'The X Factor' recap: The top 10 fail to rock us
Is it me, or is "The X Factor" getting boring? Actually, I know it's not just me. My 8-year-old son, a die-hard "American Idol" fan who kept me company this past summer when I was assigned to write about "America's Got Talent" as well, told me Thursday morning he wasn't sure he wanted to keep watching "The X Factor."
"It's not that interesting," he noted.
And when Rock Week (apparently a loosely defined term) is a snoozer, you know things are not on a great track.
I've already listed things I think the producers could change to make the show better, and as the weeks wear on, it's only clearer that host Steve Jones is dragging down "X Factor's" energy and sense of fun. (It's not just his accent that's a distraction, but also his stiff manner and the way he abruptly and frequently interrupts the judges to keep the show on track timewise –- like some kind of smarmy schoolmarm.) But the show's troubles go way beyond its host.
Let's take Wednesday night's illustratively dull episode as an example.
1. A theme that meant nothing: If you're going to have a rock 'n' roll week, have a rock 'n' roll week. Two out of the four judges -– L.A. Reid and Simon Cowell –- allowed the contestants in their categories to perform songs that in some cases had only the slenderest rock creds (Bob Marley's reggae hit "No Woman No Cry" -- Reid's choice for Chris Rene? Yeah, not buying it) and in other cases allowed their contestants to take both the rock and the roll out of the songs: Paula Abdul was right when she said Cowell mentee Melanie Amaro "took us to church" (not the church of rock) with her take on R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts." And on U2's "With or Without You," Drew continued her moody crooning without once picking up the pace. Abdul was also correct when she advised Drew to use the themes to allow her to experiment with genres and styles and take risks. (Talk about a missed opportunity!) All the contestants should have been encouraged to do that. Playing it safe may keep them on the show, but it might not keep audiences watching.
3. Judge sniping: I can't speak for the rest of you, but nothing turns this reality-performance-show viewer off more than judges who act like self-involved children at the judging table. The dynamic between Cowell and Nicole Scherzinger has been discomfiting for weeks, though Cowell hit a new low by snickeringly suggesting that Scherzinger and her mentee Stacy Francis shared crappy musical taste and clothes. On Wednesday night, things got even more uncomfortable when Reid (who has a habit of interrupting other judges when it's their turn to talk) told Cowell he was being "mean" in his critique of Lakoda Rayne (who, it must be said, gave another atrocious performance with their second Fleetwood Mac song of the competition, "Go Your Own Way"), Cowell turned to him and said with what sounded like genuine, threatening venom, "Watch your back." Those ugly moments are a total buzz kill.
4. Unrelentingly unvarying pace: Song, critique, song, critique, song, critique. This show lacks syncopation. Plus, any time the judges try to stretch out their time to give some actual worthwhile feedback (infrequent, given that they're also the contestants' mentors, which is another problem), host Jones cuts them off to ensure a resumption of the unbroken, regular march from Pepsi-mentioning opening to Pepsi-mentioning sign-off. Zzzzzzzzzz.
OK, so it's just a matter of time before the easily expendables – Lakoda Rayne, Stacy Francis (her take on Meatloaf just sat their like a steaming slab), LeRoy Bell (who at least fulfilled the basic Rock Week requirements with his Bob Seger song) and Chris Rene – are picked off, leaving the rest to duke it out for least uninspiring.
In the meantime, please, L.A., don't make nice guy Marcus Canty crawl between the legs of suggestively dancing hot-panted hot girls while singing Janis Joplin again; that was wrong on so many levels.
What did you think of Wednesday night's "X Factor"? Who did you think performed well, and who are you ready to send home?
-- Amy Reiter
Photo: Josh Krajcik performs on "The X Factor" on Wednesday on Fox. Credit: Ray Mickshaw / Fox