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The X Factor Recap: Very, Very Hard Decisions

It’s our first live results show of the season, everybody! And for some reason, it is two hours long! We could easily be finished with our business in one tight, breezy hour, but for that to happen, Fox would have to have some kind of respect for its audience. Instead, we are hostages. Prisoners of Pepsi. Let’s get into it.

Tonight, each judge will choose the two acts from their category who are going straight through to the top twelve, leaving two to sing for their survival. And in each case it goes like this: Mario says “Who ... is the act ... you ... are sending through ... to ... the top twelve?” And then the judge answers “Mario, the act ... I ... am sending ... through ... to the top ... twelve ... is ... ” And each of those ellipses represents about four minutes. It’s actually a little insulting. And I haven’t even gotten to Khloe yet.

Demi’s young adults are up first. Paige is wearing a hat that would make the nouveau-riche-est woman at the Kentucky Derby say, “Honey, you could stand to dial it back.” Willie Jones is dressed like Dennis Quaid in the late eighties. CeCe Frey is wearing a fire-engine-red Ace Bandage. And there are no surprises here: Jennel and Paige are through to the top twelve, leaving CeCe and Willie to do the sing-off.

Khloe is our backstage interviewer for the night, and it’s possible that she’s not the very best at this. Jannel is crying, and Khloe sticks a mike in her face and asks: “Jennel, what are those tears for?” Poor Jennel tries to answer, but Khloe is clearly being fed questions into her earpiece and doesn’t know yet that she doesn’t need to ask those questions right away, so she just interrupts everybody in the middle of whatever they’re saying. It seems weird to say this to a multi-billion-dollar production company, but: This is why it is sometimes beneficial to hire people with on-camera hosting experience.

For her save-me song, CeCe does Irene Cara’s “Out Here on My Own” and caps it off with some epic fake tears. Sister is laying it on thick. Britney says CeCe has an identity crisis, and wonders whether last night she was trying to be Ke$ha, which she pronounces KEESHA. Ooh, shade! On the pronunciation tip, is her name CeCe FRY or CeCe FRAY? I’m hearing both interchangably. CeCe is already right there; someone could maybe ask her how she thinks her own name ought to be pronounced.

Willie’s performance is much more on key, but much less dynamic. It’s some country song or another, and while he definitely has charm and potential, he’s just not fully cooked through. He goes home. No big shock. It takes forever. CeCe keeps trying to cry, and it keeps not working. Look around you, CeCe: You are on a stage with Mario Lopez and Khloe Kardashian. Having a soul is clearly not a preprequisite for success anymore. Let your replicant flag fly.

The recap package for the olds — and these things are ENDLESS — shows us that Vino Alan has YOLO tattooed on his knuckles. Yet he is free to marry and procreate any old time. Unbelievable. Also, Jason and Paige have a kiki backstage, and it looks like the best talk show of all time. Would you not watch this show? I would never miss this show.

Khloe gets the slow-moving traffic-cop job for this segment, asking L.A., with this inflection: “What is the first act that you are PUTTING into the top twelve?” Is Armenian her first language? L.A. sends Vino and Tate through, leaving Jason and David to fight to the death.

Mario takes over as backstage interviewer, and doesn’t fare much better: “Vino, you’ve made it quite known that you’ve gotten some negative news in your life. How is this better?” Fantastic work.

David delivers an overwrought “Since U Been Gone” as his save-me song, and Demi nails him on his oversinging. Go ‘head, Miss Lovato! Oh, and there are amber waves of grain behind him, because America.

Jason stands still for his version of Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time,” and though it could have been dropped a key, it’s actually kind of stirring. I geniunely like this guy. I want to have a drink with this guy. I worry that the drink this guy will order will be blue and come in a collectible glass.

L.A. takes a million years making his decision, as he feels like Jason is entertaining, but David is a star. “Entertainer or star? Entertainer or star,” he repeats, and I fear it’s animal-print curtains for Jason. But no! L.A. sends David home. The good-bye moment between Jason and David is mad awkward. Nobody knows what to say or where to stand. Steve Jones would have handled this better. Someone in the control room has to have said that out loud.

And then we’re on to the teens. Britney chooses Carly, which is no big surprise, and Beatrice, which kind of is. So that’s Arin Ray and Diamond White singing for their lives. This should be an easy choice, shouldn’t it? Shouldn’t it?

Arin does Whitney Houston’s “I Look to You” as his save-me song — Whitney, Whitney everywhere, and not a drop of any of her good songs — and though it’s long on passion, it’s short on vocal ability. Plus, he’s sulky and petulant. A Lohan-parent level of entitlement! 

Diamond does “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.” It’s miles better. I like that she felt the need to apologize for Train. She mops the floor with poor Arin, whom I start to feel kind of bad for. First to go, two seasons in a row!

It’s decision time. Here’s how much they milk it:

Simon: “I don’t want to be Britney, because this is going to be a very hard decision. A very, very hard decision.”

Mario: “Simon, how hard a decision do you think this is going to be for Britney?”

Simon: “Very hard. It’s going to be a very hard decision.”

Khloe: “Britney, tell us about this decision you’re about to make. It looks like it’s going to be very hard.”

Britney: “It’s going to be a very hard decision. I like them both. So it’s going to be very hard. It’s hard!”

And then she sends Diamond home, and I throw my notebook at the wall. It’s the first week of live shows, and she’s already pulling a Scherzinger. Goddammit, Spears.

You know what else she does that’s dumb? Every time she critiques a save-me song, she says that she wasn’t sure about them last night, but tonight she’s a believer. Literally every single time, just like that. She is making $15 million to be a judge this season.

(And I hope she is spending it on the very best mental-health care. None of the other judges address her, nor does she address any other judge. No sudden movements around Ms. Spears, please. She is clearly expending all of her energy just holding it together. It’s sad to watch, but as a tiny part of the machine that sent her into stratospheric, soul-scrambling fame, I feel like it’s my duty to watch. We break her, we buy her.)

Last and least suspenseful, Simon and the groups. The backstage recap package confirms my suspicion that there was a stage mishap in last night’s show that kept Sister C’s stairs from coming out in time. “It’s a big disadvantage,” one of them says, but not as big a disadvantage as their lack of personality or the fact that I still can’t tell them apart.

Emblem3 are, of course, through. Emblem3 will sell the fuck out of some Pepsi, I know that much. Joining them in the top twelve are Lyric 145, who I hope will break out of the candy-rap trap they’re in. So that’s Sister C and 1432 in the bottom two.

Mario is backstage with the top two groups, and somehow, in this meringue of a two-hour show, there is not enough time for even a brief interview. Don’t you want to know whether Emblem3 think their success is dope? Alas — the mystery will endure.

Sister C do the thing they’ve been doing all along, though L.A. points out that one of the sisters (whom he calls “Middle C” because she stands in the middle — wordplay!) has soul. I’ll take his word for it.

While naming themselves may not be among their talents, 1432 are born politicians: They choose Demi’s “Skyscraper” as their save-me song. And they crush it. They really do. Each one gets a meaty solo, then they end on some solid harmonies. It’s good stuff. Demi says: “I don’t know who sang that song originally, but you are way better than whoever it was.” I like this Demi Lovato!

Simon frets over his choice, saying that there’s a gap in the market for both. He says he’d rather end the show on a positive note and say which act he chose to send through to the top twelve, but Mario corrects him: “No, Simon. We need to hear the name of the act you’re sending home.” We do? Why? What could happen? Live a little, Mario Lopez. Anyway, the act he’s sending home is Sister C, who saw it coming, and who will probably still have a future in country music because those people will buy anything.

Simon does point out correctly that 1432 is a terrible name, so there will now be a contest online to rename them. I suggest “Five Children Who Would Do a Better Job Hosting This Show.”

Photos: FOX; FOX