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‘X Factor’: Rock Week, loosely defined

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    Posted: 18 Nov 2011 at 11:16
‘X Factor’: Rock Week, loosely defined

It’s Rock Week on “X Factor,” as explained by the WWE-esque voiceover guy who sets the wrong tone at the top of each episode.

First up, LeRoy Bell, who, at age 60, is the oldest contestant on the show. Little known fact about LeRoy: He’s 60! Or so nobody ever tires of reminding us on “X-F.” LeRoy will sing Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight.” LeRoy is “chill,” his “mentor” Nicole Scherzinger reminds us in the taped lead-in, and his performance is pretty much unmodulated from start to finish. No highs, no lows. “You’re not workin’ like a rock star,” judge/mentor LA Reid complains, accusing poor LeRoy with the ultimate insult on “X”: disrespecting that $5 million that’s at stake. Simon piles on, also accusing LeRoy of Dissin’ the 5, adding that he “should have been a shark” but instead was “actually like a dolphin.” Or was it a goldfish? Anyway, Simon cross-examines Nicole after she compliments LeRoy, asking if she really believes he can win. “Of course, I’m going to hold that possibility,” she says cautiously. Then Nicole takes the opportunity to thank LeRoy “for being the oldest contestant in this entire competition, and being so courageous at 60 years old to go after your dream.” “He’s not older than Mick Jagger!” LA snaps. Show host Too-Tall Steve asks LeRoy what he thinks “of those horrible comments.” Simon tells Steve to “shut it!”

Next, Rachel Crow, the Shirley Temple for Our Times, will tackle the Worst Song Choice Ever In a Singing Competition: Mick Jagger’s horny anthem “Satisfaction” — hand picked for Rachel by her mentor Simon Cowell, about whom we are rapidly rearranging our impression of Seasoned Pop Music Talent Developer. Rachel is a pro, we’ll give her that, trying very hard, un-helped by grownup dancers from the Corps de X, who only her look more child-like. But this is some kinda silly dress-up game. No, it’s worse — what is it she can’t get satisfaction for? We don’t even want to think about it. Because Rachel is so cuddly-cute, the judges are very, very kind to her, including Simon — Mr. Can-You-Really-Sell-Records? — nattering on about how people will now “respect you as a singer” for this completely trumped up performance. Gak!

Chris Rene is still sober this week, he lets us know in the taped bit. We still think “X-F” should just run a crawl at the bottom of every show with the days, hours and minutes of his sobriety and be done with it. For Chris’s Rock Week song, mentor LA Reid has selected a medley of Bob Marley reggae tunes, because it’s Rock Week and Rock is all about breaking the rules? As it turns out, Bob Marley is actually a good vibe for Chris. Chris is an entertainer — he does some rapping, some straight ahead singing of “No Woman No Cry” and “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” — some of it delivered from down on his knees, and he finishes with the big reveal: he’s wearing an Occupy Wall Street shirt. Finished with his performance, the judges — all members of the 1 percent — mix it up over the genre-bending. Nicole says she was confused, and Simon flat-out accuses LA of breaking the rules, to which LA replies that Marley gets played on rock stations so it’s okay. “Let’s do Hip Hop Week and see what Drew does,” LA challenges Simon, referring to waifish Drew Ryniewicz. Simon takes up the challenge, secure in the knowledge that there’s never going to be any such Week.

Stacy “Tear Ducts” Francis, who didn’t step it up to diva level last week with a Whitney Houston song, will attempt Meatloaf’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.” It’s a pitchy, shapeless mess. What was Nicole thinking? Judge/mentor Paula Abdul calls it “my least favorite song you have ever performed” and asks Nicole what she was thinking — but Nicole is quick to say it was Stacy’s choice. Yup, Nicole has got her team’s back! Simon is just savage, running through several chapters of his Book of Badness Analogies, the most memorable a comparison to a singer “at the Hilton Hotel with people turning their back, eating peanuts.” Stacey listens to it all stone-faced and dry-eyed, explaining her song choice with “I wanted to get back to what The Franatics love — that’s my fans.” Any woman who believes she has fans and that they have given themselves a name is plainly not going to have her world view shaken by a dressing down on national television — even by Simon Cowell.

Melanie Amaro, the best voice in the competition, performs “Everybody Hurts,”an R.E.M tune, with just a piano, seated on a stool — no dancers. It’s a pretty straight-ahead version of the song with some bluesy touches, and its a great pick for her. “You took us to church!” Paula says. LA has obviously still not recovered from Simon drubbing him over categories after Chris Rene’s performance and grumbles that it wasn’t rock. Simon says it was a rock song sung in the style of Alicia Keyes or Adele, which just sets LA off again about genres.

Josh Krajcik, the Singin’ Burrito Slinger, is the only actual rocker in the competition and, after so many rock workarounds, we are anxiously awaiting the real deal. He goes with aFoo Fighters number: “The Pretender,” with two hairy guys on backing guitars and Nicole dancing and swinging her hair from the judges’ table. “You’re the only person who’s really rocked this house tonight,” LA concedes. Paula calls it the best of the evening. “Bloody fantastic!” Simon says, after reminding us he used that expression just last week — for those at home keeping score.

Astro performs his remix of Puff Daddy’s remix of The Police’s “Every Move You Make.” It’s not rock, and it’s not really an original take on the song — but it’s still fun. LA proceeds to spoil the happy mood when Nicole starts her comments with “The question is…” and he interrupts to say, incredulously, “There’s a question on Astro?!” But Nicole answers her own question — yes, Astro IS ready for a $5 million recording contract!” Adds Simon, “I think you’ve got a shot at winning this, young man.” Astro gives a happy birthday shout-out to his little sister.

Lakoda Rayne is all Paula’s get left in the competition, and they’re as irrelevant this week as last, when they barely escaped the hook. Imagine Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” performed on the ABC Family network, and you get the picture. Simon calls their performance “a complete mess” and the choreography “stupid.” “You are being mean — it was not that bad,” LA jumps in. “Watch your back,” Simon snarls at LA. It’s like watching an old episode of “Crossfire,” and Simon is Tucker Carlson.

If there was any doubt in your mind as to whether this is a show about singers or a show about the judges, Too-Tall Steve announces Simon is leading among the judges on Twitter. “Simon, it also seems the meaner you are, the more popular you are,” T-T Steve says, like this is new to him.

After LA was mean to her last week — apparently the first time in Drew’s life anyone has done anything but gush over her performances — Drew says she’s steeled and ready with a stinging retort. Her mentor, Simon, says we will see a really different side of her this week. Simon lied. Drew has found her lane, the slow lane. Bet you didn’t think U2’s “With or Without You,” could be yodeled. You would be wrong. LA, unlike last week, tells her she sounds exactly the same, in a nice way. And this week, Drew has that stinging retort she and Simon have worked out: “I’m trying to keep the base on the genre I want to be.” “This was the slowest rock song,” Nicole notes. Paula politely suggests, “Diversity leads to long success — maybe up-tempo” next week. “Take no notice from the three witches — This is all about being unique and appealing to your fan base,” Simon says. “I love you, Simon; thank you to all my fans and thank you for supporting me,” she says with a look that says, “Yes, this all went according to script.”

Marcus Canty’s what we call a PK – preacher’s kid, mentor LA says. His aunt is a preacher, and she and Marcus’s mom are flying to town this week to watch his performance. So he tells LA that his performance of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” can’t be raunchy. LA says Marcus should trust him and that he’ll have his back. And by that LA means Marcus will be joined by a troupe of female dancers in skimpy, tight leather fantasy costumes, and Marcus will sing while sliding himself on his back between the chicks’ straddling legs. “You said you were going to be a good boy, and then we saw you looking up 10 girls’ skirts,” Simon snickers. “Your mentor — the Devil — just put you in hell. I mean, seriously! Apart from that I don’t think the song suited you — it was like you’re pretending to be somebody you’re not.”

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