Meet your finalists, America: Hopeful, Just-Happy-to-Be-Here, and Keep-Your-Fuckin-Hands-Off-Me
All across this great nation, there are millions of people toiling away at mundane jobs so they can pay their bills, keep gas in the car, put shoes on their kids’ growing feet, and, maybe, every week or two head over to Chili’s to split an app and buy a burger and beer.
And maybe, sometimes when the typing and the assembling and the phone calls and the bosses and the commute get to be too much, they lift their heads up from their work and wonder what it’s all for. And maybe some are working at something and they’re keeping an eye out for the day when they get their break — when things finally start to go their way. When all the monotony of slinging burritos and hauling trash and being a sadsack suddenly comes to an end and everything they’ve ever wanted is right there before them; all they have to do is reach out and take it.
This is the New American Dream. It used to be to own a house with a dishwasher in the kitchen and a Ford in the driveway and neighbors who had the same skin color. The Dream used to be about pensions and children that went off to State University and did a little better than you. That was the old dream. The new dream is a packet of powder that someone hands you. You reach out and take it. You easily tear it open, pour it into a glass, add water and voila! Sometimes you gag and choke on this magic mix. Sometimes it’s foul — it makes your eyes water and turns your stomach. But you chug as much as you can because you know a little bit is better than none at all. And no matter how bad it tastes, it still seems sweeter than what you had before.
This is the appeal of reality competitions, obvs. This is why the finalists on The X Factor are all working class, older, down on their luck types. There were contestants on The X Factor who were beautiful, wealthy, gifted, young and successful in other areas. They’re long gone. Those who are left reflect all of us: simple, average, melancholy with a gilded edge of hope. And they have talent of course, in varying degrees. More on that in a moment, though. Let’s talk about how ridiculous the judges are.
I swear, if Steve Jones wasn’t so nice to look at, he’d be collecting shopping trolleys at a Tesco’s in Wales. He’s wrapped himself in the finest wine-colored satin tuxedo jacket and looks and sounds as ridiculous as ever as he makes the X sign and brings the judges out to what sounds like a choir singing “O Fortuna” from the bottom of a deep, dark crevasse.
I can’t focus on all four judges because Nicole looks so ridiculous that she’s taking up all my brain space. If I saw her on the street and had to make up a story about her, I’d say that she was probably an alien life form that had studied Earth’s history very quickly before taking a beautiful human form and then mixing up its styles and centuries.
A whole lotta ugly.
The final three contestants are introduced along with live video feeds from their hometowns. A high school gym in Wooster, OH is filled with the smell of sweaty socks and screaming white children cheering for Josh Krajcik. There’s a more multi-cultural gathering of folks cheering on Chris Rene at a nightclub in Santa Cruz, CA. And all the black people in Sunrise, FL have converged on Melanie Amaro’s church.
Back to Steve Jones who has something very important to tell us. The Twitter hashtag for the night is #NoPointsForSecond. Thank you, Steve. What does that even mean? You do get points — the ones that put you in second place. Shouldn’t it be #NoContractForSecond? Also you can only use 140 characters on Twitter. The hashtag can’t take up half the message. This show’s reliance on Twitter is both bizarre and terrible.
First performance of the night comes to us courtesy of Josh Krajcik, who is singing the Alanis Morissette song “Uninvited” while lost in a foggy forest of trees made from silver. He is giving the least exciting, most blah performance in life, when he suddenly stops and says “ladies and gentlemen, I can’t believe I’m introducing the wonderful Alanis Morissette!”
Hey, X Factor! You got me! She looks and sounds amazing. And that’s the challenge with this gimmick. Alanis sounds much, much better than Josh. She may be singing the lyrics to “Uninvited” but what she’s saying is “this is MY song, bitch.”
She definitely saves the performance and makes it bearable. Consummate interviewer Steve is on stage after the song to ask Alanis what it was like to work with Josh. She thought it was the perfect song choice for Josh’s deep soulfulness. Here’s what the judges thought:
LA says it was a surreal but natural pairing. He also informs us that Jagged Little Pill was his favorite album of all time, just in case we’re worried about stocking stuffers for him. Paula can’t think of a better way to open the show and adds that although Alanis is rock royalty, Josh held his own and kept his identity, dignity and integrity throughout. Alanis typically demands that the people she performs with totally debase themselves to sing with her, so Josh really lucked out this time.
Enough with the fawning, Simon says. We’re still judging this thing. He thinks Alanis is amazing and cute and notes that Josh seemed intimidated at the beginning of the song. He thinks the song was an 8 out of 10 and that Josh got into gear as the song progressed. Nicole drawls that great artists can give to the audience and to the other person on stage and Josh is a giving artist. Giving us a bad performance, that’s what he’s giving.
Let’s go to Wooster, OH, where Josh’s Gammy is standing by to give us a live update about what’s going on in the high school gym. You won’t believe it, she yells into the mic. Women are wearing buttons! No one can hear her! She loves Josh! His dad grabs the mic and tells him to “kick it boy, kick it!” It’s super cute and Gammy and Dad do a great job. Let’s get Gam-gam on the nightly news and fix those declining ratings!
“Reporting live from a gym full of drunken fools, this is Josh’s Nana. Back to you in the studio!”
Chris Rene’s first performance of the night is Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated.” It’s good to see that The X Factor is on the cutting edge of today’s hottest music. Chris starts the song and sounds exactly like I do when I sing in the shower. I’ll let you imagine what that sounds like.
Chris introduces Avril and he looks relieved when she comes out on stage and starts squawking, too. They’re both sort of bouncing around and doing bad karaoke and Chris has a couple of weak rap lines he throws in. Again, a relief when the song is over.
Steve wants to know: What was it like for Avril to work with Chris? She says Chris is amazing and everyone should vote for him. “He definitely kicked ass.”
“We concur,” answers Steve. Ever so polite, isn’t he? And using the royal “we.”
Nicole says the performance was a little shaky in the takeoff but by the end, Chris’s energy and light around him were so “flippin’ infectious” and he made the song his own. Stay irritating, Nicole. Your weirdness is your only hope for staying on this show.
Paula says the competition isn’t about singing perfectly, or even adequately; it’s about energy and performance and the song “Complicated” is the antithesis of Chris’s foundation. I think that someone gave Paula and Nicole Word of the Day calendars recently.
Simon is confused by the critiques and thought the beginning of the song was iffy but he felt Chris’s joy at the end. LA thinks that he could release a recording of the performance tomorrow and it would be a number one hit. In rural Bangladesh, perhaps. Not here. I can’t imagine there’s an audience for poseur punk pop and vanilla bean rap compilations.
Steve wants to check in with Chris’s hometown crew, specifically his next door neighbor Susan. What’s the atmosphere like in Santa Cruz, Steve wants to know. Susan says it’s electric! It’s awesome! It’s insane! There’s also a baker there who made a face cake for Chris because she was so inspired by him. The cake’s ingredients: meth, cigarette butts, sweat and an uptempo reggae beat. Some of Chris’s friends from rehab are also there and they believe in him! Chris cries and the cake lady adds “desperate tears” to her list of ingredientses for future cakes.
Melanie’s first song of the night is “I Believe I Can Fly.” There’s no way she’s getting off the ground in that heavy, hideous dress. She sounds a bit nervous and is singing in a lower key than usual, but she still manages to sound the best so far. After she introduces R. Kelly, about seven tons of gold confetti begin to float down toward them and pretty soon there’s confetti in their hair, in R. Kelly’s giant hipster glasses, and Melanie is spitting some out of her mouth. For the next season of The X Factor I don’t think that it would kill the producers to reign it in a little. Less is more sometimes, you know?
“It burns my eyeeesssss!”
So Mel and R. finish the song singing to one another and holding hands and R. sings that he believes Melanie can fly and Melanie sings to the audience that she can fly if they’re by her side and I’m pretty sure if she wins this thing she’s going to be the most earnest, boring celebrity ever. Perhaps R. Kelly could teach her how to make videos of herself urinating on teenagers and then she, too, can have one of the most important songs written in the last 50 years. That’s what LA Reid says, at least. He also adds that Melanie got totally overshadowed by R. and points out that the song wasn’t in her key.
Nicole thought Melanie did the best she could since she had to sing in R. Kelly’s key, but LA calls that an excuse. Paula thought it quite the privilege to sing that song with R. Kelly — he’s never done a duet with anyone on that song before — and though Paula wanted more from Melanie, she does say that Melanie sang with conviction.
Simon tells Melanie not to listen to Grumpy and Dumpy — she showed respect to R. and she looked like a talented pro, not someone performing in what is actually a very expensive school talent show.
At Melanie’s church over in Florida, Bishop Fernandez is excited, they’re praying for her and her faith in God will take her all the way. Sorry Bishop Fernandez, but Simon is Melanie’s god now and she’ll be worshipping at the alter of fame and fortune from this point forward.
So… I didn’t really want to talk about the Cirque du Soleil commercial that was plopped down in the middle of this episode, but we really need to discuss these robots.
What are they and what do they have to do with Michael Jackson and the song “They Don’t Really Care About Us?” And how hot and smelly was it for the dancers who were inside those things? And how could they see? And why did their chests light up? And who put Melanie in that terrible outfit? One very important fact came out in this segment: Josh absolutely cannot dance. No step-touch, step-touch for him. No marching in place. No touching the tip of his nose with his finger. Just a stage full of awkward. Steve Jones tells us that the performance was “crazy good” and if there’s one person whose opinion counts on this show… it’s not his.
Josh’s final song of the competition is the same song he auditioned with: “At Last.” He’s playing the acoustic guitar and sounds great. He’s in key, just the right amount of growly and he easily transitions between soft and strong. It’s an odd song choice to leave us with; it’s a good performance, but that’s not the kind of artist he is. At least I don’t think so. All season, he just seemed to do a solid job on whatever is handed to him. He does give good crazy face, though, and that keeps things interesting, I suppose.
LA is proud of the performance and thinks that Josh looks at home on stage — like a rock star. Paula thinks he’s one of the most authentic, real, kind-hearted people she’s ever met. Any notes on the performance, P? No? OK, moving on to Simon who thought the song choice was risky but calls it a $5 million song. Nicole is in awe and says that America should believe in the “flippin’ Krajcik magic.” Sometimes she talks like someone who spent many a summer at Bible camp.
Back in Wooster, OH, Josh’s best friend Wade is screaming into a microphone and terrifying the child he’s holding while the mayor declares it Josh Krajcik day in Wooster. The epitome of achievement. Also, what does that mean? Are schools closed? Does Josh get to run the entire town for the day? Free burritos for everyone?
Chris’s final competition song is also the one he auditioned with: “Young Homie.” As you may recall from the auditions, Chris arrived at tryouts having been sober for a very short amount of time. He’d written “Young Homie” during that time and for Wednesday night’s performance he updated it to reflect being sober for eight months and his place in the competition. This is the third time he’s done “Young Homie” on the show, which is a little weak sauce, but this is the only song he’s actually sounded really good on, so the idea of using audition songs for the finale might really pay off in his favor.
After the performance, Nicole says that we all have a purpose in life and Chris is serving his purpose with that song. It’s a special purpose and hopefully Patty will help Chris discover more about it.
That Patty sure does sound like a nice girl…
Paula thinks that Chris is magical, just like the little elves and unicorns she can see running around behind him. Simon thinks it’s a $5 million song. LA says that Chris poured all of himself into the song and he hopes that people will vote for him.
Simon introduces Melanie for the last time by saying that she’s singing a song that has made a big difference in her life and “all of our lives.” Oooo! That sounds amazing. What is it? It’s just “Listen” from Dreamgirls. I guess Simon didn’t mean my life. I suppose he’s referring to the fact that it was Melanie’s audition song and therefor it’s what brought her to him. Via video, we briefly re-live the fact that Melanie was booted from the show and then brought back on during auditions. I’m fairly certain that was all contrived, by the way. She’s obviously an amazing singer and they just upped the drama to make her story that much better.
Anyway, clad in an evening gown and blazer, Melanie goes all out with her final performance and just belts every note. There’s no subtlety there, but I think that’s probably what she needed for this. She ends the song on a giant killer note and then just looks completely overwhelmed and wiped out.
Nothing about the performance explained why there was a giant metal vagina on stage behind her…
LA says it wasn’t a $5 million performance — it was a $50 million performance! Nicole says that Melanie was the first person at auditions that she felt connected to and that’s what music’s all about. Paula calls it a stellar performance. Simon is proud that he brought the show to America because some of the greatest singers in the world are from here. He thinks Melanie should win the show based on this performance alone.
Back in Florida, the mayor of Sunrise dressed up to be on national television in jeans and a polo shirt. He says that they all believe Melanie can fly and when she’s finished going all over the world, she should come home to Sunrise. As a communications professional, I appreciate him staying on message and getting free advertising for the town. Something tells me that Melanie has already left Sunrise behind but wouldn’t mind returning to burn the place down. Meanwhile, the little girl next to Mayor McCheese perfectly captures my feelings about this show:
“No! Make it stop! Can’t… quit… watching…”
So, those were the final performances! Did they live up to your expectations? Would you buy an album from any of these people? Did all of the guest performers remind anyone else of high school? Because that’s where I was when they reached the height of their popularity… Anyway, best of luck to these people. I hope the fame and money are everything they dreamed it’d be. I hope they don’t choke on the good fortune they’ve come across.
Mrs. Snarklesbee is a speed demon, so she will have the final finale final show recap up soon! Hope you enjoyed the season and have a wonderful New Year!
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