The judges think all 12 of the remaining acts are absolutely wonderful

By Annie Barrett
Updated November 03, 2011 at 09:19 AM EDT
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The X Factor

S1 E11
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Welcome back to The X Factor — the only show on the air providing guidance on “how to use Twittah” on its own website. This week’s second live performance show was the first chance for the Top 12 “acts” to sing for YOUR VOTES. Now give Steve Jones a hug, silly. He’s desperate!

Paula Abdul was by far the MVP of the episode, rehearsing the choreography along with her groups like a sweaty teen while Simon Cowell sat in his natural habitat — in front of an enormous vanity mirror — and made surly remarks about each contestant in the other judges’ cat-uh-gries. How does Paula do it? Perhaps her superhuman stamina can be traced to the toxic pink waste in her Pepsi cup.

Totally not staged.

“Hold your receipts! Here come the Stereo Hogzz!” I know Paula meant to say hold your seats, but that’s how it sounded. And what self-respecting X Factor audience member could remain confined to a chair during the fiery thunderstorm of Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” presented by a lead singer, his four backup dancers, 20 backup dancers surrounding them, and a devoted community of like-minded robot-soliders moving in sync on the screen behind all of them? No one! You gotta join up! This was pretty entertaining and inspired me to waste tons of time watching Janet’s original video. I appreciated the Hogzz’ shiny gold knee pads, and was that one guy wearing a fanny pack? I was so busy settling into X Factor Migraine Mode and marveling at the circus that I could barely concentrate on the vocals.

No mattah! Simon says: “I don’t think there’s a band in the world right now that’s as good as you.”

WHAT?!

NEXT: Chris Rene, a heavenly superstar angel in a fiery pit of hellI was a little upset that Chris Rene‘s hair was showing this week. Let’s get him back into hats. Or back home. At the beginning of Chris’ cover of The Carpenters’ “Superstar,” he was bathed in eerie blue lights. Soon the background created the illusion that he was lit-ruh-ly s—ing smoke. And finally there was REAL FIRE. Everywhere! I had trouble finding Chris onstage. It’s a challenging show.

Chris sounded better on the spoken-word section than he did while singing — and as coach L.A. pointed out, Chris is more comfortable doing his own songs than other people’s. So….why not let him do his own songs?

Speaking of L.A. Reid pointing things out….

L.A. Reid Seated Dance Move of the Week: IN HELL.

After the judges engaged in some canned hell/fire wordplay to gush over Chris, Steve Jones awkwardly swooped in and asked, “This man is heavenly, yes?” Best moment of the episode, yes? No.

I should be used to it by now, but I get so annoyed when Simon makes sweeping and patently false statements like “It gets hard for him to show the kind of emotion and enthusiasm some of the younger kids have” re: LeRoy Bell. That sort of thing depends on personality, not age. And I think especially this week, with Lonestar’s “I’m Already There,” LeRoy did channel emotion through his voice. Also, what exactly is so “dated” about having a piano player as backup? Aggggggggh!

Oh, I finally figured out who LeRoy sounds like: Marc Cohn (“Walking in Memphis”). That was killing me for some reason. So that’s settled! He should sing “True Companion” to all the laydeeeeees one week. Instant winner.

Rachel Crow theoretically sang “Walking on Sunshine,” but a lot of it was her shouting “You’re! My! Sunshine!” as the purple, white and black animated Lichtenstein knockoff behind her attempted to visually assault the audience. It’s “tough to criticize you as a performer,” said L.A., so he just didn’t bother. “You are America’s sunshine,” slurred Nicole before comparing Rachel’s voice to a young Michael Jackson’s. SERIOUSLY. Paula suggested Simon give Rachel a song with more range. See, that’s exactly what I don’t think should happen. “If I Were a Boy” was her most off-key performance to date.

NEXT: Time makes Lakoda Rayne bolder, Crayola marker style Speaking of visual assault, Paula’s whole “so you girls are going to represent the seasons” plan for Lakoda Rayne was hilarious because if they’d just shown up to sing “Landslide” in those strongly hued frocks without any explanation, it might have been less confusing. I mean, why was Dani, or “Summer,” or more accurately “Here Are Her Boobs, You’ll Just Have to Guess About the Others,'” wearing blue? I thought yellow would be summer. Is blue the ocean? What’s yellow? I’m clearly an idiot.

Nicole’s critique made the most sense: “If I were a season, I’d want to look just like you.” Whatever, Nicole — wearing a sparkly leaf ring that dominates four of your fingers isn’t going to cut it. Change into a solid color prom gown from the Dress Barn clearance rack and we’ll talk.

Vocally, I thought the four girls blended well and the arrangement — a single varying organ chord and no beat — was kind of eerie in a good way. It made us focus on how they sounded, and they didn’t suck!

Here comes Josh Krajcik. “America, he’s even more than a burrito maker,” gargled Nicole. Even more than that? How? Impossible! I still love Josh’s voice, but he was under-served by Nicole’s song choice, “Jar of Hearts” by Christina Perri. He did what he could with it, but I kept wanting the song to get so much bigger, and it just couldn’t. Even Nicole seemed to be gearing up for something huge in her seat — and then it was over. “That was incredible. It’s like you wrote the song,” Simon overstated. One of Nicole’s cheesiest comments of the night actually rang true for me. “What I love about you,” she oozed, “is when you sing, I feel your voice through my veins. You make music move through all of us.”

Give Steve Jones a hug, Josh. He demands it. It’s a must!

I have no complaints about Melanie Amaro‘s rendition of “Desperado” except that she sang “Ain’t it funny how the story goes away?” instead of “how the feeling goes away.” It actually made sense because it occurred directly after a shot of Simon smiling smugly. He’s the one spinning all these overblown tales of praise and awe for mediocre contestants, while all Melanie has to do is sing a song from 1973 with no backup spectacle and blow everyone away. I loved how she created her own high notes in the final chorus. “Right now you are the one to beat. Trust me,” said coach Simon. This is no fiction.

Ew, there is an “app room” now? No thank you.

I’d seen so much crazy crap already that the huge letters spelling out Astro‘s name at the base of what appeared to be a giant red outline of a mushroom seemed par for the course by that point. Unlike Chris Rene, Astro was encouraged to write some of his own verses for his mashup of Naughty by Nature’s “Hip-Hop Hooray” and Missy Elliot’s “Get Your Freak On.” I loved the bitch please look vocal coach Claude Kelly threw Astro after the child told him, “I don’t care if I gotta write an album in a day — I’ll do what I gotta do.” I honestly bet he could do that. This kid is a true genius at being annoyingly crafty — “a total little star,” according to Simon. “America will vote,” insisted L.A., “not because he’s hip-hop, but because he’s great.”

NEXT: A barefoot ballerina awakens in a sea of petals The mashup of “Party Rock” and “Kids in America” that Paula had cooked up for InTENsity was a pretty brilliant way to bring together people who are teens today and people who were teens when Clueless came out. There were shooting stars, sparkly streamers left over from Monday night’s Dancing With the Stars across the street, and some cute grey trapezoid-shaped glasses on the little rapper. They probably all have names, but “Ellona” (last name deleted….forever?) was the only tiny comet who got her own interview.

This was a weird week for Drew, who began Nelly’s “Just a Dream” lying still in a bed of petals and then rose from staged slumber to reveal…a half-assed ballerina costume? Had she been asleep since Halloween? Very distracting, and the dancing was awkward. I don’t need to see this girl in heels, but I would really like her to wear shoes. Or socks! Even some Peds® would be great. Maybe they could say “Pepsi.”

At least Drew sounded good. Coach Simon appreciated her artistic input on the arrangement, and Nicole suggested she guest on an Eminem or Jason Derulo track. Hmmm. I guess she could, but I want my little Alanis McLachlan Jr. back.

I can’t tell if Marcus Canty wants to be Bobby Brown or if L.A. Reid just wants Marcus Canty to be Bobby Brown. Either way, we don’t necessarily need another one. Based on his vocal and performance quality so far, I think Marcus can stand out on his own. His backing track on “Every Little Step” was way too overwhelming at the end of the song, though. I know the kid is tired from all that choreography, but please let him sing anyway. That’s still somewhat the point, right?

Simon’s “recreation” of Stacy Francis as a church singer instead of a pop star (Stacy’s own wish) was completely heavy-handed, almost oppressive really. He’s backing her into a corner she won’t be able to escape. She’s pissed about it, you can tell. Obviously her voice is powerful, but I thought Stacy wildly missed most of the high notes in Patty Griffin’s “Up to the Mountain,” which she performed in a shimmery floor-length gown amidst a billion candles, as if headlining a tribute concert following a national tragedy.

She was the final contestant to sing on The X Factor, after all.

Tonight, someone goes the fiery hell home. Which “act” is it gonna be, Ameriker?

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The X Factor

Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Paulina Rubio judge Season 3.
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