The Top 5 perform dance music hits -- wait, what? -- and their Save Me songs

By Annie Barrett
Updated December 08, 2011 at 10:19 AM EST

The X Factor

S1 E21
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Weird night! The Top 5 were informed 24 hours before Wednesday’s performance show that they’d have to sing their Save Me songs instead of the songs they’d been preparing all week for the Pepsi Challenge. “Okay! Go easy!” cried Steve Jones after announcing this dramatic twist. It’s fun to think about the vast difference between the live X Factor audience, directed to react with COMPLETE OUTRAGE, and us viewers at home, who were just like, “Whatever.” Either way, any bumbling Steve Jones moment is a big plus.

But as if that weren’t enough insanity, the first round’s theme was “dance music hits,” which was short for “Let’s find a way to keep Marcus Canty alive.” Now I love myself some heavily processed dance music, but I would never expect it to be featured on a singing competition. There goes The X Factor, defying all expectations as usual! It’s a spectacle competition, really. They have set fire to a NEW GENRE along with whatever judges-table debris (L.A. Reid’s soul, Nicole’s week 7 weave) was used as kindling for last night’s Smoke Monster haze.

Let’s get this dance party started. Everybody dance, now.

Melanie Amaro‘s thumpin’ dance version of Adele’s “Someone Like You” (help, I’m dying inside) featured the American Horror Story crossover none of us ever expected: Dozens of black-suited Rubber Men dancing robotically around her as she angrily belted out sad and pensive lyrics for…oh, I don’t know, maybe 45 seconds? That thing was short.

I guess she sang this well; it was just kind of bizarre. My favorite part — other than Melanie’s intriguing medieval torture/spider ring — was that during this performance, Simon was nodding his head ever so slightly to the beat. It’s about the closest he’ll come all season to a seated dance move. “You would have a hit record with that version,” Simon assured Melanie. (Okay Simon. Upbeat remixes of “Someone Like You” already exist — in fact I’ve been listening to them to stay awake for the last two hours and consequently will never fall asleep again — but whatever.)

“Two-time champion” (?!) Marcus Canty accomplished what Nicole Scherzinger thinks we’ve all been waiting for: He “took us to church and the dance club at the same time” with his dance hit: Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody.” I don’t think any X Factor performance has been as blisteringly ’80s as this one, and that’s saying a lot. (Then again, the dancers with plain black leotards and structured neon jackets ended up reminding me of Lady Gaga, so maybe the ’80s are RIGHT NOW.) Vocally Marcus was on par with the rest of his work — he sounded okay, but it was more about the visual spectacle.

L.A. Reid Seated Dance Move of the Night

“Hey! This is one of the songs I know.

NEXT: Simon and Nicole would rather be playing with dolls

“I got a suit just for you, Steve,” Marcus teased at the end of his segment, clearly sensing that His Awkwardness was jealous of not only his cheesy winking abilities but the fact that he was decked out in head-to-toe leather. I would have appreciated a much deeper dive into that sub-plot.

B.o.B. & Bruno Mars’ “Nothin’ on You” was a relevant song choice for Rachel Crow, but she just seemed out of her element vocally. And that dance crew of random fun-lovin’ teens was obviously distracting. I kept wanting them to reveal themselves as InTENsity and stampede Rachel for the mic! After throwing the camera a knowing smirk on the final “Beautiful girls….” Rachel assured the judges in an eye-rollingly scripted conversation that of course she had been aiming the song toward Paula and Simon’s voodoo doll Nicole. And the canned banter continued! “You did stand-up comedy a few years ago,” Simon offered out of nowhere. “Who told you that?” a startled Bathroom Barbie shot back at him. Certainly not the text on the back of my headshot! She must have been the funniest and perhaps only 8-year-old stand-up comic on record.

Josh Krajcik did what he could with Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” which I totally thought was a Coldplay song during the first few seconds. Simon railed on the “ridiculous dance routine” behind Josh — even though his baby doll Rachel had been backed by TUMBLERS! — and called the song choice “completely inappropriate.” I mean, I guess it was, but this is your stupid theme here, Mr. Producer! Bulletin from the Dept. of the Obvious: This whole round seemed like sabotage against Josh.

In an effort to disagree with L.A. who “just didn’t buy it,” Paula overshot in her praise for Josh: “He can take any song and make it believable as a dance hit.” Exactly wrong! All Rihanna songs are dance hits before they’re even recorded, right? And if they’re not, then why do I keep hearing them at my church which also happens to be a dance club?

NEXT: Rihanna continues to secretly control The X Factor I had to keep looking away from the screen during Chris Rene‘s “Live Your Life” by T.I. and Rihanna. I didn’t necessarily think I was about to have a seizure, it just….wasn’t pleasant. There might be something about that bright blue laser-blast that just doesn’t jibe with my retinas. (We can’t all be like Simon and have eyes that — upon a closer probe — turn out to contain the X Factor opening credits!) Anyway, from what I could make out, Chris was pacing back and forth on a treadmill (WHY?) while singing more original lyrics in his charismatic way. No one will remember this particular Chris Rene performance.

Steve Jones carefully said “Twiddah” the first time, then gave up and went back to his signature “Twittah,” thank God. It was a big night!

Then the stage directors roused the X Factor gospel choir from beneath the stage, where they live, and yelled “Quit napping! It’s time to really soar with Melanie Amaro on ‘When You Believe.'” So they did! Melanie and her spiritual friends killed it with the uplifting tune from Mariah and Whitney — which L.A. Reid then inexplicably called “safe.” But before he could even go there, ugh, Melanie pulled a Kanye and decided she’d let the judges finish (or in this case begin) but first she just had to say something. Uh oh. High notes good. Words BAD. No talking! I’m not sure what Melanie’s message was exactly. It was just crazy rambling about her believin’ and Simon knockin’ — but the accent came out in full force, which is all that matters.

Marcus Canty got the ultimate “last chance” edit for the segment leading up to his rendition of Donny Hathaway’s “A Song for You” — largely considered to be “owned” by Eliot Yamin who sang it in one of the best American Idol performances ever. (Watching that back, though, I’m struck by how corporate Elliot looks. Why can’t he work in a disco, like Marcus Canty? Fashion edge: Marcus.) Anyway, this was Marcus’ third Save Me song in three weeks, and I agree with Paula that he’s good at telling stories with his eyes. I can’t believe it’s not sarcasm! Still, Simon found it “a bit boring” and preferred Marcus’ Spectacle Spectacular round one dance number. Nicole insisted Marcus reminded her of a young Al Green. And for one glum moment, we could see only half of all the judges’ faces as they waited with silent dread for the looming Smoke Monster to drag them away.

NEXT: Hey, who’s that really short older woman on a trampoline? Who was that sparkly middle-aged lady? Why it was 13-year-old Rachel Crow, singing Michael Jackson’s “Music & Me” with big hair and bigger sequins on her great big shiny Susan Boyle frock. She had light in her eyes and stars in her ears. Rachel sounded the same as always — a bit off-key and boring — but she does have that camera presence down and I like when she’s standing still…on a trampoline…instead of bopping around the stage. That’s always too much.

And speaking of too much: As soon as Nicole called Rachel “an old soul,” Rachel misguidedly shouted out: “MY MISSION IS JUST TO INSPIRE THE KIDS. That’s all I want to do!” Ewwwwww. Convey it, don’t say it.

Paula called her fantastic. “YOU’RE fantastic. HA HA!” Bathroom Barbie ‘bot-ed out. Terrible. I can’t. I’m sorry.

Once again Josh Krajcik delivered strong vocals with his cover of the Beatles’ “Something.” But surprisingly I agreed with Simon that perhaps his approach was a little off here. Those crazy eyes and angry wails seemed a little too belligerent for what is ultimately a mild-mannered love song. I guess the chorus is pretty tortured with the constant “I don’t knows,” but it’s not that tortured. I still want Josh to win, but this really wasn’t his night, and I suspect that the producers made sure of that.

Coincidentally, this also may have been the Josh Krajcik performance during which I felt the strongest urge to wash his hair. Would I then blow it out straight or let it run wild and clean and free like the James Durbin-esque poop cloth sprouting out of his right back pocket? I spent much of the judges’ talky-time trying to figure that out. Meanwhile, Paula insisted Josh’s greatness was beyond adjectives, and L.A. attempted to use karaoke as an adjective to describe Josh. He’s off his rocker. (Which would probably make for some decent L.A. seated dance moves — a rocking chair!)

American Idol alum Melinda Doolittle was our guest co-host for last night’s X Factor performance show live chat, and this was her rather apt summation of L.A. Reid as a judge: “I liked him at the very beginning of the season, but now I have no idea what world he lives in. It’s like he’s always hearing a different performance.”

Imagine — you spend all season training this sort-of-rapper guy to stumble around the stage dodging colorful lasers and superfluous dancers, and suddenly he sits perfectly still on a bar stool with (GASP) a musical instrument and delivers one of the best performances of the season! Chris Rene‘s original song “Where Do We Go From Here?” was simple, unpretentious, and exactly what he needed to seem legit as a member of the Top 5. The stripped-down staging and acoustic guitar kind of blew me away, to be honest. It was like watching an entirely different contestant. Who’s the new guy with the repetitive lyrics I can relate to? Kind of looks like Ronnie from ‘Jersey Shore’ at certain angles with the muscle tee and the hair, except he’s not a psycho rage beast? Oh sure, sure. He can move on.

I have now read the mind of Ameriker! It’s time to sign off.

See you tonight for the results show recap! Who do you think will be banished from the Red X Galaxy?

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Read more:

‘X Factor’: The contestants talk death threats

‘The X Factor’: On the scene for the Top 5!

‘The X Factor’ elimination recap: It Must Have Been Love

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