Before I get into ranking the X-Factor top 17 field, I wanted to discuss the coach’s choices. Everyone has their opinion, but I don’t think they did a bad job at all. I did get a kick out of Simon finagling his way into getting 5 finalists instead of 4. I think it was his way of telling LA Reid that while Reid may be charming the viewers, this is still his show damnit!

(I was absolutely appalled when Simon eliminated Melania Amaro from the girls’ side of things. She’s the absolute best singer in the field. Now, being the best singer doesn’t equate with being the chosen one. Ask Jennifer Hudson that one (though, I think Fantasia might’ve still beat her head-up on American Idol). Thankfully, he righted that wrong, or maybe they just wanted to have a dramatic ending to the taped shows. But she was the only one elimination that I had a big problem with. The others who were eliminated were definitely eliminated for good reason.)

LA Reid
Being that country seems to be a very good genre to market to these days because of a very loyal fanbase, I was surprised that LA dismissed two country artists. Skyelor Anderson has a Darius Rucker vibe to him, but the worry was that he was too country. Tim Cifers didn’t do anything for me, but he fit the country description. Reid went with both Brian Bradley (aka Astro) and Marcus Canty instead, which shows you that he thinks the young rapper and Usher Jr. have more star potential. LA’s biggest surprise was Phillip Lomax. As Jay Caspian Kang said in his write-up, “Crooners are to singing competitions as kung fu was to old MMA.”

I thought his choices were the right ones after he re-added Amaro back into the field, except for one. I think he missed huge on Jazzlyn Little and basically put all his energy into Tiah Tolliver. Both Jazzlyn and Tiah are a bit raw and they need a ton of work, but I’d have put my money on Jazzlyn being a star over Tiah. I know some people were bothered over Caitlyn Koch being eliminated, but I’m not sure what she did that made her stand out. Her personality was bland. Rachel Crow is going to go pretty far.

She had the easiest choices to make. The only one you could really question was Dexter Haygood over James Kenney. But I get it. Kenney may have the better voice, but Haygood has the better story. He was in the group Xavion, who supposedly were the first African American rock group put on MTV. He then hit rock bottom and was homeless. Who isn’t going to be rooting for Haygood this season?

Having groups on here is just wacky to me. Paula’s choices were fairly easy to explain. The Brewer Boys made it because they need to hit that Jonas Brothers demographic. InTENsity is there because people love kids. Lakoda Rayne is your female group. And The Stereo Hogzz is your male group. I know people really liked 4Shore, but we already have one Boyz II Men and the Boyz II Men copycats were gone by the late 90s. I thought The Anser had an interesting mix, but their last performance was pretty corny.

Onto the rankings …

No Chance In Hell

Phillip Lomax – Remember John Stevens from the third season of American Idol? No? Red hair, stick-like figure? Well, at least Phillip is better than him. There aren’t enough Frank Sinatra fans to save Phillip and Frank’s fans who are watching will claim that no one can touch Frank and thus, they won’t vote for him either. Sucks to be Phillip.

Dexter Haygood – He’s an oddball because his James Brown schtick was old the second time he did it, but he has charisma. He’s also vying to steal Stacy Francis’ crown of the show’s biggest cryer. Hopefully for him, when he gets voted out, there’s some champagne for the pain.

Leroy Bell – When Nicole Scherzinger says that your nerves are getting to her, that’s not a good thing. He looks like what you’d expect Common’s dad to look like and he has a cool vibe, but I can’t see him getting past the first few shows.

Simone Battle – The girl is just as confident as she is talented. That’s a terrible mix for a show in which teenage girls are the main voters. It might be unfair, but I don’t see her sticking around very long.

InTENsity – They may show some teeth later on, but they were so saccharine. The group has some kids who can really sing, but if they put together weeks of candy coated versions of songs like “That’s Not My Name” and “You Make My Dreams”, they’re run will be short like leprechauns.

The Pretenders

Lakoda Rayne – Wacky name aside, I like them. They tried out as solo artists and didn’t make it. But the X-Factor judges or producers heard their nice voices, saw their blond hair and put them together as a group. I don’t think any of them has enough personality to capture the attention of America and remember what I said about teenage girls voting. This could bite them in their collective rear ends.

The Brewer Boys – These guys made it simply because of the success of Justin Bieber and the Jonas Brothers. At some point, you could even send a shout out to Hanson. They’re young brothers who harmonize together. Vocally, they’re probably the weakest of the 17 acts left, but it’s clear that it’s more important to be able to sell yourself than it is to sing well. And you know how I keep bringing up those young girls? Yep, these guys will do well with them.

Tiah Tolliver – Simon loved her spunk. And he absolutely forced Nicole and Paula to rethink their opinion on her. I’ve never seen him so insistent on someone who didn’t seem like a no question superstar. He obviously sees more in her than most. I think she’ll benefit from being Simon’s hand-picked starlet early on. But when it comes down to the nitty gritty, I think the talent will show that she’s not in the top tier.

Peaked Too Early

Chris Rene – If he waited until the show’s finale and performed “Young Homie”, he wins hands down. It’s just too bad that he’ll probably never do any better. And really, why can’t I download “Young Homie” from iTunes? I need me some “Young Homie”!

(You can actually hear a studio version of “Young Homie” here.)

Brian “Astro” Bradley – He was fantastic when he was chastising Simon for checking out his moms. And he was excellent when he rapped to “The Message” beat. But I can’t see him being able to put together X-Factor demo-friendly rhymes week after week. I may be underestimating him though. He’s my 10-year old son’s favorite by far.

Josh Krajcik – He was my third favorite singer in the auditions, after only Jazzlyn and Melanie. But I’m not sure he can shake his burrito slingin’ gimmick. He looks like the beastly child of Hagrid and Meatloaf and has done nothing to clean up his look. Maybe he thinks that his gimmick is what got him this far. I think he needs to clean up and allow people to listen to his voice instead of wondering how rough it must be to wear such a wispy beard.

The Top 6

6. Stacy Francis – This woman has some pipes. It’s almost as if she was the fifth member of En Vogue but missed her plane on the way to the studio. My main problem with her is that she plays the victim role on the TV screen with the waterfall of tears that come down her cheeks. We get it. You want to win badly. But so does everyone else. She’s easy to root for, but also easy to roll your eyes at.

5. Rachel Crow – She might be the best 13-year old I’ve ever seen on a talent show. She put some stank on Beyonce’s “If I Were A Boy” and I hate Beyonce’s version. Her youth is in her favor because she doesn’t seem to know that she’s supposed to be scared and performs like a pro. As Duke told Apollo Creed one time, “He doesn’t know it’s a damn show! He thinks it’s a damn fight!” Rachel doesn’t know she’s not supposed to do well in this thing.

4. The Stereo Hogzz – They’re more New Edition than Boyz II Men and I think in 2011, that works much better. They are charming and talented as all hell. I’m just unsure that the voting public will vote group over solo star. It’s already awkward to see groups on this show since we’ve been conditioned to think solo act for the last 10 years of American Idol. But if any group has a chance to catch on, it’s these dudes.

3. Marcus Canty – I think he should go the Usher route. He needs to show energy and develop a female following if he has a chance to win. He’s not as technically good as most of the top singers, but he’s the only one who I think will hit his marks in the performance every time.

2. Drew Ryniewicz – She’s awkward. She’s gawky. But she can sang. Also, because of her style of singing, she’s going to get the least amount of backlash from the female voters. I think she needs to work on her facial expressions, but maybe the pained look is a good thing. If she can continue being creative like flipping Justin Bieber’s “Baby” (and do it right in front of LA Reid’s face), I think she goes far.

1. Melanie Amaro – Her rendition of Beyonce’s “Listen” was immaculate. I couldn’t believe it was a live performance. She didn’t only hit the vocals, but she hit the emotion of the song. After her first audition LA Reid talked about her like he was a scout and she was a 5-tool baseball player. And when they sang together, even though she didn’t try, she sang Stacy Francis and Jazzlyn Little off the stage. She’s my front winner to win the show.

I’ll be back here every week from here on out until the December finale writing about the performance show. And you can’t hear me, but I’m currently singing “Young Homie”.

Hey, young homie what you trippin’ on
Looking at life, like how did I get it wrong,
Life’s too short gotta live it long,
To my brothers and sisters when will we get along

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