The X Factor
Heavens to Betsy. The departure of a couple of early favorites, furious judges, and a last-minute revelation of Christianity shocking enough to rival Insane Clown Posse’s. Tonight’s show has it all.
It begins, as ever, with the group number, which you have correctly guessed is “Man in the Mirror.” It’s alarmingly off-key.
Speaking of which … the more I think about The X Factor’s Michael Jackson night, the more bent out of shape I get. It’s not the singers; most of them did fine. It’s not even the producers; these are great songs, so why not build a show around them? It’s more that Michael Jackson’s story is one of the greatest tragedies of American cultural history, and we still can’t find a way to address it. Michael Jackson survived an abusive childhood to create some of the greatest music of all-time before fame, drugs, and his own distorted self-image alienated him from his fellow man and made his attempts to connect more and more self-destructive. Not only was there no acknowledgement of any of this, the show was a 90-minute-long advertisement for an actual circus. I’m not saying the show needed to be some Joan Didion meditation on the tragic nature of fame; just an 800-number for donations to a children’s fund would have done. Something. Say what you will about Yoko Ono, but she makes sure any John Lennon tribute stays on message and raises some charity cash. Tell the Jackson family you’re doing a Michael show, and their only response seems to be: “What time do you need Blanket in the makeup chair?”
The results start coming pretty much right away. The first singer to make it into the top five is … Chris Rene! Who is voting for this guy, exactly? Is the recovery community that loyal? Could he actually win this thing, by which I mean: Could we be putting a stack of thousand-dollar bills into the hands of someone who, at the beginning of this calendar year, was a habitual meth user? Something to think about. (But not really; again, the producers whiz right past it.)
Also safe … Melanie Amaro! She says the most sensible thing I hear all night, right into Drew’s ear: “Smile, girl.” Drew is having a terrible time.
Also also safe … Rachel Crow! So the four remaining singers, only two of whom will survive, are: Josh, Drew, Astro, and Marcus. They are shuffled backstage, where Astro offers this tidbit: “It’s no pressure. I’m swaggin’ it out. Brooklyn, yo.” Astro has a jib, and I like the cut of it. Drew looks like she is watching the last fifteen minutes of Marley & Me over and over. (Spoiler alert: Her condition will not improve.)
But let’s keep those four on ice for now, because it’s time for TINIE TEMPAH! I have seen this person’s name before, and I honestly thought it was some new kind of vegan dish. No, indeed: He is a British rapper who has just gone platinum in the States, despite having a quarter of Astro’s charisma. (But I guess he has an itty-tiny li’l temper on him? What is your name all about, Tinie?)
Back to the results. The next singer to join the top five is … Josh Krajcik! Good for him. This leaves us with Marcus, Astro, and Drew, one of whom got the lowest number of votes and will be going home immediately. And that person is … Astro! Shocking! And also not. Like I said yesterday, Astro had just about reached the limits of what he could do in this environment. I strongly believe he’ll have a recording contract before he gets back to his hotel. Best of all, he actually takes it gracefully. DOPE.
But this means Marcus and Drew must each SING FOR SURVIVAL. Drew is shaking and sobbing, while Marcus has the confidence of a man who’s been here before. I think I know how this is going to turn out. (Spoiler alert: I’m totally right!)
Paula’s surprisingly violent advice to the two of them is: “I want you to hijack this! And kill it!”
Drew’s Save Me song is Roxette’s “Listen to Your Heart,” and … it’s not so good. It’s your boilerplate Drew: faint piano, fluttery vocals. But she can’t get any breath behind her vocals, and she looks like she’s being tortured. She does, however, do a lap around the judges, as if to say: “Look. I am capable of movement.” Afterwards, she collapses blubbering into Steve Jones’s arms. He shoos her offstage and shoots the camera this priceless look:
Steve Jones: Grief Counselor.
Marcus chooses “Neither One of Us” as his Save Me song, and he hijacks and kills it. Oh boy.
When we return from the commercial break, Drew is just openly wracked with sobs. You know, it’s easy to forget sometimes that she is a 14-year-old, but man, oh man — this is like a snuff film. L.A. votes to send her home; Simon votes against Marcus, no surprises there except how much time they eat up doing it. Nicole does a one-woman show about the relative merits of the two singers, which includes this classic: “Drew, you have a bright future, but you’re so young already.” Is she, Nicole? Is she already so young? Stop saying words, Nicole Scherzinger. After an eternity (I timed it), she votes against Drew.
Here’s what happens when you do that to a child:
Paula admirably cuts to the chase and votes against Drew, so that’s that. She’s going home. And OH THE SOUND OF HER SOBS IS DEAFENING. She pulls it together enough to say: “I’m gonna keep going and I’m gonna keep singing and what I have to show you is a lot more upbeat!” Which, you know, is not the case right now, but fine. Steve attempts to get Simon to speak, and he gets the silent treatment. Exactly who is the teenage girl in this situation, Simon Cowell? Steve responds with Priceless Look No. 2.
Returning from the In Memoriam package, Steve asks Drew if she has any final words, and … here it comes: “JESUS LOVES ALL OF YOU GUYS AND I HAVEN’T GOTTEN TO SAY THAT AND THAT’S WHAT I’M HERE FOR AND THAT’S WHAT I TRULY WAS IN THIS COMPETITION FOR AND NOW I’M SAYING IT.” Whoa! There is apparently a spot on that stage that causes people to bare their souls. Or maybe the heartbeat sound effect forces you to meditate on your mortality, which compels you to reveal yourself as Christian or Jamaican? Either way it is amazing and I want to stand there and see what happens. (Spoiler alert: I would get much gayer.)
So! Marcus lives to see another week, and the subset of the overwhelming Christian majority in this country who likes to think they’re a persecuted minority has a kicky new martyr. Lord have mercy.