The X Factor: Three men and a lady
After what we've seen the last two weeks, woe to the blogger who tries to predict who will make it into next week's X Factor finale, especially since the decision is wholly up to the public this week.
There will be no "save me" songs on Thursday night, no decisions for Nicole Scherzinger to botch, but surely this is where Marcus Canty gracefully bows out. I can't imagine him leaping over Josh, Melanie or Chris for a spot in the finals. (But then again, I couldn't imagine him beating Rachel Crow last week, either. Nicole was still getting boos from the crowd Wednesday for last week's fumble but said the boos have made her stronger and she had "nothing but love and light tonight," whatever the hell that means.)
I'll admit I didn't think Chris Rene would get this far when the competition started and I'm not going to spout the same kind of mystical bunk as Nicole and Paula Abdul about his spirit transcending the universe (what does that even mean?) and his heart resonating to the world. But the kid moved me on Wednesday.
If singing ability were the only component of the mysterious X factor, then Melanie Amaro would win hands down - and she still might next week - but all you have to do is listen to some of today's hit makers when they haven't got a studio full of effects to buff up their voices to know that's not the case.
My rankings this week are based on who touched me emotionally, not just on vocal ability. So here they are.
Josh Krajcik: Objectively, singing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" seems like a really stupid risk to take, but Josh took it and won. I can't agree with Nicole that it's "the best version anybody's heard of this song," but it did give me shivers in the middle and the last notes were beautiful and brimming with feeling. L.A. Reid (dubbed L.A. Rude by a Twitter commentator) was the only judge who didn't get it, saying the performance lacked excitement. Whatever. It moved Paula to tears and had Simon Cowell congratulating Josh for singing himself into the finals. His first performance wasn't quite as rapturous but was still excellent. It was The Beatles' "Come Together," the viewers' "Pepsi Challenge" choice. It doesn't seem like an obvious pick to me, but Josh used his marvellous voice to elevate it beyond karaoke.
Chris Rene: I'm not gonna lie. Part of what made Chris's second performance, of Alicia Keys' "No One," so moving was the story that came before, about how Chris's dad died of cancer before Chris had a chance to make him proud. Sure, the vocals were thin and a little flat in spots, but it felt like the words meant something to Chris and thus, it meant something to us, the viewers. L.A. said stardom isn't about singing but about lovability. And Simon brought Chris to tears by telling him, "Your dad would be incredibly proud, not just of this performance but how you turned things around" (I thought it was sweet when host Steve Jones gave Chris a comforting hug). Simon added that Chris may be the competition's dark horse, an easy assumption to make after hearing the audience chanting his name. As for the Pepsi choice song, Sugar Ray's "I Just Want to Fly," it was more of the same: weak vocals, particularly at the beginning, but an engaging performance that made you want to cheer for the guy.
Melanie Amaro: I know, I know, Melanie had a moment. She sang "Feeling Good," the vocals were flawless, she looked gorgeous, the judges were on their feet; L.A. called her the "greatest female that's ever graced this stage"; Simon said this was why he brought The X Factor to America (well, really to make tons more money and become even more powerful than he already is, but I digress). So how come I'm not jumping up and down? Because I didn't feel it. I couldn't disagree more with Paula that this was Melanie letting go. Vocally, sure, she pulled out all the stops; emotionally, not so much. With the choreographed arm movements, even the calculated way she cast a side glance on the lyrics "You know how I feel," this was not a singer getting lost in a song. This is a singer who knows what she has to do to win the competition and is doing it to the max. And the audience is eating up the diva persona. That was proven by the viewers' choice song, Mariah Carey's "Hero." The fact Simon changed the song's major chord to minor didn't make it any less boring and predictable for me (although I did love the killer note in the middle). And hey, she's got the approval of her own hero, Mariah, who sent Melanie a tweet commending her "beatiful gift" and urging her to "never give up, never let go, no matter what."
Marcus Canty: After surviving three, count 'em three, trips to the bottom two, somebody decided the way to propel this underdog into the finale was to turn the cheese up to 11. True, Marcus didn't choose his first song, Boyz II Men's "I'll Make Love to You" (hey viewers, predictable much?), but the viewers didn't decide he should perform it in a three-piece suit while making eyes at the camera and wielding a white rose, which he gave to some pretty young thing in the audience. I have to agree with Simon: it was very corny. Vocally, I found it underwhelming, too. For his next number, Marcus turned George Michael's "Careless Whisper" into a dance song, complete with Marcus in a white suit shuffling around and pointing at the camera while dancers gyrated and confetti filled the air. The beauty of the original is that you really sense the philanderer's regret. This version seemed to say, "Hey, I cheated on you, let's party!" Frankly, I found it bizarre. Simon said it looked "being in a Vegas show in 1983." L.A. said Marcus looked like a champion. Steve reminded Marcus that the judges are redundant this week since they get no say in the results. If I were Marcus I wouldn't take that as a good thing, but who knows?
We'll get the answers tonight, at 8 p.m. on CTV Two. I wouldn't miss it and I'll be recapping it right here.
(The photo of Melanie is by Ray Mickshaw for Fox.)