Have you been watching The X Factor? I have. It’s starting to get good! After eleven episodes, the pool of contestants has been reduced to twelve (including three groups), and tonight, we finally get to begin voting these singers — good, less good, forgettable, adorable, and/or hat-wearing — in and out. In preparation for the coming culling of bright-eyed and mellifluous wannabe famous people, I’ve collected my thoughts on the finalists, their strengths and weaknesses, and their approximate American Idol counterparts (for those of you who fear the new). Have a look.
This year’s … Bucky Covington
Assessment: Country is a genre that prizes authenticity, and nobody fakes authenticity better than this forced-together group of relative strangers who started singing country because they were assigned it. They will get eliminated right away, they will get a recording contract before they get to their cars, and their debut single will have the word “country” in its title at least twice. (“Country Is As Country Does,” say. Or “Don’t Country Your Country Before It Countrys.”)
This year’s … Brooke White
, with a thick layer of The Secret Circle
Assessment: So far, Drew’s not doing it for me. She’s obviously got a lovely voice, she’s an adorable and engaging kid, but then she gets onstage and does a haunted, minor-key version of a pop song. It’s like Gothz Bop. Tori Yay!Mos. I am ready to see a new thing from you, Drew. Looking forward to the inevitable Justin Bieber duet at the finals, especially if we find out he really did father a child
This year’s … Chris Daughtry
, but, you know, urban.
Assessment: I’m still trying to figure out how someone who doesn’t sing will fit into a singing competition, but I do know this: Every hip-hop label in the world is trying to figure out how to sign him. The kid is so smooth he makes rapping look incredibly easy, which most people assume it is; I recommend watching Nick in last week’s episode of Gigolos as a counterweight. Astro will be one of the sixteen featured artists on a future Pitbull single, mark it.
This year’s … John Stevens
, but born in 1887
Assessment: He’s a sentimental favorite, this guy. And he will go far once this competition is over. But here’s the thing: He has a whispery, understated voice, and whispery, understated voices do poorly in competitions such as these. I don’t think he’s going to last, but I do think the producers will surreptitiously collect blood and tissue samples from him and develop a skin cream, which I will rub all over my fucking face.
This year’s … entire cast of American Juniors
Assessment: Listen: I know Glee is very popular. I realize Kidz Bop is a thing that people buy. I understand the desire to cash in on these phenomena, and I think these kids are genuinely talented. There are just so many of them! When you add all the pyro and the backup dancers and the video screens, it’s just chaos. Really, it will all boil down to how cute Nick Dean and John Lindahl are to the 12-year-old girls who control the voting; my inner 12-year-old girl tells me InTENsity will go further than you think.
This year’s … Mikalah Gordon
Assessment: Rachel Crow is a 13-year-old with a massive voice who has been waiting her entire life for a contest such as this, which is to say that her massive voice is in danger of being eclipsed by the character she’s playing. I happen to think 13 is too young for this kind of thing: You’re still going through phases, still trying on personalities, and when you get a lot of attention for one of them, you get ossified. You make the face, and it sticks that way. I worry that she’ll be a moppet until well into her 30s. Plus, she spoke to People about having lost fifteen pounds in the last two months, which makes me feel every kind of uncomfortable. But I like her!
This year’s … Pia Toscano
Assessment: Marcus is very good. Marcus is very consistent. Marcus is very consistently the one I can’t remember when I try to list The X Factor’s top 12. Never a good sign.
This year’s … Melinda Doolittle
Assessment: Stacy can sing! Stacy could maybe stand to sing a bit less! But most of all, Stacy needs to start looking like she’s having fun. This is not Logan’s Run. Studies show that many people live for years after turning 42. But I’m coming around to her now that Perez Hilton is trying to expose her (never not-exposed) professional singing career. Don’t you love it when he gets all Brenda Starr on us? He thinks he’s people!
This year’s … Constantine Maroulis
Assessment: When you get down to it, the only difference between The X Factor and American Idol is the groups. (Yes, there are old people, but they act and look so much like young people, you barely notice. They are basically young people with a built-in backstory which is that they are old and this is therefore their last chance, which is hooey. [I say “hooey” because I am an old person.]) So the one thing I’m watching for is how the groups settle in. Will we learn their individual names? Can we connect emotionally to five people (or TEN) the way we can to one? I worry that groups will be by definition shadowy and unknowable. But of the groups, I think Stereo Hoggz have the best chance at long-term employment. Go Just’n and the rest!
This year’s … Elliott Yamin
Assessment: The beautiful, gritty voice! The face only an omnipresent mother could love! That’s Josh for you. I would like to buy his album. I would like to send him the full line of Moroccan Oil hair products. I would like to know how it is that his mother looks six years older than him, max. (Josh also has a 13-year-old daughter. They move fast and they do not have time for precautionary measures, these Krajciks of ours.)
This year’s … Danny Gokey
Assessment: A raspy, not-terribly-versatile voice! A backstory with much pathos! Hats! This guy is about to get a lot of attention and money for winning The X Factor, or a lot of attention and some money for getting kicked off, and either way, he will need a full-time sobriety coach who is heavily armed.
This year’s … Jordin Sparks
Assessment: She’s probably going to win this thing; she’s probably going to have one huge single and then change styles several times trying to recapture her popularity; she’s probably going to sing a stirring rendition of the national anthem at the NBA Finals that will bring our country together after the class war of 2013; she’ll probably then become the spokesperson for acid reflux or nighttime jogging safety or she’ll try her hand at acting or have a talk show that lasts for one season before settling into her Vegas revue. That’s our Melanie. That’s our X Factor. That’s AMERICA.