It was big news when Simon Cowell invited his "American Idol" crony Paula Abdul to sit beside him on his "X Factor" panel this year, but after the first results episode of the "X Factor" season, Paula may be wondering if she should have accepted his job offer after all. She may even want to give CBS a call to see if execs over there will reconsider renewing her old TV show, "Live To Dance." You see, despite all of her valiant efforts, two of Paula's three protégés in the groups category wound up in the bottom two this week, and she was faced with the Sophie's choice of having to send one of them home at a very early stage the game. And it all ended in tears, as things often do when Paula is involved.
Most viewers, including myself, had predicted that the talented but soft-spoken LeRoy Bell would be the first to go, or that Chris Rene might be in jeopardy after two consecutive performances that failed to match the brilliance of his much-hyped earlier auditions. But it was in fact Paula's R&B boy band Stereo Hogzz, who got rave reviews this week even from Simon, and prefab kiddy collective InTENsity, whom Nicole Scherzinger had dubbed ""fun-tastic" and "fun-omenal," who received the fewest votes.
Paula hears the news
Early on in this competition, when it was announced that Paula had been stuck with the groups category, I figured she'd gotten a raw deal and would soon find herself out of work when all of her contestants were voted off in quick succession. (In all international versions of "The X Factor," a group has only won once, in Spain.) However, when I witnessed how Paula whipped all her charges into shape, crafting spectacular routines that showcased them at their very best, I wondered if she just might the dark horse in this competition. Um, apparently not.
"It's difficult for America to identify with groups," Paula shrugged sadly--and she had a point. With the dynamic, outsized personalities of solo contestants like Rachel Crow, Stacy Francis, Marcus Canty, and Astro dominating this season, the 10 faceless children of InTENsity (who were thrown together by producers at the last minute after failing to get past Boot Camp as solo acts) and Stereo Hogzz (who had the misfortune of performing in the kiss-of-death first spot this week) were all too easily lost in the shuffle...even when singing awesome LMFAO and Janet Jackson party anthems.
Stereo Hogzz perform
After the Hogzz and the kids performed one last time Thursday--the former doing an uncharacteristically subdued and swag-free "Emotion," the latter having one last hurrah with Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You"--it was time for the judges to decide which of the two to ship home. As much as it pained them, Paula, Nicole, and L.A. Reid went with InTENsity. Oddly, Simon was the lone dissenter, voting to cut Stereo Hogzz instead. The conspiracy theorist in me wondered if he was just trying to eliminate the group that actually poses the bigger threat to his girls, since, you know, only the night before Simon had very hyperbolically told Stereo Hogzz, "I don't think there's a band in the world right now that's as good as you."
InTENsity say goodbye
Luckily, Simon was outvoted, and the Hogzz got to stay; it was the right choice, in my opinion, since they're the one non-manufactured, organically formed group still on the show, and that should count for something. But just because the judges made the right decision here doesn't mean it was easy to see the poor kids of InTENsity receive their bad news. They were "inconsolable," as host Steve Jones so dramatically put it, as the end credits rolled over them and their pop-star dreams.
You know, with so many other very young contestants on this show who will likely take their eventual eliminations just as hard, it looks like this could be a very emotional "X Factor" season. I hope all of these contestants, of all ages, are ready to face the music.