The X Factor Recap: Rickrolling in the Deep
We interrupt your regularly scheduled recap with a warning to the quintet of lovely brunettes who make up The X Factor Season 2 girl group Fifth Harmony: Do not stand too close to Khloé Kardashian Odom. She can sense your youth. She is beginning to feed off your effervescence. She has been instructed to assimilate you into the Kardashian collective.
With that housekeeping detail out of the way, we can now focus on the important business of Top 8 performance night: A world premiere “video” from “will.i.ann” (hey, that’s what Mario Lopez called him!) and a robot rendering of Britney Spears 2.0 (airbrushed into submission, and equipped with ice-cold British accent) performing a “song” called “Scream and Shout.” (Now we know what producers use to activate the audiencebots to incessantly shriek for the duration of the telecast.) The fact that this series of blips and bleeps and found voice-mail messages from the “Toxic” singer will probably move more units than the collected singles of Fantasia Barrino, Juliet Simms, and Josh Krajcik combined should be filed under the Don McLean approved heading “The Day the Music Died,” and is probably enough to make you want to hide in a cave and listen only to the sound of dripping stalactities.
But fret not! The X Factor has eight acts left who are vying to make new music — or something like it — while collecting a $5 million payday. And a few of ‘em aren’t half bad, at least when their mentors aren’t getting in the way!
Let’s dole out grades for the Top 8 performances…
Diamond White: Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” | If X Factor has taught us anything the last few weeks, it’s that sometimes you get more votes for a God-awful vocal than for one that’s kinda sorta okay. That might be a problem for Diamond, who showed off a sweet upper register on the acoustic, slowed-down intro, but occasionally struggled with pitch once she rose to her feet and started “having fun” while being wheeled around on a weird rolling platform. It didn’t help that the kid had to perform against an aggressively lit backdrop that was reminiscent of nuclear bubble tea or that her backup dancers were clad in hideous combinations of tuxedo shirts, shorts and neon bowties. (How come the show’s wardrobe department hates fashion so much?) And while Britney* had the right idea that it was time for Diamond to go uptempo, why for the love of all that’s holy did she stick her with a Whitney Houston ditty that’s been repeatedly attempted — without ever once resulting in anything resembling a memorable moment — on a variety of reality singing competitions? Combined with the Leadoff Spot of Doom, Diamond will be lucky if she gets to sing for her life come Thursday. (Okay, if we’re keeping it real, some associate producer who’s been assigned to the “Teens” category) Grade: B-
Vino Alan: The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” | And the “Lyric145 Last Minute Song-Change/Sabotage Prize” goes to… one of the two remaining members of the undesirable “Over 25s” caste. (L.A.: “Stop acknowledging that people over 25 are allowed to live! Except for me!”) Yep, since L.A. didn’t get any goosebumps during Vino’s rehearsal of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” he determined it was time to switch to another classic R&B ballad that wouldn’t work, either. Mind you, Vino’s sudden downward momentum wasn’t solely the fault of his mentor: The tattooed dude delivered “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” with a dearth of enthusiasm and an excess of vibrato, skulking around the stage with a slumped posture that only accentuated the wretched fit of his boxy sportscoat. And holy hell, that reggae-infused breakdown had me praying Mario and Khloe to return to their marks and spout something inane like “Tonight was fun!” “Tonight was so much fun: It was a blast!” That said, it’d be a shame if Vino’s X Factor dreams are “gone, gone, gone” come Thursday night: Lest we forget, he hasn’t had a major misfire since that Nickleback catastrophe from Top 20 week. Shouldn’t consistency count some? Grade: C
Paige Thomas: Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” | Wait just a second…when did I start rooting for Paige Freakin’ Thomas to make it to Top 6 week…or perhaps even further? Oh, wait, I remember: When she put one hand up (can you repeat that?) and essentially told Demi Lovato, “This week, we’re doing it my way.” Granted, if I were in Demi’s shoes, I’d have been reluctant to let Paige take the reins after she started tossing around phrases like “a signature performance” and “stripped back just isn’t gonna cut it for me.” But lo and behold, the gorgeous single mom’s reimagining of “Never Gonna Give You Up” as a sultry, midtempo jam turned out to be the first time she actually began to live up to the “potential pop star” title that’s been bandied about by the judges since her first audition. I could’ve lived without the “iron fence under a street light” vignette, and to be fair, there were definitely some moments where Paige’s pitch was as unsteady as Khloe’s teleprompter readings. But at least she got creative with the arrangement and took command of the stage — while being diplomatic enough to share credit with her mentor, who was under heavy (often uncomfortable) siege all night by Simon. Grade: A-