The Top 24 for Season 2 on "X Factor" were named on the last day of Boot Camp in Miami (Day 3). And it was here that the viewer learned who each set of six acts would have for a coach/mentor. Judge Simon Cowell, the winning coach/judge of Season 1, got the Groups.
The Groups category is arguably the most difficult to coach and convince viewers to vote for of all the categories. Not only are there the individuals that must be dealt with, but the group as a collective must also be dealt with. And so many things could go wrong with groups and their performances, again individually as well as collectively. And as history has shown, groups rarely win. On the UK "X Factor," the four-person girl group Little Mix won Season 8, but in the preceding seven seasons, five duos/groups made the Top 3 to compete for the title. None of them won. And only twice did they make runner-up.
Last season on "X Factor," groups, which were mentored by Season 1 Judge Paula Abdul, fared worst of all. All four groups making it to the Top 16 and the live shows were eliminated early, the highest placing group being the judges-built girl band Lakoda Rayne, which was eliminated in ninth place.
So, needless to say, Simon Cowell, who has also been the winning judge of Britain's "X Factor" twice (neither time with a group), has his work cut out for him trying to get America to vote for at least one and maybe as many as three judges-constructsd groups, depending upon who is chosen to represent his team in the Top 16.
With the help of Grammy winner Marc Anthony, the biggest selling salsa singer of all time, Simon mentored his six groups and had them sing for a place for the four spots available for his team.
First up was one of the cobbled bands, the all-boy Playback. They performed Hall and Oates' "Rich Girl" with a hybrid blue-eyed soul and hip hop style. Although the rapping was believable and the solo singing was rather good, together the boys just sounded like a bunch of guys singing in a room individually without even trying to harmonize. Marc didn't "get" them but Simon said he liked them. However, Simon might be forgetting that they weren't solo artists any longer or in a battle round. As a group, they didn't gel. (And there probably isn't one person in America that isn't sick of the 16-year-old ex-New Yorker talking about doing it all for his long-distance girlfriend.)
Then it was Emblem3 singing a hybridized rap/pop version of the Police's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." Nice harmonies and good rhythm. However, the youngest of the trio missed his cue, which Simon called him out on when they were done. Marc said he liked them even though the one guy got lost. Simon repeated that the one guy looked "distracted."
Sister C was up next singing Shelby Lynne's "Leavin'." The Texas trio of sisters were far from the twangy sound that permeated their vocals during the audition and in Boot Camp. Afterward, Simon said they were "contenders." Marc agreed, but Simon then observed, "My only issue is: Will the audience vote for them." He told the girls earlier that they were coming off as a bit standoffish. Apparently he still felt the same after their performance.
Lyric 145, the cobbled together trio of Lyric Da Queen and rap duo One4Five then brought an energetic rap version of Miley Cyrus' "Party In The USA." Simon though it was a bit sloppy in parts but Marc loved it. (Prior to the performance, Lyric Da Queen bemoaned the fate of fellow Michiganders from Flint, noting that everybody there either ended up in jail or dead. Her dismal outlook aside, Flint has produced quite a few famous people over the years that neither ended up jailed or dead: game show host Bob Eubanks, director Michael Moore, rock band Grand Funk Railroad, actor Terry Crews, American Idol's LaKisha Jones, rock group Question Mark and the Mysterians, NFL player Andre Rison, and US representative from New Jersey Jon Runyon. Just sayin'.)
Next to last was Dope Crisis, a hip hop duo who performed an R&B/rap hybrid of Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass." Although it was a far better version of the pop diva's song, it was also too generic sounding. Simon noted that "they gave all they could possibly give there." Marc asked, "Can you imagine if that was all they had to give." Simon replied pointedly, "Yeah." And they're right. The impression came through the television.
The last group performing was another judges construct -- the ridiculously named Lylas. Still, the five-girl squad was anything but ridiculous. Their performance of Shontelle's "Impossible" was a masterful achievement that highlighted not only the girls individually but as an harmonic collective as well. Simon had one word for them: "Unbelievable." Marc Anthony agreed, then prompted, "I don't know what you expected..." Simon admitted, "It's gone somewhere else. There's one clearly great group here."
He would add that making the choices was going to be more difficult than he had expected.
Perhaps, but if Simon listens to his mentoring partner, Playback and Dope Crisis will be the two groups cut, giving Simon his four finalist acts. But who knows what Simon will do. And the thing is: Despite the long odds of a group winning the "X Factor," Simon just might have three real contenders in Lyric 145, Emblem3, and Lylas. Simon is right about Sister C: There's just something too perfect about them, almost like a sequel to Wilson Phillips, only with a country twang.
So who got through? That won't be determined until Wednesday, Oct. 24, when all the judges announce their four finalists four the Top 16.
"X Factor" airs each Wednesday and Thursday at 8:00 p.m. EST.
(photo credit: Alison Martin, Creative Commons)