It’s Paula Abdul’s worst nightmare. No, CBS isn’t forcing the “Vibeology” singer to quit The X Factor in order to produce a second season of Live to Dance (bet you already forgot about that one, didn’t you?), but rather, two of the three acts in her “Groups” category got eliminated during the first two results-show telecasts of her new Fox series. Will Paula’s mentoring role rush (rush) into oblivion with the ousting of Lakoda Rayne this coming Thursday, or will one of her fellow panelists feel the sting of America’s voting rebuke? Only time will tell. But until then, check out my rankings for the Top 10 acts, then hit our poll to vote for your favorite!
10) Stacy Francis (Last Week No. 6) | Top 12 week found Weepy McSobbington (pictured, bottom left) clobbering “Up to the Mountain” with the Truncheon of Wretched Excess, a misstep that was followed by her mentor’s ridiculous choice of “Queen of the Night” last week. No doubt Stacy has a big, enviable talent, but she’s running out of time to show America she knows what to do with it.
9) Lakoda Rayne (Last Week No. 8 ) | They’re blond and attractive and moderately talented, but the army of backup singers supporting their not-always-winning harmonies does more harm than good. Paula needs to put the kibosh on the aggressive backing tracks that hindered “Landslide” and “Somebody Like You,” strip down the arrangement to a handful of instruments, and let us see if her last remaining act is worth keeping till after Thanksgiving.
8 ) Leroy Bell (Last Week No. 9) | His take on “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” was solid, but World’s Sexiest Grandpa has yet to do anything completely spectacular. Seems destined to finish in the lower half of the Top 12 finalists — unless he brings The Wow Factor to the X Factor proceedings.
7) Marcus Canty (Last Week No. 3) | He brought passion and solid pitch to “I’m Going Down,” but it fell a little short of Jazzlyn Little’s superior audition-round cover. Plus, you know you’ve got a possible charisma crisis when the buzziest part of your performance comes from getting your shiny silver jacket stuck on your arm. Which isn’t to say he couldn’t turn his fortunes around with a single knockout performance.
6) Chris Rene (Last Week No. 11) | Got back into the groove — in a major way — with a passionate cover of “Gangster’s Paradise” that wove in his own original lyrics and bits of Stevie Wonder’s original (“Pastime Paradise“). Chris (pictured, top right) clearly excels when he’s able to bring his own creativity to his performances, but what if L.A. saddles him with another “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” or “Superstar” that exposes his vocal limitations?
5) Josh Krajcik (Last Week No. 5) | Early front-runner has displayed definite rock-soul potential, but his Top 12 take on Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts” was borderline disastrous. Recovered with a strongly sung version of “With a Little Help From My Friends,” but still, it felt a little too much like a Joe Cocker imitation. Needs better song selection — and a little help in the styling department — if he wants to wear the Season 1 crown, but is Nicole the mentor to get him there?
4) Rachel Crow (Last Week No. 7) | Adorable moppet or overrehearsed doll-person? That question became irrelevant for some after a blistering Top 11 rendition of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind.” Simon admitted he’d blundered with his initial song choices for Rachel (pictured, bottom right), but she still has something to prove to vault past the other two ladies in her “Girls Under 30” category.
3) Astro (Last Week No. 4) | Whether you love him or love to hate him, you can’t say the kid doesn’t possess a tremendous gift or that his flow is faster than Kim Kardashian’s publicist dialing the paparazzi. “Lose Yourself” was particularly ferocious, and it seems like Astro will have himself a solid career regardless of whether his hip-hop tendencies will inspire voters to carry him all the way to the finale.
2) Drew Ryniewicz (Last Week No. 2) | Proved with Nelly’s “Just a Dream” that she won’t be undone by an R&B tempo — and followed up with a lilting take on Coldplay’s “Fix You” that didn’t contain a single bum note (except maybe that wacky dress of hers). L.A. complained all of her performances have been too similar, but the alternate (and correct) theory is that Drew (pictured, top left) possesses such undeniable talent that she manages to make even the most disparate ditties sound like her own compositions.
1) Melanie Amaro (Last Week No. 1) | “Man in the Mirror” was a slightly hackneyed choice from Simon — or maybe the painful memories of Jacob Lusk’s American Idol rendition are still too fresh for me to truly enjoy it — but Melanie’s vocal was still flawless. Would benefit hugely from a hip, uptempo number in the coming weeks, but regardless of what she’s covering, it’s hard not to believe that America has found a modern-day answer to the Whitney/Celine/Mariah big-diva template.
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Slezak on Twitter: @MichaelSlezakTV