'X Factor' Recap: Contestants Take on Songs by Brits - Rolling Stone
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‘X Factor’ Recap: The British Are Coming

Lillie McCloud and Alex and Sierra are the lone standouts

Did you know The X Factor is a huge hit in the U.K.? So much so that it unleashed the boy band One Direction on the world? Does that make you want to watch the U.S. version? Didn’t think so.

However, Simon Cowell and the producers of the U.S. series love to remind us week after week of what an overseas success story the show is. Problem is, it’s an utter mess here in the States. And no matter how many times they work One Direction into the conversation, it won’t be a hit.

Rolling Stone’s Complete Coverage of ‘The X Factor’ 

Still, they’ve bonked the boys over their heads and are dragging them out one more time, culminating in – brace yourselves – a live performance tonight (insert squeal here) that they mentioned one too many times during Wednesday night’s episode.

But since they couldn’t call it “Go Buy One Direction’s New Album Week,” they came up with the generic “British Invasion” theme. So, we were treated to watered down performances of songs by whichever Brits were willing to license their music to the bastard stepchild of U.S. reality TV singing competitions. 

There were the expected big guns, like the Beatles, Elton John and the Rolling Stones, and just as many oversights: No Adele? Or Rod Stewart or David Bowie or more recent bands like Oasis? It often seemed like better song choices could have been made.

Case in point: Girls grouper Khaya Cohen sang the Beatles’ classic “Let It Be,” but hasn’t her voice just screamed “Amy Winehouse 2.0″ all season?

While we don’t necessarily condone a 16-year-old singing “Rehab,” surely they could have made something work. With rattled confidence after her near-elimination last week, Cohen gave a so-so performance – a first for the usually stellar contestant – that likely won’t win over viewers. Of course, the judges offered few remedies. “The fact that you were in the bottom two last week was a joke, ” Simon said, before suggesting she needs to wear a bigger smile and bring “puppies and kittens” onstage with her next time. Is she trying to win Miss Congeniality or a singing competition? 

Then there was Over 25er Jeff Gutt, who tried (and failed) to tackle Queen‘s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Wouldn’t Def Leppard have been better suited for him? Wearing his usual fingerless gloves, Gutt has become a parody of himself (and rockers in general). The coup de grace? Sitting him on an Iron Throne made of swords and spears that was surrounded by flaming torches. Sorry, Jeff, but it’s time for you to go.

Meanwhile, if there was ever a contestant who could take on Adele, it’s Lillie McCloud. But, of course, they missed that opportunity too, saddling her instead with another look-at-me-I’m-old song selection and staging in Kate Bush‘s “This Woman’s Work.” No doubt about it, her voice is spectacular – and she looks just as good – but she needs to do more contemporary songs to stay in the competition. Still, Paulina Rubio called the performance “refreshing,” probably because it was such a crap-fest the rest of the night.

OK, we take that back a little, because Alex and Sierra gave a good performance – of One Direction’s “Best Song Ever,” of all things – mainly because they seemed like they were in on the joke. Well, Alex was at least. Sierra might have just been along for the ride, as she’s often overshadowed by Alex’s superior stage presence and effortless vocals. Even if they had nothing else on their side (which they do), his flirtatious smile, twinkling eyes and pre-douche-y John Mayer-like good looks should (hopefully) keep them safe another week.

Of course, who knows in this crazy competition? Watch the charmless Tim Olstad and comically talentless Ellona Santiago and Carlito Olivero squeak by once again when they should be the bottom three. And, yes, we know we didn’t talk about Josh Levi, Rion Paige or Restless Road, mainly because there’s nothing new to say.

Perhaps One Direction really can spice things up when they hit the stage tonight. Then again, maybe not.  

Previous recap: Rachel Potter, Sweet Suspense Sent Packing


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