X-Factor USA: Delayed Final Thoughts

Since I missed the X-Factor final week live (Merry Christmas!), I plowed through the 3-and-a-half hours of DVR material tonight.  Allow me a couple of thoughts about the season, and then I’ll put my show comments behind a cut line.

It was no surprise that Melanie won.  The whole “oops, I forgot her” fiasco before the semifinals signaled that she was being protected… and she was clearly better than the other two finalists (if not all of the competitors).   Several of the performers will find niches to fit into, I’m sure.  Not only Melanie, but Josh, Chris, Drew, Rachel, and Lakoda Rayne could all make an impact somewhere if they’re handled properly.

That said, there have to be changes.  Steve Jones (our “Charisma Vacuum”, or “CV”) HAS to go.  Now.  Nicole Scherzinger’s credibility as a judge is shot.  Simon Cowell is smart enough to know she’s toxic now.  And I think L.A. Reid is better suited as a record executive than a judge.  I don’t know who you’d bring in to replace them, but there are plenty of people who’d like the platform — Simon can probably find a few between now and this summer, when he needs to film audition footage. 

The finale itself?  Really, really bad television.  It was badly paced, badly hosted, spent too much time with the judges talking and not enough with people singing, and relied far too much on montages and clips to fill time.  Other competition shows line up a ton of guest singers and give most of the finalists a solo platform on their finales.  This one?  Nope.  The focus has been misplaced all season, and it showed right to the bitter end. 

Bottom line: American Idol does a far better finale.  So does The Voice.  This two-night slogfest didn’t measure up at all.  And it was really indicative of the entire season.  If Cowell comes back with this same show and cast for Season 2, there won’t be a Season 3.  And I think he knows that.  For now, I’m looking forward to American Idol Season 11.  As per usual, I’ll return to the blog once the audience gets involved, sometime in late February or early March.  See you then.  If you want to read more… it’ll be after the cut.

Final Performance Show

Steve Jones looks like a man who knows his job is over.

They’re still showing almost no originality with live fan-cams in each finalist’s hometown.  However, the decision not to have a professional hosting each local segment made it look like X-Factor Even-More-Amateur Hour.

Why was the decision made to include all-star duets as part of the judging?  How is that fair to the contestants?  The duets should have been done on the results night.

After the first two duets, I had to ask if we’d become X-Factor Canada… and when Cirque du Soleil’s collection of dancing Robocops came out halfway through the performance show, it became obvious that less would have definitely been more.  Throw in a disjointed and shaky group performance by the finalists, and you can tell that 60 minutes would have sufficed for this exercise… although I guess we would have missed Josh “dancing”.

Melanie’s intermittent accent is really frustrating — she didn’t need to adopt it to win… for that matter, she didn’t need the artificial “17th semifinalist” gimmick that Simon saddled her with.  She should’ve been a finalist all along.  Let’s hope that Simon never tries this again.

Josh Krajcik
1. “Uninvited” with Alanis Morrisette – Unfortunately for Josh, Alanis buried him here.  She’s smooth, polished, and powerful.  He’s not.  Yet.  And clearly he was too nervous or just too overmatched to do a proper duet.  I’m sure this hurt him.
2. “At Last”, Etta James (and others) – Josh’s biggest failing showed here again.  When he’s up against it, he does a Joe Cocker karaoke impression.  Hopefully, post-X, he’ll get some coaching to find his unique voice.  Otherwise, he’ll sink quickly.

Chris Rene
1. “Complicated” with Avril Lavigne
– Chris’s sorta hip-hop with Avril’s Canadian cool seemed like an odd match, but it worked better than  Josh/Alanis.  They did complement each other better, and the result was listenable.  Wouldn’t have been enough to get him the win anyway, but didn’t hurt.
2. “Young Homie” – This was a mistake, pure and simple.  Yes, he wants to show himself as a singer/songwriter, but we’ve heard this song too many times.  What could he do with it now that he didn’t do the first few times?  Not much.

Melanie Amaro
1. “I Believe I Can Fly” with R. Kelly
– No surprise that the most polished singer of the competition scored the most polished duet, with a singer more used to doing collaborations.  If there was any doubt going into the show who was going to win, the duet round ended it.  Unless Melanie committed a felony on-stage, this was her title.
2. “Listen”, Beyoncé – Another power-pop ballad from someone who’s destined to follow the Mariah/Whitney/Beyoncé road.  There is such an obvious difference between Melanie’s performances and the guys that there was really no way she was going to lose.  

And Steve even has a final brainlock moment.   To begin his closing with  “Don’t do anything just yet” — then 30 seconds later — “Lines are now open”.  Come ON, man.

Final Results

Steve wore a tux, Simon wore a clean shirt.  Clearly different definitions of “Formal Dress”… 🙂

They had to do another awkward group performance with all of the 12 finalists?  Really?  Well, they are taking this right out of the Idol playbook…

Of course Melanie does Mariah Carey’s Christmas classic.  What else COULD she have done?

About that Walmart “Wedding Ring” commercial… the media buyer who put it on blast deserves a lump of coal (and a pink slip) for it.  The first 2 times were cute.  The 3,931 times after that… not so much.

My CV “wonderful” meter broke early in the results show.  One more “wonderful”… it’ll be wonderful when someone else is hosting season two.

The first hour of this slow… I mean… show is absolutely leaden.  It’s just terribly-designed television.

I’m not terribly interested in A Very Bieber Christmas… then again, I’m not really X-Factor’s demographic target… 🙂  Stevie Wonder, fortunately, saved the segment.  And bringing Drew in for her Moment With Bieber (that had been foreshadowed months ago) was cool.

The first result comes 1 hour 5 minutes into the show… and goes EXACTLY as anyone would have predicted last week.  Josh and Melanie get to wait another 50 minutes, while the weight is off Chris’ shoulders.

Rachel Crow proved that she’d definitely be a better host than CV is… not that it’s a high bar to hurdle.

Leona Lewis is proof that X-Factor can find talent.  But somehow, the British X-Factor is lighter and quirkier than this show became — has Simon taken himself too seriously?

At 1 hour 25 minutes in, we officially bury Melanie’s “Caribbean” accent, as she answers CV’s question in her American accent.

The show was so deadly dull that I kind of zoned out on 50 Cent and Astro and the LA Lakers doing what I think was a charity rap.  I think. 

I wasn’t going to comment on the manufactured “feud” videos (L.A. vs. Simon, Nicole vs. Paula) other than to say that given that at least two of them are unlikely to be back next season, this kind of proved absolutely nothing other than the absolute desperation of the X-Factor producers to fill two hours.

After performances from Pitbull & Neyo & Marcus Canty, and Josh & Melanie, we get to the only important part of this mess.  One hour 52 minutes in, it’s time for the results — and it’s exactly what we suspected.  Of course, CV has to read the script and shove a microphone into her face instead of calling an audible, sitting back and letting the audience reaction carry the moment, proving his utter incompetence for the job at hand.  Fortunately, Simon grabbed the microphone before someone was tempted to shove it down CV’s throat (or elsewhere). 

Congratulations, Melanie.


Author: Rob Hoffmann

Occasional blogger, slightly less occasional improv player/ref/tech, full-time computer techie, radio producer (basketball, mostly), generally nice person (if you ask me).

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