It’s more than two years since Michael Jackson died, but his music lives on. “X Factor” chose him as a theme, the same one “Idol” did season 8. But there’s nothing wrong with reprising it. M.J. has such a deep playlist of potential songs, he is worthy of the spotlight.
They even brought Michael Jackson’s kids to the show. Unfortunately, they sat stiffly in the audience, looking like they’d rather be playing their Wii at home or texting their friends. Blanket looked downright traumatized in front of the cameras. “It was a well put-together show,” Prince said, with some level of enthusiasm, at the end when Robo-host forced a comment out of him. (My DVR cut off before we got to Blanket’s comments.)
And nobody dared make a tacky Conrad Murray reference.
As for the show, I enjoyed several of the performances, with Drew lifting her game and Melanie elevating what I consider a rather mediocre M.J. song. Josh was not given a good song either and looked a bit absurd with the stripper-style dancers around him. Both Chris and Astro entertained me. Marcus and Rachel fell short. My rankings:
1. Drew 2. Melanie 3. Chris 4. Astro 5. Josh 6. Rachel 7. Marcus
Who will go home: Marcus and Rachel. Astro is also potentially going home over Rachel. Though the readers of this blog generally hate the 15 year old, the voter pool is likely very different from who reads this.
1) Josh Krajcik (Nicole’s team “Dirty Diana”) – This is one of my least favorite M.J. songs. It has a weak chorus and doesn’t have much in the way of melodic range. But it is a rock song to a degree and Josh is positioning himself in that arena. He does an adequate job with it. The dancers? Distracting, like “Solid Gold” meets the Pink Pony. I am glad he got to show off a little guitar work. “As a spectacle… it was great. However, you were over-produced,” Simon said. “You got lost in all the choreography. This is not you on stage. This is what Nicole wants to be.” Nicole then snipes back that she’s willing to take risks and Simon does not with his contestants. (Snap!) Grade: B-plus
2) Astro (L.A.’s team, “Black or White”) – The one M.J. hit that actually included rap is this 1992 cheesy but catchy ditty. He does his own little rap about tolerance. As usual, he is entertaining and his raps come off clean and thoughtful. The Michael Jackson kids looked nonplussed. “I don’t know if this is my favorite performance by you. But I loved your lyrics,” Nicole said. Simon disagreed: “What I loved is that new hook at the end. I’m glad the public kept you. You deserve to be here.” Grade: B-plus/A-minus.
3) Drew (Simon’s team “Billie Jean”) – David Cook did a brilliantly grungy version of this song season 7 of “Idol.” This is now the singer-songwriter version. And surprisingly, it works with Drew. She brings her own angst and drama. The way she sits, though, with her knees awkwardly knocked in like that, belies her age. That was my favorite Drew performance in ages. “You made it your own and it pains me to say this, but I liked it,” L.A. said, stealing Paula’s favorite line. Nicole didn’t get her being stuck in the chair. “You’re playing it safe with Drew,” she said to Simon. Grade: A
4) Rachel Crow (Simon’s team “Can You Feel It”) – She opens oddly out of breath and off key at points. And that afro is not flattering on her. She does it with plenty of her trademark spirit. She sounds better toward the end. Again, the MJ kids look decidedly unexcited about this. “This is the first time I watched you and didn’t feel like you were having a good time,” L.A. said. “I felt it as much as I could,” Rachel responded. “Normally you shine. I didn’t feel like you felt it,” Nicole said. Grade: B/B-plus
5) Marcus Canty (L.A.’s team, “P.Y.T.”) – He has a good voice for this song but he really doesn’t add much new or interesting to the song. I’ve never found his vocals terribly unique. Nicole and Paula call him the “whole package” but I don’t feel the X Factor. I feel like he’s derivative in so many ways. Simon: “The vocals weren’t very good.” Grade: B/B-plus
6) Chris Rene (L.A.’s team “I’ll Be There”) Interesting trivia: his grandfather wrote “Rockin’ Robin.” Small world! I appreciate that Chris can sing as well as rap, unlike Astro. He’s grown on me over the weeks. I like his heart. The 25 back-up singers do swallow him up. His rap interlude though was not one of his better ones. But overall, I felt his performance. Grade: A-minus
7) Melanie Amaro (Simon’s team “Earth Sing”) – Melanie with that frizzy hair and that Elvira-ish outfit? Not so good. Her trouble many weeks has been not connecting with the lyrics. I’m still not sure if she’s got that down but she can really sing the heck out of one of M.J.’s lesser songs. It was powerful. “Not only the best of the night but one of the best performances I’ve seen on the show,” Nicole said. Grade: A-minus
For a bonus, here’s video of the Jackson kids, who made an appearance at the show.