Oh, man. The X Factor is one giant cluster-F of stutters and miscues, and none of it’s even Britney Spears’ fault. Last week, we were supposed to see who made it to the live shows, which I assume were supposed to start this week, but rain in my hometown of St. Louis caused a delay in the NLCS, which threw Fox into scheduling chaos. Some of the country saw some of the final two-hour Judges’ Homes episode; some of us saw none of it; The X Factor’s Twitter feed started revealing who had moved to the next round, but then those tweets quickly came down because toothpaste goes right back into the tube if you want it badly enough; then the Giants started winning; and I realize it’s irrational, but I blame Simon Cowell.
Then they cut this episode down to one hour and scheduled it for Tuesday at 9:30, extending Fox’s prime-time lineup by an extra half-hour and suggesting that while The X Factor is the planet’s biggest, most important talent show, it’s not big or important enough to preempt Ben & Kate. Now the live shows won’t start until next week, after the World Series, and for a show that’s struggling to generate some momentum, I wonder if all these fits and starts won’t be deadly. If any show ever needed the steady, confident hand of a Mario Lopez or a Khloé Kardashian, The X Factor does now.
Tomorrow is not a guarantee. Let’s enjoy what we have today.
The first couple of minutes of this episode are a quick recap of what we here on the West Coast didn’t get to see: Britney Spears and L.A. Reid choosing their four finalists. No endless pauses, no misleading edits — just the facts. It is proof that these shows could be cut down to about 5 percent of their running time and still play just fine.
So! Britney Spears’ teen finalists are:
- Diamond White, adorable, huge-voiced, impoverished tyke who sort of looks like Punky Brewster’s friend Cherie and, thanks to the cyclical nature of fashion, kind of dresses like her too.
- Carly Rose Sonenclar, adorable, middle-aged-woman-voiced, upper-middle-class tyke who is too polished to have just stood in line like some kind of animal, and I think we will soon find out that she has already won three Tonys and has been engaged to Ryan Reynolds.
- Arin Ray, handsome young professional who was part of last year’s unsuccessful Kidz Bop supergroup InTENsity and is now this year’s Marcus Canty.
- Beatrice Miller, adorable, haunting-voiced tyke whose parents saw fit to name Beatrice, which is a pretty steampunk thing to do, when you think about it.
This means the end for Bieber-faced Reed Deming and young white rapper James Tanner, and I am perfectly okay with being spared a Bieber-face and a young white rapper. Best of luck, kids. Cut your hair.
And then L.A. Reid announces his top four, though we know he’d cut them all if he had his way. I’m briefly disappointed that we’re just getting the radio edit of this whole sequence, because I’m pretty sure he says something like, “Can you please not get any old on my furniture?” His finalists are:
- David Correy, our David Blaine meets Dave Navarro, and maybe he’s related to one or both of them. We don’t know because, you see, he was adopted, and he is using this show as a means to locate his birth mother in Brazil, and you know Nigel Lythgoe has weighed the costs of finding her versus simply holding a casting session for Brazilian women in their fifties.
- Jason Brock, the Ross Mathews of song, whose massive-cross-necklace budget may soon increase.
- Tate Stevens, red-faced cowboy guy.
- Vino Alan, tattoo-faced rocker guy.
I think I can kind of see L.A.’s point here. But on the bright side, brassy vocal coach Tara Simon is out. (As is Daryl Black, who I think I would have liked if I saw more of, but I didn’t, so the writing was kind of on the wall the whole time.)
Things are moving briskly! Now, let’s start the show.
We begin in Demi’s downtown loft, where the young adults pace and weep and remind us that this is their dream and they need this more than anything. Guys? The thing about this being your dream and you needing this more than anything? Message received.
So, here’s Demi’s top four, with all the fake-outs and music cues removed:
- Jennel Garcia, sassy, often inappropriately sexy young Latina.
- Willie Jones, who is “unique and has something going for [him] that people don’t expect,” and that thing is that he sings country while being a black guy whose style is straight “season three of A Different World.”
- Paige Thomas, Rihanna manqué who started strong and has gotten kind of boring as the competition has ground on.
- CeCe Frey, who has been told right to her leopard-spotted face that she is straight-up unlikable, and luckily for her, this show needs a villain.
Out of the game are:
- Nick Youngerman, young white janitorapper from Ohio. In his recap, we see his first audition and how enthusiastic Britney Spears was about him, which they hadn’t shown us the first time around, and then suddenly his resemblance to a young Kevin Federline is all you can see. I feel like his ouster was Jason Trawick–dictated.
- Jillian Jensen, who bravely lived through the harrowing experience of not every single person being nice to her at all times. Worst of all, she gets the news of her ouster from Demi — who she totally bonded with at her first audition; they have the same tattoo and everything! — and she takes it rather less well than you might hope. Her ugly-cry, especially when edited together with the emotional reaction CeCe is unsuccessfully trying to manufacture, is as close as we get to a real moment so far this season. Oh well. Back to being an attractive, talented white girl. Best of luck with that, Jillian.
And then it’s time for the groups! They are nervous, they are hopeful, they are in many cases still learning each other’s names. Somebody in Sister C says what sounds like “Simon holds our feet in his hands,” but after you play it back a few times, you realize she’s saying fate and she just has one of those weird sort-of-Southern accents like girls who go on Maury to tell some unfortunate guy (who usually looks like — and sometimes probably is — Nick Youngerman) that she’s haveen yer bee-bee. The lead Emblem3 guy admirably cuts through the phony tension and tells it like it is: “To go home now would just blow.” I surrender. I am an Emblem3 fan.
Going through to the live shows are:
- Lyric145, who auditioned as individual rapper Lyric da Queen and hip-hop group One4Five but who seem to be gelling pretty nicely, but at some point, we’re going to have to address Lyric’s eye patch.
- Emblem3, who will remind you at every available opportunity that they are chill but that music is their life, but all you will really ever notice is that the lead guy constantly looks like he’s solving a difficult math problem.
- Sister C, icy, country sister act who keep threatening to act like “goofy, real girls,” which I think will only happen after an intense hot-boxing session in Emblem3’s Scion.
- LYLAS, which, you helpful commenters have pointed out, is an acronym for Love You Like a Sister, a thing young women text to one another. Cute! The show is edited to make it look like they are the last to hear whether they’re through, but the makeup staining Simon’s white T-shirt through most of the earlier reveals serves as a spoiler for those who are looking closely.
It’s no surprise that Dope Crisis don’t make it through, as we are really only seeing them for the first time right now. But Playback’s failure is a real shocker. In these rancorous times, we need an American One Direction to rally behind, and who better than Simon Cowell to cobble that shit together? But their final audition was just a little too sloppy, and none of their hair was anywhere near as cool as Harry Styles’s, so we get LYLAS, an American Girls Aloud. I can live with this.
So, the live shows start November 1, barring any rain delays, Lopez/Kardashian breakdowns, or dope crises. LYLAHWIITCESOSS*, X Factor!
*Love You Like a Hostage Who Is in the Confusing Early Stages of Stockholm Syndrome