The X Factor Season 2 Top 16 Performance Episode Recap: Made in America
Nov 01 2012 08:57 am ET
On Wednesday's episode of The X Factor, the Top 16 acts perform live for the first time this season. LA Reid and Simon Cowell engage in gamesmanship, Britney Spears channels Paula Abdul, and Demi Lovato becomes the breakout star of the season. And Mario Lopez's butt gets pinched.
The X Factor stage is so hypnotic. Sigh. Anyway, welcome to the first live show of the season! The lackluster announcer immediately introduces the judges and their acts. Demi Lovato, sporting a new brunette look enters the stage with her Young Adults: Paige Thomas, Jennel Garcia, Willie Jones, and a neon-leopard clad CeCe Frey. Grrrrrrrrrrl, no. LA Reid enters with his cohort of Over 25s: David Correy, Vino Alan, Tate Stevens, and Jason Brock. They look like the most ill-conceived boyband ever and I want them to be the fifth group this season. Speaking of the Groups, they enter the stage with Simon Cowell:
The backing track of "Titanium" plays as our new hosts take the stage: Mario Lopez and Khloe Kardashian Odom. Mario is a little yelly into his microphone as he goes over the details of the evening. Meanwhile, it looks like Khloe may have gone to the Brooke Burke Upstairs Co-Hosting school to brush up on her stage skills. I approve of that choice, just because if both hosts are competent I would have very little to talk about. As for the details, tonight the 16 acts will perform. There will be no audience vote – the mentors will guarantee safety for two of their acts while the other two will face-off in a Final Showdown. YESSSSS! At least that sort of justifies a two-hour results show tomorrow. Yeah, I know. Mario tells us the theme for the night is "Made in America" before throwing it to the mentor introductions of their acts.
Paige Thomas - Young Adult - @PaigeAva
After some footage from her home in Phoenix, we see Paige going through a Top Model-style makeover, get most of her hair chopped off. Then she has a mentoring session with Demi, who warns her that she's not the best vocalist and if she pulls any vocal gymnastics Demi will cut her. I think I love Demi? On stage, Paige is dressed like a metallic urchin for a Rihanna-fied version of Haddaway's "What is Love." I don't know how this fits the theme "Made in America" but the spectacle of the performance is eye-catching. The vocals aren't fantastic, but I don't think Demi will be disappointed. LA loved the dramatic opening and thinks Paige looks like a star. Britney thought it was a great performance. Simon says the point of the show is to find a star who can function in the real world of music and says Paige nailed it. Demi says she is proud of Paige and she did a fantastic job.
Arin Ray - Teen - @ArinRaySings
Britney tells Arin she has his trajectory figured out. "I see the vision for you," she says at the mentor session, "you're gonna make the girls swoon." Britney's advise for accomplishing that is for Arin to get more into the floor with his singing. I like that advice. I think he's singing "Keep Me Hanging On" by Diana Ross (though it's more like the Kim Wilde version). It's tough to evaluate from home because the smoke jets on stage have been mic'd for some reason. Friggity frak, show, tech rehearsals – have you learned nothing from last season? The judges seem to be supportive of the performance, which was visually strong. LA thought the song choice was creative but the vocal was lacking. Demi thought the performance was stiff, which Simon attributes to all the dancers perhaps distracting Arin. SImon also suggests there was too much going on in the performance but Arin has the swag to carry him through the competition. Britney says she's proud of Arin and he was a genius on stage.
David Correy - Over 25s - @DavidCorrey
LA instructs David to "make me believe what you sing comes from your heart." Yeah, I think David is coming into this performance as the low-man on the Team 25+ totem pole. For whatever reason, his song is "My Love is Your Love" by Whitney Houston. David does half a verse before going into the chorus, then follows that up with crowd work. There's not much singing going on and what little there is comes across as frantic. David is not doing himself any favors. Britney says David was amazing and completely surprised her. It's at this point I'm realizing Britney is trending towards Paula Abdul on the judge behavior spectrum. Sadness. Demi says she wasn't sure if the song was the best choice, but David did get the crowd going. Simon calls the song choice interesting, but the performance was manic and desperate, with the crowd work doubling as begging for audience approval. LA says his act sounded good and it felt right.
Sister C - Groups - @OfficialSisterC
"People aren't liking you enough," Simon tells the three sisters from Texas, in their mentor session. "We don't have a sad story," one of them responds, not helping to dispel the "mean girl" aura that surrounds the trio. They reprise their audition song, "Hell on Heels" by Pistol Annies, which we saw a few seconds of during a montage way back when. The harmonizing at the beginning is the sound that makes it very difficult for me to listen to country music. It's not a knock on them – my brain just gets the nails on a chalkboard sensation when I hear it. What is a knock on the group is their total lack of stage presence. All of their gestures are held in close and they have to look where they are walking as they travel around the stage. The whole performance reminds me of the episode of Smash where Karen sings "Rumour Has It" at the night club. LA says he was concerned they were repeating themselves since they did the song at auditions. Simon reminds LA that we only saw a clip of that performance. LA says maybe there was a reason for that. SHADE! Britney says interesting/beautiful/nothing. Demi says she was let down because she was expecting a better performance. Simon gives his act praise for a fantastic performance that was an improvement over the audition rounds.
Jennel Garcia - Young Adults - @JennelGarcia
"I need you to step it up," Demi Lovato tells Jennel, with regards to her confidence. Demi has noticed Jennel closes up when she's off-stage, which could lead to problems down the road with her on-stage performance. Jennel gets treated to a rock star make over with flattened black hair. She's performing "Home Sweet Home" by Motley Crue, possibly by way of Carrie Underwood. Jennel is a little ahead of the music and her vocal is not quite as passionate as it could be. Jennel's also not selling it in the face, which you really need to do with a song like this. All that being said, this is the best performance of the night so far and I want Jennel to do well in this competition. The panel loved the performance. LA called it a 10 and said Jennel convinced him she could win. Simon said that performance defined the theme of the night but worries the makeover might be too matchy-matchy with her mentor. Demi disagrees about the makeover, but tells Jennel she killed it.
Diamond White - Teens - @DiamondKWhite
"Try to stay true to the song," Britney Spears advises her young protege. Generally that's good advice, but the song in question here is "Hey Soul Sister" by Train, so good luck with that, I guess. Actually, the way they arranged the song is kind of cute, making it a 90's influenced hip-pop track. Diamond doesn't draw you into the song immediately, which is problematic. However, by the second verse she has gotten into the groove and she's made the song tolerable, so big points for her. LA thought the performance was strong, though mechanical at first. Demi loved the song choice and acknowledges Diamond has one of the strongest voices in the competition. Demi warns Diamond to have a little more fun. Simon is impressed with Diamond's massive transformation in the weeks since Judges' Houses and says she is on her way to becoming a relevant pop star.
Vino Alan - Over 25s - @VinoAlan
LA Reid says he has had a change of heart about his category since his initial assignment, and Vino has been a major contributor to that shift. However, LA tells Vino he needs to overcome his insecurities if he wants to win this competition. He also needs to overcome bad song choices, such as "Gotta Be Somebody" by Nickelback. Guys with scalp tattoos should not be singing Nickelback. To his credit, Vino does remove his head scarf to reveal the tattoos in all their glory, so if that's a step in overcoming insecurity I say brava. But seriously, Nickelback? Dude. The judges also feel underwhelmed. Britney says she was bored. Demi says she's rooting for Vino, but has a difficult time picturing him as a pop star. Simon thought the song choice was awful and made Vino seem like a cover singer. "You cocked it up," Simon says to LA before the censors can cut audio. Hehe. LA tells Vino "you're gonna be just fine." Maybe.
Lyric145 - Groups - @Lyric145
"To beat singers," Simon Cowell tells his group, "you need to have incredible stage presence." I don't understand why this show is so cagey about rap acts. Astro was amazing last season, he just ran into trouble when he started acting like a 13-year-old before his first Final Showdown. Anyway, the performance begins with "Boom! Shake the Room" by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (including the wardrobe). Then for no reason we get 15 seconds of "Gangnam Style" and pony dancing. I suppose it's smart for Simon to get that card out of the deck, not that I'm expecting any of the acts to bust out the K-pop. The whole performance is a mess, which is a shame because I want to love this group and I want rap to have more representation on singing competitions. LA says he loves the group, but there is no way that song would ever be something they would record in a studio. Britney and Demi say they were entertained, but Lyric145 should not be a circus act. Simon has unconditional support for his act, despite the possibility he is completely out of his element.
CeCe Frey - Young Adults - @CeCeMissXtotheO
Demi warns CeCe that "nobody wants to work with a diva." I do appreciate the show giving her a villain edit from the get go instead of dropping it on her like they did with Stacy Francis. Also, I think CeCe would be game for it since she seems like the type where any attention is considered good attention. Her new bleached blonde hair will be taking on a dance version of "Because the Night." This is why I love this show. The concept of this performance – including one of my favorite songs – is something that you will never see on American Idol. Although I give the concept an A+, CeCe's execution is lacking. The vocals are thin and I think she doesn't yet have the stamina to move and sing. The entire panel feels the same way: good performance, weak vocals. Simon adds he thinks CeCe is fearless and someone this competition needs. Demi, CeCe's mentor, says she thinks she can do better.
Tate Stevens - Over 25s - @TateStevensCtry
We see filming with Tate's family as he prepares to say goodbye for the next while. They seem nice. In his mentoring session, LA tells him "you are an American classic," but he needs to work on his eye contact and confidence. The stage show begins and Tate sings "Tough" by Craig Morgan. This is your basic, nondescript country ballad which Tate sings fine. There's is nothing memorable about the song or what Tate does with it, good or bad. If he were competing against the entire field he could be in trouble, but Tate should be safe within his category. Britney Paula's her praise while Demi bluntly says she was bored at the beginning but Tate's the kind of performer who doesn't need a lot of stage accessories. Simon says he likes Tate because he has a clearly defined niche in the music industry but the song choice wasn't one of his favorites. LA responds by saying Simon isn't a country music expert…or a hip ho expert. SHADE!
Beatrice Miller - Teens - @BeatriceMiller
Beatrice is the major underdog of the season, having received the least amount of air time prior to tonight. She enters her mentoring session with Britney not sure what to do with the song she has been given or how to perform it on stage. When the performance begins, an overly-styled Beatrice sings while sitting on the steps center stage, as if Punky Brewster were about to sing "Somewhere Out There." Instead she sings "I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz, with the video screens mimicking a starlit sky. Beatrice signs well, but then there's pretaped footage of Beatrice modeling playing on the giant video wall behind her. Why turn this into something made at the mall? Weird set design aside, Beatrice delivers a pretty good performance that's met with praise from the panel. I hope she makes it to the next round, and that her stylist gets fired.
Jason Brock - Over 25s - @JasonBroccoli
LA calls Jason "Mr. Entertainment" in his introduction, a title Jason anxiously hopes to maintain. We are reminded of the elaborate stage show Jason described during his audition and LA says he wants to make that dream come true. The song choice is "Dance Again" by Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull by way of Martha Wash, at least how Jason sings it. The stage performance and design can best be described as neo-disco. The vocals aren't great and there is way too much happening on stage. Then the song just stops. Jason, who I think was behind the music by half a second, also seemed jarred by the end of the performance. Britney offers her first real criticism of the night, saying Jason could have chosen a better song. Demi liked that Jason made the performance his own, but the song choice lacked the sass she was expecting from him. Simon called the performance "utterly horrendous" and Jason looks crushed. LA supports Jason by saying "we had fun." Mario and Khloe stand next to Jason to throw it to commercial. "Ooo, Mario Lopez," Jason says, "can I pinch your butt?" Hehe. Then he does, catching Mario by surprise. Even if Jason goes home tomorrow, he may have just delivered the most entertaining moment of the season.
LYLAS 1432 - Groups - @1432
So it turns out the backup singers for Bruno Mars are also known as LYLAS, so the group has to change its name. They decided on 1432, which in text speak stands for "I Love You 2." Hmmm. The quintet stands in the shadows of the doorway video screen center stage and sing "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" by Taylor Swift. The sound problems are not to blame for this disjointed performance, but they certainly aren't helping. Bum notes everywhere, no crispness to harmonies, and it feels like a YouTube video made at a slumber party. Any momentum the group had coming out of Judges' Houses is now gone. LA tears into the group as soon as the song ends, saying that the new name sucks, the performance was from a karaoke talent show, and the production was horrible. He does say there's hope, but Simon doesn't seem to believe LA's sincerity on the last point. Demi acknowledges the group's potential, but says only one person in the group shined in the performance and that won't work in the long game. Simon assures his act he has had success with groups, but there is work to do and the public will love them. Before the commercial, Khloe asks Demi to name which girl she thought shined. Demi mistakes the question as the cue to introduce her next act, but Khloe asks the question again. After some brief hemming and hawing, Demi names names. I am sold on Demi Lovato, you guys.
Willie Jones - Young Adults - @ThatKiddWill
In case you didn't know yet, Willie is from Shreveport, Louisiana and he doesn't want to go home. I drove through Shreveport once; it didn't seem all that bad. It had a lovely Starbuck's. Anyway, Willie confides in Demi that he is intimidated by the solo girls in the competition because they all have powerful voices. Demi explains to him she picked him partly because he's not a girl and therefore offers something completely different. Then she saddles him with "Here for the Party" by Gretchen Wilson. There are lots of dancers in Daisy Dukes while Willie looks like he walked off the set of Miami Vice. Willie is having a good time, but the performance as whole reads like a casino revue. I don't think I can buy Willie as a country act, especially with Tate Stevens in the competition. LA thought the performance was entertaining, albeit "adequate." Ouch. Simon thought the performance was silly and Willie didn't take himself seriously or show off his vocals. Demi thanks Willie for taking her notes. That's not a vigorous defense you want to hear from your mentor.
Carly Rose Sonenclar - Teens - @CarlyRoseMusic
The show declines to air footage of the medical infusion of voice Carly must have received as an infant and pretty much jumps right into the mentoring session. Britney wants to take the school girl uniform that launched her into superstardom and try it out on Carly. I instantly picture something like this, Ukrainian lyrics included. Instead, we get a somewhat lifeless performance of "Good Feeling" by Flo Rida. Carly sings the song fine, but she doesn't seem invested in what's happening around her. LA and Demi pick up on this, saying it looked like Carly wasn't having fun. Simon offers a different theory, saying Carly might not have been comfortable with the song. However, he adds "it would be criminal for you to leave tomorrow," which is true, given the other acts in her category. Britney calls the vocals amazing and says Carly did a great job.
Emblem 3 - Groups - @EmblemThree
It should be noted that one of the guys was doing pushups backstage for Khloe's amusement. Maybe not just Khloe's. Anyway, in their mentoring session, Simon says "you are like three excited dogs when you perform," then warns the boys that once they move into the X Factor Mansion it's "rehearse, rehearse, rehearse." I wish this were a bit more like the UK version where the contestants aren't in permanent lockdown and go on drunken benders every other day. And that we had a tabloid culture that would report things like that. Wait, maybe I need to think this wish through. Anyway, the guys sing "One Day" by Matisyahu. Well, yell more than sing, but it doesn't matter because all you can hear for the next 90 seconds is a collective SQUEEEEEE from the audience. The second verse begins with the trio crouching for a tight close up and now I think I'm pregnant. Not cool, guys. They were never in any danger tonight, so this was a free week to assess their vocals and what to work on for the next few weeks. LA thinks we have witnessed America's next pop sensation. Britney calls the trio "absolutely adorable." Demi gets giggly and says she can't look them in the eye when they sing to her because she gets all flirty Gertie. Simon has dollar signs in his eyes.
Woo - 16 acts is a lot! Fortunately, four of them will go home tomorrow, making next week a bit more manageable. Thursday's two-hour extravaganza will feature four Final Showdowns – one for each category. Then the mentors will decide who stays and who goes home. We will have live coverage starting at 8pm Eastern. See you there!
Mike McComb – TVLatest.com
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