Last week was Halloween week, so fittingly, and sometimes horrifyingly, the TV singing-show scene was a virtual bloodbath. Several promising contestants got the Voorhees-esque axe on both "The Voice" and "The X Factor," in a series of brutal cuts, and it was no thriller.
Over on Fox, "The X Factor" finally went live, although the top 16 semifinalists were still competing for their respective coaches, not for the public's votes. One contestant per team was cut on Thursday, and while a couple of the judges made smart decisions--or at least the best decisions they could make under such difficult circumstances--two other judges (L.A. Reid, Britney Spears, I'm looking at you) foolishly eliminated strong contenders who really should have made the top 12. Britney sent home the young girl with an old soul, Diamond White, despite the fact that Diamond had clearly won in a sing-off against Season 1 InTENsity reject/heartthrob Arin Ray. And L.A., who just might be an even worse judge than Britney, dumped David Correy, a guy many thought actually had a chance to win the entire competition.
On the brighter and bolder side, two of the show's most dazzling performers did make "The X Factor's" top 12. Jason "Mr. Entertainment" Brock, a 35-year-old former IT tech who comes across like the big glittery lovechild of Rip Taylor and Liza-with-a-Z, somehow made it through, despite Simon Cowell declaring him "utterly horrendous" and his own mentor, L.A., forgetting his name on the air. (Rude!) I really have no idea how L.A. failed to recall the name of a Vegas-y showman who performed a J.Lo club banger in a zebra-patterned lounge-lizard jacket while flanked by feather-headdressed showgirls and Sprockets dancers in midriff tops, then dared to fondle the rear end of hunky new host Mario Lopez. I dunno, that all seemed pretty memorable to me. But maybe Jason will make a bigger, better, and more lasting impression on his pathetically apathetic coach when he performs this week, hopefully with even more showgirls, even more himbo dancers, and even more exploding glitter. And Mario Lopez better watch his back, literally.
The other "X Factor" standout was hip-pop trio Lyric 145, whose awesomely eyepatched frontwoman, Lyric Da Queen, is clearly the "Mrs. Entertainment" of this show. Lyric 145's performance of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's "Boom Shake The Room," mashed up with a bit of PSY's "Gangnam Style," made me feel like "The X Factor" had just gotten preempted for a 1989 rerun of "Yo! MTV Raps," and--to quote an oft-used Britney catchphrase--I was thoroughly entertained.
Some other important takeaways from "The X Factor's" first live week:
-- L.A. Reid really isn't good with names. Along with his aforementioned brain fart when he genuinely forgot who Jason Brock was, he also called one of the girls in country trio Sister C "Middle C." Britney apparently also has her own name-retention issues: She referred to Ke$ha as "Keesha." And perhaps the most name-challenged judge of all is Simon, since, after his girl group LYLAS was forced to change its name for legal reasons, he actually rechristened them "1432." Come on. These talented girls deserved a better moniker than something that sounds like an ATM PIN code. Thankfully, Simon later admitted that 1432 was the most "rubbish" band name ever, and he announced that it would be changed again. The girls formerly known as LYLAS actually seemed more excited about this news than they were by the fact that they'd made the top 12. And who could blame them?
-- New co-host Khloe Kardashian is, so far, doing much better than expected. She's definitely an improvement over last year's fired emcee Steve Jones (not that that's saying much), and she continues to prove that she is The Least Annoying Kardashian (though that's really not saying much). But she shouts everything, with about as much voice-modulation control as Will Ferrell's "SNL" character Jacob Silj, seemingly totally unaware that a hot microphone is only about half an inch from her lips. And when someone else is using that mic--like, say, the poor girls from eliminated group Sister C, giving their goodbye speech--she tends to whisk it away from them while they're still in mid-sentence. Apparently spending the past few years of her life with a mic-pack strapped to her back, on her various E! reality shows, prepared her in no way for a job that involves operating an actual microphone.
-- There really needs to be an X Factor Drinking Game. Take a gulp every time Britney says "amazing," "I was thoroughly entertained," or "I was not expecting that"; every time Demi Lovato uses the word "eyes," flirts with a male contestant, or complains that she is bored and that a singer is "stiff"; or every time L.A. just acts like a jerk. Then get yourself to the nearest emergency room, because you'll probably have acute alcohol poisoning. Play this game responsibly, people.
Meanwhile, over on "The Voice," it was time for the Knockout Rounds, which were really just a continuation of the previous weeks' Battle Rounds, since, you know, these episodes just featured more singers battling. At the start of last Monday's broadcast, there were 40 singers standing, but by the following night, only 20 of them (five per team) remained. And quite a few supposed frontrunners were sadly not among those 20. Goth girl Caitlin Michele and double-threat dancing/singing sensation Avery Wilson shockingly got booted by their coach, Cee Lo Green. Christina Aguilera, a woman with a long history of bad judgment when it comes to both her "Voice" outfits and her "Voice" eliminations, cut two of her most interesting team members, buttery-smooth soulman Aquile and flamboyant Gaga backup vocalist Chevonne. And Adam Levine thwarted his chances of cornering the mass-texting girly vote by sending home adorably emo Artist Vs. Poet singer Joe Kirkland.
But the last cut was the deepest. On Tuesday's final "Voice" battle, Blake Shelton had to choose between keeping Cassadee Pope, the former frontwoman of failed pop-rock band Hey Monday, and Suzanna Choffel, the awesome Austin music teacher with the heart and hair of gold. Cassadee performed a cover of Maroon 5's "Payphone" that was just okay; she kind of payphoned it in, really. Suzanna, meanwhile, magnificently hit the stage in a Studio 54 onesie looking like Alison Goldfrapp, and although her cover of Bob Marley's "Could You Be Loved" wasn't the ideal showcase for her lovely voice, she still seemed like the clear victor. But Blake apparently isn't a big Marley fan, or a fan of metallic disco jumpsuits, or a fan of great singers, because he picked Cassadee instead--much to the horror of many Suzanna fans (Su-fan-nas?) who'd hoped to see her to go all the way to the finale.
Perhaps Blake just isn't as invested in "The Voice" as he used to be. Although Blake has officially signed on for spring 2013's Season 4 (unlike Cee Lo and Christina, who'll be going on hiatus to focus on their actual music careers), he has repeatedly, quite loudly complained about "The Voice's" new grueling two-seasons-a-year shoot schedule, and during one of his acceptance speeches at the CMA Awards last week, he somewhat disparagingly referred to his "Voice" gig as a "side job." (Ouch. Sorry, Mark Burnett.) But hey, if Blake keeps making dumb decisions like the one he made regarding Suzanna, then I encourage him to take as long a hiatus as he desires.
Meanwhile, if for some reason Cee Lo doesn't return to "The Voice" for Season 5, maybe he could get a side job filling in for Randy Jackson on "American Idol." During one of his critiques last Tuesday, Cee Lo attempted his best Randy impression, quipping, "Yo, dawg, that was hype, dope, and fresh!" (Maybe he was just trying to be Randy Jackson for Halloween?) Now I'm hoping that when "Idol" comes back in January, Randy gets some payback by impersonating Cee Lo. I'd personally love to see The Dawg holding a white Persian cat on his lap.
Moving to on to actual "Idol" news...lest you forget, "American Idol" is still the only one of these talent shows (in the U.S., at least) that has consistently produced any stars that actually sell any records. Reigning champ Phillip Phillips in fact recently hit new a "Idol" milestone by selling an unprecedented 2 million downloads of his coronation single, "Home." Will his debut album, The World From The Side Of The Moon, be as successful when it comes out November 19? Take a listen to brand-new, Yahoo!-premiered snippets from the album, and you can play judge:
Looking ahead to this coming week, it's obviously election time, but NBC and Fox execs are also hoping you'll cast your ballot for "The Voice" and "The X Factor," which are finally about to open up to public voting. But since there will be no "Voice" broadcast on Tuesday due to election night coverage (priorities, people, priorities!), the two shows will go head-to-head on Wednesday and Thursday this week. And I have a feeling that the popular vote, so to speak, will be very obvious, when "The Voice" wins in a ratings landslide. Talk about a TV bloodbath!