On a purely surface level — which is most likely Simon Cowell’s ideal criteria for critique — The X Factor got plenty of things right with Tuesday night’s Top 16 performance show.
For starters, can I get a “huzzah” for the total absence of hokey backstories (or any backstories whatsoever)? And then, of course, we have to applaud the dramatic cutback in gruesome closeups of weeping child singers. (This time around, evicted contestants were quickly ushered out of the camera’s view, presumably to be met by a hooded figure who took them to a deserted lot and gave a lethal injection to their dreams of instant music stardom.)
Two massive problems, however, plagued the telecast. For starters, the sheer volume of performances (16 acts in the course of two hours!), left me feeling like a weary shopper who’d been cajoled into smelling too many department-store perfume samples. You know how it is: After you’ve inhaled eight or nine, your senses begin to shut down, and it gets to the point where you can barely tell gardenia from eucalyptus, a splash of citrus from a pile of dog excrement.
Adding to the feelings of numbness was the way the show’s mentors used adjectives like “amazing” and “star” to describe even the most mundane, middling performers — despite occasionally forgetting or badly mispronouncing said contestants’ names. (Demi botched Dani’s moniker, Paulina kept referring to Tim Olstad as “Olson,” and despite having allegedly mentored them this week, Simon blithely referred to one member of Roxxy Montana as “the one in the middle.”)
But back to the business at hand! Take Simon’s pre-fab country boy band Restless Road. Is there a market for a bro-beefcake trio confident enough in their collective sexuality to tackle Katy Perry’s “Roar”? Certainly! But unless somebody wants to hand out a trophy for Best Use of a Backing Track to Disguise One’s Vocal Shortcomings, I can’t fathom the way Simon, Demi, Paulina and even Kelly acted like the dudes were the second coming of Rascal Flatts. Is it just me?
Anyhow, because I had to pull double duty on X Factor and The Voice tonight, I’m gonna cut to the chase and rank each of the mentors’ three remaining acts with letter grades from least- to most-promising — while also revealing who got the axe:
GIRLS (DEMI LOVATO)
3. Rion Paige, “Skyscraper” | Grade: B-
2. Ellona Santiago, “Till the World Ends” | Grade: B
1. Khaya Cohen, “Mercy” | Grade: B+
Danie Geimer, “Wrecking Ball” | Grade: C-
BOYS: PAULINA RUBIO
3. Tim Olstad, “Always” | Grade: C-
2. Carlos Guevara, “Don’t You Worry Child” | Grade: C
1. Carlito Olivero, “Maria, Maria” | Grade: C+
Josh Levi, “Only Girl in the World” | Grade: C
OVER 25s (KELLY ROWLAND)
3. Jeff Gutt, “Try” | Grade: B-
2. Rachel Potter, “I Hope You Dance” | Grade: B-
1. Lillie McCloud, “When a Man Loves a Woman” | Grade: B+
James Kenney, “Red” | Grade: B
GROUPS: SIMON COWELL
3. Sweet Suspense, “I Love It” | Grade: D
2. Restless Road, “Roar” | Grade: C-
1. Alex & Sierra, “Blurred Lines” | Grade: A-
Roxxy Montana, “Royals” | Grade C-
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 in the comments!