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I was worried going into the third X Factor Four-Chair Challenge round because, as far as I could tell, the boys were the weakest group in the mix. Two hours and ten young male singers later, I can safely say I was right. For the first time in the 4CC, not a single artist got over three and half stars. I can take mediocre singing – by God I got through the auditions alive and with only minimal physical and mental scarring – but what surprised me the most was that, most often, the judges seemed to be hearing completely different vocal than the ones coming through my TV speakers. That or they were just unqualified or afraid to really give any substantial vocal critique.
To quickly jog your memory, each boy will sing individually. The good singers will get rewarded with a spot in one of only four chairs. At the end of the round, only the people seated will move on. But once the singers take a seat, they can get kicked off and replaced by another artist. Only those seated at the end of the round will stick around. So far Danielle, Khaya, Ellona and Rion (for the Girls) and Jeff G., Rachel, James and Lillie (for the Over 25s) are through.
With that introduction and a lot of second-rate performances to recap, let’s go:
Al Calderon: * *
Five years ago, Al was on Broadway in Jason Robert Brown’s 13 alongside freshman pop diva Ariana Grande (who, subsequently, is a much, much better vocalist). Now he’s singing “Happy Birthday” to patrons at a New York City restaurant. I bet he’s a step up from the last person who sang that song to me at a restaurant – a scarily peppy Japanese lady at a Hibachi restaurant who brought out a giant taiko drum and a gong before starting. But I digress. Here, Al sings a rock arrangement of “Call Me Maybe.” The song feels somehow dated despite being only a year old, but the arrangement was serviceable in showing some of Al’s creativity. He wasn’t bad vocally but given his resume I was underwhelmed by a voice that was fairly forgettable. I also felt like he was trying a bit too hard with the runs and Rihanna-esque glottal stops. After singing, Paulina Rubio (the Boys coach) asked Al to take a seat.
Isaiah Alston: ½
Oh this was rough. Isaiah seems like a nice enough kid and might actually have a decent voice, but tonight he was a pure victim of bad song choice. Why did he choose “Greatest Love of All,” the Whitney Karaoke classic, that is both dated and notoriously difficult to sing? Isaiah is 15, way too young and way too untrained to pull off this behemoth. It was pitchy and unpleasant and overreaching. Paulina sent Isaiah home.
Isaac Tauaefa: * ½
X Factor’s favorite singing bouncer picked a surprising song for his 4CC round: Colbie Caillat’s 2007 earwig “Bubbly.” He tried to switch it up with a bouncy, Michael Buble-inspired arrangement (think “Just Haven’t Met You Yet” meets Jason Mraz) but the whole thing felt somewhat stale and, to paraphrase Kelly, karaoke-y. The vocals too were shaky and not up to par. While Paulina “didn’t know what to do,” she eventually sent Isaac home.
Carlos Guevera: * * *
I really liked Carlos from the audition and actually remembered his previous performance quite well unlike many of the others. While his take on “Ain’t No Sunshine” wasn’t quite as good as “Gravity,” his audition song, Carlos was probably my favorite of the round. He’s not quite as good as some of the female soul singers and this vocal performance needed more control, but Carlos has great presence and tone. Besides, in a show like this, I applaud any contestant who tells the live audience “I don’t wanna be a sob story, I just want to be an inspiration.” Paulina asked Carlos to take a seat.
Stone Martin: * * ½
Firstly, I just have to say that my greatest entertainment tonight was the way host Mario Lopez pronounced Spanish words, especially Paulina’s name (Pao-leena, say it with me).
There was something about Stone that rubbed me the wrong way. He was too manufactured, a prefabricated pop star. It didn’t help that in his package Stone said he didn’t want to be a singer until he saw the screaming girls at a One Direction concert. He didn’t stray far with his song choice – “Torn” by that aforementioned band (I had to look up the song’s name and origin, I swear!). Demi said he “killed it” but Simon hit the nail on the head when he called Stone “robotic” but very marketable. What about his singing? For someone like Stone, I doubt the singing really matters. I’m not a 13-year-old girl; Stone’s not in my demographic. To me, his vocals are purely ho-hum, but, in that vain, so are Bieber’s. Paulina asked Stone to take a seat.
Chase Goehring: * * ½
Sometimes when people go on reality talent competitions they wind up having a bit of an identity crisis. This 17-year-old had a distinctly Ed Sheeran vibe about him from his ginger locks to the original song Chase sang at the audition. But at the 4CC, Chase chose B.O.B.’s “Airplanes,” a poppy party song that made him feel like a kid over performing at his Bar Mitzvah party. It just didn’t work. I stand by the fact that Chase has talent, but he needs to mature and find a better platform. Besides, maybe this makes me sound like an 80-year-old, but you’d think if you were making your live TV debut, maybe you’d want to change out of your shorts, old t-shirt and baseball cap. Anyways, Paulina asked Chase to take a seat. (Now the four seats are filled and all subsequent Take-A-Seaters will have to boot off someone).
Tim Olstad: * * * ½
I’m not sure what’s up with Tim’s song choices. For his auditions, he sang a song from Twilight and then followed it with the single from the Hannah Montana movie. I guess I’m not one to judge a guy for listening to stereotypically “girly” music (I once was suggested the “Gay Pride: Female Edition” and “Soccer Mom Chill-Out” playlists on iTunes), but I’m not sure Tim is very good at choosing material. That being said, I hate the vapid “The Climb.” Tim did a serviceable job and handled the big notes really well but seemed nervous and shaky. And, if you’re reading this Tim, just promise me you won’t try falsettos again. Paulina asked whether Tim is “special enough” but I’d stick by Tim if he got some training and better songs to sing. Paulina asked Tim to take a seat from Stone.
Carlito Olivero: * * *
Carlito reminded me of Jamie Pineda last week. He’s a Latino crossover artist (with a big crush on Paulina) who, for maybe the first time tonight, picked a good song for himself. Selena’s “Dreaming Of You” was a good choice, although I wish they would have used more than ONE SENTENCE in Spanish, and he sang it well if not a little strained. The flip into head voice was shaky but nevertheless, Paulina asked Carlito to take s seat from Chase.
Timmy Thames: * * * ½
The youngest in the competition, 13-year-old Timmy has a surprisingly good voice given that most 13-year-olds can barely speak without their voice cracking more than an old sidewalk. Looking like Jack Johnson’s long-lost son, Timmy sang a stripped down version of a song called “New Girl In Town” which was originally written for the movie version of Hairspray. It was inventive, for sure, but his vocals needed a lot of polish and refinement. But for 13, I still think Timmy sang very, very well. Demi wasn’t “blown away” and Kelly liked his audition better, but Paulina asked Timmy to take a seat from Tim.
Josh Levi: * * * ½
I couldn’t quite concentrate at the beginning of Josh’s package because I was still stuck on Tim getting wrongfully booted from the competition. Well I guess the audience agreed because they booed and hooted and hollered like they were on Springer until Paulina changed her mind or bowed to audience pressure. So, let’s go back and have a little bit of a redo….Demi wasn’t “blown away” and Kelly liked his audition better, but Paulina asks Timmy to take a seat from
Tim Al. Audience reaction or not, Tim’s a better much better choice than Al all the way.
The judges like Josh much more than I did. His Hip-Hopped version of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” showed some promise and Josh is cute and unassuming but he wasn’t “perfect” as Paulina said. The higher register was strained and off. But he’s likeable and “a star” (according to Simon), so I wasn’t surprised that Josh got through. Yes, Paulina asked Josh to take a seat from Timmy.
That leaves us with Tim, Carlos, Josh and Carlito as the top 4 boys. Like last week, I’ll wait until the next installment to review the Groups since only four performed.