Here’s how much of a mess this season of The X Factor is: The Time Warner Cable program guide synopsis of tonight’s episode reads, “A number of contestants are sent home.” Not one contestant, not two, a number of contestants. Maybe it’s all the contestants. Maybe the season ends tonight. The program guide, generally accepted as a sage, impartial counselor, knows not, nor does it care. Even the robots are giving up on this show.
And they’ve either hired the weirdest voice-over guy in town or they’re doing a thing where every audience member gets a chance at yelling into the microphone about what’s coming up, like they do on The View. Either way, someone opens the show — it’s like an open-mic comic doing a bit about Don Pardo trying MDMA — by introducing One Direction, here to sing their hit single “Live While We’re Young.” Have you read the iTunes blurb about their upcoming album? It describes “Live While We’re Young” as “a call for hedonistic abandonment.” I’m fairly sure they meant to say “hedonistic abandon,” but I guess there’s a chance this song is about taking a girl to a beach rave in Thailand and then leaving her there. I know I’ll never hear it the same way again. They are their usual, charming, non-dancing selves, and their hair volume starts at a level well above “Billy Bush” and goes skyward from there.
And then it’s time for comedy. It goes a little something like this:
Mario: I heard that ... guys? Guys, I heard that you are possibly thinking of adding a sixth member, thanks to Pepsi?
One Direction Guy [Nigel? Declan? I haven’t gotten around to learning their names yet.]: Yeah, we’ve met this bloke Drew Brees, and he’s a great footballer, but he’s not a singer, so I don’t think it’ll work.
Khloé: But I heard ... a little bit ... of a different story, and here he is! [And we go into a video where Drew Brees begs to join the band and manages to make Peyton Manning look like Katt Williams.]
Khloé: So what was it like working with Drew?
1D Guy [Li’l Bangers? Toby Crackit?]: He was cool. He’s cool. He’s a cool ... guy. He was cool.
Mario: So ... does he ... is he going to join the band? Was he trying to really join the band? Is that ... are you going to do that?
1D Guy [Wee Clive? The Dowager Countess?]: I don’t ... I don’t think he is. No.
You guys, it’s just super-funny, and everyone’s timing is perfect, and you kind of want it to go on forever, but nothing gold can stay, and Khloé puts a button on it the only way one can: by yelling “How hot is One Direction?” Very, I guess. I guess, if it will make this comedy sketch end, that I will agree they are very hot.
Lea Michele is in the audience! Mario is excited to point her out. Mario is excited about everything. Could we maybe tighten up one of the show’s other elements and have a moment with Lea Michele? Ask her to host the show or be a judge? No? She’s just going to wave? Okay great.
And we’re into our recap/backstage package. Some thoughts:
- As perfectly as Emblem3 represents early-twenties male Huntington Beach, Drew’s mother Kristine reps middle-aged female Huntington Beach. She is overly tanned, she is very sparkly about the décolletage, and she has the affect of someone who’s had exactly two too many glasses of wine in preparation for her twenty-year high-school reunion. The Emblem3 reality show is officially in development in my mind.
- Beatrice has two moms, and one of them looks startlingly like Chris Noth.
- Immediately upon leaving the stage, Tate tells the camera, “I feel like my pants are on fire!” Why? Did he lie to us in his performance of “Wanted Dead or Alive?” Had he seen a million faces and failed to rock them all? Did he think we wouldn’t check? Don’t underestimate your audience, Tate Stevens.
- I was so blown back by Lyric 145’s ridiculous performance of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” that I forgot to notice their ridiculous clothing. They are dressed for some kind of Burning Man/Freaknik hybrid event that somebody needs to get around to creating.
Anyway, then it’s time to say who’s made it to the top twelve, a process that is exactly 99 percent pause. Oh, it goes on forever. Arin Ray is safe! So is Paige Thomas! In you go, Diamond White! You are spared, Vino Alan! Jennel Garcia, your first name should rhyme with “fennel,” but that’s not important right now, because you’re safe! As is Emblem3, but of course.
One Direction sits around a stage-light campfire for a performance of their new song “Little Things,” about a girl who doesn’t like her stomach and doesn’t want to know her weight and has to squeeze into her jeans, but they love her anyway! One Direction is less a pop group than it is an Avengers-style superhero team whose mission is rescuing young women from body shame. I support this.
Also, sometimes the producers give one of the boys a close-up when they’re singing a solo, but more often, they let the camera linger when two of the boys are smiling to each other. This is the first boy band in history where everyone — even the little girls — will be disappointed if two of them don’t turn out to be fucking each other.
A number more contestants are sent to safety, none of them terribly surprising. Carly Rose is safe, so is Tate, and so are Beatrice and Lyric 145. And when Fifth Harmony is revealed to be moving on, CeCe and Jason become our bottom two, and for a moment, Khloé and Mario sort of break off and start hosting their own shows simultaneously. Khloé starts interviewing CeCe and Jason, Mario asks for the judges’ opinions, both are purposeful, neither is listening to the other, neither will stop, and all throughout, L.A. and Demi are wandering the stage like it’s a Target and they’re each looking for a different garden hose. It truly is as though nobody bothered to rehearse a single thing. Honest to God, this is the sloppiest multi-billion-dollar juggernaut of all time.
P.S.: Many of you in the comments section have requested that I address Demi’s eyebrows, and I will do so at this time: They are full! They are thick! They say, “I am a strong woman, and I will not yank hairs out of my head to please you,” and I celebrate them.
ANYWAY. It’s time for our save-me songs. CeCe chooses a number called “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me,” which seems to have been written exactly for this occasion. Like, the lyrics say, “Don’t count me out so fast,” and “I’m gonna show you all what I’m made of,” and “Hey, Khloé, how come you say YES at the beginning of every line you say on this show?” Not really. But it’s pretty on the nose, and it reminds me that my boyfriend and I are going to write a song for the winner to sing and call it “Loving You Is Like Having the Opportunity to Be the Star of a Pepsi Commercial.” No, you can’t borrow a million dollars.
Jason Brock goes for “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and I actually say out loud, “Okay, girl.” And it’s fine, if a little understated. Why would you start being subtle now, Jason Brock? The save-me song is when you really want to go house, if you ask me. But he didn’t ask me, so it’s just a good karaoke version of that song, and the writing is kind of on the wall.
Indeed, the judges go into deadlock, which has a big screaming red graphic and which means that the lowest vote-getter from last night will be going home, and that lowest vote-getter is Jason, and it’s a good thing four states passed marriage equality bills this week, otherwise I would classify this as a hate crime. He is disappointed but gracious, immediately telling us “I DID IT FOR THE GAYS AND JAPAN,” and I accept. Thank you, Jason. Stop dressing like a couch from the Hot Topic Home Collection.
They wrap up tonight’s show with A FIRST FOR ANY SINGING SHOW, namely that they are going to rank the top twelve acts by number of votes. And things shake out about like you think they would, except for two things, and I think those two things are why they did this in the first place. As if to say: “Look at what you’ve done, America. This is you. Now fix it.” To wit:
1. Emblem3 is in sixth place! Fifth Fucking Harmony beat them on the charts! I chalk this up to voter apathy; they are such the clear winners of this thing, it is easy to get complacent. I know I did. Never again!
- Incidentally, there has also been chatter in the comments section that Emblem3 might not win this show. Allow me to make my case. Consider what you’re NOT SEEING this season (and last season, for that matter): cute boys with guitars. Simon is no dummy; he has seen one CBWG after another run away with the American Idol title and then fail to make an impact on the charts. So he’s done what he can do to keep The X Factor CBWG-free. Emblem3 snuck in on a technicality, but they are something brand-new and equally irresistable to the young girls and old gay men who vote in this thing: Cute Boys With Two Other Cute Boys. They are Cute Boy Voltron. They cannot lose. Recognize.
- Also, will you look at how that Drew guy stands? He is on some Sean Cody superhero shit right there. Can you handle it? I cannot.)
2. The top vote-getter is Tate Stevens, which is shocking and kind of great, and I still don’t think he’ll win, but I do think they might have created a country music star in a truly inspiring The Rookie–type way, which is a story that’s so good even they can’t fuck it up, but God knows they’re going to try. If you need evidence, Mario says: “Tate is the top vote-getter, and he got the most votes from America!” Both! Come back to the five and dime, Steve Jones, Steve Jones.
Oh yeah, Carly Rose Sonenclar comes in second, and when they ask for Britney’s reaction, she says: “I’m so happy, Carly always ceases to amaze me.” $15 million dollars, folks. God bless America.