There's a power struggle brewing at The X Factor.
As the contestants prepare to bring their A-game to Wednesday's performances, Emblem3 is finding themselves in need to a confidence boost. After weeks of requesting that mentor Simon Cowell allow them to play something original (or, at the very least, play instruments on stage), they find themselves performing the One Direction-style version of Bob Dylan's "Forever Young." (To listen, click here.)
"You can imagine why I'm a little skeptical about it," Drew laments. "There's already so many people comparing us to One Direction. This is just… it's gonna cause so much shit."
While last week's bubble gum rendition of The Monkees' "I'm a Believer" bumped the group up to the No. 3 spot in the rankings, it also unleashed a firestorm of "dislikes" and negative commentary on YouTube.
While there are certainly supporters (to wit: 8,841 "likes" on the clip at the time of publication), there are also 2,724 dislikes and comments including "omg, terrible" and "We don't need another wannabe One Direction band, X Factor needs to seriously limit these boy bands."
Says Drew, "We took a lot of heat for it. It wasn't like, hate or anything, it was disappointment. It's like, 'Man, we really liked you guys. It sucks that you're selling out.' Compared to our first audition…"
Wesley interjects: "It's literally like 98 percent of people loved our first audition and on this one, it's like 70-30. That's a huge difference of likes and dislikes." Adds Keaton, "It's progressively getting more and more hate."
Their official audition video, which has recorded a whopping 2,974,649 views, tallies more than 24,000 likes and only 767 dislikes. "I loved everything about this audition," Cowell said at the time. "I predict big things for you going forward. I really do."
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Asked if they'd brought the new numbers to Cowell's attention, Drew says, "You can't say shit. How do you say that to Simon? He's like, the most powerful freaking man ever. He's like a trillionaire."
And while it's the fans that will buy records, it's men like L.A. Reid and Cowell that will put those records out. And following last week's show, Emblem3's future appeared bright.
Said Reid: "I would sign you. Not only would I sign you, I would put the entire building behind you because you have the X Factor."
And Cowell added, "You guys have turned into real pop stars and I love your energy… Actually, this is one of my favorite performances."
As for Demi Lovato, a 20-year-old female and the group's main demographic, she had less kind words. "I just don't understand what Simon's doing with you guys… Those boys lost their spark."
Looking ahead to next week's performance, Emblem3 will have to make the best of another cover -- selected this week by the fans as part of the Pepsi Challenge, in which viewers will also have a say in the wardrobes and set pieces. Of the song choice, Keaton says, "It sucks because it will probably get votes, but it's not us."
Adds Drew, "It's so far away from our style… We're the opposite of One Direction. It makes me feel like I'm selling myself. I'm not being real."
But if there's a voice of reason, it's Wesley, who reminds his band mates that, "We're in a competition now."
"There's two different sides, the real world side and the TV competition," he says. "On the competition, certain things work and get you more votes. They don't necessarily work in the real world to get you more fans and followers as a career, so you've gotta find a perfect balance inbetween. This is temporary… you don't have to trip that hard at all."
He adds: "If we win, that's sick. Then we'll get to do our own thing."
What do you think? Is the show doing Emblem3 a disservice by forcing them to perform covers? Would they have more or less success with original songs? Hit the comments below to weigh in.
Email: Sophie.Schillaci@thr.com; Twitter: @SophieSchillaci