November 6, 2011

Podcast: The X-Factor Season 1 – Top 12 Week

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Episode 28 direct download

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Time Stamps
0:00 – The Stacy & Dexter controversies, group routine lip syncing, the Eliminations show format and PEPSI!
7:50 – Bottom Two – The Stereo Hogzz (Yep, they’re lip syncing!) and InTENsity
12:36- Leroy Bell
14:32 – Rachel Crow
16:40 – Lakoda Rayne
18:20 – Brian “Astro” Bradley
20:34 – Drew
23:06 – Quick words about the other acts: Melanie Amaro, Chris Rene, Josh Krajcik, Marcus Canty and Stacy Francis
30:06 – Wrap-up

Episode Length: 31:46

Summary
Vocal artists and lip syncing, this topic gets debates raging about what’s acceptable and what’s not in the world of music performance. It’s known that pop artists make use of lip syncing when their live shows involve lots of dancing or when performing and sometimes during late night television appearances, but what’s more controversial is whether this practice has a place in singing competitions. The X-Factor showed us in several instances that lip syncing is being used during the elimination episodes, from Leroy Bell’s vocal cue mishap during the group number to the Stereo Hogzz using a backing track during their survival song “Emotion.” To our ears, it also sounds like the Stereo Hogzz’s live Wednesday performance contained enhanced background vocals to beef up the sound. FOX issued a statement about the observations, which admits to lip syncing being used during the group numbers and for the backing tracks in the survival songs.

Aside from the lip syncing stuff, the performance episode contained a mixed bag of performances, from the excellent Melanie Amaro and Drew to our lukewarm reaction to Chris Rene. Rachel Crow’s performance did not work for us, being too focused on flash at the expense of substance. Rachel’s vocals again weren’t as strong as we’ve seen from her (see “Mercy” and “If I Were A Boy”), but we’re more concerned about the image and performance style Simon grafted on to her. It’s bubblegum pop that wears thin on the ears. Josh Krajcik’s “Jar of Hearts” performance also had its issues in the first half of the song. The arrangement placed him in the bottom-end of his range, which led to several sour notes and the loss of his trademark bluesy grit. By the end he regained his strength, but we’re not happy that Nicole gave him a song that made half the performance weak.

Lakoda Rayne we found to be the worst act of the night, from the brutal harmony clashes at several points in the song to the “sweet” arrangement and performance that jarred with the lyrical content of “Landslide.” We don’t know what in the world the judges were thinking with the “singing with one voice” comment, or why the dresses were the point of contention, a silly superficial distraction from the larger problems of the number. For them to be the only safe group on Thursday night shocked and confused us, begging the question, who likes this and is voting for them?

We agree that Steve Jones needs a new tagline (“Bye bye” doesn’t work), that Nicole needs to give Leroy Bell songs that are closer to his solo album material and that Vote For The Worst’s pick of Astro doesn’t bother us at all. InTENsity’s departure, while sad, doesn’t upset us as we weren’t too attached to any of the groups. As we discussed in previous podcasts, we were expecting the various groups to go home first in the competition. And Marcus Canty, while a fun performer, isn’t proving to be memorable for us. James in particular completely forgot what his performance sounded and looked like by the time we got around to recording the podcast!

Please let us know your thoughts by dropping us a comment here after listening either here! We love to hear feedback and what you thought of the show. We also encourage you to check out our blog or twitter feed to keep up to date with us!

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October 31, 2011

Podcast: The X-Factor Season 1 – Top 17 Week

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Episode 26 direct download

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Summary
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!

Please let us know your thoughts by dropping us a comment here after listening either here! We love to hear feedback and what you thought of the show. We also encourage you to check out our blog or twitter feed to keep up to date with us!

Episode Length: 34:34

Time Stamps
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

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October 23, 2011

Podcast: The X-Factor Season 1 – Judges’ Houses Week 2

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Episode 23 direct download

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Summary
The second week of judges’ houses means the conclusion of the casting portion of the show, where we meet the Top 17 contestants that move into the live show competition where America takes the reigns and votes for their favorites. It wouldn’t be a reality show without controversy and the third judges’ houses episode was full of it. Simon Cowell’s ridiculous decision to initially cut Melanie Amaro shocked us and felt like a slap in the face. Simon realized his mistake and reversed the decision by the end of the episode, but we cannot for the life of us understand the first decision. We believe the same could be said for the other three judges, as we were given the impression that they had strong words for Simon when they learned about his choices.

The second half of the 32 contestants performed in this set of episodes, which brought some excellent renditions of existing songs. Josh Krajcik, Leroy Bell and Melanie Amaro all blew us away and are by far our favorites going into the live shows. The inconsistent and baffling group category stayed just that with InTENsity putting out a Glee-like rendition of their song, the Stereo Hogzz performing like a solo act with backup singers, 2 Squar’d putting forth a choppy and uneven arrangement of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Illusion/Confusion getting the worst edit of the night by having their interviews intercut with their singing. The second four people in the boys category generally underwhelmed us as well, which was disappointing.

We predicted 13 out of the 17 final choices, with us being wrong on Phillip Lomax, Dexter Haygood, Lakoda Rayne and Simone Battle. We predicted Tim Ciphers, Elaine Gibbs and Anser to make it through, as well as Melanie Amaro who was added back in at the last minute. Since we’re analyzing this show from a record deal standpoint, we understand why most of the choices were made and agreed with the majority of them. In a world based on singing ability alone the list would be different and if we were given complete control to pick our preferences we would change things around even more, but we remember that it’s about finding a person to sign a five million dollar contract which carries with it the responsibility to sell albums and tour tickets. Out of all the selections, Simone Battle is our biggest source of disagreement and you’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear why 🙂

We’re excited to see what the live shows hold!

Please let us know your thoughts by dropping us a comment here after listening either here! We love to hear feedback and what you thought of the show. We also encourage you to check out our blog or twitter feed to keep up to date with us!

Episode Length: 32:37

Time Stamps
0:00 – Introduction: the Melanie Amaro controversy
2:55 – Girls category: Jazzlyn Little, Rachel Crow, Tiah Tolliver and Melanie Amaro
7:28 – Boys category: Brennin Hunt, Tim Ciphers, Marcus Canty and Chris Rene
12:07 – Over 30s category: Josh Krajcik, Leroy Bell, Tiger Budbill and Christa Collins
17:38 – Groups category: The Stereo Hogzz, 2 Squar’d, Illusion/Confusion and InTENsity
22:06 – Top 5 girls (Simon Cowell): Simone Battle, Drew Ryniewicz, Tiah Tolliver, Rachel Crow and Melanie Amaro
24:01 – Top 4 boys (L.A. Reid): Brian “Astro” Bradley, Phillip Lomax, Chris Rene and Marcus Canty
25:53 – Top 4 over 30s (Nicole Scherzinger): Josh Krajcik, Dexter Haygood, Leroy Bell and Stacy Francis
27:44 – Top 4 groups (Paula Abdul): Brewer Boys, Lakoda Rayne, InTENsity and the Stereo Hogzz
30:09 – Wrap-up

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