The X Factor episode 13 recap: Final 11 live show, November 9, 2011

The Final 11 acts compete for the $5 million dollar recording contract tonight (photos courtesy Fox)

Welcome to The X-Factor! Tonight, the final eleven acts perform to earn your votes. Last week saw the ouster of Paula’s group InTENsity after being selected over The Stereo Hogzz from the bottom two acts.

Tonight is Movie Night, with song selections from popular (as well as possibly unheard of) movies. In preparation, the contestants get the red carpet treatment and a photo shoot with Hollywood movie stars.

The performances begin. To the loud applause of the auditorium crowd, Nicole Scherzinger introduces us to Stacy Francis. She sings The Queen of the Night from the movie The Bodyguard, a song that L.A. co-wrote. Stacy, looking hot in red, begins the song trading a capella diva verses with a backup vocal trio. She belts out a scream and then the music kicks in and she struts the stage. After reaching some on-stage monkey bars, she swings her hips and legs in time with the beat. There are even a few bangs of fireworks in the back of the stage to punctuate the song. Simon doesn’t care for the dress or the dancing, saying he likes her more as a singer. He adds that it seems Nicole combined her and Paula into one person. What was that supposed to mean? Nicole says Stacy is shining from within. Scorecard: B for an energetic and vocally strong performance, but she could have done without some of the stage struts and moves. No “church singer” here.

Next up is Marcus Canty from Bowie, Maryland, with the song I’m Goin’ Down from the movie Carwash. L.A. says we’re going to see a different side of Marcus. Marcus is dressed in black, with a silver jacket that stands out. But we can barely see the rest of him, totally shrouded in gold-lit fog. The fogs lifts and the lights come on as Marcus sings solo with a skip-beat Motown sound. He’s got a trio of male back-up singers on the chorus, but he’s the one owning the song. He puts a lot of energy into it, so much so that the mike stand goes flying as he rips off the mike. He finishes the final notes on his knees. The crowd loves it. Nicole says, “Two words, two words, Ma-gic!” Then, of course, she has a lot more words to add, saying it was “a beautiful dream happening.” Simon says it was “a thousand percent better than last week.” Simon’s only gripe was that the silver jacket made him “look like a cabaret singer.” Scorecard: B+ for a vocally strong performance with a clearly defined sound to it. He could do without the mike stand tossing and swinging his arms, but this would sound good on an iTunes download. He sounds better than he looks.

Drew is next up with Coldplay’s Fix You from the movie You, Me and Dupree. Uh, oh, the Wardrobe department has done it again. They’ve taken a young lady who would look hot in jeans and a button up shirt and put her in that, um — what is that thing she’s wearing? It’s some kind of dress you’d expect to see flaunted by a supermodel in a haute couture fashion show. And what did they do to her wonderful silky hair, now colored in streaks? Oh, sorry, this is a song performance, not a fashion show. With a piano accompaniment hitting single notes, Drew sings Fix You with her signature tone and swing. It seems like she is singing softly but her voice rings clear in the air. Then the song kicks in with musical accompaniment and her voice continues to rise above all else. Wow. L.A. says it was really good, but he can’t tell the difference between this performance and previous performances, asking her to try something different. Nicole says she is brilliant beyond her years. Paula says it was a great song, but won’t give props for what Drew’s wearing. (Agreed!) It turns out the dress is something Drew designed herself. Maybe she should stick with singing instead of fashion design. Scorecard: A- for a crystal clear vocal performance in a tone that is uniquely hers. When (not ‘if’) you hear her on a sound track in the future, you’ll know it’s her.

LeRoy Bell is next up with a song from his favorite band, U2’s Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For from Runaway Bride. Dressing in dark jeans, a leather jacket and a white wool cap, he’s bathed in red lighting as he begins the song. He sings it with minimal musical accompaniment at the outset, then the music kicks and and he’s backed by a trio of male vocalists. He takes the mike off the stand (a lot more subtly than Marcus did) and revs up the song. He’s got a fine — and refined — voice that’s unmistakably his own. He’s a pleasure to listen to, although he’s not a stage wowzer. He gets good marks from the judges all down the line, with Simon saying LeRoy came out as a 60-year older sounding like he was a 20-year older. Scorecard: B+ for a fine vocal performance, mellow and easy to listen to. He doesn’t have a huge stage presence, but he’d be huge on the charts.

Lakoda Rayne is up next with Keith Urban’s I Wanna Love Somebody Like You out of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Paula has “my girls”, as she calls them, do an arrangement that mixes country and pop. Backed by a band right behind them, the four girls take the stage dressed in white and cream outfits so preppy that they look like they just walked out of class at an all-girls university, complete with Pepsodent smiles. It starts with a few solo lines then they sing in chorus, backed up by two trios, male and female, on each side of the stage. It’s hard to tell who’s voice is whose at this point. For a while, they’re drowned out six to four. They move around behind the judges and try to connect with the crowd, which claps along with them for a while. Where they get a chance to sing on their own, they seem to mix pretty well. L.A. says they’re his favorite girl group in the competition. (Aren’t they the only girl group left?) Simon says they were good individually. Scorecard: B- for a decent performance that was hard to judge given the relatively few moments when they sang on their own. They’d look nice on an album cover, but one shouldn’t judge an album by its cover.

Then we get the one and only Astro from Brooklyn, New York. He is always doing his own thing, this time with his own lyrics (if you can call them that) to Eminem’s song Lose Yourself from the movie 8 Mile. And, yes, the lyrics are eight miles off from the original, but that’s not the point of his performance. He’s dressed in red and black, red shoes, black slacks, black t-shirt, and a red and black hoodie jacket. The black hood covers a red cap hanging out over a pair of large glasses. Simple fashion. And, as it turns out, a simple rap song with a simple beat. Oh, then some flames in canisters light up behind him! A trio of guys join him in accompaniment and then he flips back the hoodie and tosses off the cap. Mid-song, he’s shouting and screaming more than before and it’s hard to discern the words. Nicole says it was “so heavy.” Heavy? Isn’t that from the ’60’s? Paula says he’s in a league his own. Simon is laughing. Simon says what he likes about Astro is his work ethic and creativity. L.A. says he likes Astro’s audacity. Scorecard: B for exactly what you’d expect from Astro. Every time.

Next up is Melanie Amaro with a song from the Michael Jackson documentary This Is It, Man In the Mirror. Melanie is sick with a sore throat and has to rest her voice instead of practicing a lot, but she sure doesn’t look or sound like it tonight. She is in the spotlight wearing a svelte black jacket with shiny black slacks. She starts out softly and then raises her voice and swings as the music kicks in with a female trio backing her. It’s a good performance, with a strong, loud finish. L.A. says she’s a really great singer, predictably strong, although predictable in song choice, too. Nicole says she can’t get enough of this song, saying Melanie’s voice is a “vessel of light and love.” Simon says she is “blood-y fan-tas-tic!” with the best performance of the competition so far. Scorecard: A- for a fine vocal performance that we’ve come to expect from Melanie.

Then it’s the other group, The Stereo Hogzz. They’re dressed in suits with fedora hats, singing Christina Aguilera’s Ain’t No Other Man from the Get Smart soundtrack. Their performance has that stage-show feel to it. They’re back by two trios and a large gaggle of dancers. They mix it up pretty well with solos and choruses, strong the whole way through. L.A. says he didn’t know the song, but they did a great job and were entertaining to watch. Nicole says it “was bananas” and her favorite performance from them yet. Simon says their choreography and work ethic is amazing, but they need to be “less cabaret.” Scorecard: B for a solid, yet predictable performance that might not win them many new voters.

Josh is next with Joe Cocker’s version of With a Little Help From My Friends from the Beatles cover musical Across the Universe. Josh takes the stage in a black blazer over a t-shirt with black slacks. He starts out smoothly with a solo and then is occasionally backed by a trio of guys and a chorus of gals surrounding him. It’s got a blues sound and rhythm to it and Josh howls and growls a few verses right down to the finish. He’s got variety in his voice and tone and can change it up easily. Simon says the first half didn’t quite work but the second half was good. Simon also adds (faulting Nicole) that Josh was “like Dracula and the brides up there” and to skip the gimmicks. Nicole says Josh is ready for a $5 million recording contract. He’s clearly her favorite. Scorecard: A- for a classic Josh performance that showed us what he had, with promise of more to come.

Next up is Chris Rene from Santa Cruz, California. His mom is mighty proud of her boy. Again, we see his “Life”, “Love” and “Believe” tattoos. He’s doing Gangsta’s Paradise from the movie Dangerous Minds. Something like what Astro did, he has switched things around a bit with his own rapped verses. Chris shows more of the hip attitude we saw from him in earlier performances. His voice and lyrics are clear, with some good switch ups in rhythm. He’s dancing around the stage, behind the judges, and all around. There’s a whole line of rap dancers behind him, but we hardly take notice. He ends the performance sharply at the end of the last line, punctuated by the following silence. Nicole loves how he “channels” the song. Paula says he’s in his element. Simon says, “All I can say is ‘Welcome back, Chris Rene’.” L.A. digs it. Scorecard: B+ for a solid, cohesive and entertaining performance in Chris’ characteristic style.

The last act for tonight is Rachel Crow. We find out that she has been adopted with her mom telling her that they were soul mates destined to find each other. She sings I’d Rather Be Blind from the jukebox movie Cadillac Records, a song she picked out herself. Simon says he hasn’t done too well yet with Rachel, but he’s saved the best for last tonight and it will be a big surprise. Rachel begins the song in solo with a simple bass, beat and wind instruments in the background. She sounds a lot older than her age, loud and clear with a slight growl in the lower registers, yet sharp and clear with the higher notes. It’s a short, but wonderfully succinct performance with a lot of punch. L.A. says she’s a real contender, his favorite yet. The praises go down the line to Simon, who says he trusts her. He calls her a “mini little Beyonce”. Scorecard: A for a performance perfectly suited for Rachel, her best yet.

And that’s all for tonight folks! Who will go out tonight? Will Paula’s groups escape the voters’ basement this week?

Stay tuned!

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