The X Factor recap: Bonfire of the Vanities

Two of the top 4 acts take on the Beatles. Are these judges/mentors for real?!
Ep. 24 | Aired Dec 12, 2012

FLAMES ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE Tate Stevens clued into what his fans really wanted to hear: songs about fire.

Fox

Keaton, the young one who gets the least amount of backstory/screentime, was instructed by Simon over the phone to take the lead on Paul McCartney's end-of-song freakout sessions during "Hey Jude," and right away you knew this was a bad idea. Even before that -- upon realizing that Emblem3 was about to cover a Beatles song -- it was a bad idea. I mean come on. That was a cute brotherly pep talk backstage between Wes and Keaton, but no. Just don't do it. I just couldn't get behind any of this -- Drew leaning back and sprawling out lazily with his guitar, the way Wes' voice developed a bizarre Billie Joe Armstrong-esque "alternative twang" mid-song, and especially poor Keaton's desperate attempts at "emoting" during the final "Jude-ah Jude-ah Jude-ah Jude-AIIIIII! Wah-ho!"s. As Fifth Harmony prognosticated, anything can happen. I just really wish Emblem3's "Hey Jude" had not.

I appreciated the elaborate staging and keen song choice by Fifth Harmony on Ellie Goulding's "Anything Can Happen" (it's getting some decent buzz lately as the song in the new Girls trailer as well as a kick-ass song in general). Camila's oversize pink bow and the way Lauren was heavily petting an oversize layer cake, and the five askew chairs all lent themselves to a Mad Hatter's Tea Party aesthetic I can always get behind. Once the girls got up from the table, some of them looked terrified of forgetting the choreography, so some of the choices were probably more trouble than they were worth. But altogether, this showcased their ability to harmonize (thanks to super-intense vocal coach Autumn for making them sing separately so we could hear proof of that) as well as some of the girls' individual strengths. Dinah Jane killed many of those high notes, Camilla delivered on the the "I know it's gonna be me" reinforcement, and Ally has some very effective sexy sideways winks in her arsenal. At the end I thought they looked like five modern-day Disney princesses on a lunchbox.

BUT IS IT A FIVE MILLION DOLLAR LUNCHBOX?

Probably not. Camilla and Lauren's enthusiasm for singing part of their judges' home audition song, "Impossible," seemed promising during the planning stages, but I didn't think it translated very well (ha) to a moment onstage. Maybe if they hadn't put it so blatantly -- "We think singing part of the song in Spanish might get us into the finals -- it could have felt surprising and organic; as it was it just seemed pandering and a little desperate. Little Ally had some trouble hitting all those power "impossibles," but when she was on-key she sounded great. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, I guess. I really wanted this girl group to turn into something magical -- either because of or despite Simon's involvement -- but it just didn't happen for me, with them, this season.

I wonder -- if Simon actually seemed to care at all about The X Factor, could he have made better choices for Fifth Harmony that would have convinced us that they're cool and current and viable, or were they bound to drown under the show's overproduction and heavy orchestration anyway? I'm all for accepting the way of the world, reality TV-wise -- you'll become a huge and intolerable cynic if you don't, and trust me I know I seem like that sometimes -- but I gotta say I'm truly disappointed in how uttah-ly bored Simon has looked all season. He sets an example for the rest of the judges and that example is: Just show up. Get through it. Roll your eyes. Avoid eye contact. Collect money. Delete memory.

Great gig if you're a judge, but come on, man. This s--- is just really, really hard to watch.

Are you watching anyway? Which act do you think goes home tonight? (Finally it's a single elimination this time!)

Discuss!

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