The ridiculously named "judges' houses" round of The X Factor continued last night, after baseball ruined everything -- as usual -- last week. And make a note for this week's episode, which will air on Tuesday night, rather than Thursday night, because World Series coverage begins this week.
With all of this schedule shifting, it's hard to believe the ratings for this show are so low, huh?
Team Paula Abdul: The Groups
Houston's own Stereo Hogzz positively killed it with a performance of Marvin Gaye's "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," impressing both Paula and Pharrell. This group is visually and vocally stimulating; they also have a sense of humor, and their wonder over Paula's home ("All this grass and no ants!") is charming. Girl group 2 Squar'd were assigned Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and unfortunately didn't shine. My husband pointed out that Illusion Confusion's performance of "Let's Dance" (David Bowie) didn't get full screen time -- that doesn't bode well. Finally, the group of ten eliminated contestants that the judges pressed into a "supergroup" -- InTENsity (ugh) -- performed "That's Not My Name" by The Ting Tings. Confession: I liked it. Not every member of the group is a strong vocalist, but they do well considering they became a group just a few weeks ago and had little time to rehearse together. ("We Skype," said Rochester, New York, native...um, blond kid.)
Team L.A. Reid: The Boys
I think choosing Rhianna as his consultant is kind of mean on L.A.'s part, considering they are judging men under 30 and most of the guys in this category have probably fantasized about her once or 30 times. Talk about upping the level of nerves. First up is Brennin Hunt, the annoyingly confident musician from Nashville, Tennessee. He performs "Just Like a Star" by Corinne Bailey Rae, and he does well, but Rhianna finds him a bit cheesy: "Corny ... like a '90s boy band." ZING! Rhianna and L.A. seem like they have a lot of fun together, and crack each other up regularly. Marcus Canty is next with "All My Life" by KC & Jojo, and I think he kills it vocally. He doesn't seem physically comfortable, but he's in front of Rhianna, for chrissakes. Tim Cifers is the standout country singer of the show, and I really enjoyed his rendition of "Dance with My Father" by Luther Vandross. Finally, Chris Renee performs "Everyday People" by Arrested Development. The backing vocals track overpowers his voice in several spots, so I'm not sure the judges -- or the audience -- could really appreciate the performance either way.
Team Nicole Scherzinger: The Over 30s
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Finally we get to see a little more Josh Krajcik, the crazy-talented burrito-slinger. Nicole assigned him "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" (popularized by Roberta Flack) -- possibly one of my least favorite songs of all time, but he sells it to me. This guy is one of my favorites. Tiger Budbill wins "best name" hands down, but his version of Joe Cocker's "Don't Give Up on Me" leaves his future on the show in doubt. Still, he is a million times better than Christa Collins, who describes herself as "the prototype for Britney Spears," having been the first child performer signed by Disney when she was six. Christa gave it all up at 16 and has decided she wants it all back. She sings Radiohead's "No Surprises" but I don't like it -- I think her weird look influences me in a negative way; her clothes, hair and makeup are distracting in a very cheesy way. Finally we see the oldest performer in the competition, Leroy Bell, who has turned 60 since the auditions started. (This guy looks 40, seriously.) He performs Bob Dylan's "To Make You Feel My Love" beautifully, and post-performance "but is he a star" chatter between Nicole and Enrique Iglesias is purely for fake suspense.
Team Simon Cowell: The Girls
Cowell has the toughest decisions to make, as his group has a lot of major stand-outs and a lot of raw talent. Thirteen-year-old Rachel Crow charmed every X Factor viewer in the show's premier episode and has continued to do so with her big voice, outgoing personality and humble nature. She does what she can with the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way," but it's not a great song for her. Tiah Tolliver continues to prove that Simon was right to fight for her, and delivers a strong rendition of "No Diggity" by Blackstreet. Jazzlyn Little has a pattern that is starting to irritate me: She goes on and on about nerves and her lack of talent, and then belts out a huge song. This week it's no different, and she kills with a unique version of "I Will Survive." Melanie Amaro goes last, and gives a soaring version of Michael Jackson's "Will You Be There" that showcases not just her vocal range but her control -- she could blow out some of the bigger notes (à la Stacy Francis) but she doesn't, and it shows how polished she really is.
The X Factor continues this Tuesday night on FOX at 7 p.m. CT. You can view video excerpts of last night's performances online.