It seems that every reality-show singing competition has to have one polarizing contestant who makes headlines every week for something. "X Factor" appears to have found its lightning rod in former professional singer Stacy Francis, who ripped it up with judge Simon Cowell on Wednesday night's rock-themed performance episode.
The 42-year-old Brooklyn native and single mother, who is being coached by Nicole Scherzinger, was lambasted by Cowell for her sleepy rendition of Meat Loaf's "It's All Coming Back to Me Now," which he said was "the sort of thing I would expect someone to sing at the Hilton Hotel with people turning their backs, eating peanuts."
MTV News spoke to Francis backstage after the show, and she admitted that Cowell's slings and arrows bewildered her. "I just want a fair judgment, and I don't feel like it was fair," she said. "I feel like because I'm not in Simon's category, he beats me up every week. I don't know if I can really take on what he says as an artist and really say, 'OK, how can I make this better?' "
On a show where the judges usually save their harshest fire for each other, Cowell went all in on Francis, saying, "I thought the song was a horrible choice. I like rocks; that was a pebble." Indeed, Francis, standing at a feather-covered mic stand while wearing leather gloves and a sparkly silver dress, emoted her way through the lesser-known Loaf tune while accompanied by a grand piano, mirror-ball effects on the giant onstage videos, lots of ground fog and a wind machine.
She took issue with Cowell's criticism that the song was too cabaret, noting that the audience seemed to love it. "For him to just beat me up like that, I don't understand; I don't get it," she said. "I sang a Meat Loaf song, which is a rock song, and he said he didn't love it. Melanie Amaro sang an R.E.M. song, and he loved it. It was the same tempo ... I don't know, I was very confused about it."
Francis said it seems to her that the other females in the competition have an advantage because they are in Cowell's category and he doesn't give them as much grief. "My first audition, he told me he loved me and he loved my voice and he loved everything," she said. "All of a sudden, I'm the worst thing in the competition. I don't understand it. That's very confusing, and I think it's very unfair."
As for judge Paula Abdul's comments about some of Francis' vocals being flat, the onetime member of the group Ex-Girlfriend said, if anything, her vocals sometimes go sharp because she pushes too hard, but rarely flat. "I don't think that I ever go flat, so that's weird," she said. "To me, [Abdul] has one group in the competition that's left so she would love to see any other contestant [leave] except her only one. I don't know if I'm getting a fair evaluation as an artist or if it's just the bickering amongst the judges because they wanna win."
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