The Top 7 take on the Michael Jackson songbook, but the night's MVP is Blanket

By Annie Barrett
Updated August 03, 2020 at 06:23 PM EDT
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Simon Cowell, American Idol
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WHO’S BAD? Steve Jones. Too easy, X Factor. This is a man whose opening line of a liiiiiiiive performance show was “Thank you very much, sexy dancing people!” Show some respect.

I know it’s been done to death, but I love that at least the idea of doing a Michael Jackson night is indisputably crowd-pleasing. Michael Jackson is amazing. Now that I live in California and drive around a lot, I’m blown away by how I will never change the channel once I stumble upon an MJ song. THE RADIO — what a concept!

“Billie Jean” in particular is like my new favorite song. I’m so cool. Better 28 years late than never, right? I freak out when I land on it and crank that s— up, especially if it’s the top third of the song when things are still brewin’. Then I eventually start howling with him at the end (“Hoo! Hoo!” but not like an owl, though maybe an owl would sound better than me), and I always have the windows open, and…I don’t think Los Angeles likes me very much.

Anyway, the Jacksons were all there — Michael’s brothers, mother Katherine, and the kids. “Are you happy with the spectacle that is The X Factor?” Steve Jones asked Paris, the girl. Ha! So bumblingly honest. This is why I love him. “Yes, I love the show very much,” Paris recited. Blanket couldn’t be bothered, nor should he be as a king among children, but Prince and Paris were both exceedingly polite and gracious during their awkward “conversations” with Stevecrest. Oh, those poor (rich) kids! What a weird life.

I’m about to exploit them even further with some choice images in this recap, but only because the damage has already been done. I’m not the paparazzi. I’m just a girl, sitting in front of a computer, commanding it to screen-shot. No one loves her, but she loves Blanket.

Josh Krajcik finally got to play his guitar on “Dirty Diana,” but the arrangement sounded like the same old X Factor-y electrical storm as usual. I’d love to hear an acoustic guitar performance from Josh where his pitch-perfect wailing and musicianship can be on better display. He sounded fine, when we could hear him at all amidst the over-production. Those backup dancers were just a bit distracting as they waved white fabric over their heads. Were they airing out their soiled laundry? Where were those random red hankies coming from? Were they undies?

Blanket, what did you think?

Not Josh’s best work. Simon blamed his mentor, of course. Speaking of whom, Nicole Scherzinger’s one-day-only bangs: Nay or nay?

NEXT: ‘That was dope.’ –Steve Jones

I’m gonna pull an L.A. Reid (seated dance move) card and complain that all of Astro‘s performances sound the same to me. Oh no, was that racist? It doesn’t matter…if you’re “Black or White,” that is! I don’t know, this was just more of Astro jumping around on a stage full of primary colors and sparkly jungle gyms. It would be a great place to end up if you were a toddler and this was Purgatory, but I don’t know, I’m just over him and his attitude.

I did love the product placement and appreciation of coloring (again: toddlers) in Astro’s original lyric, “I look at the world like a Crayola box, so forget about colors, yo. JUST DRAW.” Draw me a cocktail from whatever loony-juice tap Paula is using under the table, because I’ll need it next time Astro performs. “You’re more than the future,” Ms. Abdul told him. “You’re our past and our present. I think you could win this competition.”

But did Blanket like Astro?

It’s a yes!

Nicole wanted her to “get up from the damn chair,” but I loved Drew‘s seated, piano-driven rendition of “Billie Jean.” I suppose the song’s content is more suited for someone like, say, David Cook on American Idol, but for me this vocal was so beautiful and she added light and shade at exactly the right moments that I’m not sure it even mattered what the words actually meant. I rarely think song choices are inappropriate for anyone, though. I mean…that’s the song. Sing it or don’t, but if you sing it, sell it!

And Drew did. Paula wants her to do something up-tempo like Avril Lavigne or Kelly Clarkson, but I just think that might be a disaster. She doesn’t move too comfortably on the stage, you know? I think it would have been a huge mistake for her to try any sort of upbeat song with (shudder) DANCE MOVES on Michael Jackson week in particular — it may have even seemed like a mockery. I just can’t imagine anyone doing that to Blanket. Simon made the right call with Drew this week. She’s getting the Pia Toscano treatment from the other judges here. “You continue to be our most divisive contestant!” cried Steve.

Ahhhhhhh Steve Jones, a vocab queen from a TV scene. Just when I’m convinced he’s a moron (Annie!), he whips out “divisive.” Hey, Drew could use the education! She can only school for three hours a day. WHO’S NOT A BAD TEACHER? Stevecrest.

NEXT: Can Blanket feel it with Rachel Crow? Ladies and gentlemen, the Jacksons! Thank you again for being here.

I’m surprised Rachel Crow didn’t go with “ABC,” because that’s what I hear in my head whenever I think about her. That’s a pretty optimistic association, huh? Anyway, “Can You Feel It” was fairly off-key most of the time, and as L.A. suggested, it didn’t seem like Rachel was having too much fun. I wonder if she was more nervous than usual because the Jacksons were all sitting there and her whole m.o. is to act like a member of the Jackson 5 onstage most of the time — boundless energy, crowd-engaging, etc.

Those were some HUGE mirrorballs behind Rachel during this song, by the way. The last time I saw a disco orb that big was…actually, last night, when a Victoria’s Secret model wore one as a fanny pack.

“What I love about you is you always put on a show,” said Simon. He could have just yawned. Let’s check in with Blanket.

Paris might be more priceless here. If that’s even possible!

I have to give High School Graduate Marcus Canty extra credit for going out there with a sparkly black glove and a dazzling piano-key vest (no shirt!) for “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing).” But he’s just soooooooo cheesy. I guess they have to ramp up the production value for him because his vocals don’t measure up to the others, but I always feel like I’ve just narrowly escaped a seizure by the end of his performances. (I should go see Twilight: Breaking Dawn and really test my limits!) Say something nice: He does sweat well. Paula was right. “The perspiration of the exhilaration — you left it all out there.” What? Totally. So true. What???

How great was that back flip by Marcus Canty, everyone?!

NEXT: Chris Rene has music in his BLOOD Paula was just warming up. After Chris Rene’s more-vocally-competent-than-expected performance of “I’ll Be There” (including original lyrics), she raved about his clean-cut look of the week, and then told Chris, “You manifest with abundance in the heart department.” PAULA!

Despite the pure poetry above, that fun fact about Chris’ grandfather having written “Rockin’ Robin” may have been the most interesting moment of the evening. I’m glad he didn’t sing that, though — it’s a little too happy-go-lucky for Chris. I liked when he got all literal onstage and dropped to one knee after rapping “higher power first, let me bring it down to earth.” VERY CLEVER.

Brrrrrrrrrrr. It’s chilly. Can I get a

Looks like Blanket was pondering the true meaning of Chris Rene’s gem-encrusted varsity letter jacket almost as deeply as I was.

Melanie Amaro — accented and llllllllloving it!!! — went with an MJ hit that Simon said you usually don’t touch: “Earth Song.” A rather brilliant way of pretending Haley Reinhart and season 10 of American Idol never happened, if you ask me. Melanie and her Glamour Hair did not disappoint, standing off on their own in a wasteland of smoke and carefully arranged red spotlights. I was left wanting more of her vocals after the abrupt ending — maybe a slowed-down extra verse offset by a children’s choir, and on the GIANT SCREENS, some sweet close-ups of a puddle of tears barely illuminated by the setting sun with the words “ozone” and “layer” surrounding it. But what we got was good, too.

“If that song doesn’t save a small country somewhere, I don’t know WHAT will,” said wise Nicole.

“That was epic,” said Steve, who was probably still letting Nicole’s profoundness sink in to his devastatingly handsome numbskull. “My favorite night ever.”

Thank you. It’s been such an honor. Thank you for being here. The Jacksons.

L.A. Reid Dance Move of the Night: It’s THIS BIG!

Gotta thank the Jacksons once again. Thank you Blanket.

Which two “acts” will head home tonight, Ameriker?

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