In all seriousness--if you take singing competitions seriously, that is, which I somewhat embarrassingly do--both "The Voice" and "The X Factor" finally opened up to public voting last week. And there was a whole lot on the singing-show ballot, so to speak, with a whopping eight hours of viewing and 33 performances between the two series. By the end of the week, only 12 candidates remained on each show...and though I now officially feel comfortable saying that the overall talent is stronger on "The Voice," the most memorable performance of the week definitely came from "X Factor" hip-pop jesters Lyric 145.
It was supposedly "Movies Night" on "The X Factor" last Wednesday, but musical themes on "The X Factor" tend to be as loose as one of co-host Khloe Kardashian's breakaway blouses, so really the theme was "Any-Song-That-Ever-Played-During-The-End-Credits-Of-Any-Straight-To-Netflix-Film Night." (Thank you, Wikipedia, for helping me figure out what movies some of these "Movies Night" songs were actually from.) However, Lyric 145 took some very creative liberties with an actual cinematic classic, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"--YES, the Mary Poppins ditty--and they definitely got it poppin'.
This was one of the most bizarrely brilliant, or at least brilliantly bizarre, talent show performances I'd ever seen. They were all decked out like Wonderland tea-partiers. They were jumping up on banquet tables. They were flanked by freaky-deaky "Thriller" mummy-dancers. They got all up in L.A. Reid and Britney Spears's grills. (And I think one of them even proposed to Britney, which probably surprised her fiancé, Jason Trawick.) And front-rapstress Lyric Da Queen spat every nonsensical syllable--even backwards at one point--without getting her tongue twisted once. This was exciting. This was original. This was theater. This was the performance of a $5 million act. This was, basically, supercalifragilisticexpialidociously amazing.
Surprisingly, though, this was not the performance that rocked the "X Factor" vote. On the following night's results show, a shocking decision was made to reveal the rankings of all of the contestants, from first to last place--something no other TV talent competition had ever been willing to disclose before. (Heck, "American Idol" won't even let contestants' iTunes sales numbers be made public.) And Lyric 145 were way down in ninth place:
1st - Tate Stevens
2nd - Carly Rose Sonenclar
3rd - Vino Alan
4th - Diamond White (the surprise wild card who returned last week)
5th - Fifth Harmony (the girl group formerly known as LYLAS/1432)
6th - Emblem3
7th - Jennel Garcia
8th - Paige Thomas
9th - Lyric 145
10th - Beatrice Miller
11th - Arin Ray
12th - CeCe Frey
13th - Jason Brock
Yep, you read that right: 37-year-old good ole boy Tate Stevens was in first place. The most un-"X Factor"-y of all the "X Factor" contestants--older and utterly unflashy, a singer who'd never performed in an Alice In Wonderland costume, painted leopard spots on his face (as CeCe Frey did last week), performed while suspended in mid-air in a Pink harness (as Paige Thomas did), surrounded himself with hoochie dancers (that was Arin Ray), or in any way tried to appeal to the show's supposed youth demographic--received the most votes. A guy who croons country, Simon Cowell's most-loathed musical genre. Ha.
Meanwhile, Simon's golden boys Emblem3 didn't even make the top three (the look on Simon's face when he heard this news was PRICELESS). Ironically, despite his vehement, phone-slamming protests over getting "stuck" with the Over-25's category this season, L.A. Reid ended up with two contestants at the top of the leaderboard. This was even more ironic considering how aggressively "The X Factor" had courted the teeny-bop vote all season. Are kids even watching this show?
However, L.A. did lose one Over-25's contestant last week. In the end, it was Jason Brock--the out-and-proud contestant who'd been nicknamed "Mr. Entertainment," had performed on the show amid glitter explosions, and had even dared to pinch hunky host Mario Lopez's rear end on one live broadcast--who was the first "X Factor" finalist to be voted off by America. But Jason went out in his usual abfab style, as only he could, memorably belting out Bonnie Tyler's '80s epic "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" and triumphantly declaring, "I did it for the gays and Japan!"--a slogan that really needs to be printed on T-shirts and sold on the Fox website right away.
Things were a lot more sedate over on "The Voice" last week. "Tonight, there are no bells and whistles. It is stripped down, so you can focus on what matters--the voice," host Carson Daly announced at the start of the first live competitive "Voice" episode of the season, in what kinda/sorta seemed like a dig at "The X Factor's" crazy kitchen-sink approach. (Side note: "The Voice" did see the triumphant return of off/on mascot Purrfect The Cat last Wednesday, which was really the best TV gimmick of the whole week. She was missed.) But that didn't mean "The Voice" didn't have its share of standout, gabbed-about performances. And interestingly, many of the best of the bunch were by underdogs, contestants who not long ago had actually seemed like fodder: Amanda Brown, Cody Belew, and Sylvia Yacoub.
Former Adele backup singer Amanda Brown completed her spectacular journey from Team Cee Lo castoff to stolen-away Team Adam frontrunner when she took on Aerosmith's mighty "Dream On" and, suffice to say, did astounding, glass-shattering, pulse-quickening things with the power ballad that put Danny Gokey's cringeworthy Season 8 "Idol" version to shame. "Get it gurl!" howled Christina Aguilera. Oh, Amanda got it, all right. She got it good.
Meanwhile, Cee Lo Green, the man who made the silly decision to not keep Amanda, proved he'd made the right decision to keep Southern sweetheart Cody Belew, who continued to be-low me away. (Sorry. Couldn't resist.) Cody's rendition of George Michael's "One More Try" was a real tour de force--the guy sounded like, looked like, and just flat-out was a star. Blake Shelton even confessed that his wife, Miranda Lambert, crushes hard on Cody--and, judging by the studio audience's screams, it was obvious that Miranda is far from alone.
But the biggest "Voice" revelation of the week had to be Sylvia Yacoub, who out of nowhere totally wowed with her stunning rendition of Katy Perry's "The One That Got Away." I had no idea that she played piano, and I have no idea why we didn't see this singer-songwriter side of Sylvia before. Before this performance, I wasn't even rooting for her to get past the Battle Rounds...and now I realize, and freely admit, that I underestimated this woman, as did probably everyone else watching this show. Thankfully, America totally took notice and voted her through, so Sylvia was not Season 3's one that got away.
There were some sad cuts on "The Voice" this week, however, the most surprising being Team Cee Lo's shaggy-haired, guitar-strumming teen heartthrob, MacKenzie Bourg. Although Cee Lo did what he had to do--MacKenzie hadn't received enough public votes, so Cee Lo was forced to make a Sophie's choice between MacKenzie and Cody for his final team member--it was still difficult to grasp the concept that such an adorable kid could be going home this soon. If MacKenzie had competed on "Idol" (or even "The Glee Project"!), he could have won the whole show. As for the other shocker--Christina's decision to make pretty pop starlet Adriana Louise her personal pick over androgynous fan favorite De'Borah--Christina had made it clear from this season's first episode that she's on the hunt for babydivas, basically mini-me versions of herself. And De'Borah, though the more unique and interesting choice, clearly did not fit that mold.
Oh well. Speaking of divas, this week it was announced that one of the most unique and interesting singing-show contestants of all time, Adam Lambert, has been tapped to host VH1's forthcoming "Divas Live" special. And that makes sense, because if there's one dude who totally gets a diva pass into this elite girls' club, it's Adam, because he can keep up and belt with the best of 'em. I expect--nay, demand--no fewer than a dozen costume changes from the great Glamerican Idol when the show airs December 16.
But long before "VH1 Divas" airs, this week it'll be "Diva Week" on "The X Factor"--which of course makes me even more disappointed that Jason Brock did not stick around. (This would have his time to shine!) And over on "The Voice" this week, for the first time this season--and actually for the first time in "Voice" history--the contestants will be competing without team quotas, meaning that just the top vote-getters, regardless of coach affiliation, will make it through. That will really level the playing field; it'll be every man, woman, and diva for him- or herself. So rock the vote, and watch this space.
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