There is a growing problem on the second season of "X Factor." The song choices for many of the contestants have been simply -- to borrow from one of Judge Simon Cowell's most oft-used terms -- horrendous. And the finalists appear to be showing their discontent, but will they get enough input into the remaining shows to make a difference?
Here's the situation: It has been pointed out by the judges -- almost always against a rival team's act -- that this or that song choice was sub-par or just wrong for particular contestants. Simon does it all the time, especially to acts from the Young Adults and the Over 25s. Judge L. A. Reid has mentioned it a few times (sometimes, it seems, to get back at Simon for criticizing his mentorship of the Over 25s). Judge Britney Spears pointed out that Lyric 145 (one of Simon's Groups) should be doing something more in line with their style of hip hop (the night before they were voted off the show). And Judge Demi Lovato (who mentors the Young Adults) has noted that some songs were boring.
Only Judge L. A. Reid seems to have taken other judges' criticism as constructive, altering Vino Alan's song choice to a more soulful song the second week after Simon's criticism the first week of live performances. He also admitted during the Top 13 results show, where Jason Brock was placed in a showdown position, that he had chosen the wrong song to present Jason's talents.
The finalists themselves are also speaking out. Of course, their complaints are somewhat subdued. They don't want to have their dreams crushed by losing the popular vote by saying things that could be taken as disrespectful, and they also most likely understand that the judges and producers have connections that can aid or hinder them in their future endeavors in the music business. But at times it gets to be a bit too much, such as when Lyric 145 spoke up and said that they had wanted to perform a diva tune to their own lyrics during "Diva Week." They never got the chance; they were voted off the show the very next night.
And then there was Beatrice Miller, who told The Hollywood Reporter that she had hated singing Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" during the same week. She had hated the get-up they had put her in as well (and this indicates the girl has a sense of style, because they had her dressed like some jester-ish clown).
Arin Ray, who stated on the Top 10 performance show that he really wanted to do something more upbeat, something he could dance to, making certain everyone knew he was not at all happy with the song choice his mentor, Britney Spears, had chosen for him (especially after being panned by the other three judges for his rendition of Enrique Iglesias' "Hero").
Both Arin Ray and Beatrice Miller were voted off the show on the Top 10 results show. Arin received the least votes. Beatrice was voted off with a 3-to-1 decision from the judges (after placing in the bottom two).
Then there is CeCe Frey, one of Demi's Young Adults who also finished in the bottom three during the Top 10 "Give Thanks" week. Thus far, she hasn't made it through a single performance without it being something of a vocal derailing. There was Patti Smith's "Because The NIght" (where she placed in the bottom two); Survivor's "Eye Of The Tiger" (where she placed int the bottom two); Eric Carmen's "All By Myself" (where a backlash vote placed her at fifth in the voting); and Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" (which again saw her in the bottom three). Simon has pointed out several times that he believes Demi is choosing the wrong songs, and he appears to be correct in that the songs CeC is performing are "big voice" songs that her voice cannot master. Compare her wavering and/or flat delivery of high notes and power lines in those songs to the great control she showed in the song "Sexy And I Know It" during the Judges Homes round, which she nailed.
In short, CeCe has sounded awful during the live shows. Her sing-off showdown songs have been somewhat better performed but only marginally so. But would her standing in the show be far better (that is, not constantly a part of the bottom) if her mentor was doing a better job of helping her choose songs? But, then, since the heaviest criticism has come from Simon, who doesn't seem to be doing his own acts any great favors in song choices, would she have done any better had he been her mentor?
Song choice. It can mean everything to the act -- whether or not they stay on the "X Factor" or go home.
And it appears as if the mentors aren't much help. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Beatrice noted that her mentor (Britney Spears) didn't seem to care that she didn't like it and wanted her to simply get through it.
And there are those last-minute song changes that viewers keep hearing about, like the ones Simon keeps making (one with Emblem3 and one with Lyric 145) just hours before a performance show. That's a lot of pressure to put on the finalists and to their credit, they've been able to pull off the song changes well, making it look as if they'd been practicing what they performed for the entire week prior to the show.
But is that any way to field the winning act?
But what can these talented artists do? Should they rebel? Or is simply speaking their mind on national television, in backstage interviews, or during exit interviews the way to play a situation that places them at risk of getting kicked off the show? Because how can these artists "connect" with songs and hope to achieve a "connection" with the audience if they do not truly believe in what they're being told to perform? It makes a trying situation just that much more difficult to get through.
"X Factor" returns this week for the Top 8 performance and results show. Will the mentors do a better job of song selection? The finalists can only hope...
Take Home Message: There are times in our lives when our advisors and mentors, our teachers and guides will appear to provide poor stewardship. Sometimes those appearances will be actualities. And there will be times when we will want to question, to not pay heed, to ignore their counsel. And there will be times when we will submit to the advice of those we trust. The outcomes will at times be good, at others not so good. It is those moments and what we do in them that provide us experiential knowledge for later decisions. In the cases of the "X Factor" hopefuls, the finalists place much of their immediate futures into the hands of their mentors -- those with more experience and knowledge about the music business -- and hope for the best. But alterations in patterns that are not proving beneficial -- in this case, poor song choices for some of the contestants -- will most likely not occur without some form of intercession on behalf of the finalists (from the finalists themselves or by outside pressures). Proof that such constructive criticism (read: intercession) works and that some are wise enough to use it came with L. A. Reid's altering of Vino Alan's song style to better fit his voice. But an unmindful mentor does the protege a disservice and sometimes independent action is required. Furthermore, passive acceptance benefits no one, least of all the protege that doesn't have a voice.
(photo credit: X Factor, Freemantle North America, SycoTV, Fox Television)