The X Factor Recap: Thanksgiving Up the Ghost

emblem3 x factorDear Santa,

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.

Happy Thanksgiving,

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+

Fifth Harmony: The Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You” | I was really looking forward to seeing whether or not the girls would/could successfully harmonize this week, but alas, I couldn’t hear them over the full Gospel choir Simon brought in to bolster their pretty sound. Also, dare I say usual MVP Camilla was a tad off her game tonight? Grade: B

Emblem3: OneDirectionRepublic’s “Secrets” | These guys may not have the most distinctive tones to their voices or the best grasp of pitch, but they do have charisma and chemistry, and a penchant for arranging their songs in a way that makes them seem ready for real-world success. I just wish the judges would dole out constructive criticism — be careful of going too nasal! don’t rely so much on the wave-one-arm-from-side-to-side move! — rather than L.A.’s ridiculous comments about not showing enough pre-Thanksgiving emotion. Really, dude, the telecast wasn’t maudlin enough for your taste??? (Side note: Anyone else notice the blond one couldn’t even keep his shirt on while building homes for earthquake victims in the Dominican Republic? Good grief.) Grade: B-

Vino Alan: Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” | I thought we’d established Vino as a classic soul singer last week, no? Which is another way to say that this hokey slice of Americana just didn’t look as good on his voice. Grade: B-

Tate Stevens: Lonestar’s “I’m Already There” | The song choice, the staging and the delivery were about bland as an empty pie crust. And yes, Tate’s voice broke several times during the performance, despite Khloe insisting otherwise. (KHLOE YOU ARE NOT A JUDGE, OKAY?) Grade: C+

CeCe Frey: Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” | Two weeks running, Demi has saddled CeCe with grand diva ballads that lay bare all of her vocal shortcomings, particularly when she’s doing anything other than full-throttle belting. Why not give her an upbeat sing-speak ditty like “We R Who We Are” or “Straight Up” or “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” that might allow CeCe to sound better than the artist she’s covering, rather than sending her into a war for which she has neither the right training or ammunition? Grade: C*

Arin Ray: Enrique Iglesias’ “Hero” | I’m kinda glad Arin dedicated this shlocky romantic ballad to his brother — since the awkwardness of it all momentarily distracted me from how listless and pitchy he sounded. And while it’s unfortunate that the kid has been saddled with songs that quash his natural showmanship, it’s pretty unlikely he’ll get another week to redeem himself. (p.s. LA, you can’t call it a “great song choice” and in the same breath declare it was “too big” for the vocalist in question. THAT IS THE VERY DEFINITION OF A POOR SONG CHOICE!) Grade: D+

Paige Thomas: Britney Spears’ “Everytime” | In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m going to say something nice about Paige’s performance. At least, unlike the original artist, she didn’t lipsync it, right? Grade: D+*

(*graded on a curve because honest to goodness, are we gonna blame CeCe or Paige for barely holding it together after those pre-performance packages?)

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

Who were your favorites from The X Factor‘s Top 10 performance telecast? Who’s most likely to get cooked come Thanksgiving night? Hit the comments with your thoughts!