lak31On Wednesday’s edition of The X Factor, fans were able to vote for their favorite performers, and based on the judges’ reactions, each of the artists could do no wrong!!  The most outrageous quote from the evening actually didn’t come from Paula Abdul, as Simon Cowell gave opening act The Stereo Hogzz the most ridiculous accolade of the night: “Not only do I think that you are one of the best groups I’ve seen in one of these competitions, I work for a record label, I don’t think there’s a band in the world right now, who are as good as you.”  Here’s the list of performances in order, with the best band in the universe kicking things off:

The Stereo Hogzz – Over twenty years later, we are still part of a “Rhythm Nation,” and kudos to Paula Abdul for picking a Janet Jackson tune which featured enabled the Hogzz to show off their performing skills.  They are, by far, the most polished group in the competition.  But the best band in the world?  Sorry, as far as “bands” go, I have a soft spot for U2, Muse, and Pearl Jam.  Sorry Hogzz!!

Chris Rene – It’s hard not to have a soft spot for Chris Rene, as his rehab story is inspiring, and during the early X Factor rounds watching him bond with his sister (and fellow X Factor participant) Gina also tugged at the heart strings.  Unfortunately, L.A. Reid’s decision to have Rene cover The Carpenters’ tune “Superstar,” and then have fire surround Rene during the rendition was just plain wrong.  Throwing some hip hop flavor in the middle of the song perked things up, but overall it was another unsteady and drowsy performance from Rene. “I don’t understand your staging, when the track started, you literally put him in hell, that to me made no sense,” said Cowell to Reid.

LeRoy Bell – He’s one of my favorites in the competition, but since he’s 60 and a bit too laid back for his own good, LeRoy Bell is in danger of being eliminated Thursday night.  His “mentor” Nicole Scherzinger made matters worse by giving him “I’m Already There,” a Lonestar track which just didn’t fit his overall vibe.  “I just can’t tell you that I loved the song choice,” said Reid.  “But I love your voice.  I just didn’t get the song.”  Adding fuel to the Scherzinger fire, Cowell added, “I totally agree with L.A., I don’t think Nicole has quite understood you (or) has given you the right song.  I thought it looked very dated having that piano player up there with you.”  Nicole countered with “sometimes, less is more.”  Well in this case, thanks to misguided mentoring, less is less.

Rachel Crow – Although she’s barely into her teens, Rachel Crow is easily one of The X Factor’s most confident performers.   Simon picks an obvious song for Rachel to sing with “Walking On Sunshine,” and she gives an effortless and charming performance.  Changing the chorus to “You’re My Sunshine,” however, was unnecessary.  After the performance, Nicole Scherzinger tells Crow that her voice is reminiscent of Michael Jackson during his Jackson Five days, a comparison which is totally accurate if you love comparing apples and oranges.

Lakoda Rayne – These ladies are obviously beautiful, and throwing dancers and special effects around them would be a waste – so credit goes to Paula Abdul for keeping things low-key.  On a superficially aesthetic level, their faces are the main attraction, and with their subdued performance of “Landslide,” the girls have shown gradual improvement with their harmonizing and basic chemistry.  Paula Abdul’s decision to put each lady in different colored dresses, with each singer signifying a different season wasn’t as cockamamie as Cowell suggested (it was a wee bit corny).  Even though they came off as  “old-fashioned” (an oft-used Cowell term) in their prom dresses, those failings should fall on Paula Abdul’s, and not Lakoda Rayne’s shoulders.

Josh KrajcikNicole Scherzinger’s sub-par mentoring skills continue, as she gifts blues/rock singer Josh Krajcik with Christina Perri’s hit song, “Jar of Hearts.”  What???  The ex-burrito maker was born to sing the Otis Redding and Sam Cooke catalog, and Nicole picks an angst ridden tune that’s best suited for former The Voice contestant Dia Frampton (check out Dia’s version here)?  Krajcik tried his best to make the song his own, and although he sounded fine, there was a huge disconnect between him and the tune.  In fairness, the rest of the judges praised Krajcik’s performance.  But of course, the judges were complimentary to all the singers.

Melanie Amaro – We’re in week two of the live rounds, so hopefully this will be the last week we’ll hear Simon talk about the big mistake he made at initially saying no to Amaro.  Blessed with a big voice, earnest face, and humble demeanor, Amaro is easily likable and lovable, but I’m not getting Mr. Cowell’s unabashed love for this songbird.  Her rendition of “Desperado” was perfectly fine, but just like last season’s American Idol contestant Pia Toscano – I just don’t get the hype.  Cowell says Melanie’s the singer to beat.  He’s wrong.

Astro – Along with Rachel Crow, he’s the most confident performer in the competition.  If they do a reboot of What’s Happening in several years, slot him in as “Raj” (love those glasses, Astro!, hey hey hey!!).  Astro spitting verses to “Hip Hop Hooray” and a Missy Elliott/Timbaland track (“Get Ur Freak On”) was fun to watch, but does he have what it takes to win the entire competition?  Who cares, since Paula Abdul puts it to our cocky teen, “I know Jay-Z has his eye on you.”  This, of course, is coming from MC Skat Kat’s main homegirl.

inTENsity – Against my better judgement, I’m just a sucker for inTENsity, as seeing ten smiling youths channel their inner Glee instantly puts me in a better mood.  However, Paula’s decision to give them “Kids In America” and “Party Rock Anthem” wasn’t her finest moment – last week’s mash-up of “The Clapping Sound” and “Footloose” was definitely superior.  Still, they’re likable and should live to see another day.  In describing inTENsity, Cowell has the perfect summation: “I shouldn’t like you, but I actually really do like you.”

Drew – Starting her version of Nelly’s “Just A Dream,” lying on the floor amidst rose petals was definitely distracting (an unnecessary), and her stage presence still needs substantial improvement.  But Drew has the voice and the likability factor which should help her sail to the finals.  L.A. Reid accurately points out that Drew has the “spirit of a superstar.”  “I’m not her mentor, she’s my mentor now,” says Cowell, whose choice of “Just A Dream” was one of the night’s smartest moves.

Marcus CantyL.A. Reid’s hit song “Every Little Step” fit Bobby Brown like a glove, but trying to turn Canty into the next singing and dancing machine is not going to happen.   Although Paula Abdul describes him as the “total package” and Nicole felt like she was watching a concert, I just felt…bored.  If I want to see choreography and dancing, I’ll watch The Stereo Hoggz.  For singing, I’ll turn to Drew or Josh KrajcikMarcus is a performer who’s stuck in the middle, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him be one of the first acts to go home.

Stacy Francis – It’s a victory for me whenever Stacy Francis holds back the tears and refuses to cry.  She received heaps of praise, especially from Simon Cowell, when she did her overwrought take on “Up To The Mountain.”  It’s still a solid rendition of an evocative song, and she is getting less and less annoying as the weeks progress.  During the judges comments, Francis admitted that she was keeping it together, promising she was not going to cry.  Keep it that way Stacy, and I start pulling for you!

Here’s one major lesson the performers need to learn: stop throwing up your fingers when the numbers pop up on the screen!!  Shameless mugging and making awkward body movements pleading for fans’ votes is far from endearing (Chris Rene and Marcus Canty take note).  It’s annoying!!

So…X Factor fans (or detractors), who were your favorite acts tonight?  Are the judges being way too complimentary?  Who is the worst mentor on the show…and why?  Who will get eliminated tomorrow night??  Does Cheryl Cole have a slim shot at returning to The X Factor for its second season?  Tell us what you think!

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posted by Greg Srisavasdi