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The X Factor Recap: Now We’re Getting Somewhere

Playback

“I can’t believe it’s the last day of boot camp,” enthuses one nameless hopeful, and I have to say I agree. After three endless weeks of auditions, The X Factor suddenly has ants in its pants. We are finally getting somewhere, almost too quickly. Not that I’m complaining.

In fact, we’re actually at the end of the last day of boot camp, and right away it’s time to start naming who’ll be going to the judges’ homes. Did I mention that that’s the next step, or did this show totally forget to hire a host who could fill us in on those details? Here’s the deal, explained by Simon Cowell, who, in his sunglasses, looks like a middle-aged Steve Dallas from Bloom County: Six acts from each of the four categories will make their way to their category’s mentor’s house. And there’s a little bit of a change this year: Our four categories are now teens, young adults, over-25s, and groups. So, ages 13 to 16 get six representatives, as do ages 17 to 24, and then ages 25 to the Grave get an equal number. Open, naked ageism.

One thing this show does exactly like Idol is the endless montage of the judges holding up Polaroids they’ve angled away from the camera and saying: “I love this girl,” or “this guy is finished,” or simply “IN.” It tells us nothing; it offers us no hints; it goes on for about eleven minutes. But if you like watching Britney Spears nod, this chunk is for you.

Really, the whole first hour of this show is a waste of time. We learn who’s made it to the next round, which group each judge will mentor, and what pop star will be assisting each judge. It’s about 45 minutes of someone saying a name and then everyone else yelling. I will summarize it for you here in ten seconds:

The young adults are:

  • CeCe Frey, the sasspants with the animal print on her head.
  • Jillian Jensen, the woman who would like to remind you that someone was mean to her once.
  • Willie Jones, the black country guy with the hi-top fade.
  • Nick Youngerman, the guy who I don’t remember having seen before tonight but who is apparently a janitor, so that’s unfortunate.
  • Paige Turner, the single mom who looks like a more obedient Rihanna.
  • Jennel Garcia, the saucy little Latina number who is away from home for the first time, and apparently that’s the only interesting thing about her because they keep repeating it.

Their mentor will be Demi, and Nick Jonas will be helping out. Nick Jonas is bringing kind of a squinty Richard Gere hotness these days. I celebrate it. But! Lyric da Queen is out! As is Sophie Tweed-Simmons! I can live with that.

Over-25s:

  • Jason Brock, the fabulous gay guy who looks like JoAnne Worley.
  • Daryl Black, the guy who has a wife and kids, and I don’t remember what he sounds like.
  • David Correy, who wants to use this show to find his birth mother, and honestly the Underwear Gnomes on South Park had a more detailed business plan.
  • Tara Simon, the vocal coach with the big mouth.
  • Tate Stevens, the country guy with rosacea.
  • Nino Alan, who has tattoos on his face. THE END.

The olds will be coached by L.A., who makes no effort not to look all put out about it, and he’ll be assisted by Justin Bieber and his manager, Scooter Braun. Poor, big, fat Wheelchair Freddie didn’t make the cut, nor did Jeffrey Gutt, who mentioned his son a million times and now has to feel kind of cheap about it.

And then we get to the groups, and it is immediately hilarious because there are six spots in the next round, and by my calculation, there are only five groups, AND YET THEY DON’T ALL MAKE IT. Slack-jawed Huntington Beach boys Emblem3 make the cut, as do country sister act Sister C and something called DOPE CRISIS. Are you kidding me, SyCo Entertainment? There was a group called DOPE CRISIS, and this is the first I’m hearing of it? Ridiculous. Anyway, L3vel and some other group have to deal with the fact that they did not make the top six out of five groups.

So, wait, there are only three groups? And six slots? Is my prediction of an American One Direction about to come true. Yes. But not yet.

Last, we get to the teens group, which will be:

  • Beatrice Miller, who is a little girl with a big voice.
  • Carly Rose Sonenclar, who is a little girl with a big voice.
  • James Tanner, who is a little boy in Wayfarers who I’ve never seen before.
  • Reed Deming, who is a little boy who looks like a little girl with a medium-size voice.
  • Arin Ray, who was put in a little boy-and-girl group last year but has grown up and could win this whole thing this year.
  • Diamond White, who is a little girl with a big voice.

Britney Spears will be mentoring this group, and something inside me wants her to say, simply: “Everybody run. Run for your lives.” Assisting her will be Will.I.Am, which I hope will keep him too busy to appear on CNN on election night. And we have lost a ton of great young singers, none of whose names I can remember.

AND THEN IT HAPPENS. The judges decide to make some groups out of some of the rejected singers: Lyric da Queen will join One4Five as rap super-ish-group Lyric 145! Ally Brooke, Dinah Jane Hansen, and three other girls I don’t remember will be LYLAS! And JUST AS I TOLD YOU, Austin Corini, Johnny Maxwell, Owen With the Girlfriend, and two other cute boys will be an instant boy band: PLAYBACK. My only criticism is that it would have been awesome to have Wheelchair Freddie in that band, but I’ll overlook it.

Simon will be in charge of the groups, which of course he is, because this is his bread and butter. Assisting him will be Marc Anthony, who is the gauntest motherfucker in the world. Honestly, if the camera adds ten pounds, then Marc Anthony weighs negative three pounds.

And then we’re back to singers singing, which I had forgotten was the whole point. We begin at Demi’s loft, which is decorated in a style I call “early Silk Stalkings.” Let’s go case by case:

Jennel Garcia: Demi tells her that her nervous tics (oversinging, hair-flipping) are too obvious, and the advice seems to throw her a little bit. She chooses “I Kissed a Girl,” a naked attempt to appeal to Demi’s bi-curious side. It will probably work.

Willie Jones takes another swing at the Tony Rich Project’s “Nobody Knows,” and there’s no Country Tate to blame it on this time. He remembers all the words, and it’s all perfectly fine but unremarkable. Nick Jonas says: “He needs to decide — is he R&B, or is he country?” Which translates to: “Is he black or not?” Gross.

Demi’s advice for Jillian Jensen is to stop making ghoulish faces when she sings. Solid advice. Jillian takes on Sara Bareilles’s “Gravity,” and although I really hate her whole sob story, her tone is legit beautiful, and I kind of love it.

Nick Youngerman, who I remembered nothing about, does a big, weird, sloppy take on Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok,” and when Demi says, “I don’t know whether I was loving it or super-annoyed by it,” she takes the words right out of my mouth. The whole performance makes me feel like an Olderman. But I will say this: Nick is the only person in this group who just looks like he’s having a ball, and that should count for something. I am Team Nick.

Paige Thomas is getting more nervous as the competition goes on, and she chooses a joyless number called “Turn Up the Music” for Demi and Nick. It’s a little shaky, she barely moves, and she looks miserable. It probably won’t matter because she’s gorgeous.

And then Demi just straight-up tells CeCe Frey that she’s kind of unlikable. Delicious! CeCe replies that she does tend to hide behind all of this and gestures at her torso, when really she should concentrate on not painting cheetah spots on her own head. Demi tells her that she needs to show some vulnerability, and CeCe agrees and then does her own version of LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It.” CeCe is an idiot.

My prediction is that CeCe and Willie are headed home, and I am almost never right about these things.

And then we’re back to Simon’s house, where Emblem3 rest facedown in the infinity pool like stoned, pampered hippos. They remind us that they “breathe and sleep music.” They do not eat music. Music is apparently not Paleo. Marc Anthony tells the group that today “could be the first day of the rest of your lives, or NOT.” Is X Factor a fight to the death? Are Mario Lopez and Khloé Kardashian up to that hosting challenge? Anyway, let’s get into it.

Playback does a take on Hall & Oates’s “Rich Girl” that can charitably be called “spirited.” There aren’t a lot of harmonies, it’s a little messy, but they’ve only been together for four days, and it won’t matter because we need Playback more than they need us. They’re IN.

You know how sometimes reality shows will cobble together words from various interviews and form a FrankenSentence to make it sound like one of the participants is saying something vicious? Like: “I hate/Teresa/because/of her/face?” The producers do that to Sister C, but here’s the result: “Our/dad/has a/project/management/business.” That little tidbit, which is the exact same thing as saying nothing, took some poor editor two hours. The heiresses to a project management empire do well enough, though Simon rightly points out that there must be some reason they haven’t been snapped up by a label by now, and it might be that they’re just not very likable. That must be fun to hear.

Lyric 145 are just blown away by Simon’s yacht. They grew up in Flint, Michigan, and Queens, respectively, where “we don’t see things like this!” Kids, I grew up in suburban St. Louis, and now I work in television, and I don’t see things like this either. Yachts are the province of a very specific kind of asshole. May you never see one again! Anyway, they do “Party in the USA,” and I hope it works, because one’s hip-hop credibility can’t survive doing “Party in the USA” for Simon Cowell and Marc Anthony on The X Factor

Dope Crisis! Is the crisis that they are too dope? Are they commenting on the war on drugs? Is Dope Crisis the best name or the worst name I have ever heard? Either way, it is a fun name to say, but I have never seen them before tonight, so they should have just called themselves “Cannon Fodder.” Good-bye, Dope Crisis. Dope Crisis!

Emblem3 does what Emblem3 does: middle-of-the-road pop with rap flourishes while looking simultaneously mellow and like the kind of guys who would date-rape your mother. The younger one misses a cue, and everyone acts like it's a big deal, but his shirt is wide open and he's got abs and let's all be honest about who we are and what we want.

And then Lylas, the super-girl-group, just goes out and eats everyone’s lunch. Each one of these singers is a pro, and though they spend most of the song just trading lines, they bring strong harmonies into the end and make me say “Ooh, bring it home, Lylas” out loud, which is a thing I was not prepared to do. Is there a place in the market for a girl group? Simon will find one.

I’m guessing Dope Crisis and Sister C are out. Each group tells us how much they want — no, they need — to win, because music is the only thing that keeps them alive, and they need to provide for their families and all the stuff you’ve heard a million times before, and then Emblem3 sums up their struggle thusly: “Goin’ home would be totally lame.” Oh dear God. They’re going to win this thing.

Photo: FOX