Well guys, it’s been a long, strange, melisma-filled trip together, but it looks like we’ve come to the end of the road. What does all that nonsense mean, you ask? Well, this will be the last of The AV Club’s coverage of Simon Cowell’s hairy chest—err, The X Factor. Rather than dwell on how hard it will be for me to have to stifle my need to talk at length about Britney’s delightful reactions or Demi’s hair choices, let’s just keep it brief and say that it’s been a real treat getting to be here with you and this bizarre show.
In fact, thanks to the lovely Carrie Raisler stepping in last week, I only realized after the fact how I was lucky enough to miss the first week of Bootcamp on The X Factor. Her summary of the complete insanity of it all—particularly the disconnect between what’s happening on screen and one’s ability to understand what that is, exactly—stacks up. And after picking back up this week for the end of boot camp and the beginning of a period I assume is just known as “Judges’ Houses,” things are as off-kilter as always.
The tail-end of boot camp begins with a long montage of the judges—who still have yet to form any semblance of chemistry as a foursome — carefully deliberating their choices about who will stay and who will be cut from the four categories chosen to move on. Then, over what feels like an hour of ridiculous, melodramatic music, the hopeful auditioners are brought in to find out if they’ve made one of the coveted six slots per group moving on to the next round. It’s dragged out to a deliriously slow pace that begins to feel like one giant, teary, and truly uncomfortable scene. But lest you think these judges are monsters, they throw the audience a big, sloppy curveball at the end by bringing in a select group from those who’ve just been axed and giving them a second chance at moving forward. They’re arranged into a few, completely new groups and given the go-ahead. Tears! Near-elimination! Oh the emotional roller coaster we’re meant to feel we’re on! (P.S. Did you guys know on the X Factor’s official website there’s this “Gallery of Tears”?)
For those keeping track, this means that the groups have been officially decided. The four categories that the hopefuls will be performing in are the following: Teens (12-16 years old), Young Adults (18 through early 20s), Over 25 (enough said), and Groups. They’ve also each been assigned a mentor judge for their category and the breakdown is the following: Teens go to Brit, Young Adults to Demi, Over 25 to L.A., and Groups to Simon. Phewf. All caught up? Makes sense? No? Doesn’t matter.
Just a note that for the sake of time, I’m gonna hit on some highlights that took place over the course of the week’s two episodes. And if you even think I’m going to spend the whole time dissecting Emblem3, with a focused study of “tank it bro”… you just might be in luck! No, just kidding. Sorry guys, but we can only dream of a forum where open button-ups with bare chests underneath, ruddy cheeks, and beached-out fake reggae tunes are worthy of their own full recap.
Speaking of our favorite SoCal bros, all of the contestants in the “groups” category are driven to judge Simon Cowell’s Miami home via a yacht for their time with their chosen mentor judge. Yeah, sure! While his house is on the water, it feels like it’s really more for playing up the whole saucer-eyed bumpkin-ism of the contestants as they come face-to-face with massive wealth and success to a ridiculous degree.
In a truly surprising turn, Emblem3 and the groups end up being the real beacon of light for the entire week. Considering half the groups auditioning were put together by the show and the performers only had days to learn their songs, I was majorly impressed. It seemed Simon and his sidekick for the week, singer Marc Anthony (’cause… Miami?) also realized the truly overwhelming amount of talent in their pool. While our fave surf brahs did well-enough (minus a stumble or two), the real showstoppers were Lryic145 (featuring the duo One4Five and standalone rapper Lyric Da Queen in a newly made trio) and Lylas, the brand new, five-woman group assembled by the show. Lylas’ near-perfect rendition of the Shontelle song “Impossible” was so well performed it completely proved the point of these insane shows. For all the terrible, contrived drama and unpleasantness of watching people fail at their dreams in front of TV cameras, there’s the ability to bring together five girls who have relatively no experience performing as a group and watch them sing the living hell out of a song right before your eyes.
Back in L.A. the young adults are arriving at a “cool downtown loft” that we’re supposed to believe is where Demi lives. They’re all appropriately bowled over by it and nearly wig out when she brings in her guest mentor (“and friend!!!!”) Nick Jonas. I will say the real-life familiarity between Demi and Nick made their behind-the-scenes chatter re: the contestants a lot more natural than all the other judge-mentor pairings, but overall Demi’s lot is an uneven one. It seems her group has a case of nerves so that one-time standouts like Rihanna-knockoff Paige and cute rocker Jennel Garcia come across as lukewarm at best. Meanwhile, silly, face-painted CeCe finally gets the very awkward and very produced note that her catty attitude and mediocre singing hasn’t made her the most likeable contestant. Through all the faux-drama, Demi continues to come across as warm, relaxed, and genuinely connected to a lot of her team, which is a pretty big feat for these quasi-robotic judges.
Speaking of robots, let’s head over to see what’s happening at L.A. Reid-bot’s house! While he was initially unhappy with his Over 25s, he seems to have taken a break from making people feel old and pathetic by the time the cameras show up at his Hollywood mega-mansion. The house looks over the hills, creating a lovely backdrop for each of the auditioners as they perform for Reid and his guest mentor, Justin Bieber (and his manager… named Scooter!). Of the group, the standouts are few and far between. I’m still rooting for charming Jason, especially after his completely mesmerizing take on Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” His slightly glam-goth look didn’t fare as well in the burning Hollywood sunshine, but he didn’t look too worse for the wear. Emotional mess David Correy also brought out the big guns during his take on Jessie J’s “Domino,” though he still seems uneven and too emotionally needy to be able to hack it during the competition. One of the bigger disappointments had to be country crooner Tate Stevens, who fumbled his way through Brian McKnight’s “Back At One.” It was a poor choice for his velvety voice and showcased nerves more than ability. And you know what? I’m not even talking about vocal instructor Tara’s cover of a Hoobastank song. Nope.
The last stop of the parade of beautiful homes is Britney’s Malibu mansion, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Her Teens group proves to be the closest competitors to Simon’s after a series of top-notch performances—particularly Diamond White’s lovely take on Avril Lavigne’s “I’m With You” and Carly Rose’s searing version of Karmin’s “Brokenhearted.” Rose was so impressive she even scared guest mentor will.i.am into describing her as a “dragon” who is “scorching the town” with her singing voice. I love imagining will.i.am imagining fire-breathing dragons, by the way.
There’s really no way around discussing what on earth is going on with Britney’s whole look this week. The partially blue hair! The ill-fitting dress! The grease pencil eye makeup! It’s long been a personal fascination to see how hard Britney must work to frustrate her stylists and tonight’s episode did not disappoint. Also, she had her shoes off in a few shots and it was a delight to see the camera desperately trying to hide it with quick cuts. It’s so easy to imagine her just yelling, “No, ya’ll! It’s my house and I’m not wearing my damn shoes! Deal with it!” And then some crew guys probably made some terrible “It’s Britney, bitch” joke under the breath and all was right in the world.
Next week, it’s time to hear the final decisions for the judges regarding their groups. At this point, it’s pretty clear who will likely sink and who will swim, though there are enough wildcards to keep the competition interesting. The show itself is certainly as big of a train wreck as Carrie described last week but its weird charm has grown on me in a way I could not have expected. If nothing else, Britney’s guffaws and Simon’s puffy face have become enough to keep me perplexed and curious. There are also some serious contenders in the mix, as Lylas and a handful of others showed this week. While The A.V. Club won’t be covering any future episodes of the circus known as The X Factor, just know I’ll be sitting here spending far too many minutes of my own life contemplating Britney’s hair and crossing my fingers that we get to see Emblem3 reign as shirtless kings.
- will.i.am’s red shoes! He thinks he’s the Pope now that he’s written 10,000 terrible hits?!
- Jason holding his giant martini in the post-performance hang sesh was totally fitting.
- Yikes on Demi’s blonde hair and dark eyebrows combo. Sheesh, girl.
- The blue taffeta mermaid tail that Paige is wearing? I, uhhh, what?
- Bieber’s leather pants and long, open vest completely distracted me for a good minute straight.
- “Ugh, dance moves,” says Emblem3 while watching Dope Crisis members dancing during their version of “Super Bass.” The Emblem3 giveth and the Emblem3 taketh away.