Friday, 23 December 2011

X Factor Final: The Winner

I wonder why Americans put an E on the end and make Finale a three syllable word? Wooden Steve gives being enthusiastic as good a shot as he can and then the Final 12 arrive. Drew with a new hair colour and style, Marcus with the same difficulty getting the right notes, one from Lakoda Rayne struggling with a note too low for her and another rescuing her with a nicely delivered few lines, Elaine, of course, making herself known and a good cheer from the crowd for Leroy. Astro sounded good and then the three finalists appear but don't seem to do a great deal.

Simon drops another hint that he's seen the voting figures and is feeling nervous but, for all we know, that may have just been a move to try and get as many people to vote for Melanie rather than just assuming she'd win. Until last night I would have said she was a sure-fire certainty but now I really don't know. Final votes are strange affairs, as America Idol, Adam Lambert and Crystal Bowersox fans will be only too well aware.

Melanie follows and matches Mariah Carey note for note on All I Want For Christmas Is You. That was a perfect performance and you have to wonder why she didn't do something so well last night. Not one move or tone out of place. That takes some doing and, even though it's a cheesy song, you couldn't help but feel that she was singing from the heart and totally naturally, totally enjoying it all.

LA Reid introduces Chris Rene with a twinkle in his eye as if knows something that I hope isn't the case. And to make the point perfectly clear, listen again to Chris struggling to hit the right notes on Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. He's got his hat back but that just goes to show that he isn't a natural singer at all. Performer, maybe, rapper of sorts, yes, and composer (although I prefer Astro's efforts for the modern world) but really not a deserving winner. It's a pretty amateur shot and you get the impression that he's desperately trying to get the next note in place as he finishes the last in this slow but pleasant enough ditty. You wouldn't get that from many of the other contestants who must be wondering why they're not there in 3rd place at least. All credit to the guy for giving up the drugs and the booze and getting as far as he has done and if he does have an influence on some kids heading down the wrong track that's great. Some emotional stuff in the back story with oddities like his son's mum shown but not as 'partner' or 'girfriend' and Simon staying in his seat as the other judges stand to clap. Steve asks him what it would be like to win which he didn't ask Melanie. I wonder if he'll ask Josh?

Steve makes some stupid effort to get invited to Nicole's Christmas party. She says "No." Almost too quickly for easy viewing. Cringe.

Josh is on the stage, with a great number he seems completely comfortable with, matching Melanie in his cruise through the tune, albeit with a much narrower range of notes to handle. He looks happy for the first time for a while too. Taking the pressure off is something they should do more often. This guy is good. I'd love to see him win. Simon seemed to be hinting that he hadn't, though, with the comment that he's going to sell a lot of records, with 'even if you don't win' in brackets.

In the back story we get a pic of Josh with his mum and he's wearing a black T shirt with white writing but the writing is blurred out! I do hope someone somewhere publishes what it did say. There'll be someone out there who'll have the original. In fact it's probably already out there. I would look now but, being a day behind the States, I'd find out who did win in the course of the search! I have had to avoid Twitter and Facebook all day. Strangely Google+ has made no mention that I've spotted but that's probably because my main account follows the wrong people.

Josh doesn't get asked about winning either.

Steve returns after the ad break and flies through some announcement about the 3rd place person being announced which no-one pays any attention to as he leaps into the introduction for Justin Bieber. Oh dear, not good. But then we get Stevie Wonder with a disturbing wail. That's probably caused by his being told to duet with the least likely person he should ever duet with for more reasons than I can write now. That was pretty awful to listen to. It was like Stevie was on another planet. Anyway, Stevie and his harmonica get shoved off stage and Justin does a second number. A bit better with some classy dancing. It's all mimed as he makes obvious on occasion but good entertainment for all that. There was a nice surprise at the end of his session when he gets Drew on stage with him and she sings an apparently unrehearsed last line or two and the guy hugs her and takes her dancing around the stage. Nice touch and the guy's gone up in my estimation, if only for his taste in girls.

photo from Ray Mickshaw / FOX

For Drew, you get the feeling that that moment was as good for her as winning the damn competition and there seemed to be plenty of hints of some future joint efforts. Good luck to them. Nice result for the girl and props to the producers for a memorable moment.

Steve then announces the third place and all is well with the world as Chris Rene gets 3rd place. That's still a lot higher than he should be but I'll settle for that. Yesss. The right two in the top two places, and I don't mind who wins. Melanie would be the bigger long-term star but Josh, if someone writes some decent material for him, could be impressive and it would be great to see the burrito slinger with a great big smile. You just know that he doesn't think he has a hope in hell against Melanie so it would be a fun moment.

A strange combination of Leona Lewis singing her soulful and gentle Run to a backing screen featuring what appear to be contestants through the show so far. Idiots in the crowd scream and cheer at their favourites, completely destroying any atmosphere Leona attempts to generate at the start. However, as the song builds then they shut up and you can only admire her ability and recognise that she has been one of the leading winners of this type of competition. It was three years ago that she won on X Factor UK, with Simon leading that panel too and his company taking her on.

Next we get 50 Cent, a lot of attractive girls and probably some other rap stars I don't recognise. It's quite funny watching them try to match their lips to the backing track but the mike style adopted is quite effective at disguising how poor they are. Astro actually shines in comparison and I can see him doing really well in that genre if he stays off the drugs and booze and doesn't completely lose it. I guess he won't be duetting with Justin Bieber, though.

This has been some programme and puts the UK final to shame in a big way. We even had Rachel showing Steve how to read an autocue with some style. He may be a decent chap but I do hope, for his sake if not ours, that rumours of his demise are true. He'll never survive what writers will throw at him next time.

Pitbull Ft Neyo. Good club stuff and more pretty girls. More Nicole and Paula doing the point one arm to the sky thing. Marcus joins in. Remember Marcus? He can lip sync better than most. Good job done.

Putting all the previous joint efforts to complete shame, however, were Josh and Melanie singing Heroes. Brilliant and inspiring. It's pretty clear who's taking the lead, though and, sure enough, a few minutes later it is, indeed Melanie who takes the title. A good result.

Bundles of people rush onto stage and Steve is left wandering around and eventually interviews Josh who is more than happy to be the runner-up. Simon comes to Steve's rescue not once but twice as he spends more time telling the audience that he will try once again to get Melanie to speak and failing and, basically, looking very silly. She makes a brave effort at the final song but, next time guys, end with the glitter and party on the stage, OK?!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

X factor USA Final Pt 1

This is the final. We're spared the pointless sing-a-long at the start and almost straight in to the first contender's spot.

What is he singing? In fact, is he singing anything at all? For a moment I was worried but then Alanis Morrisette joins him and all's well with the world, the song she wrote takes off. This had a slow build and, however much I might have liked it, I'm not so sure the voters will be madly pressing the Josh numbers on their phones afterwards. Josh and Alanis suit each other really well but Simon was absolutely right in his observation that Josh appeared somewhat intimidated at the outset.

Josh also proceeds to wander off aimlessly with Steve having to bring him back from whatever world he'd gone into!

Wooster, Oh comes on screen. Ah, his home town in Ohio. Not Bertie Oh. Got it. Anyway, all credit to the crew on the mikes and camera who did a good job of what have in the past been annoying home town spots. Especially compared to the disasters we had to suffer on X Factor UK.


One thing Chris can't do is hold many different notes in tune. He burbled along and then introduced Avril Lavigne who disguised all of that and even made him look quite good. All he had to do was contribute the occasional Ah, Uh, Uh. This was a more commercial number than Josh's and his fans will have liked that. To be honest, Chris really didn't do much at all but he managed to stay in the race all the same.

His 'home town' slot was hilarious with some fat woman who used to live next door to him screaming at the mike and a bunch of mates from a rehab unit saying something I didn't catch. One old bloke was about to get excited when Steve obviously got the nod to move on.


The best start of the three by a long way but still not very inspiring. This was the big song that everyone knows but she seemed just to sing the words not the feeling, probably her mind, like the others, occupied with remembering to announce her partner, in this case, R Kelly. Again, as for the other two contestants, the song then took off and the pair did a pretty good job too. Not as strong as I'd expected, though. I guess they're all a bit nervous.

For this very famous song, it was the first time the writer had sung it as a duet with anyone. That was quite a compliment for Melanie.

Sunrise, Fl, did the honours. Some 'church'. (Well, that's what Steve had called it. Looked more like a ruddy stadium to me). Nice work by the guy supporting her. Made Chris's look really stupid.

Separating the first and second songs we had a tribute to Michael Jackson with Circle Soleil dressed as a bunch of angry looking robots thumping quite effectively around the stage. They were doing a good job but, of course, we get Chris, Melanie and Josh in the middle, looking quite embarrassed and trying to move in time with each other and the dancers. That didn't work at all. Josh seemed to be watching Melanie's feet and Chris was waving his hands around when he probably wasn't supposed to. Good performance by the robots, presumably not the other contestants in costumes.

At Last
Yes, at last, this was the Josh we wanted to see and hear. He could do with letting someone else have the guitar but this was soulful and a well-judged performance. I do feel that he hasn't pushed himself in this final to wow people in the way that he did at the very start of this competition. He seems to just be there and to regard himself as the last person likely to win as if he was there to sing and nothing much else. In a way, I was very impressed but he will be enormously surprised to win, I'm sure. I can't see that he can now but he should be proud of whatever he's done.

Oh dear. The Wooster Oh guys are beginning to lose it now, too, after all. Oh well.

It'll be a close call now between Josh and Chris. Much depends on what Chris pulls out of the bag. With LA Reid, a smart market man, behind him, it could now be enough to push Josh to third place.

Homie, what you trippin' on?
I think that was the title of a track he's written himself and it was very well presented, with a nice bunch of guys and gals on the stage and Chris owning the stage and clearly enjoying the limelight. Throwing his hat out to the crowd he certainly gained a lot of approval and must have made himself a real contender, not just for second place but it now depends very much, for the first time in the whole competition, on what Melanie does or doesn't do.

I still don't rate him as a deserving winner or long-time artist in future and we're all getting too much of the back story of drugs and stuff for my liking but you can't blame LA Reid for those tactics.

Steve did one of his classic mistakes with a casual "Whatever" after LA Reid had said his bit on the panel, which sounded completely wrong!! Prior to the LA endorsement we had to watch Paula going bananas. I suppose with Marcus absent, Chris was the next choice for her to do the swooning thing over. She really does need to keep things a bit more real and so far we've only had Simon doing anything resembling a judge's commentary. Even Simon, though, seemed to take note of the ease with which Chris moved around and delivered the track, saying that that was his '$5 million song'. One has to wonder whether he knows something about the voting figures that we don't as that looked to me a very clear admission that Melanie's wouldn't be. From him, that was odd.

More idiotic stuff from his club friends. And a mayor who seemed fresh out of rehab as well.


Well, this is what we've really all been waiting for. She has to have been the front runner for a while now and has been consistently totally confident, inspiring, note-perfect and displaying star quality - the X Factor as I understand it - week after week.

Odd choice of song again. Something she could belt out, sure, but, something we really take on board and feel is the one to give her the winner's crown? Not really. But then neither was Chris's in that respect. She'll have achieved what her fans wanted but will she have won over any new ones?

This was an anthem-like track and a good final song for the series. Slightly disappointed, though.

In fact, overall, Josh would get my vote, for what it's worth.

Friday, 16 December 2011

It's The Josh and Melanie Show (Pt 2).

Even in the very first sing-a-long-a contestants number, Melanie simply stands out so clearly as the talent there. Even in a hip hoppy type of interpretation of Shout, Shout, Let It All Out that gave Marcus and Chris the chance to do their thing, she effectively trumped them as if she'd decided to take every opportunity to make sure we realise how good she is. This would have had a pre-recorded backing track to which they could mime and mumble but my guess is that she was live and sang over it - and to great effect.

Josh looked a bit uncomfortable. He managed his bits fine enough but this is one of those things that this sort of show needs to sort out - some people just aren't dancers and nor should they be or feel obliged to be.

Steve tells us that there have been 30 million votes which will please the production company. But we still get an ad immediately after the intro.

Accompanying the recaps we get some very strange clips of supporters (hopefully not families or relatives) of Marcus and Chris sounding not exactly pleasant compared to those behind Melanie and Josh.

More ads. This is annoying. As was Steve's attempts to chat to LA with Paula wandering around in front of him and, at most times, the camera man must have had his eye on someone completely different as he was out of shot. Talent's regained when Florence & The Machine perform Spectrum. Brilliant and she shows us just how way off stardom Chris and Marcus really are. One, surely has to go tonight. At least there can be none of Nicole's messing around this time with a straight decision from the numbers passed to Steve.

Chris is first through. Now if it were to be between him and Marcus I would have expected the producers to leave him and Marcus standing. Melanie next. So it's between Josh and Marcus and that has to give Marcus some hope which previously probably wasn't there. Have the girls pushed up the Marcus vote? Josh doesn't strike me as someone who will get an audience that keeps Chris in this long sufficiently excited to vote for him but I also would have expected the same voters to be split between Chris and Marcus so letting Josh through unless he really didn't appeal much at all. My guess is that Marcus really has been finally sussed and, combined with the split referred to, he has easily the least votes and, indeed, Josh may well have secured 2nd place and will, deservedly, be there next week. And in a final, Josh can perform and challenge Melanie or, at least, give her a good run for the $5 million if, as I suspect, Chris has merely scraped through tonight and goes pretty smartly in 3rd place.

The guys have a painful wait, though, while Nicole performs. and what a performance! I think it must have been called Pretty. Excellent. Whoever wrote that deserves a medal and worth watching again. It's bound to be on YouTube now.

And so, finally, we get to know the last place in the final...

It's Josh! Good. We can look forward to the final now. As expected, apart from Drew.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

It's The Josh and Melanie Show (Pt 1).

Here we go. Semi final for XFactor USA. Or sem-eye final as the strange announcer calls it. Steve comes on and corrects him. Nicole doesn't get the best of welcomes and you have to hope that that doesn't have an impact on Josh's votes.

Marcus gets going pretty quickly with an average and very uninspiring, and occasionally desperately out of tune, attempt at Boyz II Men's I'll Make Love To You. Very poor and not worth $5 million. That song's been done a hundred times by others just as well and mostly better. LA Reid and Paula seem way out on their rating him as highly as they do.

LA Reid's second act next - Chris, who is amazingly still here. Fly with his own lyrics here and there. I suppose it was more 'today' than Marcus' pathetic effort but the vocal was poor. Again, he just doesn't meet anything like what either an American Idol or someone with the X Factor should be providing at this stage of the competition. No wow factor. No nothing really, but that's more than Marcus still.

Melanie next. My goodness, they're racing through. Hero has also been done to death a million times. No-one can doubt her ability to hit the notes and be totally reliable but that didn't inspire either. Far better than the two guys so far but still not good enough for a major semi-final like this event is supposed to be. Actually quite boring. The anthem-like quality may help her with some votes, though.

Josh does Come Together. Again. I'm sure it was just a few weeks ago he did this. Don't remember the others doing their songs as repeats but maybe I've missed something. Hardly surprising as none of them were particularly memorable whereas Josh's was. I remember it being fairly good, not stunning so let's see what he does this time round. maybe he hasn't done it before - getting confused with the other one! This was good. the best of the round by far, a natural and sufficiently original performance to get him noticed. I'm not sure what he'll be recording - they'll need a superb writer if he does win - as this was a bit dated too but he takes the lead with this.

Marcus comes on again with Careless Whisper. In places, very good but only in places. He did something weird with the track about two-thirds of the way through and turned it into a dance song. Wrong, didn't suit the words and that was a mistake. Pity, as he might have rescued himself with that up until he started wailing. Simon was very critical. As always, Paula just drools. That's getting a bit tiresome now.

Chris's track is No-one by Alicia Keys. With plenty of Uh-uhs and ohs after a brief nervous-looking go at a piano I've just realised that he never has had to sing anything at all difficult. That means he gets the right notes, such as they are, and kinda gets away with it all. Although I don't know what he's doing here, he was better than Marcus and, at the way things are going, he'll be even more amazed to find himself in the ruddy Final next week! With the girlie vote then totally his for the asking, who knows what will happen then?

Melanie almost sealed the $5 million with her next track: I'm Feeling Good. A classic, not what you might have expected her to choose but a great example of Simon at his best as she made this very much her own and it was a genuinely memorable performance that will have a lot of people downloading this evening on YouTube or wherever they can get a copy. Although Josh is yet to go, that will be the performance of the night and, possibly the last few weeks. Well done.

If Simon had been managing josh then you'd have predicted that he'd get him doing Hallelujah so Nicole has chosen well again here. It's almost perfect for his range and soulful delivery too, as long as he doesn't go overboard as, occasionally, he has recently when holding back would have been better. There was a moment when I thought this was going to go badly wrong but only a moment. He got it right and that was good. Enough to get him through safely with Melanie to the final, deservedly so. Well done, again.

Marcus and Chris both have to go. It doesn't really matter which goes first.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Now they'll have to start making Josh Dolls

Lenny Kravitz appears totally out of place to kick off the show. Brilliant but just odd when you let your imagination wander to Rachel coming on stage afterwards. In fact, only Josh might have coped without a hugely strange juxtaposition in tv land. For all that, it was a great opening and a good reminder that there's more to music than contestants singing other people's tunes and interesting to note that he was amongst the oldest people there.

A recap only served to remind us how good Melanie was, how desperate Marcus looked, how bad Rachel was, how embarrassing Josh was and how weak Chris was with their first songs. And how only Josh improved on their ratings with the second effort.

Josh and Chris get the first allocated safe places. We know that Melanie gets the third place so it's Marcus or Rachel to go. Either can go and not bother me as they're not winners - but it's going to be Rachel as Marcus gets the two girls' votes for just standing there.

Another star that's getting on a bit comes on to keep Melanie waiting. Mary J Blige is a classy act but that was a bit boring and clashed with all the pzazz of wondering who's going, Lenny and anyone would clash with Steve anyway.

Long drawn out, totally unnecessary to tell us that Melanie (who probably got the most votes) is through. As I can't see Marcus ever bringing anything new to the music scene, then, in a sense, I might prefer to see Rachel survive as when she does manage to hit the right notes and has a track that lets her personality shine through she is different and fun and I can see her appealing to kids and the 'Rachel Doll' joke that someone made a while ago may not be so silly at all in terms of merchandising if you're looking for a business venture rather than a really good singer. I don't see much of a market for a Marcus Doll. Even less for a Josh Doll, come to think of it.

Marcus sings I'm Going Down which might be appropriate and, yes, you know we'll get the heart on the stage comments from Paula, and tears in a while, as she saves him. Or, at least, you might have thought were it not for what Simon pulls out of his bag of tricks for Rachel.

Rachel sings I'd Rather Go Blind, a great, great track from Christine McVie and Chicken Shack. The words are way out of her league but I have to say she performed it damn well and far better than Marcus. There was a real effort here. You just couldn't believe it, for all that. Which was a shame.

That performance will have made it more difficult for one of the girls to vote against her and they may just agree during the ad break, probably with a whisper from producers of who actually got the lowest vote, to go for stalemate and relieve themselves of making any decision or accusations of Marcus infatuation from Rachel fans tomorrow.

So as the last minutes of the show tick away I am genuinely not sure which way this is going to go. I'm thinking now that Marcus is going... No, wrong, as Nicole makes a complete cock-up even of not deciding, it's Rachel whose pretty error-strewn previous performances had lost a lot of supporters that is to go. Clearly shocked she wails and that's when you realise that maybe it wasn't such a bright idea to have such young entrants. Steve has people everywhere on the stage, mum comforting Rachel and I have to say that he handled the emotional chaos pretty well. Nicole gets booed by the audience and Steve, interestingly, asks if she wants to comment as if he knew that would bring even more boos. She turns her back and walks away.

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All this rather diminishes the respect for the success that three, at least, deserved for getting through to next week's semi final but now we should see a real competition and my money's on Melanie and Josh, in that order. Let's just hope they don't try anything stupid like dancing.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Josh or Marcus In Dire Straits and Rachel's Making Movies?

Down to five acts now and each get two songs to perform. The second we discover is a last minute switch which I can't figure out whether that's a deliberate twist by the producers to see who can still produce the goods at short notice or a genuine error as the guy giving them the news says. Maybe they hadn't agreed the performance rights payments or something.

Steve's hair is getting blacker each week but at least he's getting a little less wooden but you do still tend to wish that Ryan Seacrest or Dermot O'Leary would walk on instead and be a little more expert in handling the task.

Someone Like You
The Adele number has been pretty well done and is getting boring but she seems to bring it back to life again. That's quite a compliment, too.; It was over far too soon and I would have so much preferred to hear her develop the song but I guess they need time for the ads. It was excellent and the falling tickertape made her look like a winner - the winner that she deserves to be in this competition.

Ain't Nobody
Lively and he dealt with this far better than some of the recent numbers. Still wobbling when he shouldn't but he is coming across a lot better. I'm not sure he's the star, though, that Paula and Nicole keep pushing us to believe with their 'God has a plan for you, honey!' protestations. Only on X Factor USA do you get that from the judges. "Vo, vo, vo!" says LA. Someone tell him it has a T on the end, just before the E.

Nothin' On You
She wailed a bit and missed so many notes in some pretty lazy singing that shows her failings, despite her super, bubbly personality. maybe she's just too young. and the baby voice 'Thank You' at the end is not X Factor winner style. Not a lot more to say about her, really.

We Found Love
No, that was karaoke, sing-along-a-Rihanna. No excitement, no passion and that doesn't do him any good at all. he is far too good for that sort of false effort and we should be hearing him pour his heart out, doing what he wants. That was not endearing and is unlikely to get him any extra votes which he'll need.

Live Your Life
This was his sort of music and he worked well with the DJ tables behind. But, whilst having more impact than Josh, for instance, it doesn't fit in with what I see as a big future star's type of performance. I don't see him being that big star. He is, though, you have to admit, getting better each week and managing to compete with some of the others. Whereas once I would have written him off completely, I feel now that he stands a chance of being in the final.

When You Believe
We could do without the little speeches at the end! I don't think they do her any good at all. Before that, though, we had a first class performance, genuinely professional, of the Whitney number. She has a special ability to get across what the words mean. Like Josh but, frankly, far better these last few weeks. Remarkable and my tip for the winner if she keeps the right song choices and such excellent and powerful, accurate renditions.

A Song For You
Now this suited him down to the ground and is exactly what he should be doing all along. He still looks odd and I don't see him winning but there was none of the usual wobbling around or bum notes and this was just him, doing it well and honestly. Nice job.

The Abbey Road track that we all know well and an impressive performance here - more like the Josh we have come to admire. His interpretation was genuine enough albeit a little strange and even wild in places. I feel he's worried about not making it through and trying too hard. he still deserves that place in the Top Three but will need all his supporters to vote a few extra times to get him there in this much tighter than expected semi-final.

Music & Me
Oh dear. She's getting annoyingly off key again. Surely this will annoy enough of her erstwhile fans that they don't bother to vote in the numbers they must have been doing so far to beat Marcus and the far superior Drew. This was not good, not good at all. painful, in fact, and an embarrassing act for Simon at this stage in the competition. there was a hint of a movie role. Now that makes a lot more sense.

Where Do we Go From Here
An original number that sounded like something we ought to know. I guess that's a compliment to his writing skills. Looking like an army recruit, sitting and playing a guitar, he acme across pretty well and does have a remarkable way of appealing to the girls. That might just see him through. Not a bad performance but really not a winning one.

So, who's going? It ought to be Rachel but I wonder whether she hasn't got this huge following now of teeny-voters who won't be bothered about what she sounds like. Rachel's becoming a product, a fashion item. So, if she does survive, it will cost someone like Josh, who didn't impress this week as he usually has, a lot of support. If it's between Marcus and Chris, though, which my guess is it will be then I have a suspicion that Chris might sneak through for another week.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Way They Were

This is how fans will prefer to remember Drew on her last X Factor USA night before being voted out by the judges.

Astro, voted out by the public, may need to work to restore his tough kid on the black image with this behind the scenes shot of a well-behaved lad called Brian in a gown getting a nice haircut doing the rounds!

Photo acknowledgments to THE X FACTOR ™ & © 2011 FremantleMedia North America, Inc. and Simco Limited. All Rights Reserved. ® and © FOX and its related entities.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Astro's Turfed Out. Paula and Nicole Finally Lose It Completely.

This is quite a big night with two acts going home. I would imagine that everyone except Melanie were feeling nervous and that showed as the did Man In The Mirror to kick off proceedings. Marcus sounded off at the start but got into the right set of notes eventually. I didn't notice Chris at all but have to say that Rachel was much better than last night. I have a feeling that several of them were thinking that perhaps they should have chosen that track themselves as their performance.

Results already... the first one through is Chris. Good Grief!! Second through is Melanie. Number three is Rachel. At this point I begin to lose all faith in the American voting public. Two of Josh, Drew, Marcus and Astro will be gone soon. If it's Marcus and Astro then I can live with that. But to dump either of Drew or Josh at this point would be painful.

My guess is that Josh really has let himself down badly with his Dirty Diana number and perhaps the voters may not have appreciated Drew's cut back Billie Jean as much as I did.

One of the remaining four could, of course, be the one who received the top number of votes so the next act saved is the all important name. We're kept waiting, though, as someone called Tiny Tempah does something after the ads.

It's Josh. Wow. That leaves us with Marcus, Astro and Drew. And Astro's the one to go. That's fine and not too worried about that at all. He'll be OK. Now, how are they going to choose between Drew and Marcus? regardless of what they sing, LA Reid will give his vote to Marcus and I'm pretty sure Paula will too. Nicole is the key to Drew's survival and I have a feeling she'll go with Marcus.. unless he cocks up his save song, that is. Of the two, Drew is the more likely to let her nerves get to her performance, Marcus is the least likely to hit the right notes.

Drew produced her most powerful and meaningful performance to date with a really heartfelt version of Listen To Your Heart. That ought to be difficult to beat and, despite a not-really-on intro designed to pull at Paula and Nicole's heartstrings, whatever Marcus does sing, possibly Either One Of Us is not something I can imagine many people rushing out to buy. Notes, as always, all over the place which some of the judges will regard as running or something but in reality just poor control. Drew's only possible hope is for a split vote and for Marcus to be the one with the lowest number of votes from the public. Will she get that, I wonder? So, Nicole? Can you forget that Marcus is a bit like your ex (or is he current again - one never can tell these days) and genuinely vote for the best singer and most likely to entertain in the future and appeal to music buyers?

Nicole goes for Marcus and both she and Paula go on about how Marcus moved them. Sure, they should both be moved off the show. So much for respecting the public vote or even the clear, very clear difference in the quality of the performances to night. Rubbish decision.

Simon is clearly, and very understandably irritated by the silly women's 'women's' reasons for not risking losing Marcus in what would have been a fairer resort to see who got the lowest votes. My guess is that they knew their favourite would be gone. As a result, the road is now almost completely clear for Melanie, her only credible, realistic artistic and talent-wise competition being Josh and I can only hope and trust that rather more than 16 million vote in future and ensure that they see off the disappointing three they're lumped with in what is unlikely to be an inspiring set of performances next week from 60% of the acts.

Even Astro would have been more entertaining than Chris and Marcus. And let us hope Rachel just sings.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

If there'd been glitter, this could have been the final


Everybody seems to be talking a lot louder tonight. It's Michael Jackson night and, first, the intro announcement man has had his volume turned up and then Steve, too, seems to have his knob twiddled. We get to meet a few members of the Jackson family as well, including a strange attempt by Steve to have a conversation with Mrs Jackson. He has a mike, she hasn't so, unless you can lip read, that didn't exactly go down as the best tv ever.

The members that we might actually know, Janet and Germaine, were conspicuous by their absence and instead the lesser known Marlon, Tito and Jackie stood around on the stage for a while until the ads came.

First on and, oh dear, Josh had said that this might not be his week and, with Dirty Diana, we get a different view of the guy with a guitar. He survived the two or three minutes and tried. In a way it started to work but this was the type of performance you need to watch several times to really get. We could probably have done without his guitar playing, which wasn't brilliant, and just had him concentrating on doing something incredible, as he is capable of doing, instead.

The word 'uncomfortable' was used a lot in the reviews but, as Simon said so accurately, he had been over-produced and just did not come across as well. Definitely his least inspiring performance throughout the whole competition. He will need his fans to get on the phone. It's a bit late for this sort of risk.
♫8½ ☼7

He is so lucky to be here this week, as this is one of the few that could suit him. Black Or White, well the recognisable guitar riff from that track, was what we got with one of his own raps on top. The 'It's black, it's white' bit actually worked and there was quite a bit of excitement going on there too but it didn't work for me. I had expected him to stay a little closer to the Jackson groove; he was, after all wearing a jacket designed to hint at a Jackson link but that was as near as we really got. It won't have done him any harm, though, as it confirms that he is who he wants to be. He didn't try to sing and his progress on the show will now be entirely down to who watches the programme and votes for him. He'll either surge on or crash out - no middle course now. Demographics and all that.
♫7 ☼7½

How will Drew approach this? There's the gentle Ben type of approach or the tearful number, which I would be tempted to go for, or Simon could get her stripping bare one of the big pop hits like Billie Jean. Before she starts (or maybe while she was deciding which way to play it) it appears that Mrs Jackson had finally been provided with a mike and Steve finishes an earlier chat.

I like the way this girl fights with the increasingly annoying LA Reid. At that age she responds remarkably and with a flow of logic and the right words at the right time. That takes some doing.

It looks as though my guess of the stripped version of something was right: and it was, indeed, Billie Jean!! I really must get another job. She was brilliant, really good and sat throughout a heartfelt performance which worked and she sure made it her own. Finally, finally, LA likes it!!
♫9 ☼9

This ought to be her week. How can she fail? Can You Feel It? Camera flicks to catch Michael's daughter not exactly leaping up and down with enthusiasm. In fact she was sort of smiling sympathetically and moving her head a little. Basically, Rachel was out of tune a lot of the time and this was a karaoke job at best. This could be her last week after that. It wasn't good and she didn't actually look good either. This, for the first time, demonstrates just how her youth and inexperience has let her down and, whilst in a few years' time she could come back and be great, for now she is simply not ready by any means for big success in the pop industry other than birthday and Christmas CDs for the little ones perhaps.
♫5 ☼6

Well, if he doesn't nail it this week then he never will. Another act that really ought to fly through, especially driven by the disaster we had last week which nearly saw him off home early. So what does he bring us? Pretty Young Thing. That was unexpected. A very big production. Wrong. Didn't work. Didn't flow like every Jackson number does. You never want Jackson tracks to end. You couldn't wait for Marcus's wailing to end. At one point I even wondered whether he was really bothered about continuing and then we get to the 'nah na na nah' bit and it kinda recovers. But too late as he ends.

Hmm, another one who disappoints this week. My feeling is that he'll get respect for trying and, thank heavens, not repeating the disaster of last week. The vocals, though, were poor. Simon says this and gets both Nicole and Paula shouting at him. Bit like Marcus had been doing to us.
♫6 ☼7

Steve introduces us to Chris as the 'trash man' just before the ad break. Not the best idea, Steve, however well meant it might have been. At this rate, with Marcus, Rachel and Astro, even Josh perhaps, not exactly inspiring us tonight, he has a chance to sneak through despite all the odds and all my previous comments implying that he probably shouldn't have ever made the Top 17. So what's he going to make of this opportunity?

Uh, uh, ah, c'mon, uh. uh we hear. OK so he's doing a strange version of I'll Be There. Dressed in what I think must be baseball, nice American guy, clothes, you could imagine him in an 80s movie or in the background of High Street Musical. There's no doubt that he'll get some good pile of girl votes and that could make the difference between him and the other guys. It was a tedious track but better sung than he's managed before. The 'oh, ah, uh uh' bits and a bit of rap in there somewhere vaguely rescued this from being totally forgettable but it would be so disappointing if he were to get much further in this competition without ever having made that special impact on stage and instead surviving by being simply a decent looking bloke with a soft voice. He could beat Rachel, though and so has a chance of another week but, against any of the others for the judges' vote, can be really hope to survive? Put like that and I rather suspect he could be going after all.
♫7½ ☼7

This is her big chance to take the lead in this competition. Her voice is damn near perfect and there are hundreds of tracks I could imagine her doing which would bring the house down and put some emotion into Michael's daughter's expression. World Song is too long, I suppose. OMG!! I got it right again!! Amazing. Pause to drop Simon a line asking for a job.. That was wonderful. A very big number and, at last, someone has really done justice to the guy. It was like watching the winner at a final. Immaculate tone and delivery with just one tiny exception - the end note. But even that was not the ghastly screech that we'd have had from Stacy. I would have ended it differently but, hey, who cares after the rest. Way, way ahead of everyone but Drew, and still beating her her too, Melanie has to be back next week and in the final four as we head for the semi final.
♫9½ ☼9½

So, Melanie, Drew, Josh and Marcus maybe through. That leaves Chris (the other maybe) and Rachel. I guess everyone in the States knows whether I'm right but tomorrow we here in The UK will find out.

Now, back to that e-mail to Simon...

Friday, 25 November 2011

The Wrong Two Go Home

Kelly Clarkson appears on stage within a record 1 minute of the show commencing. Wonderful. Not just a good new track but no long-winded intro or back stories or giving thanks. Uh oh... I spoke too soon. we then get mercifully short extracts from the night before. Plus a few performances but not a great deal in the fastest summary put together, presumably, on the morning after the night before. I can only imagine that the lower ratings they've been getting may have meant less ads so less time.

Steve does a lot with his finger. Each time the word one happens to arrive in a sentence up comes the single finger. No not the middle one. At the very start he gave a great victory sign to the camera to emphasise the fact that two acts are leaving tonight. That could have gone wrong. Then we get the finger swipe which is a slightly stiff and cardboard version of the Dermot O'Leary twist and slice we here in the UK are so familiar with that we'd probably have to check the channel if he didn't do it when introducing something.

We're Gonna Start A Fight sing the last nine. A bit odd and only Melanie and Rachel really seem to make much of an impression. That's all probably best forgotten.

Drew and Lakoda Rayne get dragged up onto the stage and one of them is the act with the lowest votes. It didn't take much guessing that Drew was safely through and it was farewell to Lakoda Rayne and Paula loses her last group. So X Factor USA will be creating a new solo star in a few weeks' time like American Idol has done and, indeed, as X Factor UK has been doing for many years.

Lakoda Rayne determinedly announce that it's not 'the end' and that they'll be carrying on together. That's good, although I am not going to predict that we'll see much of them in the UK unless Paula finds them a really good writer. There is space for a new girl band but they'll need more than covers to break through.

Bruno Mars puts on an excellent performance which Marcus would do well to try and emulate if he wishes to carry on as that's where it's at amongst the major section of the 2011-2 buying public.

Now we get to find out the second act to leave. It really should be Chris. But he's actually the next name called out so it's not him. Goodness knows how he's surviving. I suppose he is the last good looking(ish) guy left and gets the girls' vote. Rachel gets through, Josh and Melanie deservedly too. Marcus, Leroy or Astro? Which will be the bottom two? It's Leroy and Marcus as Astro is through!

It looks as though Marcus is paying the price for that really rubbish performance of Mama or whatever it was called last night. Well done, America, for getting that right. I suspect that SYCO decided to hang on to Astro after last week's farce and Leroy may well have been the lowest had he not produced a damn good vocal which appealed to just a few more than Lakoda Rayne effort.

You'd expect that the inevitable outcome would be for Leroy to bid farewell to the competition now. Marcus should be able to come out with a great track to show off what he is capable of doing while Leroy can only hope to impress with another well-sung but not terribly inspiring or different version of a ballad.

In fact Marcus does a ballad first, pretty well delivered but he looks uncomfortable and misses a lot of notes but it's an appealing track. Neglected ought to save him but let's see what Leroy pulls out of the same bag. We know he'll hit the notes but will he deliver the real pzazz that's needed? Don't Let Me Down is not easy - another McCartney track with notes in strange places that most people in this competition would never get right. Remarkably, Leroy not only does get almost all of them right but switches the impact of the song well and, to my mind, gives a far better performance than Marcus. That was good. A tough choice for the judges, for sure. They'd normally have decided straight for Marcus but I'm not so sure they will this time. the problem for Leroy is that he is almost certainly the second lowest on the phone votes and so deadlock would see him going home. So he needs three of the judges.

Obviously, he doesn't get LA Reid. LA does actually give a very sensible and logical reason too, not just 'cos he's his mentor. Nicole, again, supporting her act, backs Leroy. One all. Paula sends home Marcus! That took a lot of courage. Simon, I feel, prefers Leroy but decides to go for deadlock. Bad news for Leroy. Very unlucky.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Oh Dear, Emotional Thanksgiving Week...

I thought Thanksgiving was supposed to be a cheerful time but the images shown at the start were of really scared or sad people! What on earth was the logic behind that? As the show went on it seemed that only Brit Simon managed to stay in control of his emotions as we faced a tearful panel and some tedious back stories with only a couple of acts bringing any light relief.

Two to go tonight. So maybe that's why Leroy, Lakoda Rayne, Astro and Chris were looking worried.

All that happens before the first ad break is Steve offering to hang out with Simon for Thanksgiving. Not a good line, Steve. Stick to the autocue.

At last, the contestants get going. I can see all this 'giving thanks' business getting unbearable. This is something American TV is not good at. Far too syrupy and very old-fashioned.


The flaming back history takes longer than the track! Eventually... she starts really well, despite wearing a carpet. Then she goes right out of tune on several bits of I Believe where the song goes out of the range she seems most comfortable in. The good bits did just outweigh the bad bits, to be fair, but, by this stage she needs to show that she can be better than this if she's going to make the big time and not just disappear from view after Christmas. My guess is that her bouncy, confident personality will go down well with voters, though, so she ought to be OK.
♫5½ ☼7½


Another long back story. Another bad neighbourhood. C'mon. Let's get on with it. Or maybe not. This smoochy, uninspiring version of something that must be called Mama was awful and perhaps listening to his mum was preferable. The guy has talent but shouldn't do this kind of stuff. The runaway high notes just ran away clear out of the building and silly cut-aways of his mum waving at herself weren't good. The judges, especially Paula, seem to be hearing something totally different to what's coming through my speakers. LA Reid talking about him being one of the great singers is pure nonsense. Interestingly, Simon started a sentence "There were a few little..." only for the camera to switch to LA Reid and we never get to hear the rest. It was probably "... places where you missed notes and looked odd" but we'll never know. From the point of view of star quality, the ability to sell albums and fill places, I have to say that Marcus falls behind Rachel on that performance.
♫5 ☼7


Oh heavens. Melanie is thanking God and does the church thing big time. No harm in that but it's all a bit much. I was expecting Simon to sneak in Hallelujah which I think would have worked really well. Instead he gave her I Am That Mountain which she did brilliantly. She is so good that I even liked it myself and it's not my normal type of music at all. Unfortunately we then get some ridiculous emotional outburst from Melanie about where she's come from and how this is the best moment of her life which spoiled things. As Simon said, though, (once Nicole had given her a hug, Steve having given up hope of restoring order), she was outstanding and certainly deserves to stay. She's a potential winner - the safe and older generation type of winner from what we've seen so far - but she could break out of the mould and be genuinely amazing if she dares. Now that would be nice.
♫10 ☼8


You do wonder sometimes if there are any people in the States who haven't been in rehab, or had parents in rehab, or nearly died, or lost their family. A rap version of Let It Be. Hmm. A lot of people don't realise that there is a huge difference between singing along to a Beatles track and actually hitting the right notes on your own. Lennon & McCartney were complex writers and Chris missed a lot of what they put on the sheet music. However, most of this was all good sing-a-long. But that's all. Chris needs to go home before he gets his hopes up too much. He's done better than most would have predicted to get this far. That performance was not the kind of thing that'll last in our memories long.

The judges seem to be on another planet with goofy gushing praise for everyone. Tonight's show is getting really tiresome.
♫7½ ☼6

Lakoda Rayne

At last some people who seems to come from a vaguely normal background and no soppy stories, just a Gran or two. These girls do look good and, once they get going, sound good too but there may have been too many wrong bits in You Belong With Me at the start for many voters' tastes. They're current and a breath of fresh air after all the gloom and God and mama. LA Reid was remarkably kind but Paula's way-over-the-top emotions seemed well out of place. Maybe she knows that they're next to go. I hope not but I guess they are vulnerable, being still somewhat short of that special star quality needed. Give them a few more weeks and a really good song and things might change. But will they get that chance with two acts going tomorrow?
♫7 ☼7


With just his late mum to thank this was a bit easier to watch and he was sure treading on Josh's territory with In The Arms Of An Angel which he sang well and he I reckon he did himself a whole bundle of favours with this performance. LA Reid didn't think much of it but the others gushed and sobbed a lot. This is getting really boring. At the end of the day, Leroy is not a winner but he doesn't, on tonight's tracks, deserve to go just yet. This was way better than Chris and Marcus.
♫9½ ☼6½


Well, his back story was just last week's nonsense. Quite a relief, really. Show Me What You Got may or may not be the title of yet another track he's written during the week. How he manages that I don't know and all due respect to him for that. However, I think we've had enough now and this was a bit boring, tuneless and not really going anywhere. No real structure, just a  bit of a rant. Quite where he goes in this competition I don't know. Last week may have been a big hint that the voters aren't hip hop fans (with Chris getting the all important girlie votes that Astro can't hope to match). So his days may be numbered now on the competition - but certainly not as a future big selling artist.
♫5 ☼7½


Her three minute intro was all about some other 14 year old friend as, clearly, the family's all good. Skyscraper is a fabulous song and she delivered that so well. We saw some real strong verses there and you could just tell that she knew and felt this song from beginning to end and really did get into it. LA Reid was way out of line with his criticism of the song choice and it was most pleasing to see not only Simon getting genuinely angry but also Drew coming out with an excellent and controlled response that sounded intelligent and put her streets ahead of many of the others in term so of how to behave on stage. (Melanie take note. Drew has you beat in that respect.) Drew is a definite contender and had better be there next week or the show makes no sense.
♫9 ☼9


So, how many references to buritos will we get tonight? None. That's a change. He ends the show with a magnificent Wild Horses. I'm not sure that Jagger & Richards would not have preferred a bit more interpretation of the song as a whole, which they, and to a lesser extent Susan Boyle provided. However, this was a classy performance and Josh is someone I want to see in the final. He may find some of his support drifting to Leroy this week but, with a bit of good luck, they'll both still trounce some of the lesser contestants.
♫9 ☼7

As the night ends, once again we're left thanking our lucky stars for Drew and Lakoda Rayne saving the evening from dire mush and for Melanie and Josh for their sheer talent. I really do hope that this format and theme is binned for future years.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Lady Gaga at Children In Need Concert

Nothing to do with X Factor USA but just to remind you of how someone should perform live! And she did this for no fee.

The Worst Version of Amazing Grace Ever

X Factor USA is big. They really do need a big voice to do the intro. Where is Peter Dickson when you need him? The present announcer sounds like he's wrapped up in a duvet in an Alaska storm, hiding in a cabin from that woman who was running for Vice President a while back. I was quite scared to watch the results show as, by my reckoning at any rate, Stacy should be singing again. And that worries me as my brain tends to react pretty badly. It's not just that she sings dreadfully out of tune but that she does so so very loudly.

Steve appears and doesn't mention anything at all about Leroy missing the one bit he had to do in We Will Rock You. Instead he is announcing that good old Leroy is the first act saved. He looked well-relieved.Then Lakoda Rayne get the good news. That's nice and Paula's relieved.

Looks like we'll be getting another batch of promo shots. Drew tells us that she's never had an professional pictures taken. That does make you wonder who did the glam shots we've been seeing for the last few weeks. Maybe someone in the audience took a few shots on their phone for them.

In what must rank as The Most Understated introduction this year, Steve mumbles something about Rihanna's global exclusive launch of a new track. She jumped around a lot and sang hey hey hey a few times but her mic was picking up the track she was supposed to be miming to so, despite sounding like a great number, maybe Steve's deadbeat intro was about right. Off she goes with Steve calling her a glorious glorious lady. I can only assume the autocue man was unwell, or also worried about Stacy singing again and had taken the day off and they'd forgotten to arrange a replacement. Steve should most definitely not be let loose on stage without a script. The trouble is, even with a script, his pace of delivery is so slow that I reckon I could learn sign language by watching the late night repeat with the little chap doing the signing  bottom right.

Some act must have dropped out at the last minute as we then get a strange reintroduction with the scary film theme to the judges and top ten. Weird, and very out of place. Oh well. Third through is [silly delay] Chris Renee. Chris Renee? Good grief. I had him down for the bottom two. Melanie gets through. Good. Then Josh. Good. Marcus gets through. Drew too. Quite a relief there. Rachel, Astro and Stacy. Can't be Astro. No way. Good grief! He's in the bottom two as Rachel gets some satisfaction after all. Now that is a surprise. In a way, though, surely that must mean Stacy goes, even if she does Purple Rain in the nude.

We know LA will vote for little Brian, as will Simon. Paula might wobble and force a deadlock. Actually, after listening to that dreadful version of A-May-ZZing Gra-ay-ay-ce surely even Paula will vote for the boy. God that was horrible. Even the applause the noisy crowd usually deliver (and often for no reason at all) was embarrassingly muted.

Brian / Astro starts off asking whether he needs to perform at all! That could have been taken two ways! For a moment I thought he was saying that Stacy was so crap that he didn't need to - now that would have been funny. As it was, I think he meant that he thought his time was up. Just being in the bottom two - that's below Chris and Leroy - must have hit the lad hard after all the big confidence stuff so far. Anyway, he did perform. A pretty tedious and dodgy take on Don't Want To Say Goodbye that on another night would have meant he was going home.

LA took a while to support his guy. Nicole, obviously, supports Stacy. Paula sends Stacy home. For a moment, Simon's questioning provides an awkward moment for Brian who very nearly blew it but he survived and the screeching Stacy goes. Looks like Voting Land are going to need something different from Brian. That could be difficult for him.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Rock Night? Well, they Got The Night Bit Right.

This was more like Picnic At Hanging Rock than anything approximating to Rock Night. Only Josh and Marcus seemed to stick to the schedule and only Josh with any real conviction. Marcus stared up rock chicks' pants and Stacy scared the pants off viewers with a dreadfully off-key act which must surely see Stacy not stay. Drew and Melanie did REM and U2 anthems pretty damn well and impressed us but not with their abilities to rock with Simon playing oh-so-safe tonight.

Rachel did the Stones and did a great version that was rock but was just wrong which was a shame but it probably doesn't matter as she'll get plenty of votes from all the people who don't care much about whether an artist means what they're singing. Astro really won the show and, if Drew, Josh and Melanie allow him to keep stealing the show, he may have won the $5 million. My guess is that he's won a contract already.


He's the right age to have lived with real rock when it was taking off. We've Got Tonight did eventually get going but never really struck me as more than a smart ballad - which he is very good at doing, of course. The bit where he was supposed to let go and roar a bit more was a bit of a let down and at one point he glanced across at one of the backing musicians as if to check whether he was OK to sing the next line. It was a clean, well-tuned performance but nothing that anyone would rush out and buy and certainly not download. I have to agree with LA and Simon's comment "You can't win this competition." But he'll enjoy being part of the top ten, which ain't bad going when you think about it.
♫8 ☼4


How on earth can a tiny 12 year old (OK, she's 14 but that doesn't really affect the image) sing I Can't Get No Satisfaction? Well, in terms of the notes and style, very well indeed - and it's not as easy as you'd think with some tricky low notes in there. She can put on a great act and, although it was a little bit lacking in the intensity that Sir Mick can still bring to it, she got our attention and is looking popular. My problem is that she isn't an adult and just cannot possibly deliver the emotion needed to make any sense of tracks like this. It's all wrong and I'd far rather go and watch Leroy singing this - but that's not saying a great deal either. This girl needs to have fun or, if it has to be a slow one, it has to be about something believable for her. For all that she'll sail through to the next round.
♫8 ☼7½


Everything's Going To Be all Right / No Woman, No Cry
Rock steady or reggae night? Must have misheard the intro. Oh well, never mind. Everything shouldn't be all right as this was pretty boring and just went on with the occasional uh, uhh which seems to be a prerequisite of stuff like this. I don't really know how he's managed to get this far. I', not sure about the Occupy Wall St T-shirt going down too well, either. After all, where does he think the $5 million's going to come from at the end of the day? It's time he went but there's another seven acts to follow and one of them might be bad enough to keep him doing the uh uhh stuff for another week. One who won't will be Astro who does all this far, far better - and with more style and originality by miles - and I don't see the voting public spending money on both for long.
♫7 ☼3


It's all Coming Back To Me Now
Although you get the impression that she's a good singer, she hits a weird variety of notes on this number and it's actually quiet painful to listen to. She has an expression that's not pleasant on the eye either. The second baby in the screeched baby, baby bit was way, way off-key. Meatloaf would not be a happy man listening to that. In fact, she may well have blown her chances of getting any further.
♫3 ☼4½


Everybody Hurts
I was worried for a moment when Simon announced that he had a very personal relationship with Melanie having been inside her home, the last word coming as some relief. This fabulous track is no rock track and Simon is certainly being very cheeky putting this on this week but (a) it's a sure-fire vote winner and (b) Melanie created real atmosphere around the words, heading even towards jazz at one point and out-gospeling Stacy briefly too. The ending wasn't good. It just stopped, neither at one point or another. In a way, because the REM track is just so wonderful and meaningful, comparisons are seldom likely to be good. and that says a lot - it has to be someone with a special talent that can take a track like theirs and make it truly great. We've seen people in the past who can do that on American Idol and X Factor UK in past years. So I was disappointed that Melanie didn't take the opportunity Simon had given her to join that small club. No problem staying another week, though.
♫8½ ☼7½


What Did I Say
The Foo Fighters number worked well for him. At last - a real rock song on Rock Night! It may not have been anywhere near my favourite rock tracks of the century but he was good. Not fantastic, but good, and will be safely through to a round where we can see him seek another special and memorable performance to match some of his better ones to date. For all that he's a potential winner.
♫8 ☼8


Every Step I Take (or whatever)
To the sound of The Police's classic backing he raps away on top and it actually works pretty well. In fact, it worked tremendously well. Well done to the little kid, showing Rachel how it should be done. LA has also managed to age him several years which can only do him a lot of good. Smart kid, smart choice. Another definite contender now but a star, come what may. I don't recall saying that in any previous competition.
♫9 ☼10

Lakoda Rayne

You Can Go Your Own Way
I didn't recognise the start of this at all and was worrying that there could be a third group going home but it did eventually turn into the highly recognisable Fleetwood Mac track. The four girls - and we got a chance to get to know a bit more about them for the first time too - looked good and sounded together and, at last, looked as though they were enjoying themselves. It wasn't great and we're still waiting for that special performance from them but, with a bit of luck (and there are several far less deserving acts to get rid of before them) they'll get another chance next week. Each has quite a sparkling personality and great natural looks and you get the feeling that each of them is itching to give it all but they hold backin order to stick to the group rules laid down. Set them free and I reckon they'll surprise us all.
♫7½ ☼7


With Or Without You
I'm really hoping for something special from Drew. It's been a pretty average night with only Astro setting the place alight so far. U2 were a rock band, for sure, although this was more of an anthem but I loved her interpretation of it. She was gentle and remained in her style all the way through. To be absolutely honest I was hoping she'd erupt and really break out at the end and show how she can be exciting and run with the tune too and make it go where it wants too instead of controlling it so much. But that was good, not inspiringly good, but good enough all the same. She'll be back.
♫8 ☼8½


Take Another piece Of My Heart
So Marcus gets to close the show. Janis Joplin still does this like no-one else can but, in a set dressed as hell and some slinky dancers to distract him and us, Marcus put on a good show. He looked comfortable on a big stage and can easily handle that part of being a star. The voice was in tune and he did well. I just didn't believe a word of it - all just show. However, that's the business he's in and it's probably not fair to knock him for doing as he's told. The amusing thing was that, as LA described him - a PK (preacher's kid) - things like scantily clad girls don't seem to be something he was that keen on his parents watching him perform with. So when the show had him starting off by sliding on his back through the open legs of about a dozen girls wearing tiny shorts on a black set lit solely by flames you tended to forget whatever he was singing and wonder what he saw and what his parents thought of it! He'll be around for a while yet and this may just be one of those performances we don't bother about too much.
♫8 ☼8

Monday, 14 November 2011

Last Post for XFNow

As a writer and music lover it has been a been a pleasure to provide The View From Across The Pond on XFNow! this season. Herb Longs, the enthusiast behind the scenes maintained the site and who had previously kept us all informed on American Idol affairs through AINow!, however, is taking time out for studies and personal things so those sites will be no more.

I was pleased to have provided the last post for his followers and wish him and his colleagues all the best.

I shall, of course, carry on here and, without the constraints of wondering whether what I say might get him into trouble, perhaps feel able to add a little more spice to the recaps! There are many sites and blogs out there doing the X Factor Review Dance and one or two are doing a great job and mercifully not telling us when Pia sang the national anthem at some game or pie shop opening gala. Here are those I can recommend. Sorry, but only one for USA at the moment! Hopefully I find someone somewhere that keeps things up to date and not covered in adverts.

X factor USA
X Factor UK
X Factor Updates
Digital Spy

Friday, 11 November 2011

Week 3 Results

Steve's eyebrows seem to get blacker as the programme continues. He doesn't get a great deal of camera time but when he is on the screen it is difficult to pay much attention to what he is reading from the autocue when not only are you watching them move strangely independently of the rest of his face but also trying to figure out whether the script includes [point at camera now], [move to left foot, turn slightly to the right] and variations on the theme.

All the contestants are dressed in nice jackets and skirts and sing along pretty tediously. Until they get voted out, the presence of Brian and Chris means that the arrangers have to put in a rap component in whatever's planned for the intro.

Next we get some weird little kid called Willow Smith singing very badly something about being a Fireball. Sounded like a speeded up version of Lulu's I'm A Tiger from the late 60s. I didn't like that much either. Bearing in mind that X factor UK gave us Florence And The Machine, this was cheap by comparison. Jesse J came on next and was probably more than grateful to follow such a poor act and show the audience some great current UK material and also how to dress using just some coloured duck tape.

In no particular order... Stacy is the first name to be announced so Leroy and Chris were looking worried. Then we get Leroy's name and Chris must be wondering who he'll be up against. One of two groups. Then, amazingly, both Stereo Hogzz and Lakoda Rayne are left standing as Chris is not, after all, in the bottom two. Poor Paula. Two weeks of public voting and her groups in the bottom each time. Rumour has it that the actual votes were 8 for Chris, 5 for Stereo Hogzz and 3 for Lakoda Rayne (Cari forgot to vote and Drew's class all dialled the wrong number).

Lakoda Rayne's backing track seemed totally different to what they were singing and, whilst they were in tune and very pretty, whatever it was they did sing was very forgettable and unlikely to save them. In contrast, the boys warbled disastrously but did Michael Jackson's You Are Not Alone, timely if the judges were MJ fans, and, at least. something that they'd recognise. It was probably the jackets that did for them, though.

Fun at the end when, with two judges already voting for Stereo Hogzz to go home, Paula abstains. Steve asks Simon for his 'casting vote'. Everyone looks confused. Obviously the autocue man wasn't paying attention. Probably watching Steve's eyebrows. So that's farewell Stereo Hogzz then.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Lampshades In The Wind On Movie Night

This was a remarkable night, delivering six or seven memorable performances which is five or six more than you tend to expect from this type of competition. I know I'm known for my comments on some of the less obvious things that appear on or around the stage but tonight a combination of inspired song choices, sensible judges' comments and a considerable amount of hard work by the contestants deserves simple recognition. Stacy aside, these were all performances that wouldn't have been out of place in a final.

Stacy ♫ 5 ☼ 5
Very red. Totally out of the zone that we're used to seeing her in. Not a pleasant number, Queen Of The Night, and surely Nicole could have found a far better track on the film it came from. LA Reid got it right as this is not the style her supporters will support. Surprisingly, she was also off-key and didn't look at all right. I can't see Voting Land doing her any favours and, from being one of the sure-fire entrants to get through to the Live Shows, I feel she simply hasn't progressed - and, now, having had the benefit of seeing what she's up against, she may well be in the bottom two this week.

Marcus ♫ 8½ ☼ 9
I'm Goin' Down he may have sung but this was an excellent version that should ensure he isn't. This guy's good and performs well on a stage as if he's completely at home there. In places this was probably a bit OTT, slipping off his shiny jacket in theatrical style was silly but he'll do well for all that.

Drew ♫ 8 ☼ 9
Fix You was a gentle number that Lost fans will appreciate and Coldplay won't be too upset about either. A nice set but she appears in what transpired to be a self-designed feather lampshade which was initially most odd. Eventually, though, the wind machine gets going and makes a good job of messing it all up and she looks a great deal prettier. This was a fairly safe move by Simon or Drew or whoever decided how to play this round. Safe enoughto see her sail through but she'll need to keep the really memorable performances coming if she's going to be on that final stage for a bear hug with Josh.

Leroy ♫ 8½ ☼ 6
I Still haven't Found What I'm Looking For was the U2 classic that Nicole had dug out of her cassette collection for tonight. It was well sung and with a different vibe that I didn't expect. The gospel backing track helped this build well, although it did just stop and you were left wondering why. He sings well and hits the right notes and has a kind of appeal that people will like, for a while at least. He should just have earned himself another week.

Lakoda Rayne ♫ 9 ☼ 8
A good ol' country number on X Factor at last! It's been a while for anything to appeal to the rural voters and the group will just be hoping like mad that enough of them were actually watching to appreciate this performance. They were looking and sounding so much better tonight - real professionals on the stage and Cari very strong as the lead. Yup, that sure worked for me and that's another one of last week's uncertain survivors looking safe.

Astro ♫ 10 ☼ 10
We learned that Brian can write which is more than a lot of my students seem able to do at that age. He's actually written all his own lyrics and I have to say, in all seriousness, that this an impressive skill he has and he delivers on stage really well too.

There is some huge talent here. remarkable and must make him a contender. He deserves success but, as I've said before, LA should just give him a deal and let the others fight it out for the $5m. Full marks.

Melanie ♫ 10 ☼ 8
Man In The Mirror. She is one of those people who look quite ordinary off stage but, dress her and do the hair and make-up right, and she gets transformed in the spotlight. This was another excellent performance. You know she'll be note perfect and actually sit back and enjoy watching her and listening to her. She's a very strong contender and she has to do well in and out of this competition.

Stereo Hogzz ♫ 8½ ☼ 7
Another really professional performance tonight. Difficult to fault Paula's presentation in prefect suits and classy dancing. Like LA, I don't know the song they sang and that won't help them to gather the votes they need but they don't deserve a low place again this week.

Josh ♫ 10 ☼ 8
With A Little Help From Our Friends. The wind machine was in action again, this time on the Joe Cocker number. Josh is probably the only act that could reproduce this. That is, though, something which might make it less than memorable as it was in many ways almost the same. It's a 60s song, done in a 60s style which, however accurate and well-intentioned, didn't suit Josh as well as it might. He'll be back, however, no worries there.

Chris ♫ 8 ☼ 6
Now we see the guy in his own element. Coolio's Gangsta Paradise is best done by Coolio and Astro must have the rap element of any voters pretty well sewn up now. This was good and competent, yes, but a winner? No. Not in a hundred years. He could be in the bottom two this week and how he fares against Stacy could be not so well if it comes down to deadlock between the judges.

Rachel ♫ 8½ ☼ 8½
I'd Rather Go Blind was an inspired choice by Simon and totally unexpected. I remember buying this single when it was a mature blonde Christine McVie singing rather than a teenage Rachel but it worked well for her. We later learn that it was actually her choice which is even more surprising! I had her down as a possible early exit after last week but this could change that. What's with the lampshade dresses tonight? Fortunately, the camera stayed above waist most of the time and we don't get put off by her version of the furnishing. This was a very, very good performance, bringing her, tonight, at any rate, on par with Drew, and beating her in terms of the track from tonight that we'll remember in months to come.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Week 2 Result

Who is doing that voiceover intro?? "Assstro" says the voiceover guy. UK's Peter Dickson would never say 'ass'. And even if he had slipped up he would have done it with style. This guy sounds like the love child of Marge Simpson and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Oh well, it's over soon enough and on comes Steve. I think it's Steve. he's waving his arms around a lot but unfortunately the camera is miles away and it looks as if he's doing a James Bond impression from a distance. Please someone, tell the autocue operator to run it faster or we'll have ad breaks in the middle of his sentences.

"Here... is... how... the... show... is... going... to... work." Oh boy. Has he never watched CSI? Americans talk quickly.

Now we get the twelve acts doing an approximation to Without You. But what is all this with the change in lyrics? Do SYCO get a discount on the performance fee? it's With Or Without You!! Poor Nilsson.

Then we get the results and even longer pauses than XFUK's Dermot O'Leary does in the finals. I think Pepsi must have called up and he seems to get a message from someone and speeds up. Someone somewhere had calculated that gaps that long times seven would take them to the end of the programme slot. We see surprised looks as Leroy gets through and I'm wondering if I'm going to regret making predictions. Lakoda Rayne next. I may have got this wrong and misread the voting audience. Finally, it's down to InTENsity and Stereo Hogzz. Now, I am surprised to see Stereo Hoggz there.

They do their rescue song and made a nice job of it. The lead is still oddly nervous but, this time, he gets away with it. InTENsity give a great, lively song. Am I watching Glee? (OK, I guess everyone says that. Sorry. I won't do it again.) Quite a few dodgy notes, though. I would have still kept them as I think they'll improve and could be a very successful product.

Only Simon agrees, however, and the other three save Stereo Hoggz. So it's farewell to the annoying little one, some good talent and some not so good, as they can now all get back to their algebra homework again.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

No Landslide Votes For Lakoda Rayne, Leroy Or Some Kids In America?

It's Live Show Week 2 and twelve will become eleven. You folk in the States will know pretty soon if not already who gets sent home but if it's not one of Leroy, Lakoda Rayne or InTENsity then they've had a lucky escape.

Stereo Hogzz ♫ 8 ☼ 8

They looked the part, all nicely dressed up in red to match the inevitable flames or fiery background that would be bound to appear at some point or another. SYCO like that sort of thing. They did the cool and heavy impressions in the pre-vid just to make it clear they were different to Rachel Crow in case we got confused. So far so good but then one of them started singing. What an awful start. Who chose that? Once he'd stopped veering around the scale looking for some notes to sing that anyone could hear over the background noise they did get going a lot better. Compared to the heavy, hard-hitting backing guys, the lead singer seems a bit weak and uncomfortable. He sort of got it going but never really joined his mates in being 'part of their Rhythm Nation'. It does seem like it worked better on set than it did on telly as the crowd loves them. There again, this was the first act so they may just have been relieved to get someone other than Steve warming them up with a few Welsh jokes. Simon was well over the top in his praise. That's him in Paula's good books for a while.

Chris Rene ♫ 7½ ☼ 6

If the first act seemed a bit strange then watching Chris, much improved with his makeover, sing a Carpenters' number kept up the mystery. For some reason best known to LA Reid the stage appears to catch fire and we get some massive (and visually brilliant) display of flames on the rear screen and Chris dives into rap amidst the smoke. For all that, it probably was quite a good choice as it suited his voice well and this was a big improvement on last week and almost justified his inclusion in the Top 12. Simon wonders what on earth the hell set look was all about. LA Reid attempts to explain it with something along the lines of 'Cos he's hot'. That didn't work. Steve tries to say it was more heavenly than hell. That fell as flat as a pancake. Someone really does need to write him some lines or, at least, run his autocue a bit faster.

Leroy Bell ♫ 8 ☼ 4½

Already There is a big, big number and Leroy was brave to take this one on. As an older, father-like figure he can deliver this with genuine emotion but this was just too big a risk and too many comparisons can be made. He could be vulnerable, despite being a really nice guy. Unless he can make some genre his own and begin to appeal to a group which his personable charm can appeal to and become marketable he's not going to last long. He's also up against some remarkably good singers who do have that 'X Factor', including Josh in his own category.

Rachel Crow ♫ 6 ☼ 7½

Great little personality from the character most featured in all the early promos. Simon made a brilliant choice in choosing Katrina & The Waves "Walking On Sunshine". In theory. But, too low for her at the start and with a strange re-working of the lyrics this wasn't so good at all. "You're My Sunshine" in place of "Walking On Sunshine" just doesn't sound right. There was a horrible last note too. Rachel's a cheery character but not someone who is likely to win X Factor USA unless they're thinking of cancelling America's Got Talent where she'd be much better suited.

Lakoda Rayne ♫ 7½ ☼ 5

Landslide - a Stevie Nicks number and anything by Stevie is fine by me. As long as it's not messed up. This nearly was. These are lovely girls, each with considerable talent - but together? Do they make sense as a group? If they'd delivered this with one taking a clear lead and the others hanging on for the ride with a harmony or two then it would have been better. Instead we got a pretty forced and unnatural performance that was in tune and tight but without any character or meaning. Despite their looks and potential capabilities as individuals, I feel Lakoda Rayne the group is vulnerable this week.

Steve only ever seems to interact with Simon. Maybe he doesn't realise that Americans do speak English too. Even if they do spell realise with a zed. Sorry, zee. Simon makes the reasonable comment about the girls' dresses making them look a bit old-fashioned. Steve says, blandly "They're beautiful." Yes, Steve, we know that. It's the dresses ... "Beautiful." he repeats for no obvious reason. Hopeless.

Josh Kracjik ♫ 9 ☼ 8½

Nicole makes a risky choice with Jar Of Hearts. In X factor UK Craig Coulton has just done that track too but with nothing like the impact and meaning that Josh manages to exude. They said Craig was wonderful and he sailed through his round. Josh was incredible and should also be firmly into Week 3 and still rejecting the advances of the stylists and make-up people. He has to be a contender.

Melanie Amaro ♫ 10 ☼ 8½

Desperado. Another excellent and inspired choice by Simon. anyone would think I'm looking for a job with SYCO if I carry on being so complimentary. He's just so good at matching the singer to the song. And to us, the audience. This was a superb production too, stripped of all the distractions and silly effects, and she brought back to life the Eagles track even better than Linda Ronstadt did. And that's saying something. Her pitch was perfect and I reckon she has a great deal more to bring to this competition. another contender from tonight.

Astro ♫ 9 ☼ 8

Obviously being called Brian doesn't suit the rebel mini kid. Being Called Brian is a bit alien or adult-sounding so we get Astro and, in case we weren't hearing properly, he gets his name spelt out in polystyrene letters on the stage. I have no idea what this is all about. We get a lot of what I first thought was Brian attempting to spell his new name but missing out the middle letters. "Ay-O" he chants. But then I realised that is was "Hey-Ho" which still didn't make a great deal of sense although you have to hand it to the chap for getting some extra pay from SYCO for the X Factor mention in what will be a few million YouTube views this week. He is a seriously talented kid and he'll sell records, no problem there. I'm not so sure how he'll go down with the voters watching the programme who, presumably aren't just kids and their mums. Basically, I still have no idea how well he'll do. Unlike Rachel, he hasn't yet shown any weak spots in his ability to perform, unless you count the gold trousers but LA probably insisted on them anyway.

InTENsity ♫ 5½ ☼ 6½

Kids In America. Wo-oh. Or more like Uh-oh. Whilst that bit worked I'm not sure about the switch to rap in the middle. All I saw was some mass of kids jumping around behind two or three decent lead singers. Most of them could just as easily been the dancers that other acts have. Paula does deserve a bundle of praise for keeping them all together and coping with all the mums still hovering around rehearsals and making sure they get their porridge in the morning and are tucked up in bed before Stereo Hogzz start playing the 18 rated movies. I am still desperately trying to get my head round a show that moves us with Josh and Melanie one minute and then gives us Astro and these kids the next.

Drew ♫ 8½ ☼ 9½

Just Drew. Simon must have decided that the long surname was too difficult to spell or Russian-sounding. Try cutting that out of polystyrene and spreading the letters across the stage. One slip and who knows what offence could be caused in another order. At least the worst Astro could turn into would be Roast or Ars OT.

Yet another great choice in Just A Dream and, once she gets up from a weird pink spotty mattress and starts to move around you could see that this girl is almost instantly marketable. Modern, different to the original Nelly version and with a unique Drew style that I think the public will love. She's likely to build a huge fan base and is mature way beyond her years, handling the awkward interaction with judges well. No-one mentions 14 any more. Another major contender in my book.

Marcus Canty ♫ 8½ ☼7½

La Reid wrote this track for Bobby Brown when he was famous for singing rather than being horrid to Whitney so he got a double whammy on the fees for the extra play. Marcus started well but then with every step he took you could hear him getting more breathless which spoilt an otherwise pretty good performance. It sounded like Bobby Brown on the obvious backing track and you heard that as much as you did Marcus which may or may not have done him much good. He should be safe but he needs to given tracks he can make his own in the next round.

Stacy Francis ♫ 8½ ☼ 5

Her attitude in the pre-vid wouldn't have appealed to voters and the unsympathetic camera and lighting crew didn't do her bone structure any favours there. However, on a platform and better styled, she did produce the one anthem-like performance of the evening and did so well. A screech or two nearly ruined the good work she was doing and the excessive oo-oos didn't help either. Someone does need to tell this lady simply to sing the damn song and stop showing off. So, yes, you guessed, it wouldn't be Stacy if there wasn't a screeching whine at the end and she delivered as is getting painfully familiar. Paula called it a shining moment which I don't get at all. Whining moment would be better. She is, though, one of a very few who can do the lower register notes properly. Pity about the high ones.

Her future is so in Nicole's hands.