It is here at last, my friends! Tonight our three-month journey ends, and our X Factor winner will be chosen. And it truly could go any of the three available ways. The only thing I know for sure is that I’m forcing my parents, who have never seen a second of this show (or American Idol, for that matter), to watch it with me. We Holmeses share our burdens.
Steve Jones is in a tux! He fine. I honestly hope all this business about him getting fired isn’t true. He deserves a second chance; the fault for this show’s moments of clunk does not lie with him. Pro tip for the production team: Try one tech rehearsal.
The opening number brings back all twelve finalists to perform Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory.” Do you remember how crowded the stage was with all those people? I’d forgotten! It’s a mess! InTENsity sings in a way that indicates that they haven’t seen each other since their elimination (and they probably haven’t; none of them are old enough to drive). Stereo Hoggz grace us with some vaguely X-rated dancing, and Lakoda Rayne continue to audition for E! News. Still, it’s good to see Drew and Rachel back and smiling. I did worry.
And the judges go wild. Paula sums up everything that is wrong with this panel: “Performers, this stage is our gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to us.” The judges, you see, are GOD.
Tonight the finalists will sing holiday songs! There are no fewer than eight wreaths within arm's reach of my chair, so I’m ready.
Melanie Amaro kicks it off with “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” FINALLY we get an upbeat song from her, at the exact moment when it’s too late for it to matter. It’s great; she shines in a no-pressure situation. Steve Jones agrees: fabulous, fabulous stuff. Nicole says “You are a princess goddess warrior,” and — unprompted by me — both of my parents grimace. Paula offers this shrewd observation: “Your hair is off your face.” God, I missed this Paula.
Are the producers finished holding you by your ankles and trying to shake tears out of you? Oh, no they are not. In a hometown package, we meet: Melanie’s high school teachers! Her ex-boss at the Brazilian-wax salon! Her friend Amoi! Her dad Hipolito! Which is the best name! Each one says basically the same thing everyone always says in this setting: You inspire me to dream, etc., etc. They are laying it on extra thick tonight. Steve Jones rates it thusly: “Wonderful, wonderful messages.”
He attempts to get a word out of her, which he absolutely cannot, and now that the pressure is off, he just shrugs. Good for you, Steve Jones.
Chris does a whispery "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." I wait for the beat, which never drops. It’s forgettable because — let’s face it — he’s out of his league doing anything that he didn’t write. Nicole tells him, “You are a star from the inside out. Nobody else can compete with the place where your music comes from,” which is true because it’s a place where he can invent his own notes. Chris’s hometown package is what you’d expect, but I must point out that Chris’s best friend is named ZOLTAN. Was Zoltan mixed up with meth too? I hope so, if only because I want to live in a world where someone once said “Let’s go get high with Zoltan.”
Steve and the judges attempt some banter. It is possible that they have, in three months, developed anti-chemistry. It’s wonderful, wonderful stuff.
Josh takes on “Please Come Home For Christmas,” which I do not really hear, because there is a dancer in an inflatable snow globe and I immediately become concerned about her oxygen supply. My mother says, “You know who this guy reminds me of? Oh, you were a kid and he was a kid on TV and it was about things going on in his life and there was his family, oh, and little Winnie, they liked each other.” The name we are looking for here is Joe Cocker. Welcome to our home.
Steve shows Josh the hometown package, which is the same as the other two: teachers, relatives, etc. The highlights here are that Josh’s daughter looks like she’s 28, and his co-workers at the burrito place apparently gave him the Good Will Hunting, “I’m mad at you because you’re wasting your talent” full-court press. So that tactic works!
When they cut back, Josh sheds a single tear and looks relieved that he’s able to. You’d really feel like an asshole if you couldn’t cry at a time like this, wouldn’t you?
After the round of songs, my parents like Melanie’s voice the best, but they are leaning Joshward. Me too.
And now begins the “big, splashy numbers featuring eliminated contestants and whatever musicians they could book” portion of the show. Justin Bieber kicks it off, looking startlingly like Triangle Sally. He adds a million extra syllables to “The Chree-yee-yistmas Song.” At the risk of angering his Golden Tween Army, it is kind of the worst. Nasal and shrill and somebody needs to tell this kid he’s not a caricature of a rapper. But at the very end, literally right before the last word, out comes Drew. Justin has generously allowed her to repeat the last line of the song in his presence. Drew’s fondest wish was a duet with Justin Bieber, and she got this. Justin says Drew is a special little girl and will go far. To Justin, Drew is a little girl. Hello, friends; we’re old.
But it’s time to get serious. One of these finalists will be eliminated, and I fear it’ll be Josh, whose big face I have grown accustomed to. It’s important to note that none of these three has ever been in the bottom two, so they’re not used to being in this position. And third place is ... CHRIS RENE. I’m genuinely shocked because it is totally just! He takes it well. Chris is a good guy, “Young Homie” is a hit song waiting to happen, and sweet Jesus I hope he doesn’t relapse.
Lots of bad traffic direction follows. Chris remains gracious, Josh and Nicole don’t know what to do with themselves, Simon and Melanie sprint off stage left. Steve Jones just throws to commercial, because why the hell shouldn’t he?
Fifty more minutes left. My Dad asks me if it’s always like this. “Always,” I tell him. “Never not exactly like this.”
Precious minutes of the one life I will ever have are wasted forever by a package of this season’s five most shocking moments, three of which were tiresome act-outs from the audition episodes which I got to immediately forget for a second time. The others are Astro’s rough go in the bottom two and Rachel’s elimination, which legitimately shocked my Dad: “Did that little girl’s mother promise her she’d win?” I’ll explain the whole thing later.
But here Rachel is! And instead of actually singing, which I would like to see and hear, she duets in a hosting capacity with Steve Jones, introducing Leona Lewis, who is a snoozeburger with cheese. Where is Dexter Heygood? He could liven these proceedings up.
Our next highlight reel features the LA vs. Simon feud that nobody is talking about. But we got to see Philip Lomax and his magnificent teeth again! Missed you guys!
50 Cent is introduced by Derek Fisher for some reason! He has a hype man, his performance is almost totally bleeped out, several L.A. Lakers come out onstage to awkwardly bob up and down, and there is no reason for any of this to be happening. I can barely explain 50 Cent to myself, so I’m not going to bother trying to explain him to my parents. As expected, Astro does a verse on “In Da Club.” Astro is better than 50 Cent. There, I said it.
Next up: Pitbull! He duets awkwardly with a wisely televised Chris Brown, who I’d swear sings “Hot dog in my hand, I feel the heat.” Santa, please bring me a song with those lyrics. Finally, Ne-Yo comes out for “Give Me Everything,” and the “give a contestant four seconds at the end of the song” streak continues with Marcus Canty. Oh, he’ll be fine.
Steve Jones reports from the audience, where the Amaros and the Krajciks are seated right next to each other. Did you know they love and are proud of Melanie and Josh? It’s true, you guys. It’s true.
They duet on “Heroes,” and while I generally dislike this kind of tarting up of my favorite songs, I’ll accept it. There’s a bit of forced conviviality here, and it strikes me that I have no idea how these two people feel about each other. There’s generally a sense of who gets along with whom at the end of an Idol season, but no such luck here. “Who cares?” say the producers, “they’re not the judges.”
And then it’s time to crown a winner, the identity of whom my father is suddenly interested to know. I’m as surprised as he is. And the winner is ... MELANIE AMARO! She takes the news like the cipher she is. She’s incredulous, then quiet, then almost a little peevish, then prayerful, and then her family tackles the fuck out of her. There is no hope of Steve getting a microphone anywhere near her face, so he has a nice long chat with Josh, who is a mensch to the end.
And the next several minutes are an unsuccessful attempt to get our X Factor winner to tell us how she’s feeling. Finally Steve forces this out of her: “GOD IS GOOD! I’M SO HAPPY!” And here’s how I know she means it: She’s American again.
So good for her. I look forward to not noticing when her album has been released.
That’s a wrap for season one of The X Factor! It was corny, it was tone-deaf, it was 5 pounds of show in a 200-pound bag, and yet it hooked me. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. Great dress rehearsal all the way around, guys.
And now our dream is over. Whatever it is you celebrate, please do it safely and joyfully. I’ll see you back here in 2012 for American Idol.
God help us, every one.