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The X Factor Recap: Let’s Re-Mangle Michael Jackson!

THE X FACTOR: Top 7 Performance: Marcus Canty performs in front of the judges on THE X FACTOR airing on Wednesday, Nov. 30 (8:00-9:30 PM ET/PT) on FOX. CR: Ray Mickshaw / FOX. Marcus Canty, after ruining "PYT" on The X Factor.

Have you ever had that thing where you’ve been seeing someone for a few months and  you’re spending all your time together and it’s going great, and then that person says, “Hey, let’s each sleep alone at our own places tonight,” and you’re like, “Oh, thank God”? That’s the feeling I got when I found out tonight’s X Factor was only 90 minutes long. I’m really enjoying this show, and I’m looking forward to slightly less of it.

Tonight is MICHAEL JACKSON NIGHT, in which we honor the King of Making Two Great Albums and Then Basically Becoming Celine Dion. The occasion is the release of his posthumous album, Immortal, the cover of which uses the same shrieking wind-machine Jesus pose that has come to signify MICHAEL. (Have his marketing people never seen the cover of Off the Wall? That’s a much less gruesome-looking brother right there.) Oh, but Immortal is not just any cash-in collection; I have just learned it’s the soundtrack to the Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil show, which really should have been called Inevitable. I’m glad they’re doing one of those; if there’s one thing that will uncreepify Michael Jackson’s legacy, it’s some good French clowning.

Here to watch the seven remaining contestants are THE JACKSON BROTHERS, namely Marlon, Jackie, and Tito! Do you think they ever get tired of this? Also in the house: the dowager Countess of Pop, Katherine Jackson. Hey, remember how Michael Jackson was thrust into the spotlight at too young an age, robbing him of the childhood he’d spend the rest of his tortured life chasing in ever more reckless ways? That was a shame, wasn’t it? On a totally unrelated note, please welcome Michael Jackson’s children! His sons Prince and Blanket are here, as is his daughter Paris, who is being played by Vera Farmiga.

What do you want to bet this show is going to be super-weird?

Also, tonight you are encouraged to tweet a story of how a Michael Jackson song helped you overcome a challenge, and hashtag it #beatit. Yes, young raconteurs: Take those remaining 133 characters and really flesh out that story. I am on the West Coast, so I am now going to check and see if a single person has done this in the last three hours. Nope! Not one. Massive corporate social-media strategies are nature’s little clowns.

Josh Krajcik is up first, and he’s worried that his style is too different from Michael Jackson’s (which translates to: Everyone’s already done that Chris Cornell version of “Billie Jean” a million times). He does the timeful classic “Dirty Diana,” replete with writhing, panty-throwing backup dancers. It’s fine, I suppose, but you have to wonder about someone who has the whole Michael Jackson catalogue at his disposal and chooses “Dirty Diana.” The judges like it. Nicole says, “Michael Jackson. We feel him in our veins.” Jesus. We’re really laying it on thick tonight, aren’t we? I guess this is what we have instead of religion now. Calm down, Nicole.

Astro does what Astro does; tonight’s hook for him to rap over comes from “Black or White.” I like Astro, but I feel like we’ve reached the limit of what he can do in this format. Let’s cut him loose and get him in the studio with some good producers and then we can stop pretending we like Li’l Wayne. 

I’m just going to say this: Prince Jackson looks like someone who wants to sell you a car stereo.

Through the whole run of this show, they’ve aired this Best of the Pepsi Pop Stars Commercial a billion times, and it is fascinating how hard a young Alfonso Ribeiro makes Michael Jackson’s dance moves look. Have you ever seen such strain?

Remember how I said everyone has already done that brooding Chris Cornell version of “Billie Jean?” I was wrong. Drew hadn’t gotten to it yet. Now she has. Her whole performance is done in a chair with no backup dancers, which is not zazzy enough for Nicole. Never simply sit in a chair before a Pussycat Doll, Drew! Nicole would at least turn the chair around and sit on it backwards and crotch you out. LA loves it, for some reason. Steve Jones tells Drew, by way of praise, “You are the most divisive contestant we have!” Hey, thanks.

Quick question: Are we accepting the line that those are Michael Jackson’s actual biological children, or is this one of those stories that our culture has silently chosen not to pursue? Asking for a friend.

Rachel does “Can You Feel It,” and initially I am happy because it is not “You Are Not Alone” or the Free Willy song, but you know what the deal is with “Can You Feel It”? It goes nowhere. It kinda circles the same block over and over. Poor little Rachel can even tell; she says, “I had as much fun as I could.” Stop for a moment and imagine what she might have done with “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” or “Workin’ Day & Night.” Let this child enjoy herself, please!

Steve Jones reads some tweets from fans, one of which contains an LOL, which he translates as “lots of laughs.” Have you checked on your dad lately? Steve Jones might be your dad.

Marcus Canty reacts to last week’s bottom two finish by David Guetta-tizing “PYT.” Good call, Marcus; how better to improve on one of history’s greatest pop songs than by making it sound like the result of a whip-it binge in Belgium. It is a mess; he’s sharp throughout, he can’t catch his breath after his backflip, even the Jumbotron handclaps are off beat. I fear Marcus Canty might have taken it to the max. Do you see what I did there?

Chris Rene’s grandfather co-wrote “Rockin’ Robin!” Please, please don’t use that as an excuse to do that song, Chris! He doesn’t. Instead he does “I’ll Be There,” and it’s pretty weak. He looks good, though! Kid cleans up well. Stay clean, kid.

You know who is not having any of this? Blanket Jackson is simply not having any of this.

Melanie Amaro closes out the show.. There is a zero percent chance this won’t be a post-1991 ballad. I have a moment of hope when Simon says “Tonight, we’re doing a Michael Jackson classic that nobody ever even tries.” And ... it ends up being “Earth Song.” Ugh. Those are not the Santa Ana winds you’re feeling, Los Angeles; that’s me sighing wearily. She does what she can with this horrific dirge, but where is Jarvis Cocker when you need him? The judges love it, and I guess it’s great that she’s West Indian now or whatever. Good for you, Melanie! Hey mon! Call m’now!

Well, there it is. A Michael Jackson night with nothing from Off the Wall, and half a song from Thriller. God, ask Michael to help us. It’s a double elimination tomorrow, and I think Chris and Marcus are out. I also think Blanket Jackson looks like the younger Pete on The Adventures of Pete & Pete dressed up like a girl. I have an extra half-hour this Wednesday night, and I am going to spend it listening to “Human Nature” on repeat.

Photo: Ray Mickshaw / FOX.