The X Factor Season 2 Finale Recap: On With the Show…This Is It? [Updated]
It’s got its own season-finale red carpet filled with teenagers who will keep screaming in the hopes that they’ll achieve their lifelong dreams of seeing their own faces on network television and a bunch of production assistants dressed up to look like paparazzi.
Paid spokespersons Khloe Kardashian and Mario Lopez feed you a heightened and interminable stream of verbal signals to reinforce the message. There’s Mario, in the same voice he’d use to announce the arrival of the next ad break or the Mayan apocalypse, informing us that one finalist “will be named the winner of The X Factor and walk away with a five-million dollar recording contract and a whole new life!” (Uh-oh, if Tate Stevens wins, what does that mean for his devoted wife and sweet children?)
There’s even a special Twitter hashtag to celebrate the occasion: #OMGXFFinale!
Yes, reality TV fans, The X Factor is so hugely important that at this very moment (and as the opening credits like to remind you), it is hurtling toward the surface of the planet like a glowing X-shaped asteroid, ready to unleash an earthquake that measures One Direction on the Richter scale.
Third place: Fifth Harmony (Anything could happen, but unfortunately it did not. However, we’ll always have “Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! Ooh-oo-ooh!”)
Second place: Carly Rose Sonenclar (Cue Britney’s cold hand, slipping off her protege’s shoulder. “Get yourself to the X Factor house, pack your belongings, and go…home,” she hisses, somewhere in my imagination.)
Winner of Season 2: Tate Stevens! (apparently they weren’t making up the X Factor Leaderboard results all season!)
Is it weird that the act with quite possibly the least amount of the show’s titular mojo — the guy from the dreaded Over 25s that L.A. Reid did not want to mentor — took home the big prize? Yeah, maybe a little — especially when you consider that he was essentially the same artist coming into the competition as the one who got his confetti shower tonight. (Okay, maybe he’s got a little more stage presence, but that’s about it…)
On some level, though, Tate’s win says a lot about what Americans look for in a reality singing competition. They don’t care so much if aerialists hang from the ceiling or confetti rockets explode in the foreground: First and foremost, they want to vote for someone who sings well and doesn’t need Auto-Tune (major labels give us enough of the computer-dependant nowadays), who seems like a nice person, and who might not be otherwise have a chance to get signed to a major deal. Add in a compelling (but not overly maudlin) backstory — Tate worked hard and postponed his dreams for his family! — and you’ve got yourself an almost unbeatable combo.
No, Tate isn’t really “current,” but current’s just another word for “Ke$ha,” isn’t it? And while it seems highly unlikely that the dude will end up being as big as Garth Brooks or Kenny Chesney or even Rascal Flatts, I suspect he’ll do well enough on the charts in 2013 that X Factor can tout his win without any embarrassment when it returns for Season 3 next fall.
Anyhow, let’s turn our attention to the evening’s seven performances* — a lineup that seemed completely oblivious to the fact that plenty of genuinely talented people were initially part of the Season 2 Top 16. Why we didn’t get at least a few seconds of Lyric 145 or a group performance from Demi’s trio of divas or a simple Beatrice Miller or Sister C sighting is as mysterious to me as Simon Cowell’s failure to use the buttons on his shirt or Khloe Kardashian ODOM (her emphasis, not mine) donned a black rubber minidress for the midsection of the show. (*The Voice had 13 musical performances on Monday in the same two-hour span.)
* Tate, Carly and Fifth Harmony: The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” | Maybe it was a sign from the Mayans when Mario introduced this performance only to discover none of the Top 3 acts’ “limos” had pulled up to the show’s “red carpet.” Alas, though, everyone eventually disembarked like they were musical Bachelor contestants, then strolled into the arena, through the X Factor backstage and past a number of fallen Season 2 comrades. (Anyone wonder if the segment was shot Wednesday night, since Paige, CeCe et al were in their white “You Are Not Alone” frocks?) The only problem was that the audio being piped through our TV sets sounded as genuine as L.A.’s cowboy hat. I mean, only on X Factor could you find seven inarguably solid vocalists opening the show sounding like their vocal cords had been replaced by Siri. Grade: D
* Tate: “Please Come Home for Christmas” | If Carly Rose is a skyscraper and Fifth Harmony is a fairy princess castle, then Tate is a red brick house: Solid, inviting, though not terribly remarkable. This performance fit that mold to a tee. When he was done, Khloe and Mario rolled a montage of Tate’s family and friends offering their love and support, each one designed to push him closer to the brink of bawling. I’m surprised, though, that the Kardashian woman didn’t lead the audience in a chant of “Make! Tate! Cry!” That would’ve really capped her first (hopefully last?) season quite nicely. Mario, for his part, got more familiar than he should’ve: “Good luck to you, Tater.” Stick with your cue cards, foolio! Grade: B
* Fifth Harmony: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” | I’m not ruling out Stockholm Syndrome, but I swear Fifth Harmony has gotten progressively better every week on this show. Their voices were sweet and clear as ever on this Darlene Love romp, with Dinah Jane daringly delivering her verse in her head voice and ending with a classic case of Mariah Dog Whistle (TM). The staging was great, too, with white carousel horses and candy canes, though Ally should lose the red paper umbrella stat: We have already accepted Camilla’s ridiculous floppy bow, but one ridic accessory is plenty, thanks. Mario, anything you’d like to say? “You’re such a special group of ladies!” Yes, but could you name all five of them without a teleprompter? Grade: B+
* Carly Rose: “All I Want for Christmas Is You” | Maybe it was just nerves over the final results, but I’ve never heard the teen angel’s voice sound so tentative and tremulous, which meant there was no way she could live up to Mariah’s original template. Those waaayyy-too-enthusiastic tin soldiers didn’t help matters, either. (Side note: I know she’s 13, and she probably feels the need to be extra respectful to Simon, Britney & Co., but it freaked me out a little when Carly Rose made it seem like watching her family video reel was all the more emotional because the Season 2 judges were right in front of her. Yikes!) Grade: B-
* Pitbull: “Don’t Stop the Party” | I could only understand about a third of what dude was saying, but that “yeah-ee-yeah-ee-yeah!” hook is crazy addictive, and his silver-clad hoochie dancers braaaaang it! Grade: A+? F-? I honestly have no idea.
* One Direction “Kiss You” | How come everybody thinks the one with all the hair dating Taylor Swift is so hot, when clearly the one with the buzz cut is the cute one? Here’s hoping the boys transferred some of their third-place success mojo to the gals of Fifth Harmony in the midst of their video-game backdrop/giant lips set piece, which was a cute little trifle indeed. Grade: These children have a lot of energy!
* Carly Rose and Tate: “The Climb” | Given that they were only moments away from the final results, I’m gonna give these two a pass for sounding mildly jank. Honestly, though, did the producers really need to put them on a set of stairs to sing “The Climb”? NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE SO LITERAL! And seeing how America decided these were the two voices they liked best all season, WHY DROWN THEM OUT WITH A GOSPEL CHOIR ON STEROIDS?
Top 10 Moments of Beautiful Absurdity from the X Factor Finale
10. Khloe’s three outfit changes: Green lace; black rubber (!!); and expired Pepto Bismol/fresh vom.
9. Khloe, in a last-ditch attempt to hold on to her job next season, greeting Simon Cowell on the red carpet thusly: “I love the chest hair! So sexy, the chest hair!” [Cut to my hubby on the couch: "Is she being funny?" Sadly, no.]
8. The judges — having already been introduced minutes prior during the fake limo segment — making a grand entrance on the stage to the strains of “The Final Countdown.” Imagine my disappointment when we didn’t get a magic show from Gob.
7. This hashtag: #TateMakesItSnow
6. Khloe, trying to get L.A. to pay attention to her and answer a question after Tate’s victory announcement by screeching, “L.A.! L.A.! L.A.!” (You can’t teach that kind of masterful hosting technique…you just have to be born with it.)
5. Camilla from Fifth Harmony, one of many people unable to hear Khloe over the shrieking audience, yelling “WHAT!?!?” while Khloe attempted to make the case that while Fifth Harmony may have had to settle for third place, they’d made “best friends for life.”
4. Blondie from Emblem3 randomly inviting all of his fellow finalists from Season 2 to rent a cabin at Whistler together and go snowboarding. Duuuuuuude!
3. L.A. Reid, reflecting on an entire season’s worth of musical performances and deciding that his No. 1 favorite moment was when Tate Stevens joked before his audition that his genre is rap music.
2. Khloe Kardashian-OHH-Dumb responding to Mario’s impromptu use of Spanish by exclaiming, “Oh my goodness!” [Yes, Khloe, there are other languages on the planet aside from Kardahanese.]
1. Mario Lopez, reacting to a highlight reel of Simon’s nastiest critiques, and acting like this one might be a double entendre: “I want to know what a dog that’s trying to lay an egg sounds like! But that’s for another day.” [COULD HE BE ANY WORSE?]
With that, I turn it over to you.
Anyhow, now it’s time for your take: Did the right contestant take home the big enchilada? What was your favorite results-night performance? Are you pissed we didn’t get to see Lyric Da Queen perform? Sound off below, and for all my X Factor-related news, contestant interviews, recaps and video, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!Follow @MichaelSlezakTV