We’ve seen some monumentally poor performances on “X Factor” this season, and it isn’t because the finalists can’t sing. The problem seems to rest in their mentors’ abilities to choose songs not suited to the vocal strengths of their proteges. And during Wednesday evening’s Top 8 live performances, America again got to see what it looks like when the mentors choose poorly and the finalists allow themselves to be placed on that Los Angeles stage with an ill-suited song. Worse still: the two worst song choices and performances came not from CeCe Frey and Fifth Harmony, the two acts finishing in the two bottom spots (without being eliminated) on the Top 10 results show. No, it was Emblem3 and Vino Alan, two of the four frontrunners.
So what happened?
In Vino Alan’s case, Judge and mentor L. A. Reid came in and changed Vino’s song a day before he went live. Vino had been rehearsing the classic “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Simply Red). He wasn’t getting a good run on the chorus, so L. A. opted for a change. Although angry, Vino complied and the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” was chosen.
It was not a good choice. Vino was a bit flat here and there. And his delivery was more in tune with an aggressive song, not a forlorn love-lost song.
Judge Britney Spears said his act needed to be “refreshed.” Judge Demi Lovato agreed, as did Judge Simon Cowell. In fact, Simon said the entire performance was “uncomfortable” — wrong song, wrong execution. He said L. A. had taken a chance and it simply had not worked.
Oddly enough, at the end of the evening when Simon’s protege act, Emblem3, took the stage, L. A. had a chance to return the criticism. And he should have. But L. A. said he liked the performance and would have signed the guys to record deal had they auditioned with that song.
That song was the classic “I’m A Believer” (The Monkees, but done Smash Mouth style). But it is doubtful if it made believers out of many. It definitely was not a recording contract-winning performance, despite L. A.’s praise. It might have been a step above frat boy karaoke, and not much more than that. The guys were singing in unison, but there was no harmony, something that judges Britney and Demi picked up on.
It was easily Emblem3’s worst performance to date.
The same could be said of Vino Alan.
Unfortunately, their worst performances coincided with a double elimination week and now their poorly rendered covers could very well get them booted from the show. Because, despite their consistently high placement in the voting, it only takes a slip and an inability to win converts, not to mention picking up fans from other contestants that have been eliminated. In other words, although an act like CeCe Frey, a finalist that has finished in the bottom three out of four times (and last twice, including last week), was told by Simon that her rendition of “Lady Marmalade” during the Top 8 performances was just bad enough for her to go ahead and “pack a suitcase,” it wasn’t as bad as Vino and Emblem3’s covers.
And despite her many poor performances, CeCe Frey has proven to be quite the resilient finalist.
And still, it all comes back to song choice. To hear Simon Cowell defend himself by saying he’s sold over 300 million records and also condemn L. A. Reid for his song choice on Vino, then to hear and see such a sub-par performance on behalf of one of his own acts verged on the karmically ironic. But L. A. has been there before with Vino, even taking Simon’s advice earlier in the competition. He also agreed with Simon that he’d chosen poorly for Jason Brock’s Top 13 performance.
Beatrice Miller went public with her disapproval of song choice after she performed Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” for her Top 12 performance.
And rap trio Lyric 145 threw Simon under the bus after he admitted to changing their song choice for the Top 12. When they were panned by Judge Demi, they said they had an entire “Diva” tune worked out with original lyrics but had been overruled by Simon. They were voted off the show on that week’s results episode.
These are but the most egregious “wrongs” done the “X Factor” finalists by their own mentors. There were plenty more, like just about everything Judge Demi chose for CeCe Frey, especially the more than ridiculous “Eye Of The Tiger” presentation.
(Watch CeCe Frey’s “Lady Marmalade” video.)
So why aren’t the mentors taking the age-old judges maxim of the importance of song choice for the contestant to heart? Who knows? Perhaps it is apathy. Perhaps it is hubris. Or maybe it is just something as simple as making a mistake in mixing and matching. Regardless, it could be a $5 million mistake for these finalists.
And when frontrunners like Vino Alan and Emblem3 get stuck with a bad song choice so late in the competition, it could get them sent home when they should be rehearsing for the finale.
“X Factor” will broadcast its Top 8 results on Thursday, Nov. 29, at 8 p.m. (EST) on Fox Television. Season 1 runner-up Josh Krajcik and Grammy winner Alicia Keys will perform live.