The Four-Chair Challenge on The X Factor season 3 certainly has its flaws. The biggest is the audience. The show’s crowds are the worst reality competitions have to offer. They’re loud, brainless cheerleaders. They boo every time any of the judges dares to offer the slightest bit of criticism, even when it’s painfully clear the singer is awful.
In the episode, Paulina Rubio chooses the four Boys moving on to the live shows, and the audience’s lack of discrimination affects the actual decisions as Paulina caves to their pressure and brings back someone she correctly eliminated in the first place. Thanks for nothing, awful audience.
Paulina Rubio and the Boys
Paulina hasn’t really done anything this season, so I guess this is her chance to shine. Or fall flat on her face. The fact that it opens with Mario Lopez telling her she’s dressed like a little boy is an ominous start.
He’s the “Happy Birthday” singer at a restaurant with giant ears. His jean jacket vest and giant blue scarf are almost as annoying as his embarrassing attempt to make “Call Me Maybe” some cool, techno dance track. The vocal is kind of weak and, as Demi Lovato points out, his energetic performance overpowered the actual singing. Simon Cowell thinks he’s more charisma than talent, which isn’t such a bad thing to him. Paulina loves his outfit, so she says “Yes” and Al gets a chair.
He’s 15-year-old church choir singer with a big, happy family. He sings Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All,” which is the worst idea he’s ever had. It’s just terrible and pitchy all over. The obnoxious audience boos the judges when they dare to point out how terrible it was. It’s clear that the audience is tone deaf and should be ignored at all times.
Paulina says “No” and Isaiah is eliminated. Wow, someone in the first four got eliminated? Kudos to Paulina for being the first mentor to do that.
He’s a bouncer and former college football player who looks exactly like both of those things. His voice is completely mediocre, and then, towards the end, he hits one note that goes so wrong it caused me to do a spit take. The Top 40 that The X Factor has collected this season features some truly terrible singers who have no business getting this deep into a competition, and he’s one of them.
Like Isaiah, the judges’ totally spot-on criticism is met with jeers and boos from the audience. Paulina says “No” and Isaac is eliminated. Two eliminations with three open chairs? That’s a strong start of correct decisions for Paulina.
It’s time for the loveable guy with Tourette Syndrome whose story and voice are very moving (unless you’re me, in which case I don’t get it). His version of “Ain’t No Sunshine” is full of those gravelly and moaning runs with constant pitch modulation that I simply do not find enjoyable. But I’ve resigned myself to this guy being a fan favorite and judges’ favorite I will never like.
Simon even admits that his story is compelling enough to keep him around, even though he frequently loses control of his voice. He’s obviously getting a chair, but then he starts rambling on about how he wants to be an inspiration, not a sob story. Meh, that’s why we have Rion Paige. It would be more inspirational if he was as talented as she is. Paulina says “Yes” and Carlos gets a chair.
This 14-year-old only wants to be a pop star like the guys in One Direction so he can get girls. That’s painfully douchy, but I admire his honesty. He has an OK voice, but he’d be better off in a boy band, like his heroes in One Direction. He’s not strong enough to be a solo artist. Simon wants him to be less robotic and get more swag, but he admires Stone’s marketability. Paulina says “Yes” and Stone gets a chair.
He’s a red-headed songwriter who looks like he should be smoking pot with his skater friends in the empty pool in Walter White’s backyard after his house was fenced off by the DEA. His voice gets a lot better when he starts his pseudo-rapping.
Kelly Rowland and Demi prefer when he sings their original songs. Paulina says “Yes” and Chase gets a chair.
He’s the Minnesota guy who lacks any real defining characteristic other than nervousness. He’s dull and bland, a single scoop of vanilla ice cream. I loathed his lack of charisma during his audition, and he’s just as uninteresting now. Then he sings Miley Cyrus‘ “The Climb,” which is such a hokey, lame song. He’s actually quite good, probably the best vocalist of the night so far (which isn’t saying much), but he does nothing for me.
He takes a few steps in either direction, but his vacant, moon-faced expression annoys me. I don’t know how to define “the X factor,” but he does not have it. Kelly thinks he has a recording voice that’s ready for the radio. Simon speaks the truth when he says Tim is an artist, like Josh Groban, who will only appeal to much older people.
Paulina isn’t sure if he’s special enough, but she says “Yes” and Tim gets a chair. Now it’s the first time she has to switch someone out. The audience seems to be cheering for Chase to go. Stone gets switched out. Simon is shocked and confused as Stone is quickly ushered off stage. Then we get to see a 14-year-old boy crying on national TV. That’s good for Simon, because tween tears are one of his four major food groups.
He’s the happy-go-lucky barista. This is why I don’t like Tim Olstad, because Carlito has a decent voice (though he struggled a bit with this one) and he oozes charisma. He’s a charming, sweet guy who I find myself rooting for, especially when he starts singing in Spanish.
He then starts speaking to Paulina in Spanish to woo her, and Mario translates for us gringos. Clever boy. Paulina says “Yes” and Carlito gets a chair. Chase gets switched out.
He’s 13 and lives in a mobile home with his mom, her boyfriend and his grandma. He also has some insanely lustrous hair. I feel like he should be starring in a Disney Channel series about his life. His voice is pretty, but a little thin and weak. These Boys are going to get demolished, vocally, when we get to the live shows.
Kelly thinks he’s “so stinking cute.” In a rare change of pace, Demi plays the bad guy and Simon gets cheers by saying he’s the most memorable contestant of the night. I can’t tell if Simon genuinely believes it or if his claim that “He’s the one” is an attempt to sabotage Paulina’s team.
Paulina says “Yes” and Timmy gets a chair. This is the hardest switch so far. Simon wants Carlito switched out, but Demi fights for him. Tim gets switched out. Kelly is mortified and the audience begins to boo.
The audience continues to boo as Tim leaves the stage. Shut up, audience that is most likely being encouraged to boo by the producers. The audience then starts cheering “Bring back Tim,” which just makes me even more suspicious that this whole thing is manufactured by the show to cause maximum drama.
Paulina then calls a time out and says “I don’t care about what they’re saying here at the venue, but I care what I feel. I need to be true with myself. I want Tim back.” This is the moment I lose any and all respect for Paulina and the show. If you’re going to be manipulated by the audience, own it. Instead, Paulina gives that horrible speech as if this is her own idea not caused by the loud boos at all. Of course it was. If there was no audience, Tim would be gone and forgotten.
Instead, Tim comes back and gets a chair. The whole thing is depressing. It’s like the producers know Tim is boring, so they’ve created this dramatic reversal moment to make it seem as if he’s better than he is.
Paulina then doubles down on her lies, telling Tim “Being a mentor is not easy. I am a woman of my word. I am a human being and I also make mistakes. So I want you back in my team.” Yes, Paulina, you did make a mistake, and it was caving to the audience’s pressure and bringing back Tim.
This time around, Al gets switched out. That really sucks for Al. He was on easy street until this ridiculous bit of theater. Goodbye, chunky scarf.
The last Boy to perform is yet another 14-year-old. Like many others, there’s nothing special about his voice. He starts dancing around the stage, and his moves are cool, but they make the vocal worse. I have no real strong feeling about this kid either way.
Kelly and Simon think Josh is a superstar and Demi is overwhelmed, demanding that Paulina can’t let him go. Paulina says everything he did was perfect. Maybe “perfect” means something different in Spanish than it does in English.
Paulina says “Yes” and Josh gets a chair. So despite some early eliminations, Paulina said “Yes” to eight of the singes, just like Kelly and Demi did. It’s time for another switch, and unless Paulina wants a riot, it’s safe to assume she can’t switch out Tim again.
Timmy gets switched out. So a few minutes ago Timmy was good enough to replace Tim, but now he’s worse than Tim and Josh?
The Final Four Chairs for the Boys: Tim Olstad, Carlos Guevara, Josh Levi and Carlito Olivero
I would criticize this group, but I’m not sure the alternatives were much better. This Boys line-up is just super weak this season. Tim is boring, I don’t see the superstar in Josh that the judges do, Carlos has a voice that’s either love or hate and Carlito is probably the only guy from this group I genuinely like. None of them are worthy of even singing back-up for Rion Paige or Lillie McCloud.
Simon Cowell and the Groups
Finally, The X Factor saved the best for last. Simon doesn’t give two craps about the audience or the other judges. He’s gonna do what he wants, boos be damned. He’s the honey badger of reality show judges, he don’t give a f***.
They’re like the ladies from Pitch Perfect, only without Rebel Wilson to make it awesome. They call their rehearsal studio the Dungeon, and at times their performance feels like torture. Simon thinks the vocals were pretty bad, but he thinks there’s something commercial about them. Simon says “Yes” and Girls United get a chair. Oh Simon, I still love you, but you got fooled by three hot chicks.
They want to be the Jay-Z of L.A. (or the world). Simon thinks of them as Beavis and Butt-head because they’re idiotic and annoying, but somehow they make it work. One of them is wearing jean shorts with suspenders and they both run around the stage and into the audience. I honestly have no idea if this is good or bad. It’s a total joke, but it’s kind of awesome at the same time.
Simon can’t decide who is more annoying and thinks it’s not music, it’s “unintentional comedy.” But he still likes them because he thinks they could make him some money. Simon says “Yes” and Wild Thingz get a chair. He listened to the insane part of his brain, not the normal side. Sure, they suck, but this competition needs something fun.
These are three tween best friends from Georgia who obnoxiously sang the National Anthem at their audition. Man, just like all the other categories, the Groups are full of embarrassingly weak singers. They bore me and aren’t that good. This feels more like a performance three girls do at a slumber party while singing into hairbrushes.
The judges are way too lenient, though Demi does question whether they’re ready yet. Simon says “Yes” and Glamour gets a chair. Boo. Come on, Simon, I expected more from you. At least he admits it’s based entirely on their first audition and not this performance.
This is one of the manufactured groups of the season, as Simon took three young country male singers and lumped them together to form a “country man band.” Their intro video shows them hanging out, playing guitars, fishing and riding horses. Even though it’s obvious what Simon is doing here, I respect it. He’s creating an unbeatable monster. Everyone loves country music (see season 2 winner Tate Stevens or The Voice‘s Danielle Bradbery and Cassadee Pope). And teen girls love cute boys. So Simon has basically invented the musical equivalent of a Reese’s peanut butter cup, two great tastes that taste great together.
Together, the performance is like watching Simon’s dream come to life. They’re good, much better as a group, and when Zach Beeken’s deep voice comes in, Kelly makes an insane facial reaction (like she just crapped her pants( and she stands up to start dancing. Simon’s eyes just fill up with dollar signs from all the money he’s going to make with this idea.
The judges all love love them. Kelly admits it was a “brilliant idea” and Demi takes it one step further by calling Simon a genius for putting them together. Everyone else sitting in the chairs from the other categories need to be shaking with fear, because Restless Road is like a robot programmed to win this competition. Simon says “Yes” and Restless Road gets a chair.
That does it for this episode. The final six Groups will perform on Thursday’s episode and Simon will officially finalize the Top 16 moving on to the live shows.
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(Image courtesy of FOX)