What’s the deal?! The X-Factor was dubbed as the second coming of American Idol, headed by its former impresario Simon Cowell. But with all its hype The X-Factor has only managed to muster a measly half of the audience American Idol achieved in 2011.
The X-Factor, in what appears to be a desperate attempt to grab ratings, paired in the bottom two this week one of the weakest contestants (a 42-year-old, not current soul singer) and the best contestant (a 14-year-old, current hip-hop artist).
It was shocking for a moment until you realized it didn’t make any sense. Stacy Francis is a novelty act; ever since Susan Boyle struck it big, other talent shows have been trying to recreate the Boyle-effect. Susan Boyle is a delightful frumpy, middle-aged woman who despite her mediocre talent became incredibly successful. Why? We felt bad for judging Ms. Boyle solely on her looks and her life as a spinster rather than solely on her talent. As a result, our reaction to her talent was over magnified by our need to feel good about ourselves for finally not judging someone on their looks.
Susan Boyle was more a novelty and far from a worldwide superstar. In the end, Susan Boyle is a nice lady for whom everyone can feel happy when good things happen to her. The self-righteous public can also pat themselves on their collective backs for finally putting talent ahead of beauty or at least until the next Britney Spears albums comes out—our convictions only go so far.
Stacy, of course, is not an old spinster but her hook is being a middle-aged struggling mother of two children longing to be a pop star. I don’t really think anyone considered Stacy Francis anything more than a novelty act. In the first week, Simon actually advised her to sing gospel music. When Simon was re-buffed by the other judges he retorted, “gospel albums sell.” When Whitney Houston was first entering the scene, I’m sure she wasn’t told to “go gospel” to become a huge international recording artist.
Simon’s advice seems to be more off base as the season drags on. A group act called Intensity consisting of 10 kids (ages ranging from 12 to 17) was sold as the X-Factor’s answer to Glee. Simon insisted the world needed another group of soulless prepubescent kids (or at least pretending to be) singing unimaginative pop songs appealing to tween girls. Surprising or not, Intensity was voted off the first week, only receiving Simon’s vote out of the four judges to continue to the next week. Again, it would seem, Simon strongly supported another novelty act.
And let’s not forget the novelty act of Lakoda Rayne, a group composed of four incredibly attractive young ladies who can sing, albeit their sound is drearily uninspired. In a move that reeks as a stunt pandering to the lucrative country music market, Simon advised Lakoda Rayne to sing country songs. It’s basically the X-Factor hedging its bets; a talent show needs to get one commercially successful artist to be considered legit and we all know country fans are low hanging fruit. Four hot chicks, scantily dressed, crooning about God, country and loving your cousin is a sure fire hit in the country music world. The X-Factor looks desperate to get a successful act out of the show. Instead of putting in the real effort and investment into finding a legitimate artist, it appears they are trying to manufacture one.
We all know country music is God’s way of punishing us for stealing all other forms of music. Country artists would never crack the Billboards’ Top One Million even if you included all pirated music as sales. It just shows how God-fearing country fans actually are so pure they would not even think of stealing music (or maybe they just haven’t figure out how to do it yet). Regardless, Simon, once again, is supporting a novelty act, and not attempting to find someone with the X-Factor. The examples can go on and on (Rachel Crow for instance), but I will stop here.
Did Simon lose his X-Factor? Maybe. Simon’s downfall might be L.A. Reid. Back in the good ole American Idol days, Simon ruled the roost. No matter what Paula, Randy, Ellen or Kara said mattered. It was Simon’s approval the viewer valued, trusted and found refreshingly (or brutally) honest. But those days are long gone, and it’s now L.A. who brings the gravitas to the table. L.A. actually discovered major talent like Mariah Cary, Justin Bieber and Rihanna vs Simon’s find IL-Divo (who you ask? Google it).
Not only has L.A. discovered major talent, but he is actually the judge saying what we think, something for which Simon was always known. During the live show, L.A. tends to give a very tempered response to the contestants when it’s negative, but we at home now know there’s more disdain lying beneath. In L.A.’s pre-taped interviews he conveys more frank assessments of the contestants, most notability his real thoughts of Drew Ryniewicz.
On the live show, L.A. said Drew “sounded the same week after week”—politically correct speak for “you’re a bore.” But in his pre-taped post interview he went on to say several times she is “boring,” even spelling out B.O.R.I.N.G. to emphasize his point. (Finally someone said what I, and all of America, was thinking!)
Simon is being upstaged on his own show. Even with the faux-Astro drama, Simon had a major miss-step when deciding which of the bottom two should go home. When Astro had to sing for his life, he gave the crowd a little attitude, as any hip-hop artist would, asking the crowd and L.A. if it was even worth his effort to sing. Before L.A. could respond Astro continued with his song—not a very convincing threat.
Astro gave a mediocre performance, as expected, from somebody who probably didn’t practice because he didn’t think he would be in the bottom two. L.A., very correctly, chastised Astro for not giving the performance his best effort. L.A. makes a good point; the best advice I ever got is “be the best you can be in any job no matter how bad it is.” If you can’t do a crappy job well, who is going to hire you for a great job? Hopefully it was a lesson learned for Astro.
L.A., Astro’s mentor, choose him over Stacy Francis to move on to next week —a total no-brainer. Astro is visibly upset on the stage with his arms crossed as Nicole Scherzinger picks her mentee, Stacy Francis, to move on and Paula, of course, picks Astro to move on. It’s Simon turn: he could choose Stacy Francis and send it to the tie-breaker (the actual person with the lowest votes being sent home) or choose Astro to move on to next week.
Before Simon gives his answer, and not to be outdone by L.A., Simon decides to give Astro a lecture too. However, instead of giving constructive advice like L.A., he gives Astro a speech on his “bad attitude” spewing drivel about how he is disrespecting his “mum” and the entire audience. Astro, goaded by Simon says, “if you’re going to put me in the bottom two, I don’t want to perform for people who don’t want me here,” a typical reaction you would expect from a hip-hop artist. On cue, the audience boos at Astro’s diss of the show, and Astro whips away a tear.
That says it all – he really wants to win badly. Astro appears to work harder than any other contestant—constantly practicing and writing his own lyrics. Astro has the X-Factor. Instead of cow towing to Simon and the audience, he stood up for his artistry knowing deep down he is great and not willing to compromise. Astro’s reaction is completely normal for a creative person. Any real artist thinks their work is great, and when it’s not understood by the public, they’re left befuddled, depressed and angry. It doesn’t matter if you’re an actor, writer, artist or singer we all feel the same when we are not understood.
This faux-drama actually brought out the best in Astro and maybe the worst in Simon, who, as he said, hated to send Stacy home, but he had to because he thought she would lose. How can Simon live with himself sending the “better” singer home, in his opinion, and shamelessly succumbing to public pressure letting Astro advance? One will never know how he so easily betrayed his convictions.
One lesson that we might glean from Astro-gate is that it might be possible for one to lose their X-Factor or maybe Simon never really had it.’
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