"The X Factor" Season 2: Top 24 Judges' Houses performances

In which we ask, Show, why so serious?

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Having slogged through this week's three hours of "The X Factor," spread over two shows in which we winnowed the contestants down to 24 from 60, something struck me: how goddamned boring this show is. It just kept going and going and going, but it felt so repetitive and dull. The funny thing is, we got some of the best singing yet. But because of the incessant docu-drama interviews with the same contestants saying the same thing over and over again, and watching same dozen or so acts sing song after song - almost all of them with the same dreary tempo -- this felt less interesting to me than any episode of "Idol" ever did. The production values on this show are slick, but my god are the results as dull as the crayons my nephew keeps shoving up his nose.

Following a massive culling at Boot Camp, the remaining 24 contestants -- including three entirely new groups created by a bunch of offed eliminated solo performers -- were divided into their four categories. This year they're a bit different. They're not splitting up the young adults by gender anymore. Instead it's by age, with an entire Teen category (I guess the cut-off was 17), Young Adults (cut off at 24), Over 25s, and Groups.

Britney Spears will be mentioning the Teens, which makes perfect sense. Demi Lovato will be mentoring the Young Adults which, again, makes perfect sense. Simon Cowell acted like he was taking a bullet by handing the Groups, but Simon is a sneaky bastard. Given the success of One Direction and The Wanted I think it's pretty obvious that we're on the brink of another boy-band boom; these things are cyclical in pop culture. And Simon knows it. I think he's positioned himself perfectly to once again be the judge "responsible" for the winner of the show. And in a bit of terrible fake editing, L.A. Reid acted like he'd just been served a steaming plate of shit when told that he'd be handling the Over 25s. That is such a talented group that he should have no problem keeping at least a few of those horses in this race. But then, this is the man who boosted Astro.

I'm not going to go through every single individual performance from the two nights, because again: repetitive. So repetitive. But I will give you my general sense of where the contestants stand, and which 16 acts I believe should advance to the live rounds when they start on November 1. (Speaking of, how are they going to stretch this process out for another half a month? Unbelievable.)

Young Adults: The six acts still in the running are Cece Frey (duh), Willie Jones (utterly ridiculous, as he totally blew his last two Boot Camp rounds), Jennel Garcia (another ringer), Nick Youngerman (best remembered as the boy who made Britney dance by rapping "Ice Ice Baby"), Paige Thomas (arguably the most-pimped contestant this season), and Jillian Jensen, who has grown on my significantly since her initial audition. They all did well in their latest round of auditions, with Willie and Paige really impressing me with vocals I thought were far, far beyond their capabilities. Demi had some good advice for most of them -- she talked to Cece about her likability issue, which Cece took like a champ (bet she's LOVED her edit on the show thus far) and to Jillian about the grotesque faces she makes while singing. Joe Jonas was...there. My prediction is that we'll lose Nick, who is indeed entertaining but basically a novelty act, and Jillian, because this season has no lack of powerhouse female vocalists, and I think she falls just a bit short of Jennel, Cece, and golden girl Paige on that score.

Over 25s: Those still in the running as of this week were the Liberace reincarnation known as Jason Brock, Daryl Black (loved his original audition, don't think we've seen him since), David Correy (ringer), Tara Simon (so hateable, but perfect for this show), Tate Stevens (unremarkable to me in any way), and Vino Alan. On Thursday's episode they all performed for L.A. and, of all people, Justin Bieber. I thought Jason really screwed himself with his song choice ("Big Girls Don't Cry" by Fergie), which came across overly shouty. Tara oversang as usual, but also sounded good, and David and Vino totally crushed it. Tate again did another 90's r'n'b song, which is so confusing to me, because he's trying to be Country Guy. My guess is that they will let go of Daryl, who is immensely talented but doesn't make much of an impression, and either Tate or Jason. Tate is the less interesting performer, but Jason did himself no favors with that last song.

Groups: Oh, this mess. Still in the running as of this week were the much-hyped Emblem 3, Sister C, and Dope Crisis, plus three new groups formed by cut individual contestants: Lyric 145 (combo of rapper Lyric da Queen and group One45), Playback (random teen boys), and LYLAS (assorted teen girls). Keeping track of who is in the latter two groups was basically impossible, I'm sorry. There were tons of them and they were all over the place. What you need to know is the Emblem 3 continued to talk massive amounts of shit about everyone else, despite the fact that only one member of that trio has any discernible talent. The rapper who is allergic to shirts? Awful. I'm just saying it right now. That's a case where the group should be dissolved and the lead singer should go solo. He'd be incredible. I'm still not a fan of the weird minor harmonies Sister C always goes for, and their likability issues have already been mentioned on multiple occasions. Dope Crisis made zero impression on me in their audition. Competent but unexciting. Lyric 145 was a mistake; Lyric da Queen should have advanced as a soloist, because she blows the other two guys out of the freaking water. Playback is very energetic, and the lovelorn boy who will not stop talking about that Tori girl is a fantastic lead singer, but their shared parts were VERY rough. LYLAS have enormous potential. Every girl in that group is a stellar vocalist. The trick will be directing them on how to work as a group, as opposed to five individual singers who just sing in harmony on choruses. If L.A. can manage that they could be astonishing. My guess is that Dope Crisis is toast, and probably Sister C.

Teens: Left in the running: Beatrice Miller, James Tanner, Carly Rose Sonenclar, Diamond White, Reed Deming, and Arin Ray, which I still think is bullshit, since he was a finalist last season. To me this was the clearest group as to who should stay and who should go. James Tanner is another rapper, and his audition lasted maybe 30 seconds. Even Britney admitted that while she found it entertaining, she wasn't really sure if it was anything close to being good enough. Reed Deming seems like a very nice boy, but he is still very much a BOY, and it's uncomfortable having him sing songs that are way beyond his emotional/physical levels of maturity. The only other one I'd put on the chopping block would be Beatrice Miller, who did OK on her last audition (that falsetto was rough, though), but who is simply outclassed by Carly Rose in every way. Beatrice is already crumbling under the pressure, and that's only going to get worse.

The final point I'll make: why did every single contestant - literally every one, except the rappers - take mostly current upbeat pop songs and turn them into these dreary mid-tempo arrangements? The show must have forced this given their sparse accompaniment, but it was driving me NUTS listening to, say, "Domino" or "Brokenhearted" turned into borderline dirges. Show, how is that entertaining? Is this what it's going to be like? Why do you hate fun?

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