In his exit interview, "X Factor" finalist Willie Jones said that he wouldn't change a thing about his run on the singing competition reality show -- except for getting kicked off. He laughed as he said it, which is a good thing. It's good to see that he could laugh about being eliminated, because earlier he looked a little peeved at his mentor (and judge) Demi Lovato. And he had good reason...
On Thursday night's Top 16 results show, each judge was tasked with saving two finalists for their team, then having the remaining two battle for the final positions. The judges/mentors would have the final say over who would fill the last slot in their respective teams. In the case of Demi Lovato, who mentored the Young Adults, Jennel Garcia and Paige Thomas were saved, leaving Willie Jones and CeCe Frey to sing for their lives.
CeCe Frey performed exceptionally well, singing Irene Cara's "Out Here On My Own" from the "Fame" soundtrack. Willie Jones attempted to play to his own strength and performed a low register classic country tune, "You Don't Know Me," which was a hit for Eddy Arnold (who co-wrote it) and Elvis Presley. Even though Willie has a good country voice, the song seemed to get stuck in neutral.
On a positive note, though, his performance from the night before was far superior to CeCe's, where she took the classic rock song "Because The Night" and turned it into a shouty, campy thing. Patti Smith would undoubtedly cringe if she heard or saw the rendition, as would Bruce Springsteen. Why Springsteen? Well, the "Boss" co-wrote the song with Smith, that's why.
Willie's performance was the upbeat country song "Here For The Party" by Gretchen Wilson. He had fun with it but it lacked a certain believability. In the critiques, Judge Simon Cowell not only criticized Willie's glam country look but the production and song choice as well. Demi said -- to paraphrase -- that Simon didn't get it because he was old and she wasn't. Still, Simon was right -- on all counts (well, maybe not about the way he was dressed -- take a look at some of the rhinestoned-and-glittered acts of country music's past). And still... Willie Jones put on a better show than did CeCe Frey.
But here's the thing: During his performance of "You Don't Know Me," cameras caught Demi looking around liked some caged animal. She sat enraptured not five minutes earlier listening to CeCe, so viewers knew which contestant she would choose long before she made her anguished (obviously faked) choice. And there was no possible way Willie didn't see that cornered look while he was singing just a few away from her. So if he seemed to have a "yeah, right" look on his face while Demi hugged and extended what sounded like wooden words of encouragement, he most likely was feeling a little frustration.
Of course, it didn't help that he was holding up a pouty CeCe determined to have a phony crying session. Not one tear did she shed, although she was trying her best to make it look as if she was crying her eyes out...
Still, Willie pulled it together to tell the audience that it sucked that he had to go home but he had fun. He said he would keep on chasing his dream.
During the exit interview, Willie said he would miss the people he'd gotten close to while being on the "X Factor," but he would miss Jennel Garcia the most because he and the 18-year-old retro-rocker had become close. He said he wished that he'd made the Top 12 because he believed America would have voted for him.
And he just might have been right in that assessment. Professional oddsmakers must have seen something in him (because we all know that singing is only part of these talent shows; personality goes a long way as well), because they had his odds of winning as high as possibly finishing in the finale.
When asked who he thought would win, he told "X Factor" that he didn't know. "I thought I was going to win," he laughed, "until about an hour ago."
Yes, just by watching the personable country singer joke and talk about his journey on the show one could easily believe that Judge Demi, in choosing CeCe Frey, a young singer Willie himself insisted was "very nice" despite her portrayal on the show (but still presents as unlikeable and phony), might have been a mistake.
Viewers shouldn't be surprised if she was in the first two up for elimination after next week's Top 12 performance show. The "X Factor" returns for the performance and results shows on Wednesday, Nov. 7, and Thursday, Nov. 8, at 8 p.m. on Fox Television.
(photo credit: Freemantle North America, SycoTV, Fox Television, Wikimedia Commons)