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The Reality TV Guru

The X Factor Episode 10 Recap, Live Show Final 17, Tuesday October 25, 2011.

Steve Jones introduces the final 17 acts on tonight's X-Factor live show (all photos courtesy Fox)

Tonight, in an epic two and a half hour live show, seventeen acts will vie to make it into the Final 12. (If you think that’s a long time, how about a football game?) Each judge must choose which three acts within their category who will go through to the next show. Simon expresses his regrets that he will have to cut two of his Girls.

We are welcomed by the show’s host, Steve Jones, in that characteristic accent of his. “Welcome to The X-Facta!”

First up is “Astro” Brian Bradley with Kris Kross’ song Jump. He’s banging this song out non-stop, hopping up and down around the stage in beat with the rhythm. He’s backed by a group of guy dancers with plenty of stage flash. He moves up toward the audience then back on the stage with aplomb. To finish, he puts the mike out for the crowd to join in the chorus. Nicole says he makes her jump out of her skin. Simon says he “just killed everybody.” L.A. says Astro just made it tough on the other judges. “Bravo!” Astro exclaims. {Scorecard: B+ for a highly entertaining and skillful rap performance. There’s nothing special in the way of vocal abilities here, but he’s as good as anything you’ll hear coming out of a boombox in the car next to you at a red light.}

Chris Rene, the recently rehabbed father of a young boy for whom he wants to set a good example, is up second with Love Don’t Live Here Any More, originally recorded by Rose Royce. Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt with a grey baseball cap on in reverse, he starts off softly, sitting. The beat picks up a bit and he gets up and picks up the volume. His voice is mostly in the higher ranges and he finishes the song off nicely. Nicole is worried that wasn’t the right song for him. Paula says he did a good job with it and Simon agrees saying, “you are not the best singer in this competition, but you are one of the best recording artists in this competition.” Simon says he’s 100% authentic and L.A. likes his unpredictability. {Scorecard: B for a fairly solid performance of this song, although it didn’t really rouse the crowd.}

The third contestant from the Boys is Phillip Lomax, the crooning cat with a missing hat. He sings I’m a Believer, made famous not by the likes of Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett, but the Monkees. In doing so, he moved from the ’50’s to the ’60’s, but nowhere near the contemporary era. It’s a very upbeat song, complete with dancers smoothing the creases on his suit coat (and pants!). He belts the song out well enough, but the soundboard is drowning him out with the backup vocals. Rarely do we ever his voice on its own. It’s all glitz, complete with confetti coming down at the finale. Nicole says he has a lot of charm but wishes he was a little more confident. Simon says he likes Phillip, but “you’re like a racing driver, but L.A. put you in a tractor.” Simon says L.A. 100% failed with the song selection and arrangement for Phillip. L.A. tells Phillip “you’re fine.” {Scorecard: B for a fun and energetic performance, but drowned out by the soundboard and backup singing as well as the visuals of dancers and confetti. He’d been better off sticking with a song where his voice comes out clearly without the distractions.}

The last of the four Boys is Marcus Canty with Do You Really Want to Hurt Me, made famous by Boy George’s Culture Club. Wow, what a choice for someone like Marcus. He begins a capella on a darkened stage with the spotlights on him. Then the lights flash on and the beat kicks in, with dancers in the background. He moves (rather, slinks) around on stage as he sings in a fairly polished vocal performance. Nicole says he made it look easy, while Paula says it was like looking at “a veteran on stage.” Simon says Marcus is the one of the four Boys who saw the performance through with the knowledge that there’s a $5 million contract on the line. L.A. says Marcus stepped up to the plate and made him proud. {Scorecard: B for a good vocal performance that he made look easy, appearing more comfortable on the stage than he has before.}

Now, L.A. has to choose which three of the Boys that he wants to continue. Who will he cut? L.A. says, “This is not easy. I love all of them.” The four Boys, Astro, Phillip, Chris and Marcus come back out onto the stage. The first one through is… Astro! The second one making it though is Marcus. And the last guy in is… Chris. Wow, Phillip is out, and probably due to a poor song choice and arrangement. Plus, he was missing his lucky hat. Phillip looks very disappointed (as are some of us), but says he was so happy to be there in the first place and he hopes to be performing in the future. No doubt we’ll hear more of Phillip after this. He’s a class act.

Now it’s time for Paula’s Groups acts, starting with The Stereo Hogzz. They dance out a highly choreographed Try A Little Tenderness, starting with a soft, mellow intro. After a few verses, the song kicks in with thumping basses and drums and they’re rockin’ it. The song shifts rhythm mid-song and finishes with a joint chorus. The crowd loves it. L.A. says they’re really good and they’ve come a long way. Nicole says it was solid, current and classic. Simon wants to say something, “but my mouth won’t say it… Paula, you. did. a. really. good. job. I love this band!” Paula says, “I’m so proud.” {Scorecard: B+ for a finely polished group performance of this song, vocally all there and entertaining to watch, although predictable.}

We get news from Steve Jones that voting will begin next week, with Twitter as a voting option in partnership with Verizon. Haven’t you noticed Simon in those Verizon commercials lately? It turns out you can vote by phone, text, online, twitter or mobile app. Here are more details on the voting in the official X Factor web site.

Now it’s time for the second Groups act, The Brewer Boys. With string instruments in hand, they sing Hall and Oates’ Rich Girl along with George Michael’s Faith. They’ve got a mellow, light bluegrass sound to them that fits their voices perfectly. The song and rhythm picks up mid-way with dancers on stage to distract us. They shift rhythm a third time in a song medley of sorts and finish strong. L.A. says they’re good, but it’s a little outside Paula’s comfort zone. Nicole says if she was a teenager again, she’d have posters of them on her walls. Simon says his issue with them is that they fell short of a $5 million contract act. Paula says they nailed it and she thinks they’re amazing. {Scorecard: B- for a decent performance that might have tried to squeeze too much in too short a time with the medley. It didn’t flow very smoothly or showcase any outstanding vocal or performing abilities. They’re likable but would you pay to see them anywhere other than the local county fair?}

Then it’s InTENsity The ‘TEN’ is for the ten members from earlier rounds thrown together in this ad-hoc group formed by the judges for the auditions at their homes. They get a lot of coaching before hitting the stage with Shirley Ellis’ The Clapping Song. It looks like they’re on stadium bleachers and monkey bars in the playground. And they sound like it. It’s sort of a gleeful performance (pun intended) and although they do a decent job of it, there’s nothing outstanding about it. The crowd likes it. L.A. says for a group that was just put together, it was entertaining. Nicole says “you’re like my little pumpkin patch.” Simon says “that was the equivalent of a music miracle” and “I’ve got the new young Glee in front of me.” Paula says they rose to the occasion and she’s proud of them. {Scorecard: B, being more than generous considering they were just thrown together after auditions. Otherwise, a C+. It was a pseudo-Glee performance that looked entertaining and sounded Ok on stage, but came across as an imitation that belongs on the Disney Channel.}

Finally for the Groups, it’s Lakoda Rain with Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Come On Eileen. Paula introduces them by saying, “They’re beautiful. Guys, you’re going to want to date ’em.” At least we’re forewarned that they’re in this competition as eye candy. But are they ear candy? They begin with a few switched solos and then join in chorus, picking up the beat early in the song. Somewhere, though, we lose track of the rhythm and pace of the song as voices jingle and jangle with each change up. Well, they look pretty. L.A. says he’d sign them to a recording contract. Nicole says they look like a family together. Simon says he agrees with L.A. and that they’ve all gelled and Paula has done an incredible job with them. Paula says they’ve made her proud. {Scorecard: B-, being rather generous considering they were tossed together before auditions. Otherwise, a straight C. They looked more like something we’d see in a high-school or sorority musical. L.A. can afford to take some losses if not many people bought or downloaded this music, which is what would happen here. Caveat emptor.}

Paula now has to decide which of the three Groups acts go through to the final twelve. We know already that she’s favoring the ad-hoc groups from her comments. The Groups march back on stage and we almost expect them all to do another mish-mash performance. Paula decides. The Stereo Hogzz are the first group in. Then it’s Lakoda rain and InTENsity. The Brewer Boys head back to the farm to play bluegrass in the local barnyard dances. The Brewer Boys take it in good stride and Paula tells them they need to further develop themselves as artists.

We move on to Nicole’s Over 30’s acts, starting with Dexter. She has him sing a mix of Britney’s Womanizer and Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl. This is already a mistake, as Dexter would do better with a straight up James Brown or even a Jimi Hendrix song (he’d kill Voodoo Chile), but no luck here. The loud percussions, stobing lights and dance crew fail to distract us from his shortcomings in attempting this kind of performance. He is all but drowned out, but still gets the audience into group clapping in what is still a rather entertaining performance. Dexter is a bit hyped afterward. L.A. questions the song choice, and says it isn’t his fault. Paula goes on about kissing girls. Simon says, “it felt so wrong, it feels so right… like the weirdest milkshake in the world. You’re unpredicatable, rather like your mentor.” Nicole says he remembered his lyrics. How’s that for throwing him under the bus? {Scorecard: C+, but we’re going to hang this on Nicole for a poor song choice and arrangement that failed to showcase what Dexter is best at. He’s one guy that might find his own niche in the future with a bit of luck. Maybe a lot of luck. Here’s to wishing it for him, because he’s almost certainly out.}

Second among the Over 30’s is the evergreen 60-year old Leroy Bell. He’s been doing music and song all his life is this may be his big break. Leroy opens Pink’s Nobody Knows with soft passion and inner emotion accompanied only by a piano. Then the song picks up a bit and he grows in volume. He ends one verse with a nice vibrato sustain that brings a chill and then ends with a nice finish. L.A. says Leroy has everything and he should already be a star. Paula compares him to Michael Bolton. Simon says Leroy has one of the best voices, but lacks confidence. Simon adds, “I absolutely wish I was mentoring you.” putting the onus on Nicole. Nicole says she wants the world to see his eyes and it’s obvious she loves him. {Scorecard: B+ for a fine and touching vocal performance, although the arrangement didn’t really suit his voice and style. I have to agree with Simon: Nicole gets the B, Leroy gets the plus.}

Next up is often tearful Stacy Francis, with a long back story we’ve seen several times already. She sings George Michael’s One More Try (which might aptly be retitled One More Cry). She’s going diva with this performance, hitting every note on (and off) each side of the piano. Her voice is overpowering, fighting off the backup vocals, and then ends the song on a soft note. While she tried to show off her vocal abilities, the performance as a whole wasn’t pleasing to the ears. The crowd cheers. L.A. says she got the whole thing right. Paula says she came out looking like a star. Simon isn’t as impressed. “I didn’t like what you’re wearing, I didn’t like the song.” Again, Simon criticizes Nicole’s choice of songs and says he’d know what kind of song and arrangement would have suited her. Nicole says she looks nice and she’s proud of her. Simon’s having a tiff with Nicole. {Scorecard: C+ for a rather forgettable performance that tried to do to much in a haphazard arrangement not suited for Stacy’s voice or style.}

Last up for the Over 30’s is burrito-maker Josh, who surely put Wardrobe and Makeup into a frenzy but requires little vocal coaching. Josh Krajcik takes on Dylan’s Forever Young and gives it both the strength of power and touch of grace in fine balance, with pregnant silences. A capella with no gimmicks, band, or dancers, only a pair of spotlights, he connects easily with the viewing and listening audience. The heart and the tenor of this song is unmistakably his own. Incredible. The crowd goes nuts. L.A. says Josh is one of the greatest singers in the competition. Paula says his voice is her favorite voice. Simon says, “you are the artist I fear, you’ve got it all going on… you are the real deal.” Nicole says it was a soul stirring performance. {Scorecard: A for a touching vocal performance, perfectly done, showcasing all that is good, soulful and genuine about him. For this guy, no arrangement is the best arrangement.}

Now Nicole has to make a decision. Who goes home? The elder singers stroll back onto the stage together. The first one in is Stacy Francis. Well, that should tell us who’s out, then. The next one to advance — of course — is Josh. The last one in is Leroy and Dexter’s ride to fame in this show comes to an end. Steve asks Dexter how he feels and he says, “Kind of confused. I don’t know why I’m confused… I’m in the 21st century twilight zone.” Us, too.

Now it’s time for Simon’s Girls, starting with Simone Battle. She sings Just Be Good to Me written and produced by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. She’s showing a lot of leg in those tight red hot pants and the upper rainbow-colored bodice only draws even more attention to her chest. She’s doing the sultry act, swinging her hips in choreography with the dancers. Oh, what about the song, you ask? She’s doing a passable job of it, staying in rhythm and getting the lyrics right. In some places, it has a nice ring to it. The performance, though, is one huge distraction that takes away from the performance. Still, the crowd seems to like it. L.A. says Simon has some explaining to do, starting with his choice of contestant. “Five million dollars clearly doesn’t mean much to you.” Woo, goes the crowd. Nicole talks about her looks and so does Paula. Simon says the other judges never really like her, although he does. He sends a shot back at L.A., “Maybe you’re out of touch.” {Scorecard: B- for a halfway decent performance with so many distractions that we hardly notice the vocals. It’s surprising Simon actually goes for this.}

Then it’s the charming young lady who wants her own bathroom, Rachel Crow. Yikes, what did they do to her hair? Rachel’s got that neck swing down pat as she mashes up the Supremes’ Where Did Our Love Go? with a little of Justin Bieber’s Baby. (What is it with these mixed songs tonight, anyway?) Dancers fly around her as she swings and belts out the lyrics with a surprisingly strong voice. Not bad. L.A. says, “You know what, I love you girl. You can have a career.” Nicole says she is so proud of Rachel, but she questions her mentor’s (Simon’s) song choice. Paula says Rachel is adorable and agrees with Nicole’s comment about the song choice, saying it didn’t give Rachel enough range to work with. Simon says, “I think the audience at home are going to disagree with Sqiggly and Diddly here,” referring to Nicole and Paula. Simon says Rachel is “a retro artist and a pop artist and original.” {Scorecard: B+ for an entertaining set by a very charismatic young lady. Tell Makeup to leave her hair alone, though!}

The third Girls act is 14-year old Drew. She does a slow version of What a Feeling and it’s clear that she is an excellent singer. She is accompanied only by a piano and, thankfully, no dancers to distract us. She sings with a unique, clear voice that’s easy to identify as hers. Nicely done. Simon is beaming. L.A. says Drew is the whole package. Nicole says it was really good, “so ethereal”. Paula says she has a sweet voice. “This is why I wanted to be back on American TV, to find someone like you,” Simon comments. {Scorecard: A- for a very pleasant performance, easy on the ears, attractive in it’s tone and a pleasure to watch all the way through.}

Next up is the originally do-wopping, hey-yo’ing Tiah Tolliver, for whom Simon fought against Paula and Nicole during the auditions to keep her in. She sings The Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams. She looks a lot different tonight with the outfit and make-up. Background effects are wintry white with snow falling, and then suddenly it goes all red with strobing lights. She starts out soft and then belts out the song when the beat picks up with the stage lights. It seems the background music and backup chorus vocals are drowning her out, though. She’s gone from hip-hop to pop in this song, and it doesn’t seem to fit her. L.A. says “that was a great production” (read: it was overproduced). Nicole slams the performance saying, “If that was a sweet dream, I’d hate to see what one of the scary ones are like.” Paula says she has a fierce drive but she has to work on her pitch. Simon concludes by dissing Nicole and Paula’s comments and says Tiah did great. {Scorecard: B- for a poor arrangement and song choice that failed to capture Tiah’s strengths. She’s more a be-bopping hip-hopping artist than a pop artist and it showed here. The B’s for Tiah, the minus is for Simon.}

The final contestant to sing is 19-year old Melanie, who was saved by Simon after he had originally dropped her. She sings Whitney Houston’s I Who Have Nothing with a distinctly clear, loud and perfectly on note voice. She’s comfortable on stage, strolling about as she hits every note in rhythm of the song. She also has nuanced vibratos and slides that almost escape attention because it fits in so nicely. Well done. L.A. says they saved the best for last. Nicole says she connects with Melanie every time. Paula says she’s grateful that Simon believed in her. Simon thanks the other judges for allowing him to save Melanie to appear on the live show. {Scorecard: A- for a performance that was very pleasant to watch and listen to. Best save ever.}

Now Simon has to choose three among five to go forward, with two going out. Simon says there are four he really wants to continue, so he has a hard choice to make. He starts with the “easiest decision” and chooses Drew. Next in Rachel, who Simon says he knows America wants to see in. The third and last Girl to make it in is… Melanie! Simone and Tiah are out. Tiah says she was very excited to be there. Simone says she’ll soon be releasing her first video (And, yes, it’s already on youtube! Easy to find, just google it.)

The show comes to a quick end as they amazingly manage to finish the live show just on time. All two and a half hours of it.

Next week, the Final Twelve and your vote! Stay tuned!