Tonight, The X Factor — this lurchingly paced, manipulative beast we have come to feel ambivalent about — continues its trip to the judges’ homes, where tonight the olds and the youngs will sing for their supper. And they are starving.
We start at the Beverly HIlls mansion of LA Reid, who is openly pissy about getting stuck with the over-25s, because he is used to creating stars from people who are much younger, and evidently 25 is OLD NOW. He doesn’t think anyone in his category can win, but he gives the gang his best Seymour Skinner “prove me wrong, kids,” and is just overall super-condescending. (Fun fact: His certainty that anyone over 25 is washed up gets even more depressing when you think about how much more he knows about the music business than you do. Do not try this.)
Justin Bieber and his manager, a grown man who does not mind being named Scooter, are helping LA out. Remember when Justin Bieber looked like a lesbian? Now he looks like an anime character. A bi-curious anime character.
Jason Brock is up first. And listen: When you look as much like JoAnne Worley as he does, is it wise to do your hair that much like JoAnne Worley’s? Also, he talks and behaves very much like JoAnne Worley. It’s hard to notice anything else about Jason Brock. Dude really can sing, though, and he’s got an irrespressible spirit that he might want to repress just the tiniest bit. He does Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” which contains the line “myself and I have got some straightening out to do,” and it’s just like “Mary, it’s much too late for that.” I’d like to see this guy go far, though. A show like this needs a guy like him.
David Correy is an adoptee, and he is hoping his birth mother will hear his voice and come find him, and there are numerous flaws in this plan before we even get to the fact that he was adopted out of Brazil. I’ll bet you it ends up working, though. You know Simon’s got detectives on the case. He sings a stripped-down version of Jessie J’s “Domino” and keeps pointing at the Century City skyline to indicate his passion and hunger. David’s message is “I want buildings.” It’s fine, I suppose. His chest is so heavily tattooed I wouldn’t be surprised if he were just one giant Mad Magazine “Fold-In.”
Daryl Black does Hall & Oates’s “She’s Gone,” which is soulful but overenunciated. He hits his Ts the same way Katherine Chloe Cahoon does. He’s handsome, though! LA thinks he’s insufficiently unique. My mind wanders toward whether Katherine Chloe Cahoon got an X Factor hosting audition.
Tate Stevens is either always embarrassed or always drunk, but those cheeks are bright red at all times. Does the makeup person just skip Tate Stevens? Does he wave the makeup person off, out of gay panic? Tate, we need to get some powder on you. He does a country-ish version of Brian McKnight’s “Back at One,” and it’s fine if you like that kind of thing, but I’d rather hear what he can do with “How Your [P-Word] Works.”
Vino Alan had an abusive stepfather! Vino! How are you going to sit on a goldmine like that? Do you want to win this thing or don’t you? He sings a slightly rockier version of Pink’s “Sober,” and it’s actually kind of tasty. Is Fuel still scouring reality shows for a new lead singer? Vino Alan would snap that job right up. (For a second, I try to think of the name of Fuel’s lead singer, and all I can come up with is “Kirk Sprinkles.” A quick Google search reveals that it’s “Brett Scallions,” but wouldn’t “Kirk Sprinkles” be better? Why am I not in charge of everything?)
Oh, Tara Simon is just delighted with herself. She torches up Hoobastank’s “The Reason,” and it’s like something from Fame. But the TV version. She loves it, of course, and she does a little “happy-dance” afterwards. Her joy is infectious, in that it makes you feel as though you have been infected.
So there are our old people. I worry for Daryl Black and I am ready for Tara to leave us alone.
And then we’re on to the teens, who are being mentored by Britney, who recently made a rueful face and it stuck that way.
Diamond White is up first, and oh, I really like this kid. She’s the kind of person a show like this is made for, and if Britney makes her cry the way Nicole Scherzinger did Rachel Crow last year, I will never forgive her. She does Avril Lavigne’s “I’m With You,” which is nice, but doesn’t change my opinion that she needs livelier material. Have fun, Diamond White!
Reed Deming oversings “Hey There Delilah,” and he’s a strong argument for raising the age limit on these things. He’s okay, but he’ll be great when he’s out of his awkward phase, which he is smack in the middle of right now. Will.I.Am (who is assisting Britney) wants him to break out of his shell: “He’s a little imper, he’s a little imper kid!” Or maybe he says “emperor”? I can’t tell which, and I can’t tell which would make more sense, and I can’t tell whether it’s a compliment.
James Tanner is a teenage white rapper. Why is he a teenage white rapper? Has he tried not being a teenage white rapper? I don’t have anything more to say about this, except “Mac Miller, what have you wrought?”
Arin Ray does an acoustic take on Nicki Minaj’s “Starships.” Stripped-down, acoustic renditions of frothy, overproduced pop songs are huge with the kids today. Related: I am concerned about the kids today. He’s good, he’s handsome, he might be a little forgettable.
Beatrice Miller is dying of nerves! She cries just before her performance! Which, when you think about how shows like this work, is actually probably the best thing she can possibly do. She sings David Guetta’s “Titanium,” which you have correctly guessed is stripped-down and acoustic. It’s Drew-y! Remember Drew from last season? Didn’t she have some kind of unfortunate last name that she dropped halfway through? Like Bloppenstein or Filthowitz or something? The fact that I am speculating on this instead of listening to Beatrice is maybe not the best sign.
Carly Rose Sonenclar brings up the rear with Karmin’s “Brokenhearted.” Stripped-down, acoustic, etc. Good Lord. This stripping-down trend plus Karmin. If it turned into a campaign ad where someone says “nom nom nom,” then this would be everything I hate about 2012 all at once. Carly has a lovely, huge voice, but she’s almost too put-together. I want her to go home and have a regular teenage life and then show us what she’s got when she’s 20. But this is 2012 and you’re not allowed to do that anymore. You’re a dumb year, 2012.
I think James and Beatrice are in trouble, but what do I know? Nothing, that’s what. Next week, we choose the top sixteen who will go to the live shows, and you better believe we’re going to take our sweet-ass time with it. Until then, I will be working on my stripped-down, acoustic take on “Bangarang.”