October 31, 2011James G
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The X-Factor, from its first audition episode, was full of flash and bombast. Everything was big! This didn’t prepare us for the over-the-top production values found in the first live show, which featured floor-to-ceiling monitors, a transparent stage with flashing lights, smoke machines and a small army of backup dancers. The only thing missing from the spectacle was pyrotechnics. It made an impression, but we’re not convinced it was necessary to be flashier than American Idol. In the end, it came down to the performances whose quality was independent of the special effects employed throughout the evening.
Indeed, stripped down performances made for some of the best moments in the show. Josh Krajcik gave a soul-stirring performance of “Forever Young,” eschewing instrumentation in favor of a controlled vocal tone that rang out and filled the room. Drew followed suit with a low-key arrangement of “What a Feeling” carried by the haunting qualities of her voice. Both contestants established themselves as strong contenders for America’s vote and the five million dollar record contract. Leroy Bell did things his own way when singing “Nobody Knows.” Even though it’s not a song best suited for his artistic style, Leroy ran with it and let his charisma and smooth, intense voice carry the song, showing how his past experience as a song writer and an indie performer will turn him into a dark horse for this competition. He doesn’t have a lot of buzz behind him, but he’s one of our favorites and the comments we find for him are very positive.
This is not to say that flashy and fun performances didn’t have merit. Brian “Astro” Bradley’s opening hip-hop mashup of “Rump Shaker” and “Jump” demonstrated his rapping prowess, spitting forth rhymes and rhythms in quick machine-gun bursts. Even with multiple re-watches we are in awe of his ability as a hip-hop MC. InTENsity and the Stereo Hogzz, while having issues in each of their respective performances, were fun to watch and showed that Paula Abdul can and will take the groups category in a positive and constructive direction.
Some performances have us worried. Chris Rene, Rachel Crow and Melanie Amaro all had some problems in their songs with vocal issues creeping in during important moments. We’re the least worried with Melanie Amaro, as it appeared that nerves got the better of her due in no small part to the mind games Simon Cowell has played with her. If she knocks it out of the park on the next show she’ll be fine. As for Chris Rene, the song highlighted his limited range and downplayed his smooth R&B flow, which is the opposite of what we think L.A. Reid would want from him. He needs a song that recalls the moments from his audition or his fan-base will dwindle in the coming weeks. Rachel Crow was the most controversial performance for us. The judges and many online fans loved it, but we didn’t like the song choice and heard multiple vocal errors in the verses of the mashup. Simon is placing her in this child performer box that she is going to outgrow in one or two years, which is a dangerous place to put her.
The eliminations were the correct choices as they consisted of the poorest performances of the night. Dexter, Simone, Phillip and Tiah all had over-wrought set concepts and backup dancers coupled with sub-par vocal performances. We actually enjoyed the Brewer Boys, but since the groups category had an even level of quality it was hard to argue for another group to leave. We would have sent Lakoda Rayne packing because of our music preferences and distaste for their pop country aesthetic which still feels uncomfortable on them. We’re not upset about any of the losses from the first live show.
We’re curious how America will take to the remaining contestants. Who will America love? Who will the fanbase hate? It’s up in the air and gleaning information from the internet buzz will only get you so far. The upcoming week of live shows should prove interesting!
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Episode Length: 34:34
0:00 – Introduction: Our thoughts on the live show stage and production and Steve Jones
4:23 – Eliminations: Phillip Lomax, The Brewer Boys, Dexter Haygood, Simone Battle and Tiah Tolliver
12:27 – The performances we loved: Brian “Astro” Bradley, Leroy Bell, Josh Krajcik and Drew
19:05 – The performances we didn’t like: Chris Rene, Marcus Canty and Lakoda Rayne
23:51 – Controversial/Lukewarm performances: The Stereo Hogzz, InTENsity, Stacy Francis, Rachel Crow and Melanie Amaro
32:24 – Wrap-up