The first “X Factor” live show was all about desperation.
“It was a bit manic, verging on ... what I would call desperate,” Simon Cowell said of David Correy's overemotional version of Whitney Houston's “My Love Is Your Love.”
But his comments could have applied to the whole show, seeing ratings drops from last year despite the high-profile addition of Britney Spears and Demi Lovato.
It all felt a bit desperate. And at a time when there are real-life, heart-wrenching reasons for true desperation after the deadly, damaging superstorm Sandy, the “X Factor”-manufactured angst just seems misplaced.
Everything seemed like a calculated attention-grab, rather than, you know, a celebration of talent – Paige Thomas' spiked futuristic headdress, the adult female dancers all over 17-year-old Aron Ray, new hosts Mario Lopez and Khloe Kardashian Odom, and, of course, the hyperbole. It wouldn't be “X Factor” without the hyperbole.
“I think we are witnessing America's next pop sensation,” L.A. Reid said of boy band Emblem 3, who all even wore shirts – well, tank tops – for the whole performance of Matisyahu's “One Day.” They're good, L.A., but, come on, not that good.
Adding to the desperation was the way so many of the contestants were seemingly willing to abandon their artistic visions in hopes of succeeding on the show.
Beatrice Miller, the 13-year-old from New Jersey, even complained on-camera about her coach Spears' decision to have her sing Jason Mraz's “I Won't Give Up,” which she thought was too slow and not her style. Luckily, she made the most of it, turning it into one of the night's few special moments, though the arrangement had her starting with notes too low for her handle well.
Lyric 145, including Bay Shore's rapping brothers Jemelle and Julien Joseph, handled coach Cowell's direction a bit more diplomatically, after doing a weird, but thoroughly entertaining combination of Will Smith's “Boom! Shake the Room” and Psy's “Gangnam Style.”
Reid challenged them immediately. “That's not hip hop,” he told them. “You know that's not it.”
However, Lyric Da Queen deftly deflected the criticism, asking the crowd if they liked it, receiving roars of support. “I thought you guys were absolutely sensational,” Cowell said.
As much as Cowell likes to remind everyone that “X Factor” is a $5 million singing competition, he offered a surprising bit of truth. “It wasn't the best vocal, but that doesn't matter to me really,” Cowell told drama-generating queen CeCe Frey, after she delivered a clunky, off-key dance-pop version of “Because the Night” that was embarrassingly bad.
Um, what does matter then, Simon?
We'll find out tonight, apparently, as the coaches – not the public's votes this week, due to the show's rescheduling caused by the San Francisco Giants World Series sweep – decide who moves forward into the Top 12. They will pick eight artists to move forward and another eight to “sing for their lives” to fight for the final four spots.
Here's the power rankings:
1. Lyric 145, “Boom! Shake the Room/Gangnam Style”
2. Beatrice Miller, “I Won't Give Up”
3. Emblem3, “One Day”
4. Jennel Garcia, “Home Sweet Home”
5. Sister C, “Hell on Heels”
6. 1432, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
7. David Correy, “My Love Is Your Love”
8. Jason Brock, “Dance Again”
9. Tate Stevens, “Tough”
10. Carly Rose Sonenclar, “Good Feeling”
11. Diamond White, “Hey Soul Sister”
12. Paige Thomas, “What Is Love”
13. Arin Ray, “You Keep Me Hanging On”
14. Willie Jones, “Here for the Party”
15. CeCe Frey, “Because the Night”
16. Vino Alan, “Gotta Be Somebody”
WHO SHOULD ADVANCE AUTOMATICALLY: Lyric 145, Emblem 3, Beatrice Miller, Carly Rose Sonenclar, Jennel Garcia, Paige Thomas, David Correy, Jason Brock
WHO SHOULD WIN THEIR SING-OFFS: 1432, Tate Stevens, Diamond White, CeCe Frey
WHO WILL BE CUT: Vino Alan, Arin Ray, Willie Jones, Sister C
ACTUALLY CUT: Willie Jones, Sister C, David Correy, Diamond White