Without question, the most grateful performance of the night

Tonight’s episode of The X Factor was all about giving thanks, as each contestant chose a song to honor someone who inspires them or has made a difference in their lives. And maybe it’s just the general feeling of good will but tonight was an inspiring, wonderful evening of inspiring stories and good – and sometimes great – performances.

Rachel Crow kicked off the evening with thanks to her parents for adopting her. In turn, her parents shared the story of how they adopted Rachel, that she was born to a crack addicted mother and was herself addicted at birth. Rachel suffered abuse and was living in a drug house when her parents adopted her. She sang a song about believing, and after the judges praised her performance, she said it was “to all the kids out there, you really can” do it, “because I did.”

In case you didn’t already know, Marcus Canty is a proud mama’s boy, and tonight’s song was dedicated to the woman who gave so much for her kids. He sang “A Song For Mama”, this week keeping things understated. It was one of his best performances. Lots of emotion, hugs for mom, and lots of sincere gratitude from a guy who understands the sacrifices his mother made for him, and who is genuinely grateful.

Melanie Amaro dedicated her song to God, who she says has never let her down, even when the people in her life have. She tells about how as a child her mother sent her to live with her grandparents in the British Virgin Islands, and how she always wondered why. In high school, Melanie went back to Sunrise, FL to live with her mother. There, she found a church family. She sang R. Kelly’s “I’m The World’s Greatest,” managing to make it into a worship song to God, and before the judges could even  get into their critiques, Melanie let loose with a tidal wave of gratitude: “I can’t tell you how good it feels to be on this stage,” going on to thank Simon, slipping into her Caribbean heavy accent and getting more and more emotional with gratitude. The judges loved her performance; Nicole gave her a hug. Simon said he was so proud of her and urged the fans to vote “because we need her in the competition.”

Chris Rene’s song was dedicated to his rehab counselor, Tim Fry, who he says “taught me to be a better man.” We learn in Chris’ video that he suffered a major accident, and after leaving the hospital went right to rehab and is now 7 months sober. Chris sang “Let It Be” and the song he sang in his audition, “Homey What You Trippin’ On”. Nicole told Chris he was an example and blessing to people; Paula said he was back to where they fell in love with him; LA said he believed in him. Simon said he didn’t love the first part of the song, was reminded in the second part why they love him. But more importantly said that not many people would have the guts to admit his addiction, and that there were probably people watching the show who would see his courage and know they can turn their lives around, too.

Lakoda Rayne dedicated their song to the people who shaped them: Dani to her dad; Paige to her boyfriend; Hayley to her dad; and Cari to her grandma. The girls sang Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me.” Simon said it was their best performance by far, Nicole said they sounded amazing, LA said they managed to drum up excitement tonight, and Paula cried.

LeRoy Bell dedicated the song to his mother, who passed away two years ago. We learned that LeRoy is the first born of six kids, and his mom encouraged his musical aspirations from an early age. LeRoy sang “In The Arms Of The Angels.”  LA must be in a cranky mood tonight; he said it wasn’t LeRoy’s best but it was heartfelt and had a good message. Paula disagreed completely, saying it was one of the first times he’s connected with the audience. Simon said it was the first time he actually felt that LeRoy meant every word, calling it fantastic and saying that he’s sure he made his mom proud tonight. Nicole said she know his mom is looking down on him.

And then we come to Astro, and the talk of the week, “Astrogate”. Last week the 15-year-old found himself in the bottom two, and when it came time to sing for the judges, he threw a bit of a tantrum. The tears gave away his youth, but his bad attitude still left a bad taste in the mouths of many fans. In case you missed it:

This week, his mom said that he reacted because he was hurt, adding, “Is that so unforgiveable?” Nope, it’s not. Who among us hasn’t reacted to hurt by being a brat. This week, Astro apologized and dedicated his performace to his fans and supporters who stuck with him, otherwise known as Astronauts. His performance was stellar, and before the judges gave their feedback he apologized once again. Nicole told him she was proud of him and that he always needs to remain grateful. Paula asked if she could be an Astronaut, and that she didn’t feel he was being irreverent last week. Simon said he’d love for her to be an Astronaut if “I can be the first to send you into space.” Simon said that he knows that Astro knows that the way he handled last week was wrong, and that it also shows his passion, and the music industry needs more of that kind of passion.  LA said they talked about it during the week, Astro was humbled, he performed his best, and he couldn’t ask for more.

And with that folks, let’s put Astrogate to bed.

Drew dedicated her song, “Skyscraper”, to her BFF Shelby. You gotta love two teenage girls; they’re giggly and goofy, complete with fears about their looks and fitting in and finding their place in the world. As Drew said, “We’ve going through loser status together,” with Shelby always reminding Drew that what other people think isn’t important. Drew did a great job on the song, even adding some uptempo moments towards the end. But LA was definitely in a cranky mood; he told her that she’s great, but directed comments to Simon – again – about Drew’s song choice. LA said Drew is 14 but the “songs are for people who are 40. You don’t do age appropriate material.” Drew explained that the song is very special to her, and “goes out to every girl who’ve felt the way I’ve ever felt, who’s felt worthless or not good enough.” Nicole tells Drew she’s beautiful and glad she has a special friend like Shelby, adding the she’s not frustrated by Drew’s performance this week. Paula corrects LA by saying the song is by teen star Demi Lovato, and that she loved when Drew picked up the tempo. Simon says he’s  proud of Drew, and then – finally – says to LA, “I am sick to death of your stupid, pointless criticism … you are talking complete and utter rubbish.” LA responds to Simon, “You can give it but you can’t take it.” I love Simon and I love LA – but I’m sorry. LA is completely wrong. Every week he just pecks and pecks at Drew, and on a night when the song choices were inspiring and heartfelt, he could have kept his criticism of Simon until after the show. Bad form, LA.

Closing the show was Josh Krajcik, with “Wild Horses”, dedicated to his 13-year-old daughter. Josh was 17 when Rowen was born, and he says that he went through a dark time in his life. But one day he saw his daughter playing the piano and saw a piece of himself in her. And that’s when he went back to music. As always, Josh was fantastic, garnering great feedback from the judges. LA said he has the “right amout of everything,” passion, authenticity, he’s loveable, he chose the right song. Paula said he’s larger than life. Simon said it was a great song, he’s got a great voice, and to Nicole added, “I’ve given you a bit of a hard time” the last few weeks, and then said she did “an outstanding job tonight.” Nicole was teary, telling Josh his music could change the world. Josh thanked his daughter and the fans at home.

Aside from LA’s tired criticism – which stood out in contrast to the theme – the night was fun, inspiring, and really let the fans get a personal glimpse of the contestants.

But here’s the kicker: tomorrow,  two contestants have to go. The contestant with the least number of votes automatically is sent home. Then the two acts with the lowest scores perform and the judges decide which will leave.

I’m not even going to predict, because it was overall a good night of performances, and I think fans are going to be fired up to vote. We’ll find out tomorrow who the final 7 are moving to the next round.

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