Paulina Rubio (Code name: “Still No Idea Who That Is”) finally got her Big Moment on The X Factor tonight. The occupant of the Britney Spears Chair of English Manglage and Barely Formed Thoughts has shone especially dim during her Season 3 tenure — particularly sitting alongside the high-wattage wit and wisdom of Kelly Rowland and the scrappy sparkle of Demi Lovato.
Unfortunately for POW-leena (as host Mario Lopez prefers to overemphasize it), the Big Moment probably didn’t resemble what she and her management team had envisioned when she hopped aboard Fox’s second-most-popular reality singing competition (out of two).
Indeed, if tonight’s “Four-Chair Challenge” had been a Game of Thrones episode, Paulina would’ve been cast as Treasonous Peasant Girl (the one whose head rolls off the right side of the screen as
King Joffrey raises his fist in triumph and some major player marches to his or her noble death).
In other words, even as Paulina’s “Boys” category showdown whipped up more drama than the “Girls,” “Groups” and “Over 25s” combined, the mentor herself got relegated to inconsequential status. Sure, she’s the one who (rightfully) swung the axe on Tim Olstad’s tender neck, but it was the studio audience — no doubt fueled by Simon Cowell and his merry band of producers — who raged against the decision with their verbal brickbats and torches, until Paulina overturned her decision.
“I am a human being, and I also make mistakes,” trembled the Latin music star. Alas, caving to the whims of folks who enjoy wobbly, barely perfunctory covers of Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” — ¡by guys who claim they want to ride in the same lane as John Freakin’ Legend! — was the kind of human mistake that’s difficult to forgive.
(For the uninitiated, a little bit of background on the Four Chair Challenge: Each of the 10 acts in a category takes the stage and sings, then is sent to a “chair of safety” or eliminated on the spot. The twist? Even contestants who score chairs aren’t guaranteed a Live Round berth — not until the final act from his or her category has performed, and the mentor has made the final “either, or” call.)
But enough about the format! Let’s get on to assigning
blame grades to each of tonight’s acts:
Boys: Paulina Rubio
Al Calderon, “Call Me Maybe” | Grade: B My favorite performance of the night. Yeah, some nervousness percolated through the opening lines, but his rock-infused twist on Carly Rae Jepsen’s earworm showed some creativity, and his dance-stomp moves came off as more authentic than any of his competitors. Alas, going first in the lineup probably sealed his fate.
Isaiah Alston, “The Greatest Love of All” | Grade: F Cute kid. Decent first audition. But to quote my husband as he walked through the room and grimaced during tonight’s performance, “This child is awful. How the heck did he get to this stage of the competition?” And more importantly, why did he choose the most dated ballad in the Whitney Houston songbook?
Isaac Tauaefa, “Bubbly” | Grade: D Burly Adam Rodriguez (as I like to call him) was the very definition of karaoke (minus the pitcher of Miller Draft and those gigantic “song books” that never have enough Carly Simon tunes).
Stone Martin, “Torn” | Grade: C True confession — Stone lost me the minute he delivered this sound bite: “I went to a One Direction concert and I knew right there, ‘Yup, that’s what I wanna do.’ I wanna be famous. I wanna have girls scream my name. And I just wanna live the dream.” You’ll note he didn’t say anything about singing in tune, so I guess it’s not a huge shocker that both ends of his vocal register strained like a Glad ForceFlex filled with Tate Stevens CDs. (Too soon? Yeah. Sorry ’bout that.)
Chase Goehring, “Airplanes” | Grade: C- Boy David Caruso (as I liked to call him) had a couple OK moments, but there were too many fumbled notes and audible gasps to really take him seriously as a potential recording artist.
Timmy Thames, “New Girl in Town” | Grade: C+ With his doe eyes and whispery warble, it wasn’t hard to understand why Paulina called him “my little Michael Jackson.” And to his credit, the sparse, acoustic arrangement was kinda cool. But little Timmy’s dance moves felt terribly contrived, and his falsetto was as unsteady as a fifth-grader hurling a medicine ball. He really deserved to stay over Tim Olstad, but I’m not gonna shed any tears that he didn’t — especially since neither one of ’em stands any chance of outlasting Lillie McCloud.
ADVANCING TO THE LIVE SHOWS
Carlos Guevara, “Ain’t No Sunshine” | Grade: B- Sixteen-year-old singer should’ve really cut the number of runs in half — which is what I think Simon meant when he said Carlos “lost complete control” in parts of the song — but at least he performed with palpable soul and yearning. Plus, I liked the rhythmic twist he put on this Bill Withers ballad. If Carlos gets some real mentoring on vocal tecnnique, he might be one to watch this season.
Tim Olstad, “The Climb” | Grade: C Why in the heck was the audience going nuts after Paulina cut this recent college grad? (Maybe they thought it would improve their chances of being on TV?) In all seriousness, Tim was flatter on the bridge than a slice of bologna, and his facial expression fell somewhere on the emoticon meter between “petrified” and “enraged.” Paulina seriously picked this dude over Al Calderon?
Carlito Olivero, “Dreaming of You” | Grade: C+ The falsetto portions of his Selena cover drifted farther off course than a hot-air balloon in a hurricane, and even his market-driven pitch to Paulina that there’s no Latin success in the pop world was kinda nuetralized by the presence of a guy named Carlos Guevara right there on the Seats of Safety. That said, dude is pretty hot — and like it or not, that counts for something in the X Factor universe. [Warning: Watching Carlito’s video for “Rain” may or may not enhance your personal opinion of his visual appeal.]
Josh Levi, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” | Grade: B- There were moments where this little charmer’s voice glimmered like sunshine on a quaint pond — and others where it repulsed like stagnant water. Still, I can’t deny the judges’ contention that Josh has got a little touch of star quality — even though Bonnie Raitt’s classic ballad should never again be infused with an R&B beat.
[UPDATE: Now the show can go back to editing out Paulina’s comments. Thank you very much for coming, Paulina.]
Groups: Simon Cowell
NOTE: Only half of Simon’s acts performed on the Wednesday night show. I’ll give a full account of all eight “Groups” in my Thursday-night X Factor recap.
Girls United, “Yeah (3x)” | Grade: B-
Wild Thingz, “Party Rock Anthem” | Grade: N/A (either an A or an F, depending on your goals)
Glamour, “Cups (When I’m Gone)” | Grade: B- (possible Stockholm Syndrome happening, admittedly)
Restless Road, “Somebody Like You” | Grade: C-
Still left to perform…and conceivably knock one or more of the preceding acts from their seats..
Yellow House Canyon
Alex & Sierra
Forever in Your Mind (what kind of name is THAT?)
And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of tonight’s X Factor? Who were your favorites? Did you disagree with any of the judges’ decisions? Sound off below!