The X Factor Review: Group Dynamic
After praising The X Factor for weeks upon weeks, it was time for everyone to come back down to earth as the live shows began. The performances were overproduced, the judges were awkward and the brand new hosts almost made me miss Steve Jones.
Whether it's simply good editing during the auditions and boot camp, or that L.A. gets so amped up for the live shows that he reverts to a different version of himself and brings the rest of the judges down with him, three of the four were very tough to take for the first time this season.
Britney was the only one who safely made it through the two hours without embarrassing herself. She kept every comment short and sweet, not bothering anyone. L.A., on the other hand, was back to his old tricks of forcing animosity with Simon, while making little to no sense in his comments to the contestants.
Everything out of Simon's mouth felt forced, probably because his natural reaction is to hate everything - like he did on Idol - but for some reason he wants to give off the impression that he loves everyone on The X Factor. So when he praised one of the dozen mediocre to bad performances, it was tough to hear because it didn't seem genuine.
Finally, there was Demi, who I have been a big fan of for a while, and whose work on this show I have praised a number of times. I couldn't have been less impressed with her first live show. Everything that felt sincere and fun about her mini feuds with Simon in the first few rounds felt completely awkward here. She put in a lot of effort to make good comments about the performances, but many of them - like Simon noted at one point - didn't make much sense at all.
Mario Lopez, meanwhile, is a professional. He hosts Extra and America's Best Dance Crew. I know he hasn't had much time to warm up to this new gig, but his robotic nature up on stage may have proved how difficult this job is. You can't pick up any bum off the street and expect them to do well. They went out and got someone i expected to do a bang up job, and it still wasn't good.
There is only one Ryan Seacrest. What he has been able to do for Idol is never more obvious than when watching someone trying to do something similar on another series. There was just no fluidity to the broadcast - which can also be an issue of production, directing and editing - but it begins and ends with someone who can make the show flow. Seacrest does that better than anyone, and that's why Idol is still the gold standard.
I would go further into the woes of Khloe's work, but I think the fact that she told one of the contestants "we won't let your mom kill you" speaks for itself. At one point they came back to the stage and it was the first time Khloe wasn't up there with Mario...I thought she had been fired during the commercial break.
The thing I hated most about the first season of The X Factor was the severe overproduction of every performance. That was something we didn't see at all in the auditions, at boot camp or at the judges houses. There was no time, space or money to do it. I forgot. I forgot how awful it was.
The first performance of the night reminded me very quickly. The X Factor isn't about the best singers; it says so in its title. It just stinks that they spend all of this time and effort looking for the best singers they can, and then they sideline all that talent with loads of backup singers, people dancing all over the stage, fireworks, and dragons.
Okay, maybe not all of that stuff was involved, but for its own good, I hope that one of these days The X Factor realizes that less can be more. Maybe I'm in the minority, but the few performances I enjoyed from the Top 16 were ones that spent the least amount of effort in creating a production, and just let the talent speak for itself.
Let's take a look at who is in good shape for Thursday's results, and who might be in danger. I'll begin with my favorite group of the night, ranking one through four, move on to my second favorite, and so on...
I never thought the groups would excel the way they did on this first night of live shows, especially with how poorly the category performed last season. Three out of the four acts were in my top five of the whole evening, so it will be a shame that one will have to sing for their lives.
1. Emblem3: Their excitement about life and music is what drew me in at first, but this performance had so much energy and personality in it, that I was immediately wowed.
2. 1432: The new name has left a lot to be desired, but this performance of the new Taylor Swift song definitely did not. Choosing one of her songs is always a great idea because she's a great songwriter but doesn't have the best voice. These girls were able to use that to their advantage, and created a number of fun new dynamics with their six member group.
3. Sister C: I would like to know who Simon thinks disliked these girls back in the boot camp part of the season. When they were filming that the show hadn't aired yet, so did he mean the people working at the show didn't like them? That's not the same thing as how they are perceived on TV. I think all three of them are sweet, and they chose a dynamite Pistol Annies song for the first live show.
4. Lyric145: This was one of if not my least favorite of the night. Throwing Gangnam Style in the middle of Boom! Shake the Room didn't spice up the track. It made everything that much more strange. Nothing about the performance showed artistry. It felt more like they were just up there shouting.
I thought the Teens had the most talent coming into the live shows, and that didn't change much after one week. Britney seemed to push them all in the right direction for the most part.
1. Beatrice Miller: Beatrice was my favorite solo artist of the night, choosing to buck the trend and just let her voice do the talking. Her imperfections came through in the performance, and that's something most of the other contestants couldn't do because the backup singers and loud music were drowning them out too much.
2. Diamond White: Hampered by many of the same issues as everyone else; overproduction, poor sound mix, etc., Diamond still shined through with her incredible voice. The song choice itself wasn't bad, but they couldn't have gone in a better direction with it.
3. Carly Rose Sonenclar: I didn't know where Britney was going with the whole school girl outfit thing at first. I mean, Brity, you were 18 when you were the sexy school girl. Carly is 13. Let's keep this appropriate. Carly's powerful voice was evident in her performance, but it didn't blow me away.
4. Arin Ray: Arin was fine. If the dancers didn't ruin it for me, the constant gusts of smoke from the floor did. They were just bothersome, and didn't bring anything to the performance.
These four weren't ruined by the overproduction, or poor mentoring as much as some of the others, they just don't seem all that talented. L.A. was right to be angry when he first found out this was his crew.
1. Tate Stevens: Like L.A., I came in wanting to dislike Tate, and by all means he wasn't great, but he also didn't embarrass himself. Have I heard dozens of guys in the Nashville bars as good as Tate? Sure, but at least he has a decent voice that could be heard over his backup singers.
2. Vino Alan: Vino knows what he is all about, and he's going to continue to show that to America in this competition. I like that about him. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and that emotion is fun to watch.
3. David Correy: The best part about David's performance was when they cut to L.A. and he was aggressively nodding along to the song. David would have been very good if he was singing that all by himself, and not pleading with the audience to get into it and clap with him.
4. Jason Brock: Jason looked like Cam Tucker dressing up as Adam Lambert for Halloween, and his performance was just as weird.
I thought I was going to really like the Young Adults. Heck, Paige and Cece were both awesome in boot camp when they had to face off with that Whitney track, but this was a completely different story as the battle for who could have the craziest performance took over. The only people that helped were Jennel and Willie.
1. Jennel Garcia: The judges thought this was the best performance since The Beatles split up, but from my living room it was your run of the mill semifinal performance. It was a decent vocal, but it all felt too similar to a karaoke bar.
2. Cece Frey: She was certainly weird, but of all the contestants, weird fits Cece best. She's out there, and she knows it. Still, this didn't allow her to show off her huge voice, and that's an issue in a singing competition.
3. Willie Jones: I still don't get what he's supposed to be. He can say he's a country singer, and he can sing country songs, but he doesn't sound country when he sings.
4. Paige Thomas: Her performance kicked off the night, and it didn't send it in the right direction. Her headgear alone made me want to change the channel. Maybe if she and Demi spent more time worrying about showing off her talent, and less time talking with the costume people, this wouldn't have been one of my least favorites of the entire season.
So that's it for the first live show of the season TV Fanatics. Did you absolutely love it? Or was it a big disappointment? Who were your favorites? Who do you think should move on? And who do you think is in danger?
Dan Forcella is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.