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.