Anyone who has watched a music competition show has heard the constant, predictable advice judges and winners impart on contestants: “Just be yourself.” That’s a lesson this week’s two eliminated acts from The X Factor learned the hard way. SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP!
But it’s also a lesson that both 18-year-old Jennel Garcia and hip-hop group Lyric 145 claim to have already learned. The problem, they say, is that the competition didn’t give them the room to pursue their own styles. After X Factor’s results show Thursday night, Garcia and the three members of Lyric 145 told reporters that they felt the show’s powers-that-be pressured them to be something they’re not: Garcia got more girly and less rocker; Lyric 145 morphed from rap/hip-hop to hip-hop/pop.
“I should’ve stuck up for myself more,” said Garcia, whose hair went from black to brown partway through the competition, while her songs went from edgy Grace Potter and the Nocturnals to a rockin’ but bright Tina Tuner cover.
It’s a difficult dilemma: To thine own self be true? Or to thine own multi-millionaire, uber-successful mentor be obedient?
Lyric 145’s Jemelle Joseph said the group was initially “on the fence with trusting” Simon Cowell, their mentor, but then decided to take on his advice and suggestions.
Throughout the live shows, which wrapped up their third week last night, judge L.A. Reid voiced his doubts about Cowell’s choices for Lyric 145. Right after they performed a mash-up of “Boom! Shake the Room” and “Gangham Style” at the show taped on Halloween, Reid said, “It sounded like someone put you in a washer, dumped in bleach and took all the soul out of you.” Further down the judges table, Cowell defended his song choice by saying, “To make rappers work in a competition like this, it has to be commercial, it has to be entertaining, and they have to put on a show.”
Reid, who has worked with such artists as Kanye West and Usher, continued to be pretty blunt about Cowell’s direction for Lyric 145. “They were mentored poorly,” he said. “I think [Cowell] really loved Lyric 145, but he was a bit lost.”
As for Garcia, who was mentored by Demi Lovato, both Reid and Cowell supplied their reasoning for voting her off the show on Thursday. Cowell said she “lost her spark and personality,” while Reid said, “I think she’s had a hard time finding herself.”
This week, Garcia and Lyric 145 both blamed the song choice for their elimination. Lyric 145 insisted that they would still be on the show had they not performed a mash-up of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and Katy Perry’s “E.T.” Lyric Da Queen revealed that before that song selection was made at midnight the night before Wednesday’s show, the group had been pushing for a rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.”
Garcia ended up singing “Proud Mary,” but she also prepared her take on Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.” The 1995 post-grunge song “is way more me than ‘Proud Mary,’” Garcia told press, “but everyone disagreed and said ‘Proud Mary’ was the one.”
The two acts also both expressed a fervent desire to perform their own music on The X Factor. It does raise the question of whether original songs by the contestants would work on music competition shows that pull audiences in with new takes on popular songs by new personalities. Last year, Bravo attempted to launch a competition show that focuses on singer-songwriters. Platinum Hit turned out to have a painfully inapt title – the show was a flop. The May 30, 2011 premiere got only 823,000 viewers to tune in, and after five episodes, Bravo moved the show to Friday nights. It did not return for a second season.
Well, now that they’re off the show, Garcia and Lyric 145 can make their own stylistic and musical choices. “The first thing I’m doing tomorrow is dying my hair black,” Garcia said. “And I’m taking off the heels because I don’t wear heels. I like sneakers. I don’t like fancy shirts. I like T-shirts.”
Once she’s done changing her look, Garcia said she’s going to “be rock ’n’ roll, tough and not girly.”
As for Lyric 145, the group is planning their move to Los Angeles, Lyric Da Queen by way of Flint, Mich. and brothers Julian and Jemelle Joseph from Queens, N.Y.
What was your take? Did Cowell and Lovato make the right calls, or do Garcia and Lyric 145 have a case for laying some blame on their mentors? Did you see their styles and personalities slip away as the competition went on, or are they being too picky about a few high heels and necessary song changes? Which songs performed by each act felt most true to them? Could music competition shows succeed with a focus on original songs? Who would you have eliminated this week?
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmilyNRome
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