The X Factor: “Top 9 - Results”
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The X Factor: “Top 9 - Results”

And so the saga of Astro vs. The X Factor comes to a close... for now. In tonight's more or less tightly paced results show, America chose controversy over niceness, and though I wish the best for LeRoy Bell and Lakoda Rayne, I have to agree with the decision. In a way, tonight's eliminations merely got the inevitable out of the way, but it did so with no small amount of well-orchestrated suspense and a whole lotta clowns.

We don't waste any time, jumping right into Kelly Clarkson's performance of “What Doesn't Kill You.” Kelly is practically contractually obligated to appear on every singing competition at least once, as she is the living, breathing best-case scenario for all of them. It's a good, rousing song, a great way to kick off the evening. The crowd goes wild! Howie Mandel goes wild! I'm just glad that we seem to have moved out of the Willow Smith guest talent bargain basement for good.

We do the typical recap of last night, and in case you went to the bathroom or called your mom here, you didn't miss much; there wasn't that much new behind-the-scenes info this time around, but hey, it's sure a reliable way to kill a good five minutes of airtime. The show is rolling along at a nice clip at this point, KClarks sounded great, and everyone is anxiously awaiting the first round of results. The ball's in your court, so how do you want to screw this up, X Factor?

Enter the Pepsi Choice Performance. I don't even really know how to explain what happened here. Apparently, Artie from Glee had everyone go online and vote for the ultimate crowd-sourced X Factor performance, and what they came up with was a circus themed set with hip hop harlequins, a laser light show, and a P!nk/Katy Perry mashup. “This is going to be insane,” says Steve Jones, the most accurate and insightful words he's said yet on this show. All I could think while watching this trainwreck was, this is somebody's last performance on The X Factor. And I couldn't think of a single act that I would wish such an undignified swan song on.

The unlucky party in question turned out to be Lakoda Rayne, eliminated in a totally anticlimactic choice between them and Drew. Even Drew, who I'm sure was terribly nervous during tonight's show after receiving the third bad critique of her life last night, seemed to calm down a bit once she realized it was either her or the Rayne heading home. The girls didn't get even a goodbye number or anything. “The dream is over,” Steve Jones said morosely, causing me to spit up my PepsiMax. “The dream is NOT over!” the blonde one (see what I did there?) responds. You hear that, Simon? You've created a monster, and if you don't book them as the opening act on Taylor Swift's next tour, you're going to make the blonde one look very foolish.

No sooner had the girls packed their knives and left, than it was time for our second guest performer, Bruno Mars. I don't care much for Mr. Mars, even if he does think I'm amazing just the way I am. But this was a fine performance, and it actually reminded me that Marcus has a bit in common vocally (not necessarily stylistically) with him. Now that he's safe (spoiler alert!), he should probably step back from the Bobby Brown and Boyz II Men and try to make girls who were born after 1990 (and who make up the majority of voters) swoon with something more contemporary.

The rest of the safe contestants are revealed after that, and it comes down to Marcus, LeRoy, and Astro. This is when the truth would come out: Does it pay to be pompous on a talent show? And apparently, it does. Astro is safe! Which leaves us with two acts in the bottom who had never been there before, and both Leroy and Marcus look a little shell shocked. They lipsync sing for their lives, and though Marcus is up first. I initially figured he had it in the bag, despite, getting overcome by emotion at a few points and falling flat on a couple notes, but I have to say that LeRoy also put up a formidable fight. “Don't Let Me Down” was such a fantastic choice for his voice, and if he could have brought that much fervor to his performances over the past several weeks, he might not have found himself in the bottom this early on.

The votes reach a deadlock for the first time, and rather than a rap battle or bareknuckle boxing match, the winner is then decided by number of votes. I didn't know how the deadlock worked before tonight, and I felt a little like the gang did after realzing that the winner of CharDee MacDennis would be determined by a coin flip: That's what we thought of? So Steve opens his little envelope, and as I probably would have predicted, LeRoy's going home.

I can't decide if I'd believe Paula's claim that LeRoy will go on to sell millions of records. It's easy to see either possibility as viable when you're this deep in the madness and delusion of competition. At any rate, he's had a good ride, but it would have been more regrettable if Marcus had to leave at this stage. I feel like that kid still has a ton more up his sleeve. It will be interesting to see how the experience of being in the bottom two affects his approach to the rest of the competition.

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