The X Factor Recap: Thanksgiving Up the Ghost
I’ve tried to be a good boy this year — and not just because I want a new pony. The problem is, my job requires me to watch The X Factor for a living, and it’s turning me into a monster.
No, seriously, the cynical, horrible questions that went through my mind during Top 10 performance night left me feeling like I’d booked a one-way ticket to Hell; now it’s just a matter of whether I’m going express or local.
What kinds of questions am I contemplating, you ask? Oh, I dunno: As Diamond White talked about how her mother “died on the operation table” during surgery for scoliosis, I was overcome with the urge to Google “Can you really die from scoliosis?” Later, as the kind of annoying chick from Fifth Harmony gave a tearful account of how she was born at a mere 1 lb, 4 oz, a little voice in my head said, “I wonder if producers fact-checked that info with her local hospital.”
See? The X Factor has released the Kraken, and the Kraken is me!
Other burning questions that percolated during the telecast: Doesn’t Tate Stevens have anything more depressing to talk about than his dad giving up his own music dreams to provide a solid living for their family? That’s just good common sense, not a tragedy! Did Vino Alan just pull a Kristy Lee Cook by singing a song that makes you feel like a traitor to your country if you don’t throw a couple votes his way? Have the guys of Emblem3 changed their shirts since Judges’ Houses round? Does Britney Spears know the difference between an Arin Ray and a Carly Rose Sonenclar? (Spoiler alert: Probably not.)
But Santa, the thing you need to know is I’m not the Grinch. I’m not Scrooge. I’m not even Vanessa Williams in A Diva’s Christmas Carol. I got totally choked up hearing CeCe Frey talk about how her older sister died at age seven from cerebral palsy. My heart broke for Paige Thomas hearing her talk about how at age six, she lost her mother on Christmas Eve. I didn’t even throw anything at my TV screen when they cut to a shot of Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, and those other people who are always on E!.
It’s just that piled into one sloppy heap of emotional manipulation, this week’s X Factor “Thanksgiving”-themed telecast was a tough plate to digest. I tune in to this show every week to watch wannabe singing stars compete with their voices and with their creativity for a record contract — not to reward one of ‘em with $5 million for having endured the greatest degree of hardshup and horror in the course of their young lives.
And when these sob stories get harvested from the individual (and totally innocent) contestants, then placed on a conveyor belt to be sterilized, shaped, and packaged for mass consumption, it makes for the strangest kind of viewing experience. Do I laugh? Do I cry? Do I work through my feelings by sending hate Tweets at Mario Lopez for dropping verbal bombs like “It’s all right. I was a fat baby, too”? Is this why Khloe Kardashian’s facial expression keeps alternating between frozen grin and total nothingness? Is she suffering an existential crisis, too?
I don’t know, Santa. It’s only one night in a long series of nights of The X Factor‘s second season. Maybe Top 8 week won’t be so bad. I promise I’ll bring my most upbeat, positive attitude to next week’s show — as long as you promise to vote 10 times for Beatrice Miller.
p.s. Here are my grades for this week’s performances (I’m keeping my critiques as short as Britney’s because it’s Thanksgiving eve, y’all, and I need my proper rest if I’m going to be named 2012 Eating Champion after dinner with my in-laws):
Diamond White: Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” | Her vocal was so spot-on, I didn’t even mind the cliché of a Gospel chorus emerging from behind the curtains on the final refrain. L.A.’s “get it, girl!” head-bobbing said it all. Grade: A-
Carly Rose Sonenclar: “Over the Rainbow” | Yowza, this youngster has more vocal horsepower than five Paiges, three CeCes, and a Demi combined. And while there’s part of me that wished she sang a little more from the heart, and a little less from the head, there’s no point in denying she’s a major talent. (Anyone wondering if she can coast to the finale without ever again going uptempo?) Grade: A-
Beatrice Miller: Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” | I know, I know…half of Beatrice’s big showy notes were as wobbly as Aunt Nancy’s Thanksgiving Jell-O mold, but on a visceral level, I just didn’t care — partially because it was clear the kid was a little choked up, and partially because she’s the most (only?) emotionally raw contestant in the competition. For me, when Beatrice sings, it’s more about feeling the music rather than listening to it, and that’s why she gets…a B+