At first, at the beginning of this week’s epic episode of The X Factor, I heard an unfamiliar “voice of god” and I was like this:
But then, Steve Jones came on screen and I was all like:
Gasmii! I had no idea so many of you are not with me on Team Steve! Apparently, the audience at Tuesday night’s live show wasn’t either, because he came onstage to a sprinkling of applause. To me, he really seems like the sort of bloke you’d go ‘round the corner with for a pint at the pub on the high street. I’m sorry, I don’t know what that really means. The only UK English I know is “groovy, baby!” Fortunately, I know tons of American English — I have diarrhea of the fingers in that area, so let’s get on with it.
Come on, guys. What’s not to like here?
I don’t know that my recap will live up to the epic length that was Tuesday’s episode of The X Factor. At 2.5 hours, it clocked in longer than most movies. As someone who measures their life in movies, this aggravated me. If I have to do any activity, I feel like it should be shorter than the average movie length. Church? Shorter than a movie. Weddings? Shorter than a movie. Movies? The shorter, the better. Anything longer is just an exercise in narcissism and disrespect for my time.
This episode was so long because all 17 acts had to perform and then each judge had to eliminate one act from the category they’ve been “mentoring.” Simon had to ax two acts because, in a display of totally manufactured drama, he cut Melanie Amaro last week but then changed his mind and took a plane, helicopter, and SUV to Florida where he rescued her from a home that still had Christmas lights up in the middle of the summer. It was like a trailer park fairy tale.
The judges come out to far more applause than Steve… but then again, Steve was not wearing thigh-high sparkle boots like Mistress Paula. She’s going to be one of those people who confounds the rest of the world until her death…. Is she young or old? Attractive or odd looking? No one will know until she expires and the thing living under her skin reveals itself. That would explain a lot, wouldn’t it? The weird, jerky movements she sometimes makes; the slurring and slumping; the complete loss of control over her facial movements.
The boys start things off and LA Reid is in the hot seat first. The first performance is from 14-year-old Brian, who is now going by Astro, which is short for Astrological Sign or Astronomical Twerp or something like that. Because this is The X Factor and every segment must include a recap — even if it’s just a recap of something that happened four minutes before — we recap Astro’s meteoric rise from kid in Brooklyn with his pants on the ground to reality show contestant with Dwayne Wayne glasses.
Bugh. Pants on the ground. I’m not a fist-shaking-you-kids-get-off-my-lawn type, but I am ever so tired of seeing kids’ asses. I’m 30. Looking at teenagers’ drawers makes me feel like a perv. Next time I see kiddie ass, I’m making them look at mine. And that might sound like a reward given how my ass looks in jeggings, but believe me, it ain’t. The ravages of time. Stretch marks and panty lines. A case of chicken pox so severe that chunks of my flesh appear to have migrated. It’s like Pangaea back there. Ladies and gentlemen… am I not human?
Where was I… Astro. He covers House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” truly a song that defined a generation. He makes it his own by making up his own verse and throwing in a shout out to The X Factor in the chorus. It’s hard to believe that this kid was not made in a laboratory that was built to create ingenue rappers. Perhaps it’s the very same lab that brought us Drake?
Helping Astro out are back-up dancers in skin tight jeans and midriff-baring puffy coats, totally defeating the purpose of the puffy coat. So Astro performs like a seasoned pro and gets the audience all hyped up and then the judges weigh in. Nicole smoked some really good ish backstage and is mellow for the first half of the show, so she talks to Astro in a Caribbean accent, telling him that he’s a great start to the show and he’s a shoe-in.
Paula says this is what Astro will be doing for the rest of his life (um, really? I’m pretty sure Jay-Z is the oldest rapper currently making music, and he’s not old at all) and tells LA that Astro is his son. Why, Paula? What makes you say that? They don’t look alike. They don’t sound alike. They don’t have the same aspirations. She was funnier on her old meds.
Simon tells LA that if Astro doesn’t make it to the finals, “you are lit’rally insane.” Lit’rally. Adding it to my UK English vocab. LA thought it was amazing. Steve Jones calls Astro a “delightful man.” Hey! Hey, Steve Jones. Back in your lane. That’s not why you’re here.
Chris Rene is next and I hope that, if he continues on, someone takes his collection of fitted hats and burns them. He’s adorable without a hat on and he no longer looks 12. His great hair also draws your eye away from the meth mouth.
He does an updated version of “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore,” which is high on my list of Most Depressing Songs That You Only Enjoy After a Breakup. He sounds like a throwback to 90s R&B; a time before the Autotune was perfected. A time when bad singing sounded like just that — bad singing. And that’s how Chris sounded — bad. He’s far less polished and exciting than Astro and, for me, I just wanted to stop watching.
Nicole didn’t like the song choice but thought he did his thing. Paula says there’s a genuine truthfulness that’s authentic about his singing. She has once again managed to talk a lot and say absolutely nothing. Simon thinks that Chris isn’t the best singer, but he has a voice that’s just right for manipulation in the studio. LA thinks the performance was great!
In his makeover photos, Phillip Lomax ditches the fedora and replaces it with an even more ridiculous looking bowler hat.
Charlie Chaplin telegraphed. He wants his hat back.
He tells us that he’s a “crooner,” but he needs to prove that he’s a pop star, too.
So Captain Obvious is singing “I’m a Believer” and his version of “pop music” is shouty and mildly uncomfortable. It also includes some backup dancers who, in spite of their sexy train conductor costumes, can’t hide the fact that they all used to be movie extras in Austin Powers.
Nicole thinks the performance was amazing and fun. Paula likes his teeth. Simon thinks he should be a “racing driver” or maybe a farmer who drives a tractor or perhaps even a cowboy who rides a horse. Bottom line, he thought the song choice was stupid and LA disagrees.
Marcus Canty is the final boy performer and his makeover included him attempting — and failing — to make sexy faces at the camera.
The boy band patented grab-n-gaze.
There are some people — like me and my lumpy butt — who are born with an excessive amount of sex appeal. And then there are people like Marcus who are lacking in that department. Fortunately, they get skills in other areas. Marcus’s skill is singing.
He covers “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” and he puts as much soul as one can into a Culture Club song. In spite of the terrible song choice, he sounds the best so far, although he probably shouldn’t be allowed to dance anymore.
Nicole thinks he was born to be on stage. Paula says he looks like a veteran and adds that he makes her nervous with his staring. It’s not clear if this is constructive criticism, a compliment, or a subtle cry for help. Simon says that Marcus knows what this competition is about. LA says that Marcus made him proud. So, essentially, no one said anything useful and that was three minutes of our collective lives, gone forever.
Time for the first cut. Brace yourselves. It is, after all, the deepest. Steve Jones brings all of the boys back out and LA reveals his decision. Phillip Lomax is being sent home while Astro, Marcus and Chris will continue on to sing live next week. I hope that Phillip made it out of the theater with all of his teeth. I swear I saw Paula skulking around in the background with a set of pliers…
In the groups division, The Stereo Hogzz are up first. I guess they’re really committed to that name, huh? I bet they have a great story behind it, but I don’t have the time to get Googly right now.
Before they finish the first line of lyrics in “Try a Little Tenderness,” Paula is boo-hooing and literally squeezing her tear ducts with her fingers to try to get a little more juice out. It’s a great song choice for them, although their performance is a bit nervous; a bit jangly. It’s like a mixture of R&B, rap, and whatever it is that the Black Eyed Peas consider themselves.
LA says it was good and they’ve improved a lot and he doesn’t really have any criticism, so he’ll stop talking. Nicole says it was current and classic at the same time. Simon forces himself to compliment Paula, which for some reason causes The Stereo Hogzz to hump the air.
The Brewer Boys have been the weak sauce in The X Factor BBQ sangwich, and no amount of hair flipping, floppy hats, and feathers in their hair will change that. But they give their all to a “Rich Girl”/”Faith” mash up. Because no one expected much, they sing and play their guitars while sitting on a pile of boxes. Even the backup dancers can’t be motivated to dance. They just sort of lounge around the floor and clap.
LA says he wasn’t blown away, but it was good. Nicole wants to hang them from her walls. Simon says they’ve improved, but this is a $5 million contract we’re talking about here, and they didn’t shine. By way of an excuse, Paula says they’ve never done this before, which, of course they haven’t. They’re about five years old. They’ve still got breast milk mustaches (yeah, I don’t know how that happens, either). They haven’t done anything in life yet.
InTENsity is next and, for those of you who couldn’t handle the circus that was bootcamp, this is the group of zygotes that was put together by the judges. They should really be called Noodle Kaboodle.
A hodgepodge of leftovers with some catsup on top.
So InTENsity would have to be the judges’ best idea of the season so far. Their rendition of “Footloose” was fantastic, although I don’t know that they need all ten people. At first, it just looked like recess at an elementary school playground, but they got it together for a high-energy and adorable performance. And there were definitely a few kids who stood out both personality-wise and talent-wise.
LA is impressed. Nicole calls them a pumpkin patch of yummy pumpkins, and clearly someone has been hanging out with child bride Courtney Stodden.
Keepin’ it rill.
Simon says it was a music miracle and they’re the new young Glee. I see where he’s going with that, although technically Glee is not a group, it’s a television show; still, I’m sure Daddy Rupert was might proud that one Fox show plugged another Fox show. Now if only the writers of Glee would do an episode where the kids wait in an endlessly long line for an opportunity to perform like trained chimps in front of impossibly wealthy people, the entire Fox lineup would be one giant circle jerk.
Simon goes on to point to one girl and say “you, in the red jacket, have got an amazing voice.” Um, isn’t he running the show? Shouldn’t he know everyone’s names and skill set? And you know he was thisclose to saying “hey you, Asian girl!” Paula lets him know he’s pointing at Ellona, and maybe now that he’s heard cash registers chiming while she sings, he’ll bother to remember it.
The final group to perform is Lakoda Rayne. Paula slurs that girls are gonna wanna date ‘em and guys are gonna wanna be um! But no one is gonna wanna work with ‘em, because their rehearsals did not go so well. They stuck it out, though, and hopefully they all bonded while getting their hair extensions and makeup done. Because that had to take awhile.
Their version of “Come On Eileen” starts off slow and ballad-like, and to make sure that we, the slack-jawed, glassy-eyed audience understand that they’re going to be a country pop group, scenes from out west are run on the giant screens behind the girls on stage. You know the scenes: big skies… rocky mountains… utility poles… genetically inferior hillbillies hellbent on murdering families on RV road trips. The usual.
LA says he’d sign the girls right away if they came into his office. Nicole says they make girl groups look good. Simon says the best pop groups in the world happen when he destroys solo dreams and forces people who don’t like each other to perform together. Throughout all of this, the members of Lakoda Rayne are going overboard to sell their unity to us, hugging and kissing and waving at the audience. I’m not convinced, though. I’m especially wary of the one with the side pony tail. I’ve got an eye on you, Side Pony.
Their hair is so big because it’s filled with resentment.
Decision time. Predictably, Paula sends the Brewer Boys back to their home in Temecula with their vineyard and their puppy and the golf cart that they ride around the property in. Yup. It’s back to the hard knock life for the Brewer Boys.
In the over 30s category, Dexter Haygood is up first. In his taped look back at his time on the show, he calls his journey a fairy tale. He went from homeless to a Pussycat Doll’s house, after all. It has been an emotional experience for him and his biggest problem is that he never attempts to make any song that he sings remotely recognizable.
Nicole deserves a lot of credit for making him realize that he needed to memorize the lyrics. However, she deserves our shame and ridicule for making him sing “Womanizer” and “I Kissed a Girl” at the same time.
It’s a bizarre performance, but Dexter doesn’t miss a word as he screams they lyrics to two diametrically opposed songs while dressed as the Nutcracker Prince. LA doesn’t understand the song choice.
Paula says that everybody knows Dexter likes to kiss girls so instead of saying “I kissed a girl and I like it” he should have sang “you kissed a girl and I like it” and this one time Paula kissed someone and maybe it was a girl but she didn’t think so and then there was that time that a boy kissed a girl and then the boy wanted Paula to kiss the girl but Paula didn’t want to kiss the girl so she asked the boy for a kiss and then the boy said he’d rather not and then Paula’s eyeballs melted and dripped out of her skull.
Simon says the performance was like a weird milkshake, where everything was all mixed together and “it felt so wrong, but it felt so right” summed everything up. Nicole’s just relieved that Dexter remembered all those words and the order they’re supposed to go in. After the judges finish their critique, Dexter screams at them all in response.
Sanity returns to the show with Leroy Bell, the oldest contestant on the show. Given the way the judges talk about him, you’d think Leroy has one foot in the grave, but he looks perfectly fine to me, although I’d advise against wearing the weird, tinted glasses in the future.
He sings “Nobody Knows” and sounds like a Neville brother mixed with Michael Bolton. Leroy’s biggest problem is that he’s too good. He’s so good that the judges are thrown by the fact that he’s made it to 60 and is still struggling to make a career out of this music thing. So they assume that he just hasn’t been trying hard enough or he doesn’t want it bad enough. They keep saying that to him and that brings us to problem number two: Leroy is like an automaton. He has quiet emotions and that means that his performances are less than exciting.
LA thinks that Leroy needed a better song and says he’s confused about why Leroy isn’t already a big star. Paula says his voice is like velvet and she compares him to Michael Bolton, who she says she’s known since she was seven. That was a totally useless fact, but interesting nonetheless.
Simon thinks Leroy has one of the best voices in the competition, but he lacks confidence and is awkward. He wishes that he could mentor Leroy instead of Nicole. I’m pretty sure Leroy wishes that, too. Nicole, however, disagrees and says that Simon wouldn’t put in the time and attention that she has. Probably true, but if everyone’s critiquing him, her time seems pretty useless.
Stacy “Scientology is a real thing!” Francis is next. So far, Stacy has cried enough tears on this show to fill a kiddie pool. She has also gone from being “single mom” to “stay at home mom.” She has snapped and sneered at the judges and never been called on it. She has whimpered excuses for under-performing and over-performing. She has blamed her ex for her failures. Her raccoon-eyed gazes into the camera are the stuff of nightmares. I am not Team Stacy. She gives me the willies.
She comes out looking like a sinister, gay Big Bird, all feathers and sparkles and darkness. She sings George Michael’s “One More Try,” making Nicole 0 for 3 in song choices so far. She sounds good and while the performance is emotional, she makes it through without crying.
It was close, though.
LA appreciates not having to watch her sniffle through the end of a song and he actually liked the song choice. Paula thought the delivery was brilliant. Simon didn’t like the outfit or the song. Somebody needs his binky and a nap. Nicole argues that the outfit gave Stacy wings, both literally and figuratively. Simon totally harshes Nicole’s chill and demands to know what she’s rambling about. Nicole’s buzz is fading and she snaps that Stacy soared.
Josh Krajcik is the final over 30 performer. He has yet to receive a makeover, but he’s still plodding through, greasy hair and patchy beard in tact. He does “Forever Young.” Not the Alphaville version or the Jay-Z version, but the one Rod Stewart did. He does it slow and with minimal backup music, which really allows his voice to shine through. Unfortunately, someone either let the backup dances out to do interpretive dances or a couple of stage hands collapsed during the performance. It’s hard to tell what was going on behind Josh.
Sex? Murder? Smoothie-making? What’s happening back there?!
LA says Josh is one of the greatest singers in the competition. This is the third time that’s been said, so it must be true. Paula takes it about 20 steps further and says that Josh’s voice is her favorite voice of THE PAST DECADE. Well damn, Paula. Just cut him a check for $5 million today and let’s be done with it.
Simon thought it was the best performance so far, and Nicole demands props for that.
No more time for catty comments, though. It’s time for Nicole tighten her ponytail, smooth down her baby hairs, and get down to business. She seems confused and unsure, though, so Steve Jones explains the rules to her again. Finally ready to commit to a decision, Nicole announces that the first person going through is Stacy. Stacy’s reaction is basically this:
Also going through is Josh. When it’s time to make her final choice, Nicole hems and haws while Steve yells at her to make a decision and she finally announces that she’s cutting Dexter, even though he has the “Dex Factor.” Dexter is confused and sadly admits to Steve that he’s in a 21st century twilight zone. “We enjoyed you,” Steve says. Feel better, Dex! You made a bunch of rich people and companies even wealthier!
Girls category. Simone Battle is up first. Simon Cowell has been a big fan from the beginning, because he likes that she looks like a pop star and is ambitious and loves short shorts and throwback hats.
For “Just Be Good to Me,” she wears short shorts and a vest made from the hair of a thousand clowns. A thousand clowns who are no longer laughing. There are a lot of backup dancers and a lot of choreography; a lot of color and flash and humping and grinding. It’s still a meh performance. Simone didn’t sound bad, she didn’t sound great. She can dance pretty good, but she’s no Paula. She’s a beautiful girl, but that vest made her look weird and not in a hot way.
Even that offer might not be enough to save you, girl.
LA Reid kicks off the ensuing snark fest by saying that everything about the performance was right — except for the performer! He adds that $5 million must not mean much to Simon. Newsflash, LA. $5 million means NOTHING to Simon.
“That wasn’t predictable at all,” Nicole adds, her voice dripping with bitter, sticky sarcasm. Paula thought Simone looked beautiful, but there were too many dancers. Simon says the judges have never liked Simone, and Steve lurches out on stage to comfort her.
Rachel Crow is next, and Simon warns her that this isn’t about her sunny personality anymore — it’s about singing. Fortunately for Rachel, she can do both. In fact, the only thing she can’t seem to do is dance, so she stays on a raised platform while the backup dancers twist and turn around her.
She does a mashup of “Where Did Our Love Go” and “Baby,” which I thought was a pretty brilliant choice. I was less enamored with her costume, which looked a little clownish and, as I said in the minicap, like a funky little Colonel Sanders. She does a great job sounding retro, although I think we’ve heard stronger performances from her.
LA says that Rachel can go beyond music and into acting, if she wanted, and I can totally see her with her own show on Disney. Nicole’s high is completely gone now, and we get to see the real Nicole, who snarks that she didn’t like the song choice and it didn’t show Rachel’s range. Paula agrees with that but also says that she thinks Rachel could be the president. Wrong show, Paula. You’re thinking of the exercises in stupidity that are being called “Republican debates.”
Simon says that everyone should feel free to disagree with “squiddly and diddly” because the song choices showed that Rachel could do retro and pop.
Up next is Drew, who has made her very first show biz compromise by agreeing to let Simon take away her difficult-to-pronounce last name. Careful Drew. It’s a slippery slope and at the bottom is a job at the city morgue and posing for Playboy for mere sheckles.
Drew sings “What a Feeling” from Flashdance and does a soft, slow version on an empty, darkened stage. There are no backup dancers for this performance, but there are birds. Birds flying around on the giant screams in the background. Why birds? A better question is: why not birds. But seriously, that looked low rent. I’m also concerned about Drew’s fake nails. They look infected. Maybe that’s the style now, though? Inflamed chic.
Drew sounds beautiful, and she must have been even better live, because the audience was going nuts throughout the song. She showed a lot of poise and confidence, especially for someone who’s just 14. LA thinks she has the whole package and he liked the song. Nicole also liked the song choice and thinks Drew is a little folk princess. Paula likes that she connected with the audience. And Simon says she’s the reason he wanted to be on American TV.
Controversial contestant Tiah Tolliver is next. She’s the deli worker who Simon took a chance on when no one else would. Let me set the scene for her performance for you: it’s a cold, wintry night in the woods. Off in the distance a wolf howls. A crow flies overhead. Kuh-kaw! Kuh-kaw! Something is stalking through the woods. Something in leather, mesh and impossibly high heels. It’s Tiah! [Whisper: “It’s Tiah!”]
This performance of “Sweet Dreams” is completely absurd. It is clearly meant to balance out all of the austerity in Rachel and Drew’s performances. The only thing it’s missing is dwarves with whips. I seriously wouldn’t have been surprised if a little person with a whip came out and cracked it over the audience. It’s a truly terrifying performance of Grace Jones proportions.
Tiah looks great but her weak voice is overpowered by all of the bells and whistles. LA reid says it was a great production — the only thing missing was the kitchen sing! Crickets. I said… the only thing that performance DIDN’T have was the kitchen sink! Silence.
Nicole says if that was a sweet dream, she’d hate to see a scary one. Paula says the performance was interesting but Tiah needs to work on her pitch. A fairly reasonable assessment that sends Simon into a bit of a rage. He says Tiah worked her nuts off and Nicole and Paula are like spiteful little cats who will never recognize her potential. Alright Simon, relax a bit. Rub your boobs for awhile and bring it down a notch.
Melanie Amaro has the final spot of the night. Since she was saved after the last cut, she might have the most to prove, although she has an excellent voice, so I’m guessing this will be more about her performance than her actual singing. She covers Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” She sounds fine, although I think she was better at boot camp. She is very loud and is also quite emotional at the end.
LA says they saved the best for last, although he thought the song choice was predictable. Nicole says she connects with Melanie every time. She hopes she’s able to connect with her drug dealer after the show ends. Paula is grateful that Simon brought her back.
Speaking of… it’s time for Simon to make two cuts. He says the decision of who to keep on first is easy: Drew. He’s also keeping Rachel Crow. He takes his time saying… that… the final… girl… who made it through… may… just surprise you… but he really thinks… she could win the competition… and she is a girl… and her name… starts with the letter… M for Melanie! Which means that Tiah and Simone are going to have to Naomi-Campbell-walk-it-on-home.
Whew! That was the show. My favorite performances were InTENsity, The Stereo Hogzz and Rachel. Everyone else was a little forgettable — except for Tiah of course. The next live show — and your chance to start voting! — is on Wednesday. Are you going to watch? Who are you voting for? Did you think the judges made any mistakes this week? Also, please email me for photo requests of my lumpy butt. And… have a fun and safe Halloween!