Simon Cowell did promise that The X Factor was going to do it bigger and better than everyone else.
So while American Idol already had a Michael Jackson night three seasons ago and Dancing With the Stars featured a performance from Cirque du Soleil's Jackson tribute show, The X Factor is the program that had Jackson's brothers, mom and kids in the audience for its salute to the King of Pop.
"It's my favorite show!" Katherine Jackson told host Steve Jones as he introduced them. (And later, he got Prince and Paris to say a few words, too, though Blanket proved a quiet customer.)
OK, top seven, no pressure...
Josh Krajcik reached as far into Jackson's rock repertoire as he could go and pulled out "Dirty Diana," which the masterful 30-year-old turned into a perfect fit for his gravelly voice. We barely even noticed the bells and whistles, but Simon did—and he wasted no time in blaming Nicole Scherzinger for the "overproduction."
Astro may have been the only finalist who elevated his song, "Black or White," to another level, choosing to leave the familiar chorus to the backup singers and layer his own rap lyrics over the melody. "I like to think that the Jackson family is as proud as I am of you, because that was truly, truly amazing," praised mentor L.A. Reid.
Well, L.A. wanted a different type of performance from Drew and…he didn't get it tonight. But the stripped-down, intense version of "Billie Jean" that the 14-year-old daughter of Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan and Fiona Apple sang sounded amazing. "I'm in a really naughty, naughty mood," L.A. began, "but I have to tell you: You took 'Billie Jean,' you made it your own…It pains me to say this, but I liked it!" Both Nicole and Paula Abdul felt Simon did a disservice to Jackson's memory by instructing Drew to stay seated throughout the song, but the sound was album-worthy.
Three out of four judges (guess which ones) didn't think much of Rachel Crow's version of "Can You Feel It"—but we thought her youthfulness brought a delightful dose of Jackson 5-era Michael to the evening.
Marcus Canty picked the perfect night to really get his Usher on, his dance moves, showmanship, and voice finally all coming together on "P.Y.T."
Chris Rene performed the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There," to varying degrees of success. As usual, he inserted some clever, original rap lyrics—which tends to be more pleasing to the ear than his wobbly singing voice. But Chris is just so darn likable! Or as Paula said, he "manifests in the heart department." Yup. "Something you would know nothing about," Paula told Simon when he inevitably poked fun at the phrase.
It's a good thing Melanie Amaro was closing the show, because she would have ruined it for anyone coming after her. As L.A. said, she temporarily transformed the competition into a Melanie concert with her Whitney-licious performance of "Earth Song." "If that doesn't save a small country somewhere, I don't know what will!" marveled Nicole.
Neither do we, Nicole...neither do we.
More importantly, however, the Jackson family thought the top seven hit it out of the park tonight, with Katherine saying every contestant did "an excellent job," Prince calling it a "really well put-together show" and Paris thought they were all "absolutely fantastic."
Blanket, of course, kept his opinions to himself.
Who do you think is going home tomorrow night? Was there an obvious weak link? Sound off in the comments section!
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