Have you ever been in the position where you see a catastrophe impending, know its coming, and also know there isn't the least thing you can do to stop it? That's what "X Factor" resembled last night -- an foreseeable but unstoppable disaster. And just like in a good disaster movie, someone steps in just before the end to avert the end of all things as we know it. Such was the script for the first results/judgment show for Season 2, where the Top 16 would be pared down to 12 finalists to continue toward the "X Factor" finale, and they didn't waste time putting the viewer dead in the center of the calamity.
It started off innocuous enough with Judge/mentor Demi Lovato's Young Adults. She quickly saved Jennel Garcia and Paige Thomas after their better-than-average performances from the Top 16 show. This left the newly blonded CeCe Frey and the country crooner kid, Willie Jones. As hosts Khloe Kardashian and Mario Lopez explained before things got started, the final two unsaved finalists in each category would have to sing for their lives to get their mentor's pass to the Top 12. Judge Demi went with vocal quality over likability and "X Factor" viewers are left with the crocodile-tear-crying (how many noticed that CeCe doesn't shed tears when she's supposed to be sobbing?) CeCe Frey to vote off in the first few shows. (Demi's strategy is uncertain in this contest due to the fact that Willie Jones, despite being a novelty, was a sure Top 10 contender, perhaps even Top 5. CeCe Frey's phoniness erases the points she wins for talent, much of which seemed in absentia during her performance of the classic "Because The Night" (Patti Smith) during the performance round.) And was that a look of complete exasperation on Willie Jones face when he got the bad news? Like most watching, young Willie didn't think he should have been sent home.
Judge/mentor L. A. Reid's Over 25s were next. The first shock of the night came when he first saved Vino Alan, whose power pop song from the night before had met with cautious reviews from the judges. Tate Stevens was an easy choice for a save, leaving David Correy (what? really?) and Jason Brock to battle for the third team slot. Both performed with passion, but the judges seemed to think David's was a bit forced. Perhaps, but it didn't come across that way on television. But the real shocker came when Judge L. A. chose Jason as his third team member, sending David Correy home. (What about his having maybe the best and most sympathetic backstory among the Top 16?What about the reunion with his biological mother? What really happened, because you get the feeling that someone as vocally talented as David Correy had to have some outside issues going on for him to be dismissed so early from the competition?)
Then it was time for the strongest of the categories, Judge/mentor Britney Spears' Teens. Another surprise. Instead of being one of the two that would sing for their lives, Beatrice Miller was chosen as her first save. Then she saved Carly Rose Sonenclar, whose name the crowd had begun chanting even before Britney made her first choice. This left Arin Ray and Diamond White. Both Teens performed well but when all was said and done, Britney surprisingly chose Arin Ray to remain on her team. (It has to be considered that the judges -- at least some of them -- are thinking strategically. With a unique Teen -- Beatrice -- and a strong pop Teen -- Carly Rose -- and a strong R&B Teen, Britney might have opted out Diamond because the bubbly teen was overkill in the pop department. Still, it might have been a bad move. Oddsmakers had Diamond White as Carly Rose's biggest threat to the "X Factor" title.) Still, don't expect Arin to be around long once the viewers start voting. There are too many strong singers and his sound, unfortunately for the talented singer, would just be another voice in an already saturated R&B market.
Judge/mentor Simon Cowell's Groups anchored the night. Remember that catastrophe scenario set-up when we started this story, and that part about there being a calming force to set things aright by the end? Of course, that came with Judge Simon. After watching judges Demi, L. A., and Britney not choose some that shouldn't have even been singing for their lives, then all three making questionable choices as to who got to stay, Simon quickly saved the two groups he should have -- Emblem3 and Lyric 145. Sister C and 1432 sang for their lives. Luckily for 1432, a group blessed with five extraordinary female singers, Sister C reverted to type and went all twangy on their life-saving song. Simon, of course, chose 1432. (He did say that he thought that Sister C's sound -- traditional, harmonic, female -- was missing in country music. And he just might be right, given that the Country Music Association saw fit to nominate pop star Kelly Clarkson for Female Vocalist of the Year, someone with only three country charting songs to her name and only one -- a remix of her pop hit "Mr. Know It All" -- was the only song she had on the country charts solely within the nominating eligibility period for the 2012 CMA Awards.)
And to show that all was right with the world, Simon announced that the atrociously named 1432 would get a name upgrade. He announced that he couldn't bear their name any longer and would take it to the viewers to choose the new name. And that's a good thing, considering that the quintet's former monicker was just as bad -- LYLAS.
Still, besides Simon, a case can be made that each of the other three judges made mistakes in their choices. But it will be interesting to see which of the three first saved finalists -- Jason Brock, CeCe Frey, and Arin Ray -- will be among the first contestants the "X Factor" viewers want to send home.
After two hours, the teams had been pared to three each. They were:
(Mentor: Demi Lovato)
(Mentor: L. A. Reid)
(Mentor: Britney Spears)
Carly Rose Sonenclar
(Mentor: Simon Cowell)
1432 (for now)
"X Factor" will return for the Top 12 live performance show on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m. EST on Fox Television. This will be the first show where viewers will vote for their favorite contestants. The first live results show where fans have a say in the contest will air on Thursday, Nov. 8, at 8 p.m.
(photo credit: Freemantle North America, SycoTV, Fox Television, Wikimedia Commons)