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X-Factor, Nov. 2 – The “Real Deal”

Simon Cowell announced tonight during the show that X-Factor has already been picked up by Fox for season two. That must mean it’s doing well. It’s understandable after last week. They have some stunning talent here, and while all the judges claim the category they mentor is most talented, the one that seems to blow everyone away each time is the Over 30, mentored by Nicole Scherzinger. These are people who wouldn’t ever be allowed on American Idol because of their age. X-Factor is showing that two older guys and an older gal still got it.

Josh Krajcik sang Jar of Hearts. Simon Cowell thought Nicole Scherzinger was making a mistake to have Josh sing this song that was originally performed by a woman, but by the end, he was eating his words. As with everything he sings, Josh totally nailed it. The only thing missing was the grittiness he works into each performance. He worked it in towards the end, though, to the point where it had me saying, “Ahh, there’s Josh.” The judges referred to him as the “real deal.”

Leroy Bell, 60 years old, doesn’t just fit this category, he has two daughters who are old enough to be in this  category as well. He also has a 13-year-old son and six grandchildren. A knock on him from Simon is that he doesn’t emotionally connect enough. Because of that, Nicole had him sing I’m Already There, a song to make him think about missing his son. He did emotionally connect through it, but the other judges hated the song choice.

Stay-at-home mom Stacy Frances was a little upset at Simon saying she is a church singer last week. Nicole didn’t appreciate it too much either. Nonetheless, she had Stacy sing Up to the Mountains to connect with that gospel/spiritual side, and of course, proved Simon right in the process. It was a stunning performance. However, they both seem right. Gospel really works for her, but she can do other genres just as well.

Simon’s category of Girls Under 30 is packed well with talent as well. Doing the best, and in his opinion the one to beat, was Melanie Amaro, the girl he originally cut and sent home, then brought back. She sang Desperado, a near haunting version of it, with the beginning being sung a cappella. L.A. Reid cracked that the only thing Simon did right was bring her back.

Rachel Crow sang Walking on Sunshine, as Simon wanted to get back to the tone of voice she had when singing Mercy at her audition. It was still missing a little of that growly tone, but it was definitely a great one to match up to her energy. Nicole didn’t like that they changed the lyrics to “You’re my sunshine,” but Simon felt they were being creative. L.A. called her one of the most charismatic people he knows. He’s right, and that’s why she”ll stay in the competition for quite some time.

The other tween, Drew, was praised up and down and all over the place by Simon. Indeed, she is a huge talent, and does have that something extra, the “X Factor,” if you will, but in a vote against the other two in Simon’s group, I’m not sure if she would come out on top. I think she’ll last awhile here, but I don’t know if America will put as much stock in her talent as Simon is. She sang Just a Dream.

One tween who definitely has what it takes to survive, and who America probably will get behind, is Astro, in L.A.’s Guys Under 30 category. This kid is the only one in the competition who composes his own songs. He comes out and raps his way through these songs like they’re well-known masterpieces. He’s a pretentious, cocky little kid, but somehow so likable.

Another audience favorite is recovering addict, Chris Rene. Unlike Astro, he’s not still doing his own compositions, and the judges don’t think he’s as strong when he sings others’ lyrics. He took on Superstar, and made it somehow into a hip hop song. He was a little shaky at first, but caught his stride and found his confidence with it and scored a hit with the judges. The one thing he’s always praised for is his honesty, and that should carry him a ways with America as well.

This week was the first one where I “got” Marcus Canty. I saw him as the weakest in the competition, save for some of the groups. He has a great story to pull us in, on the end of a mom-allowed two-year sabbatical to pursue this music thing, but his performances just weren’t standout enough. Since he’s always compared to Bobby Brown, L.A. had him sing Bobby’s song, Every Little Step, a song L.A. himself penned. It was extremely successful and showed exactly what Marcus should be doing. While he can’t be only a  Bobby imitator, he should be doing something similar, with dancing and vocals combined.

The last category, the groups, is definitely the weakest. This is because two of the three were created by X-Factor from single acts and other groups that auditioned. While they sound good, they don’t have a cohesiveness to them, and that shows when they perform. They haven’t been performing for years, or really even months, together. They had a Glee-type group audition for them, Badrigals, and they were not shown on TV and cut in the first week of Vegas. Instead, they have created another Glee-type group, Intensity. I saw the Badrigals audition, and what I saw was better than the new group. This week they sang a medley of Kids in America and Party Rock Anthem, and did well, but I wonder if it’s more the medley that Paula Abdul put together or the group itself.

The other group put together by X-Factor is Lakoda Rayne. Paula had some strange idea to have them perform and dress as seasons as they sang Landslide. Simon thought their outfits looked like they were going to the prom, but instead they reminded me of the Saturday Night Live Lawrence Welk skit. I expected them to start calling off their names, and for one to pop up with a huge forehead and tiny hands. I’m not sure they’ll connect with America this week.

The group that seems the strongest is the one not created by the show, The Stereo Hoggz. They sang Rhythm Nation, and were very slick, both with their vocals and their choreography. Their time together showed. Even Simon had to give it up to Paula’s charges, saying he didn’t think there was a band out there that was as good as them.

All of it is speculation at this point, as no one really knows how the votes are going to fall in this first week of voting for the show. I suspect that it will be one of the groups heading home, as it’s hands down the weakest category. This isn’t really Paula’s fault so much as all the judges for passing up some of the better groups and putting stock in these three. The votes tonight will show whether America can back them, or whether they prefer to back some more seasoned veterans that include everything from a 60-year-old grandfather to three tweens.

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