As the inaugural season of The X Factor came to a close and the finalists' hometown supporters began to lay it on as thick as they could with the tearjerker material, I decided that I was more a Wooster than a Sunrise. I've gone through a couple peaks and valleys with my emotional investment in this show, but by the end I just wanted to pat the show on the back and shrug. You did your best, X Factor. We'll see what happens. Like Josh's girlfriend's tepid expression of support, perhaps that's a rather uninspiring conclusion, but it's accurate. This season neither sucked nor ruled. It had its moments of controversy and excitement, then managed to end on a comfortably dull and predictable note. Simon Cowell and the producers should feel no more silly about how they've spent the last three months than all the people squawking about what a huge failure the show was or was going to be.
There was no way that I would close out this season – and my recapping duties – without feeling a monumental sense of relief, but finale's soothingly brainless two-hour cocktail of special guests and holiday cheer left it with just enough goodwill to not go down as a completely worthless venture (give or take 50 cents.) The more I thought of it as a bloated awards show like the Grammys or VMAs, the more accepting I was both of its content and runtime. For example, I was planning on sleeping through most of that Justin Bieber Christmas medley, but between the Stevie Wonder appearance and the surprise Drew guest vocals (Scoff all you want, dreams really do come true on The X Factor!) I couldn't tear my eyes away. They engineered a Moment in the old X Factory, and by gosh, it worked.
Other things that worked: Marcus' surprise appearance in the Pitbull/Ne-Yo number (hopefully Marcus was able to pick up some pointers from the latter on how to be an “entertainer” while leaving the cheese and desperation at home,) and Melanie and Josh's final duet on David Bowie's “Heroes.” It was an excellent choice for the two to share, right at the crossroads of their very different vocal styles. Josh often comes across as lost or embarrassed in the group and non-competition numbers, but for once, he looked happy and relaxed sharing the stage with Melanie. It was a sweet and simple performance and a great way for the two of them to end the show.
There were mercifully only two clip packages in the whole finale, and both were brief and inoffensive, but more importantly, both let us relive the magic of Rachel's elimination and the fall of Nicole (Ranked #1 in the Shocking Moments segment, obviously.) The “Cry-Off” segment tallied up the number of times Paula and Nicole had wept on The X Factor, which was bullshit because everyone knows Nicole Scherzinger is incapable of crying. She just scrunches up her face and takes deep breaths and flutters her fake lashes and strings together series of words like “Princess Goddess Warrior,” and occasionally fucks up the show so bad that all she can do is cover her face in shame, but I swear to god I've never seen her actually shed a tear. Which is crazy, right? Because from the sound of her holiday plans she's a normal, down-to-earth person-creature who plays, um, cards? Is that right? Baking… cookies? Is that a thing people do? Okay, yeah, for Christmas, that will work. That sounds wholesome enough. Nicole has such a big heart, you guys! And she has blood relatives!
This led to the best moment of the whole night, by my reckoning: Steve asking Nicole if he could come to her house for Christmas about ten times before Nicole finally heard him and said no. Everything about that was perfect and tragic and beautiful, like a baby porcupine trying to cuddle in vain with a broom it's mistaken for its mother. Why does the X Factor crew continually find themselves homeless for the holidays, like Simon did this past Thanksgiving? Are they secretly incredibly lonely and incapable of maintaining real and lasting human relationships? I'm just speculating here.
The Most Shocking segment also led to the finale's second best moment, when Rachel Crow (fully recovered since we last saw her bawling on the floor – it's a Christmas miracle!) showed up just to tell us about all the fucks she gives that she lost X Factor. She even jokes about replacing Steve in Season 2, and Steve's all like, “Aww, that's so cute. Sure kid, why not give her a spin?” to which Rachel responds by taking the mic, and in a two-line introduction of Leona Lewis, manages to have more personality and style than an entire army of Steve Joneses. If Rachel isn't snatched up by Disney or Nickelodeon in the next year, I'd better see her hosting X Factor 2: The Secret of the Ooze.
Lord help me, I also liked the Leona Lewis performance. Her cover of Snow Patrol's “Run” was paired with clips of memorable moments from the season, like an Oscars In Memoriam segment without all the dead Czech cinematographers. And while it didn't exactly move me to tears, it was quietly emotional and a good break from all the multi-star performances and hordes of dancers. Afterward the judges all dissolved into a puddle of nostalgic goo, with a misty LA remembering that one time crazy homeless Dexter jumped in “Nicole's” swimming pool, and Paula offering a very sincere thanks to Simon for dragging her along on this hellish journey, even for that one time she had to look at some weird old Seattle hippie's genitals. These moments change us and make us grow, and Paula realizes this now.
And the results? Well, obviously, I was surprised by Chris' third place ranking; I learned for the last time not to make any predictions on this show. But once Chris was out it was fairly obvious that Melanie would be taking home the five million; a certainty that didn't make the rest of the show drag so much as gracefully wind down. When the winner was announced, however, what could have been a genuinely happy and emotional television moment was kicked in the teeth by Steve, who gave Melanie all of five seconds to scream and cry before asking her “what was going through her mind.” Rachel Crow would not do this! Rachel would run over and hug Melanie and laugh and congratulate her and then after everyone's had a chance to regain their composure, THEN she would ask for some words. So the big moment was bungled, and there wasn't even any confetti, then Melanie sang that damn Dreamgirls song again and it was all over.
Seriously, though, where was the confetti? All I wanted was some freakin' confetti in my X Factor finale. I guess we'll just have to wait til next year. It's been a fun, crazymaking time, my faithful X Facteurs. Enjoy your holidays and your new years and your Super Bowls and iconic Super Bowl Pepsi ads.
- Between “Princess Goddess Warrior” and “You want me make me be better,” Nicole was totally That Girl at the party tonight. And everyone was just kind of smiling and not responding and strategically standing between her and the punch bowl. Metaphorically speaking.
- The clips from the finalists' friends and family were obviously in lieu of Idol''s undoubtedly pricy hometown visits, but got the point across all the same. Something tells me that the citizens of Wooster, Ohio are much better at expressing themselves outside of an awkward talking head format, however.
- Drew is a brunette now! It looks good on her, but I worry - two of my other favorite pop superstars have the habit of expressing inner turmoil through hair color. (Or should I say, dying when they want to die? Thank you, I'll be here all night.)
- I love how much this show has replayed those clips from the Jack and Jill premiere, usually in slow motion as part of a moving montage. Remember when you went to Paris? Remember when you cried in front of millions? Remember when you stood five feet away from Adam Sandler?
- Here is a picture of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia's Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson backstage at The X Factor. I feel like my A.V. Club Fall TV recapping adventure has reached some kind of beautiful closure.
- And here is a picture of yours truly and second place runner-up Josh Krajcik backstage a few weeks ago. I've debated posting it on account of the astronomical levels of dorkiness contained therein, but if there's not going to be confetti at the end of The X Factor, then there damn well better be an awkward photo-op.