of Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” continuing the theme from the night before, with Josh Krajcik once again showing off his chops as the only real rock & roller in the batch, while both Astro and Rene added their own lyrical flow to the version.
Then it was on to Simon, who admitted, aside from his contestants, that he thought that Krajcik and Astro were the other standouts of the previous evening.
Steve Jones, virtually invisible as always, began the countdown of those who made it through, and while he insists they are “in no particular order,” he starts out with two of the long-shots, Leroy Bell and—as Paula gushes, “I told you so”—the much-maligned Lakoda Rayne, whom I thought saved themselves with their unlikely The Outfield/Fleetwood Mac mash-up.
A photo shoot with “celebrity photographer” Brian Smith followed, a chance to promote Sony digital cameras, then a performance from Rihanna, who previously appeared as a mentor with L.A. Reid’s boys. For the second consecutive week, after Jessie J, the dance-pop diva showed exactly what this competition is lacking—a true drop-dead gorgeous superstar capable of doing an up-tempo club-floor banger and a ballad.
Her advice to the finalists? “You have to love what you do. If you don’t, it’s a waste of time. If you do it, it won’t feel like work.”
That line would become prophetic at the final elimination.
Jones then read the names of the next six who made it through: Rene, Melanie Amaro, Krajcik, Marcus Cantyand Drew.
Could it be that both of the tiny teen titans, Rachel Crow and Astro, were in danger?
When Crow earned a pass, we were down to an extremely odd couple—42-year-old single mom Francis and a kid who could be her son, 13-year-old hip-hop student Astro.
“Yo-yo-yo,” insisted Astro. “Don’t be sad. Hip-hop made it this far on a show like this.”
Francis leaned into “Amazing Grace” with all the vocal power she had exhibited throughout the competition, but her face-off with Astro appeared to be a mismatch, until the young rapper took the stage himself.
“Should I perform?” he asked the crowd, then repeated the question to a disbelieving L.A. Reid, who sputtered, “You’ve come a long way.”
A petulant Astro, after such a tremendous showing to this point, began to show what he was—a kid—as he performed a rather “lackluster” (as Reid would critique it) version of Jackson 5’s “Never Can Say Goodbye,” which certainly evoked memories of another child star.
L.A. Reid proceeded to scold him, “You’re acting like a quitter,” then reluctantly gave Stacy Francis the heave-ho, with a warning.
Nicole stuck with her gal Stacy Francis, demonstrating the fallacy in the judge/mentor conundrum.
Paula insisted that gratitude for being on-stage must be shown, before booting Stacy, leaving it up to Simon for the final decision.
“I don’t like your attitude,” sniffed Cowell to the youngster. “Stop folding your arms. You’re showing disrespect to your mom and the audience at home,” as Astro protested like a child who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
In the end, though, Astro would remain, and Stacy Francis would be sent home, though the fact the hip-hop phenom landed in the bottom two, and his tantrum, could bode ill for him in the immediate future.
What do you think? Should Stacy Francis have been sent home? Did Astro’s petulance cost him some momentum? Do you think the judges being mentors helps or hurts the shows. Let us know what you think.
POWER RANKINGS: THE NIFTY NINE
1. JOSH KRAJCIK: When it gets down to the nitty-gritty, will they give a 30-year-old rock journeyman a $5 million contract? Who knows, but he’s in the lead for now.
2. MELANIE AMARO: She’s got the best pure voice in the competition, but is that enough to overcome her lack of charisma?
3. MARCUS CANTY: Don’t discount this choir boy next door, who is one of the only ones with real star power and a way of connecting with the audience.
4. RACHEL CROW: They made her wait, but this Shirley Temple with the soul of Billie Holiday will be around deep into the competition.
5. DREW: Still a threat, but she has to overcome the “Pia Toscano” sameness curse.
6. CHRIS RENE: He keeps hanging on, but his momentum seems to be waning.
7. ASTRO: Lost some real ground this week after his immature display, but he’s still capable of doing some damage.
8. LAKODA RAYNE: Never underestimate what can be accomplished by four beautiful girls.
9. LEROY BELL: At 60, he’s the longest of shots, but he keeps escaping, no doubt thanks to a strong boomer voting contingent.