“The X Factor” looks the most like “American Idol” than we’ve ever seen it look before — the Top 12 are made to do a group sing of Motown hits that is terribly, terribly awkward, plus Motown is also the theme, which is very “Idol” of them.
Also, before the songs start, the judges reveal that Josh Levi was brought back as a wild card. That’s a great choice, though he should have just taken Carlos Guevara’s place because that guy was terrible. But oh well, it’s nice that Josh is getting a second chance — and he’s up first.
1. Josh Levi, “Who’s Loving You,” Jackson 5
The show pretends like it surprised Josh and his mom in a diner to tell him he’s back in. Uh huh. Anyway, Levi shows off some major pipes on his song. He could definitely stand a lesson in using runs sparingly, but vocally, this is the best he’s done so far on the show. Way to prove you deserve to be there, kiddo. It’s amazing that he’s the youngest person in the competition, he’s very talented.
2. Rachel Potter, “This Old Heart of Mine,” the Isley Brothers
Interesting arrangement — is it good she went her own way with it, or should she have stuck closer to the original? I think I fall on the side of liking the arrangement, though the fast pace is not letting her show off her voice as much as she could have if she’d slowed it down just a touch. Should be enough to keep her, though.
3. Carlos Guevara, “What’s Goin’ On?”, Marvin Gaye
Um, what? He comes out being so mealy-mouthed, it sounds like Mushmouth is singing this song. I literally do not understand him at all until he gets to the chorus and I actually know this song. Ugh, this is terrible. This guy had no business advancing from the Top 16. He’s unsupported, off-key at times and has very little stage presence. Josh Levi just out-performed Carlos by a mile.
Kelly Rowland sums it up nicely with, “You could’ve done better, or picked a different song.” Um, yeah. To put it mildly. Cowell makes us wonder if he’s got cotton in his ears because he calls it “quite good,” but not great. It was not “quite good,” it was quite bad.
4. Restless Road, “Easy,” Lionel Richie
Great song choice, very nice harmonies on the verses while still giving the soloists lines to shine on. The key change is just a liiiiiiittle rocky — their tenor is not the strongest of the three voices. His upper stuff can use a little help. Still, not bad and should be enough to stay.
5. Ellona Santiago, “Baby Love,” Diana Ross
This is 1000 times better than her Britney performance a week ago, even if the staging is screaming “show from some cheesy Las Vegas casino,” like Circus Circus or something. And why is she wearing an outfit like she’s about to leave the auditorium and go compete in some figure skating competition? Yikes. However, if you close your eyes and just listen, it’s really good. Now, I don’t like the arrangement. It’s atrocious, way too pop-y and crazy. Her voice, though, is solid enough to stick around.
6. Jeff Gutt, “Say You, Say Me,” Lionel Richie
Terrific song choice, he needs to remind everyone he can actually sing and not just be rock ‘n roll and shouty all the time. There are quite a few moments during this that he sounds a lot like Bon Jovi. A lot. And when he kicks it up to a more rock feel, that’s a nice personal touch to put on it. Solid.
7. Alex & Sierra, “Heard It Through the Grapevine,” Marvin Gaye
This duo loses a lot of what makes it fun when it’s just Sierra as a solo act. Sure, Alex is piping up here and there, but they are much stronger when they are singing together with a tight harmony. There’s just not enough of that happening on this performance and it’s very boring as a result. I hope the strength of their past performances keeps them in the competition, but that was pretty weak.
8. Khaya Cohen, “My Girl,” The Temptations
This should be really pretty but Khaya needs to get her nasally sound under control. There are certain phrases where she sounds like Fran Drescher is singing. If she stops the nasal stuff, she has a very interesting sound — though her outfit is a little alarming. What is with the slit in the shorts?
9. Carlito Olivero, “Stop in the Name of Love,” The Supremes
Kind of a boring arrangement, though he certainly shouldn’t have done the girl-group version. But still, a little sleepy. Vocally, he’s got a beautiful instrument and he’s showing it off very well, but the performance is boring. Plus, it just kind of ends. Just — blerg, there’s the end. Hmm.
10. Lillie McCloud, “All is in Love is Fair,” Stevie Wonder
Talk about the person who was going to own Motown week. She looks like a million bucks and sounds incredible. It’s, like, not fair she’s in this competition with the rest of these schlubs. Her control, her tone, her timbre, her dynamics. It’s incredible. The only reason she won’t win this is because the voters will skew younger and she’s too old-fashioned for them. But gosh, she’s talented.
11. Sweet Suspense, “Keep Me Hangin’ On,” The Supremes
Now, if Lillie is tailor-made to own Motown, these girls are a close second. They’re a sassy girl group, it’s the perfect week for them to show off. They picked a great song and the harmonies are nice, when there are some. There’s a little too much unison singing for my taste, but they manage to make this song feel very current. Simon Cowell might just have found a winner in this group.
12. Rion Paige, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Interesting choice, since it’s usually done as a duet. Honestly, it’s a little boring as a solo, plus she’s got quite a few pitch problems. She’s a very likable girl with a heartwarming story, though, so she should be around for a long time. However, that was not her best performance. Kelly Rowland rightly says she did not like that rendition of this song. For sure.
13. Tim Olstad, “I’ll Be There,” Jackson 5
He’s a little pitchy to start but he finds his groove and turns in a nice performance. However, that’s too slow ones in a row from ol’ Tim and he’s going to have to show some versatility to stick around for the whole run.
Who were your favorites tonight? Who do you think is in danger? Carlos Guevara was the weakest for me, but we’ll find out tomorrow night.