The X Factor Recap: Oh, Pairs! [Updated]

eddie combsA number of crimes involving the male torso went down on Thursday night’s installment of The X Factor. Simon Cowell rocked a neckline that plunged dangerously close to his netherregions. A member of boy band Emblem3 wore suspenders — without a shirt! (I’ll pause for a moment while you fight back the acrid taste of bile). And oh the sounds that got caught and killed in the chests of fresh-faced Willie Jones and wheelchair-bound Freddie Combs! (We’ll just assume the former’s were low and rumbly, in a bebeh-lock-them-dawwrs kinda way, and the latter’s were tremulous and overbaked.)

This is not to say I wasn’t entertained. On Day 2 of Boot Camp, The X Factor took a page from The Voice and pitted its final 60 acts in head-to-head matchups. What better way to maxmize fear, loathing, and hysterical tears. It’s unclear, though, if the judges are treating the showdowns as either/or propositions — this seems highly unlikely — or if they’ll just use the inevitable comparisons as an added tool to narrow the field to the 24 acts who’ll head to the Judges’ Houses (or Homes Rented and Passed Off as Judges’ Houses) round.

But enough housekeeping details. We’ve got news to dish!

And the winner of The X Factor Season 2 is…PEPSI DRAGON! Girl just makes the same whooshing sound over and over again, but on top of a Max Martin-produced slice of synth-pop, you can’t deny she’s music’s next big star.

I kid, I kid. What I really meant to do was recount my three favorite acts from the one-hour telecast. Drumroll please…

3) Dinah Jane Hansen
2) Tate Stevens
1) Diamond White

It’s telling that Dinah Jane and Diamond were engaged in a head-to-head duel. SAVE THEM BOTH, BRITNEY!

Honorable mention goes to Lyric Da Queen…because why wouldn’t it?

But let’s rewind and talk about all the store-brand “Battle Rounds” — or whatever The X Factor wants to call ’em.

* Tara Simon strong-armed Jennel Garcia into covering Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” but much like the natural disaster referenced in the song’s title, both contestants got muddied in the process. Tara punished every note like an overzealous nun with a class of rowdy kindergartners, while Jennel, struggling to figure out if there was a way to provocatively tousle her hair and grind her hips to the rhythm, quavered and wavered like a middlweight boxer who accidentally wound up in the heavyweight title match.

* To my ears, Carly Rose Sonenclar won the “only one preternaturally mature 13-year-old white girl can advance to the Judges’ Houses” showdown over Beatrice Miller. Still, while the duo displayed solid pitch and phrasing, I’m not sure I needed to hear middle-school girls spitting lines like “better run, better run, faster than my bullet.” (Does that make me a fuddy duddy? No, it just means I have better judgment than Simon Cowell.)

* A lot of questions crossed my mind when David Correy and Vino Allen tackled “What’s Going On?” as part of the “only one tattooed dude can advance to the Judges’ Houses” showdown. First up, is David going to mention his quest to meet his birth mother every time he’s in front of a camera, because it might make his “journey” unbearable as we march toward the inevitable live season-finale reunion Simon Cowell is probably already planning? Second, how much better was Demi Lovato’s makeup this week? Third, why doesn’t Vino know the cardinal rule of never reacting noticeably when you’ve missed a lyric? And finally, HOW COME THE PIANIST WAS WEARING LATEX GLOVES? Save that creeperie for Law & Order: SVU! Ultimately, while Vino’s voice is perhaps a tad more distinctive, it’s also less polished. Plus, I agree with Britney: “He scares me a little.”

* I can’t believe the judges paired Diamond White and Dinah Jane Hansen, but I guess they’re the last two standing in the “teenagers who live in crowded houses” category. At 13, Diamond seems a little more polished than her 16-year-old rival — you get the sense she’s had at least a year of auditions and acting lessons on her quest for musical stardom — but nevertheless genuine and adorable. Dinah, for her part, is a little more awkward, but also just a tad more soulful: Her struggles in life inform every note she sings. The duo’s stripped-down, slowed-down take on “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” would’ve been impressive from singers twice their age, and I can’t wait to see what these girls will be able to do if they make it to the live shows. Diamond’s voice proved slightly bigger when she powered through the glory notes, but I like the way Dinah adds a little stank to the ends of her phrases.

* Sister C and Lauren Jauregui — two of my audition-round favorites — sounded incredible on the four seconds of “These Arms of Mine” that the producers let us hear, but then we were treated to random comments from Britney and Demi about Sister C being “annoying” — without any footage to support that accusation. Nothing like seeing someone’s reputation get randomly stuffed into a bag and slammed repeatedly against a wall, right?

* I don’t want to hear 13-year-old Reed Deming sing something as mature as One Republic’s “Secrets.” Ick. No. Therefore Brandon Hassan wins the battle for me, for you.

* Ally Brooke outshone Julia Bullock on “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” (Man I love that song.)

* Jeffrey Gutt sounded rock-solid on “If I Die Young,” but what wretched backstage crime did his rival commit to cause the producers not to show one second of his singing, or even to identify him with a chyron?

* Under the heading of “continued random character assassinations,” Demi implied that, by choosing The Tony Rich Project’s “Nobody Knows” for their duet, 37-year-old Tate Stevens somehow sabotaged 17-year-old Willie Jones. “I think he knew what he was doing,” she huffed, after Willie totally blanked on his lyrics, and Tate finished the song with equal parts passion and restraint. But let’s be honest: If Willie’s going to succeed on The X Factor, this probably won’t be the last unfamiliar song he’s asked to cover. And once you’ve committed to a performance, it’s your job to grab the mic and remember those words — no matter how nervous or young or underprepared you are. Thanks, though, to previews for next week’s Judges’ Houses round — and Willie’s very distinctive hair — we know the kid will stay in the picture despite whiffing on Task Two.

* Arin Ray and sickeningly pretty Normani Hamilton turned “What Makes You Beautiful” into a romantic ballad, and it worked surprisingly well, even if his upper register is a little thin, and she tends to over-enunciate (which still beats mumbling, in my book).

* We then got treated to a disaster montage, kicking off with Jillian Jensen’s reasonably good cover of Sugarland’s “Stay,” while her duet partner Latasha Robinson blanked on her lyrics and began a fast and tearful descent into madness. “I humiliated myself,” she wept, as shark-like cameras hunted her through backstage corridors and supply cabinets, making sure to extend the bad vibes for as long as humanly possible. “Smile! You’re on X Factor!” Freddie Combs and Jessie Bryant turned “Up on the Roof” into a bizarre piece of performance art, punctuated by long silences and spoken-word improvisation. And Nick Youngerman did everything but beg for the Heimlich Maneuver as he shouted “I’m choking!” Britney, meanwhile, found it unbearable to witness the tears of one teenage-girl contestant who’s performance was circling the drain. I’m guessing Brit didn’t see Drew Ryniewicz, Rachel Crow, or InTENsity get ousted in Season 1.

* And finally it was time for Day 2 of CeCe “I paint my face with cheetah print and work in a post office” Frey vs. Paige “I’m an absurdly attractive single mom with confidence issues” Thomas. Paige entered whining about how CeCe had forced them into tackling One Republic’s “Secrets” — “I just feel like I got played a little bit,” she pouted — but even though CeCe has been painted as a villainess (or at least as a cocky diva in need of a takedown) since her audition, I felt no sympathy for Paige, not even when she blanked on the lyrics and started spitting out random bits of word salad. CeCe at least got all her lines right, but her voice sounded wobblier than an egg stood on its end. To be fair, both women had already been brought to the brink of tears with Simon’s “why do you want this?” line of questioning, but then again, you wouldn’t see Pepsi Dragon fall apart under pressure, would you?

Who were your favorites from The X Factor‘s fifth episode of Season 2? Were there any moments that made you cringe? Hit the comments with your thoughts!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Allison says:


  2. Forwarddad says:

    Seriously Michael – Tate?

  3. BarbL says:

    This whole week has sucked hind teat. So, we don’t even know who’s made it through to judges houses? Why does that surprise me? If Simon et al doesn’t step it up for the rest of the season, I don’t know how he’s going to be renewed for another year.

    • Lester Corncrake says:

      Its a mystery as to why he was renewed for this second season, let alone the 3rd. Someone once said somewhere that SycoTV and Fox have an unbreakable 3 season guarantee in the original XFactor contract. I believe this to be true give the lack of effort in re-inventing an ugly and derranged production. This season’s big change behind the addition of paitent Spears is the cheeky copying of Voice’s Battle Rounds. Thats it. Thats all they would think of to try help the Fox raise its ad rates to shakedown Pepsi et al.

      Simon has stopped caring because he knows its 3 and out for him. Why waste effort on reinvention and innovation when you are still probably costing the network money from all the Make-good advertising they had to put out for free last season to make up for the slipped demographic and share guarantees.

      It’s the reason they didnt hire a host early enough to get them geling with the producers and judges, it simply didnt matter, everyone knows XFactor has an expiry date stamped on it. Why waste the effort working in the new host?

      I’ll be glad when its gone. Nobody involved in this deserves to reap long term rewards.

  4. Raineri says:

    just a hint: Simon said twice in the beginning of the episode that its not a either/or thing. that both could stay, both could go, or only one could =)

  5. Samantha says:

    Diamond White is not that great! She’s cute and okay for fairs but not amazing or fantastic like anyone says. That arrangement was awful too!

    • ben says:

      I think she is fantastic and amazing. For me, she leaves Rachel Crow for dead. Are you forgetting that she is 13?

      • Bubb Rubb & Lil' Sis (Woo Woo) says:

        “For me, she leaves Rachel Crow for dead”
        How delightful a comparison. I agree with you that she is super talented, however, im not yet willing to commit to establishing an early teenage charnel house over it.
        But your heart is in the right place, however scary it is.

      • kcostell says:

        If she’s mediocre in absolute terms, but “amazing for someone who’s only 13”, that STILL makes her mediocre.

        • Samantha says:

          exactly! She’s okay for a kid but she does not have what it takes to last much longer. Personally I’m pulling for Jillian Jensen and Jason Brock so far.

  6. Lester Corncrake says:

    What an incredibly unwatchable crop they’ve got this year. I dont see cast of singers that can keep me through to the finals. The only ones I like are Carly Rose for her stern talent and Leoppard Face for her reality show tude coupled with consistent chops. All the guys we’ve seen so far have been boring mopes with weak voices or cloned delivery. Aka, Bugeyed Brazillian Bruno and Delapidated Daughtry Dad.

    I hope they are hiding a few gems. This is the problem when you have a fixed quota of gimmick contestants to waste time in front of the panel of 3 judges and 1 zoned out Britney. You wind with too many just passable stones in what shold be a bucket of seashells.

    Imagine the transformative talent that could be in the place of Lil’ Youtube Dancer! Also, did Mrs 50 Year Old Maid Uniform use up their entire allotment of asian screentime this year? Philipinos and Koreans have tons of western-pop friendly voices and large US demographics, where the hell are they?

    • Monster says:

      I’m guessing you misse seeing Jeffrey Gutt. I would think he is a hidden gem and damn the bloody show keeps giving him such little air time and alot of lousy time wasted on teeny bopper contestants!! Jeffrey gutt is one to watch if they weren’t afraid he would steal votes away from their chosen child stars!!

      • monleo says:

        *missed, spelling error

      • damfresh says:

        I know you are totally right about this and have been saying it all along. Why else would they spend so much time showing him in auditions and towards the end mind you, it’s to keep people watching. I know first hand what a great talent Jeff Gutt is and there is no way they would not show him unless it’s for a higher impact later on in the show. I’ll tell you what though, if he gets cut someone will pick him up regardless but I won’t be watching the show if he does.

      • maggie says:

        In my book Jeffery Gutt is th BEST !what a voice !!!!!!!!!! WOW……………

  7. T_T says:

    I’m waiting for a new reality check! >.<

  8. Matheus Motta says:

    And CeCe? She nailed it.

    • kavyn says:

      I love Cece, it’s too bad she’s getting such a bad edit.

      Gotta cheer for the talented villain :). I like Paige too, but honestly Paige is just super whiny. When Cece said Paige passed by the song and picked it I was laughing.

    • JC says:

      Cece was just ok tonight not as good as what we’ve seen from her last night. I have a feeling that Paige will make it to the top 24 while Cece wouldn’t because the judges disliked her especially Demi :) But I do find Paige whiny and immature if she did not like the song she should not have agreed to sing the song easy as that :)

    • Samantha says:

      Nailed it is definitely not what she did. She was very nasally and trying way too hard. Paige isn’t much better but I think she’s choosing the wrong songs and can be fairly good.

  9. Jared says:

    My early favorites are Emblem 3…those guys are so talented and of course Diamond White..that little girl is a star.

  10. John Clayton says:

    I actually liked Jillian Jensen tonight (for the first time).

  11. monleo says:

    Slezak – Ewww, Tate really??? Aside from his generic, bland country singing, what he did to that poor Willie boy was NOT cool. So sneaky…. And i don’t even like Willie.

    • Bubb Rubb & Lil' Sis (Woo Woo) says:

      Since radio is now dead, there will be a huge number of songs that Willie wont know, but should if he has chosen the path of performer in a particular genre.

      The deficiency is on Willie’s side. If it were some obscure B-side that they had to go to great lenghts to accomodate, i’d be with you, but its a major hit, it was cleared IN ADVANCE by the producers, so its more than fair game. I doubt he “didnt know” the song, he just didnt know it as well as he needed to when competing (did you forget that part) for a $5million dollar prize (and an underwhelming appearance in a forgettable Pepsi commercial [or is that not part of the deal anymore given Ms. Amaro fame-crater)

    • Trace says:

      We didn’t see Tate do anything. All we have is conjuncture from the judges. It felt like they asked about the song choice so they could justify putting Willie through. They could have said the same about Cece, but they didn’t.

      • Mary says:

        I so agree!! Tate may have just recognized the song and innocently suggested that they do that one. Willie could have said no at any time…..even while rehearsing it if he wasn’t comfortable doing it. We just don’t know because of their d*** editing. They NEVER showed Tate saying anything bad or disrespectful about Willie, so don’t jump to conclusions.

        • RT says:

          Excellent point! I really hate that level of manipulation. Tate likely did nothing wrong. While I find Willie likeable, I don’t think he has a strong voice. He really has made it this far based on the unexpected fact that he sings country. The producers/judges really seem to want him to make it though.

    • BarbL says:

      Don’t let the editing of Cowell et al influence your opinion of Tate. His singing is one thing–like it or not, it’s individual taste.
      But the judges have no idea what was in Tate’s mind, and C&Co. are trying to increase the drama by giving Tate the evil genius edit. We don’t hear Tate plotting against Willie as we did the other Diva types that were filmed. I smell a rat in the editing booth.

    • seattlejohn449 says:

      Tate is my favorite…an adult in a sea of tweens…I don’t know why the edit made an issue of the song choice as it seemed a pretty straight-up ballad that shouldn’t have been that hard to learn (plus other people had issues singing unfamiliar songs too)…besides Willie isn’t a very good singer and shouldn’t go through anyways (if he does it will be because of his marketability and not his voice) – and I sure hope they don’t use this as an excuse to get rid of (OMG!) the old guy because he could totally make it as a country star

  12. The Cranky English Teacher says:

    “WHOSE performance” not “WHO’S performance”

    Great commentary, as usual, Michael!

  13. The Cranky English Teacher says:

    And your similes are exquisite:

    “Tara punished every note like an overzealous nun with a class of rowdy kindergartners….”

  14. MEL31602 says:

    I’m surprised you like Dinah, Michael. I thought she blew her chance, but I hope both she and Diamond make it through because I loved Dinah’s previous performances. Tate I enjoyed as well, though I fear now if he makes the live shows no one will vote for him even though there is no evidence that he purposely picked an old song to sabotage Willie. I also liked Reed for the first time ever and thought David Correy outsung Vino (but I hope they both get through as well). And Normani (Arin’s duet partner) blew me away, though since she’s gotten no screen time so far I doubt she’ll last much longer

  15. Alex says:

    Tate was mediocre at best!

  16. Cali says:

    Yes Dinah is amazing if anyone takes time to watch her youtubes from when she was 14 u too would love her

  17. PeekMe says:

    I always had lots of laugh every time Tara is performing. She’s over the hill trying hard that makes it look so hilarious. She’s like a bad comedy.

  18. David7118 says:

    I’m waiting for a singing competition show called “No Back Story” in which the love we fill for the contestant is simply based on their ability to sing and not hearing some convoluted back story about living with 43 cousins after having been on the streets because your adopted mother got hooked on drugs causing you to have to drop out of school but now here you are on stage and you only feel comfortable in the spotlight because you had no friends in school and got bullied relentlessly or something similar. ;-)

    • RodMod says:


    • JudyVee says:

      Perfectly said, no need to say more.

    • David7118 says:

      feel not fill…oops.

    • seattlejohn449 says:

      Hey man – what’s the story about all these issues you got? Does David7118 imply you are the 7118th David in a super-jumbo size family who passes on your childhood angst and identity problems by harassing multi-cousined folks just trying to make peace with the world? Besides, all those other people in the audience “living with 43 cousins…and got bullied relentlessly” probably totally identify and will support said artist as lifelong fans (and will take their adopted drug abusing stepmoms to their concerts thereby keeping them off the streets awhile).

      • David7118 says:

        No Seattlejohn449…7118 is my prison number. My mother was a serial killer on the run from the law. She got knocked up by this young guy who lived at home with his parents and his senile great grandmother but then she got caught and went to prison. She had me but gave me to my dad and his family before going to the electric chair. Dad got a job in a supermarket and worked hard but still live with my grandparents who weren’t the best examples. They named me Hope but about 10 years ago I committed a few felonies and, in order to hide my identity, I had a sex change operation. It didn’t fool anyone so now here I sit in prison.

  19. rwfblog says:

    I enjoyed Wednesday’s show a lot more than Thursday’s. The latter felt disjointed and perfunctory, as if the editors turned the whole show over to the assistants to their assistants. As far as the singing, I’m surprised that so many succumbed to pressure (on both nights). They wouldn’t have been there if they failed to do a good audition, so why did a large number of them forget words and/or sing almost as bad as me?

  20. professor1453 says:

    CeCe performed “I Will Always Love You” better than Paige did. Jessica Sanchez’s cover was better than either of theirs. Whitney’s is better than all three. And Dolly Parton’s original is more moving than all the others put together.

  21. yoyo says:

    slezak and everyone, there is a new fb page (not involved with it) calling to bring panda back on the x factor. apparently she made it to the judges house but not beyond. personally, i think they are idiots. a woman with a voice her size and personality…it’s so lame… please like it so we can pressure the production. they want little walt disney stars, let’s show them that we want the real deal. again- i have no connection to panda or this fb page.

  22. teatime says:

    Slezak, nice write-up. I enjoyed it and I agreed with most of your comments.
    I am not buying any of the drama of contestants being tricked into songs that did not suit them. They were all reasonable song choices. How many minutes does it take to listen to a song several times and get a feel for it even if it is a new song to you?
    Most of my favorites are teenagers. It is going to be interesting to see how many of them quickly fizzle when challenged. I suspect my favorite weeks from now might be someone who is not even on my radar yet.

    • teatime says:

      My favorite right now is Diamond. I don’t think of her as a 13 year old. She comes off as being many years older. I do not think of her as just “good for 13.” She has a great stage presence and is extremely likeable. I am amazed by her vocal ability and the passion she puts into her performances. I also think she has a very pleasing tone to her voice.

  23. Catherine Dalisera says:

    Jason Brock and Panda Rose are the best.

  24. ET says:

    I am DONE with this show; it is a total waste of my time. The Voice is a hundred times better, and guess what??? The battle round contestants DON’T forget their words!!! Also, The Voice is refreshingly un-obsessed with boy bands and irritating tween singers.