X Factor

'X Factor' judges struggle to define 'rock'

Nov. 17, 2011 at 9:46 AM ET

Astro may prove a 14-year-old hip-hopper can win 'X Factor.'

Wednesday’s “X Factor” marked the start of rock week, which resulted in some solid performances, one excruciating number, and a series of painful arguments between the judges on the definition of “rock song.”

For example, Simon Cowell didn’t think Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bob Marley counted, so the Chris Rene tribute didn’t resonate with him.

“OK, let’s do hip-hop week and see what Drew (Ryniewicz) does,” L.A. Reid replied.

Shots fired!

It’s no coincidence that L.A. picked on her, since he was critical of Drew last week for not breaking out of her comfort zone. And not surprisingly, that was an issue tonight as well. Her slowed-down “With or Without You” was her best performance of the finals thus far, but L.A. still wants her to try something different and Nicole Scherzinger wanted more tempo and more energy, because apparently rock week = tempo and energy week.

L.A. also questioned the suitability of REM’s “Everybody Hurts” for Melanie Amaro, wondering how that qualified as rock. Nicole piled on by complaining that the song didn’t make her cry. The audience in the building reacted by chanting “Me-la-nie! Me-la-nie!,” and the TV viewers longed for the days of scripted television when you could rely on the dialogue to actually make sense.

Fortunately, because host Steve Jones is always quick to chime in and remind everyone that we’re on a deadline, the show did not entirely degenerate into a two-hour panel on “what is rock music?” It also added a heavy dose of “Remind everyone that this is a $5 million prize by asking whether each contestant is worth that.”

Who’s in danger? Well, Stacy Francis was just awful. “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” was a trainwreck from start to finish, and sparked a race to throw whoever was responsible for the choice under the bus. Paula Abdul asked Nicole if it was her decision. Nicole said it was Francis’. Francis said she picked it because it was the kind of songs her fans wanted. Note to Stacy: Anyone who wanted to you pick a Meatloaf song to cover is no friend of yours.

Of course, Francis has something of a fan base. That’s not so for Lakoda Rayne, Paula’s lone remaining band which will be at risk every week until it is finally sent packing. There’s about a 50-50 shot that will be Thursday. All four started on separate platforms Wednesday, a great decision for a quartet that still looks and sounds like four soloists who just met backstage and decided to perform a song together. Though they’ve improved over the past couple of weeks, Simon called it a complete mess anyway. But are the judges really going to zero out Paula three weeks into the competition?

If not Francis or Lakoda Rayne, it could be Leroy Bell, who L.A. called “Boring. Again, b-o-r-i-n-g.” And Simon noted that “right now, you’re being mentored like a session singer.” Again, shots fired!

Fellow 30-something Josh Krajcik came out the best of Nicole’s crew, thanks to his Foo Fighters cover that caused her to stand up and act the part of a headbanger, and also gave her the chance to tell everyone that one time at band camp she was in a group that opened for the Foo Fighters, which is the kind of thing you say when you’re sitting behind a desk.

 “Never ever listen to a single person again on this show, because that was bloody fantastic,” Simon told Krajcik.

But for L.A. and Simon, it’s likely smooth sailing. Chris Rene was underwhelming and is going to have to step it up soon, but he seems OK for now. Marcus Canty closed the show strong, and Astro continues his quest to show that a 14-year-old hip-hop artist could actually win this. Not too many folks would have thought that when this was originally pitched.

As for Simon, the only girl in any trouble at all is Rachel Crow, and that’s just because she sang early in the show. She got nothing but love for “Satisfaction,” and it’s hard to see her sending her out. And at least everyone could agree that the Rolling Stones qualified as a rock band.

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