The X Factor Recap: Rain of Terror [Updated]

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You know there’s something seriously wrong in the world — or at least on your TV screen — when a 13-year-old boy is looking into the camera and, without the slightest hint of irony or humor, declares “this is the climax of my life.” Hello, and welcome to The X Factor.

I’m still not sure why there was no “TV: MSP” warning in the upper left side of my screen — that’s short for “Middle-Schooler, Please!” — but Fox’s second-string reality singing competition isn’t really to blame. Sure, judge L.A. Reid continued to perpetrate the myth tonight that life (or at least the opportunity to have a big-time singing career) ends at 24, but that’s just a a symptom of our youth-driven modern age, isn’t it?

And a symptom of an age where baseball is still considered the national pasttime — and here I thought it was sitting on the couch, stuffing one’s gullet and guzzling vino in front of the telly — a rain delay of the Major League Baseball playoffs between the Cardinals and the Giants (no, that’s not one of Simon Cowell’s X Factor groups) meant a delayed start time and and early finish for Top 16 Announcement Night (for east-coast viewers). (Get all the details on the scheduling snafu here.) In fact, only 10 of the acts who’ve made it to the Season 2 live shows were announced during the east-coast telecast. Simon Cowell was not amused, as evidenced by his post-show Tweet: “It [sic] what’s known as a total f up.

West coast X Factor junkies might want to close their browser windows now. For the rest of you, let’s run down the contestants who were shown advancing to the live shows (listed by category, in order from least to most promising):

The Teens (age 12-16) mentored by Britney Spears
Yowza this is an evenly matched category! Britney didn’t cut the Easter egg dye that accidentally stained her lower locks, but she certainly cut her two weakest links — middling rapper James Tanner and Bieber-y young’un Reed Deming, who has clearly been groomed since the womb to speak in digestible sound bites about his reality-show “journey” (such as the “climax” comment from my opening paragraph). The duo were sent to some kind of quarrantine room — so as not to spread the contageon of their low blood-charisma counts — while their four rivals slaughtered a ceremonial goat in Simon’s backyard. (I kid! I kid!) My favorite part of Britney’s segment came when she made an insane, twisted face, then croaked “That’s horrible!” after she kicked James to the curb. My least favorite was every time Britney called someone “sweetie.” J’enough! Actually, maybe we can turn that bit of verbal compulsion into an at-home drinking game? Huzzah!

(Side note: After Reed was ousted, the director played his gracious farewell about being happy for the quartet who’d advanced, then cut to a shot of a tranquil Pacific view outside Britney’s home. At that moment, I could not shake the image of Haley Joel Osment’s robot boy sinking to the bottom of the sea at the end of Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Please someone tell me I’m not alone in my macabre reverie!)

Anyhow, based on auditions, Bot [typo, and it stays] Camp, and final performances, I’d rank the Teens as follows, though, really you could arrange them a dozen different ways and be just as right as I am:

4) Diamond White: I know, I know…I hate myself for putting her fourth out of four, too. Nobody puts Diamond in a corner! Especially if that corner containe no TV cameras!

3) Carly Rose Sonenclar: Note how confident this kid is, stating before she knew her fate that it was possible she might not advance, not because she didn’t perform well, but  only if she didn’t turn out to be what the show was looking for.

2) Arin Ray: Will he get votes from all the members of his pre-fab fofmer Season 1 kids’ group InTENsity? If “yes,” that’s good for at least 10,000-20,000 votes, no? (They had a lot of kids on that stage last year!)

1) Beatrice Miller: How can you not fall for a young lady with 100 bracelets wrapped around her wrist, and a perfect control of her own pitch?

Over 25s mentored by LA Reid
When L.A. initially participated in his “I don’t want to mentor the Over 25s!” temper tantrum, I figured it was just a producer-driven interlude to stir up a little midseason drama. But again last night, he welcomed his half-dozen remaining contenders by declaring, “It’s no secret that this is not my favorite category.” Why the face? Does L.A. feel like his contestants are so old and decrepit that his only options are assigning them something from the Lawrence Welk Show archives or hiring a nurse to euthanize them? I do not get — or appreciate — this man’s attitude.

Nevertheless, at least L.A. was reasonably kind in cutting Daryl Black and Tara Simon. You knew the former singer was going home the minute he sat down across from L.A. and the mournful strains of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” kicked in. I mean, if dude’s fate was a happy one, surely they’d have gone with “Paradise” or “Viva la Vida.” L.A. said he was letting Daryl go because he had questions about his fire and star quality, which made me wish we’d seen a little more footage of his Boot Camp and Judges’ Houses performances so we could form our own educated opinions on the matter.

Tara, meanwhile, brought so much ridiculous drama — going on and on about all the no’s she’s gotten through the years that should’ve been yeses — that I started to believe she was an actress hired by Simon Cowell to play the role of a deluded, moderately talented vocal coach who would come dangerously close to the live shows. That feeling didn’t go away after L.A. axed Tara, and she left the show with this insane parting shot: “He just got rid of someone who could be a Kelly Clarkson or a Carrie Underwood or a Christina Aguilera.” I fully expect her to book a three-episode arc on Touch, or maybe The Mindy Project, by early 2013.

So let’s rank #LAOver25s” heading into the live shows:
4) Tate Stevens: Tate really needs to be careful about how many times he complains about his former asphalt-laying job on camera. Because, honestly, unless he cracks the Top 5, he might have to go back to it someday soon, no?

3) David Correy: Similarly, David has brought up his “I’m singing so I can find my birth mother” back story so many times, it’s reached a point where all I do anymore is wince and wonder how that makes his adoptive parents feel. I did appreciate that David wore bright yellow pants to his final judgment, though, and feel like he’s got as much raw talent as anyone in the competition. In other words, L.A. might not have faith in his group, but I firmly believe they’ve got a legitimate chance in Season 2.

2) Vino Alan: For the last few weeks, Vino’s looks — or namely the tattoos that adorn his face and fully cover his scalp — have been the semi-unspoken clouds hanging over his chances in the competition. (L.A.’s repetition last week of “What about the package?” was code for “Will Vino scare the audience?”) Which is why I loved the guy’s plainspoken admission that most strangers on the street think he’s either an MMA fighter or “an inmate just released.” It would help Vino’s chances if he’d occasionally crack a smile or try to show some humor — his relentless stoicism does have a slightly post-prison feel to it — but I’m really glad his mentor didn’t assume the worst of the viewing audience and kick Vino (and his chipotle-smoked tone) to the curb. Because I think one of Season 2′s best potential subplots will come if Vino performs to his full vocal potential, and we discover how soon (if it all) those tattoos and overly macho stance will be a problem for the voting public in 2012.

1) Jason Brock: This flamboyant fella had L.A. wondering, “Can you become a massive star? Do you really fit?” But those questions miss the point of shows like The X Factor. L.A. has been a part of the major-label system for so long, that he might not realize that the average joe yearns for the era when chart-toppers could actually go on stage and sing as well — or better! — live, than they could with studio trickery. The X Factor is a chance to overthrow a system that allowed Ashlee Simpson to become a millionaire while Jason was toiling away at a tech-support job. I think his monster instrument — which seems like it could fit anything from rock to blues to pop — could carry him through the competition well into the holiday season.

The Young Adults (age 17-24) mentored by Demi Lovato
Jennel Garcia and Willie Jones got the green light from Demi, but the fate of her remaining acts was left unknown when Fox randomly cut into an episode of The Mindy Project, and then the balance of that blasted baseball game! Given that weirdness, I’m going to save my detailed recap of the proceedings till it airs in full on Tuesday.

If you’re dying to know who else made it through from Demi’s group — as well as the fates of the first three acts in Simon Cowell’s Groups category, it’s worth mentioning that Canadian broadcasters played more of the Top 16 announcement episode than their U.S. counterparts, and someone who caught those results has posted spoilers down in the comments section. I’ll refrain from putting them in the text of this story — so purists can remain unscathed — but impatient types should know that the scroll-down function of your mouse can get you the intel you need.

And with that, let me turn things over to you:

Who were your favorites from The X Factor‘s third Judges’ Houses episode? Were there any decisions that made you angry? Hit the comments with your thoughts!


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