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The X Factor Recap: Pairing Off

LaTasha Robinson and Jillian Jensen

It’s day two of boot camp, and only 60 acts remain, and that’s still way too many. We must now move on to our second challenge: The remaining singers will be paired off! And only one will survive! Or they both will. Or neither will. So this is an important challenge for some reason. This is my second season recapping The X Factor, and I have no idea what’s going on right now.

But I do know this: Simon Cowell will not rest until CeCe Frey and Paige Thomas start throwing punches. They seem to be getting along just fine, but here we go again pairing them off together, adding music stings and out-of-context “oh snap” reactions from the other singers, and behaving as though only one can survive when they clearly both will. It is already boring. Though I did appreciate watching CeCe apply her cheetah spots with a paintbrush and not a brayer, as I’d assumed.

Surely only one three-man boy-group will be left standing in the Battle of the Two Three-Man Boy-Groups With the Numeral 3 In Their Names: Emblem3 versus L3vel (which is pronounced “Level Three.”) One of the L3vels (I have no idea how the plural form of “L3vel” would be pronounced) says, “We gotta stomp ‘em out, and then we’ll be the only three-man boy-group in this competition.” Emblem3 replies with their signature slack jaws and dead eyes. But one of them is shirtless with suspenders, and I admire his firehouse moxie.

Singing coach Tara Simon will face off against (or sing with or fail alongside) Jennel Garcia. Tara tells us she doesn’t need to knock you over the head with big loud notes all the time, which is such a lie my television briefly looked away from me. They choose Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” and Jennel shows a gentler side that is equally strong. Tara knocks you over the head with big loud notes through the entire thing. Simon says he doesn’t get it. They’ll both be safe.

By the way, tonight’s show is punctuated with ads that promise a free download of Melanie Amaro’s new single with a purchase of Pepsi. So, kids, this is what you’re crying and being rushed to the hospital and painting animal prints on your face for: the chance to have your product given away with a can of soda. 

Precocious infants Carly Rose and Beatrice Miller offer up a torchy “Pumped Up Kicks.” It is a disturbing thing to watch these two children vie for adult approval with a promise to shoot up a school.

Worst tats in the biz Vino Alan and David Correy partner up on “What’s Goin’ On.” David Correy promises, “All of my struggles are going to be out there when I sing, from being an adopted kid who wants to find his birth mother.” And ... that is the end of that sentence. There is no “to” after that “from.” Being an adopted kid who wants to find his birth mother is all of his struggles. Their performance is pretty standard rock-guy stuff, but Vino is convinced he fucked it all up. He punches a wall and everything! Hey, Vino, if you want to punish yourself in a way that’s impulsive and painful, maybe go for one laser treatment on your above-the-neck tattoos. Two birds, one stone.

Dinah Jane Hansen says, “I was combined with Diamond White,” which is definitely a thing Simon would do if he could. They slow Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” down to a dirge, and although both are on point, there is nothing remotely youthful or fun about it. Though Diamond does finish by sitting at the lip of the stage, and it’s just RuPaul’s Drag Race Juniors enough.

We get one fleeting glimpse of Sister C and Lauren Jauregui, just enough to show us that Britney thinks Sister C is annoying. Britney’s stank face is the star of tonight’s show.  It’s actually not even stank face; tonight, it breaks straight through into Irritable Bowel Syndrome face.

Speaking of faces: Much has been made of Justin Bieber looking like a lesbian, and it really cannot be denied. But it’s a cute, young, fresh lesbian Bieber resembles. A kicky, fun barista lesbian. I bring this up because Reed Deming, though only 13, looks like a middle-aged lesbian. A nonprofit, NPR tote bag, severe lesbian. Kids today.

Julia Bullock, who broke up with her band on the audition line, goes up with Ally Brooke, who I kind of remember. L.A. says, “One of them definitely won,” but they both sounded overwrought to me. Similarly, Jeffrey Gutt and some other guy grunt all over the Band Perry’s “If I Die Young,” and it’s even more mirthless than the original.

Oh my God, you guys, a winner has been crowned in the Pepsi X Flavor Contest that you absolutely remember was happening. And listen, I’m sorry if this is a spoiler, but I can’t just sit on news like this: The Pepsi X flavor is DRAGON! Congratulations, Dragon! I have no way of even imagining what you might taste like, and I’m 100 percent certain I’ll never find out. The judges all take tiny, cautious sips and smile tight little smiles. This has all been a lot of fun, and I’m glad we did it. Pepsi.

Back to music or whatever! Country guys Willie and Tate tear into the Tony Rich Project’s “Nobody Knows.” Willie goes up on his lines, which is a big problem, especially since the first one he forgets is THE TITLE OF THE SONG. Willie admits he didn’t know the song and Tate did, and Demi speculates that Tate chose that song on purpose, to set Willie up for failure. That seems like an irresponsible accusation, but I don’t dwell on it for too long because Tate has one lower snaggle tooth that makes him look like Sarge from Beetle Bailey, and it’s all I can think about.

Arin Ray gets paired with some pretty girl whose name I never catch, and they duet on One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful.” They are so passionate! Which is great until they get to that line “the way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed,” and then it becomes hilarious! Simon likes Arin but could see him in a band, emphasis mine, because I think my prediction is about to come true.

Latasha Robinson picks the song she’s going to sing with Jillian Jensen, who, “because of what happened to me in my life,” doesn’t know how to stand up for herself. Were you aware that someone was mean to Jillian at one time? It’s true. Anyway, in the performance, Latasha immediately gives up, stops singing, and starts crying. Backstage, she wails: “I humiliated myself in fronta them judges! A 19-year-old outshined me!” It’s too late to create a victim narrative for yourself, Latasha Robinson. You’ve got to come in the door with that shit. Better luck next year.

Freddie Combs forgets the words to “Up on the Roof,” which you can understand, because how is a 900-pound guy going to get up on a roof? This leads us to a Forgettin’ They Words montage, which features Nick Youngerman, One4Five, and some other people whose names I’m not going to bother to learn, because if they can’t put in the effort, then neither can I.

We end with CeCe and Paige, who duet on OneRepublic’s “Secrets.” Two women who were raised on American Idol, singing every note in the book on a Ryan Tedder song. It puts me right to sleep. It is dispiriting. The sound of a dripping faucet is “Exile on Main St.” in comparison.

Aaaaaand then nothing happens because we won’t get to the next round of cuts until next week, so this was basically a wasted hour, and there’s still no sign of Panda Ross. I am giving major Britney face right now. See you next week.

Photo: FOX