Listen, people: All I want is a regular American singing competition show with a manageable number of singers where one person is eliminated per week. That’s it. I know it requires a lot of work to get there, but I didn’t know how much work it would feel like. Right now, my world is X Factor and X Factor is my world. There was a moment in tonight’s episode when I honestly said to myself, “What about the old Jewish gangster played by Albert Brooks? What did he perform in the group round?” All is full of X Factor.
The contestants feel the pressure, too, which I suppose is to be expected. Nick Voss says, “It might as well be Navy Seal Hell Week.” And he’s right! Replace “drowning yourself, being revived by mouth-to-mouth and then doing 1,000 pushups so as to more effectively risk your life our country” with “singing” and they’re basically identical. And tonight is the Navy Sealiest night of them all, as the judges must whittle 100 singers and groups to the 32 who will continue their journeys IN THE JUDGES’ HOMES, and we must pretend to be surprised that the people we’ve seen the most are the ones who make it.
We pick up where we left off last night, at what please God has to be the end of the group round. Group Eight is assigned Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” the undisputed No 1 song to misinterpret on a show like this. Marcus Canty, Brennin Hunt, and Meth Guy do what they do, and the quality of what they do is irrelevant because there’s no way they’re not making it through. Brother, brother, brother.
Then the producers breeze right through the next three groups. It is as if the show itself is waving its finger in a circle in the international sign for “wrap this shit up already.” I can’t say I blame them. The sum total of my notes for these truncated group numbers is: “I think there are girls?”
And at last it is time to make some cuts! One third of the hopefuls will be cut! The first of three groups comes out and is told that their dream will end here. Which:
a. is perhaps a little dramatic, and
b. kind of kills the tension for the viewer, since basic math tells you the next two groups will make it through. But if you guessed the producers still milk it, you are ... I’m sorry ... RIGHT!
I should take a moment here and tell you that nobody in this whole show is auditioning harder than Nicole Scherzinger. She constantly looks like she’s in some kind of Listening to Music Contest, and she is determined to win. And when it comes time for her to do the patented American Idol good-news fake-out, she says this: “I’m sorry, but I have to speak from my heart: You made it to the next round.” That doesn’t even make sense. I don’t know what entertainment job they’re going to try her out in next. Short stories?
The phony drama continues apace as the remaining contestants have to perform one more song, but — and here’s the synthetic kicker substitute — they’ll have to do it ... in front of a crowd! Like they’ve never had to do it before (except in their initial auditions)! Some thoughts:
- More than anything, Rachel Crow makes me wish Maya Rudolph were still on SNL.
- Paige Ogle is 18 and lists her occupation as “day camp counselor,” which is a job you can only have at age 18. I want her to go further, because I want to say “Paige Ogle” out loud.
- I also want Josh Krajcik to get near a sink. Maybe he’ll get some ideas there!
- Simone Battle, who you may remember is fierce, struts fiercely onto the stage and immediately forgets every word to “Your Song,” including “your” and “song.” She recovers by improvising lyrics about how bad she wants it. “Fierceness” is defined broadly these days.
- Siameze is just shrieking like a baby at this point.
- L.A. Reid asks Stacy Francis to tell the crowd something personal about herself, and she reveals that her father died the day she showed up for boot camp. I don’t want to say she’s excited about it, but I know there are other contestants who are jealous. She tells the audience that her father would want her to continue in the competition, and my boyfriend Ben says, “Dead people always want the most convenient things.” She does sing well, though, and then she runs offstage and grabs two meaty handfuls of Steve Jones. We are simpatico, me and Stacy.
Everyone else does the same thing the same way, basically, and then it is time to name THE TOP 36 WHO WILL GO TO THE JUDGES’ HOMES! Here they are:
Caitlyn Koch: Shockingly non-butch rugby coach. Colbie Caillat—ish, which is a thing that people seem to like.
Tora Woloshin: Bleached-blonde car-and-piercing enthusiast. Perky sometimes, invisible other times.
Simone Battle: Fierce, forgetful. No. 1 enemy of the credibility of this show.
Drew Reinewicz: Young! Fresh! Definitely going to duet with Justin Bieber before this thing is over!
Rachel Crow: First person we ever saw on this show, will be among the last.
Jazzlyn Little: Shy! Big voice!
Melanie Amauro: Shy! Big voice!
Tiah Tolliver: Here! Shiny mouth!
Brennin Hunt: Handsome. Bland. Blandsome.
Brian Bradley: Can’t seem to do anything but rap and scowl, which, again, seems to be selling briskly.
Skyelor Anderson: Not much of a singer, but definitely a black kid who sings country. Also spells his name like a cartoon villain.
Nick Voss: Looks like Vanilla Ice. No idea what he sings like and I’ve seen him sing five times.
Tim Cifers: Winner of this show’s coveted Person We Have Not Seen Up to This Point award.
Philip Lomax: Learned everything he knows about crooning from Seth MacFarlane.
Marcus Canty: Hasn’t impressed me since his first audition, but is still the best of the guys.
Chris Rene: Did large amounts of meth until a couple of months ago. Is about to be put into a high-pressure live-television situation. I really don’t see how this can go wrong.
The groups, who are all the same at this point:
The Brewer Boys
(Brock and Makenna don’t make it. They stare into each other’s eyes as they eat the poison berries.)
And finally, the Over Thirties:
Elaine Gibbs: Looks and sings like a Gladys Knight who never got to be GLADYS KNIGHT.
Tiger Budbill: Early emotional favorite, solid second in the Fun Name to Say department if we’re not getting a Paige Ogle.
Leroy Bell: Subtle voice, upsettingly perfect example of black not cracking.
James Kenney: Just barely over 30, looks like the Arby’s Good Mood Food guy.
Josh Krajcik: Should be made aware that dry shampoo is a thing now, just a quick spritz can make a world of difference.
Christa Collins: I am looking at her right now and I don’t know how to describe her. Has a tattoo?
Dexter Haygood: The feel-good contestant of the season! From skid row to prime time! Should maybe take an afternoon to learn how to walk in heels.
Stacy Francis: who will not have to die with this music inside of her. But she will die any day, because she is 42 years old.
But wait! Three of the categories have eight contestants, while the groups only have six! What gives? The judges call fourteen hopefuls back, and Simon tells them they’ll be split up to compete in the groups category! He maybe unwisely chooses to divide them up thusly: the four blondes with the same face, voice, and hair are group one, while the second group is made up of ten children. American Juniors lives!
The show ends with a shadowy figure calling the four judges (who are introduced yet again) and telling them which group they’ll be responsible for. L.A. gets the boys, Simon the girls, Nicole is immediately outmatched as the mentor of the over thirties, and Paula is going to have 350 houseguests as she is assigned the groups. And you know she’s one of those people who makes you take your shoes off.
Next week, we go from 32 to 16! Then it’s the live shows maybe! But for now, it’s over. It’s over. There’s no pain.