X Factor USA 2012: Carly is Simon’s Final Choice

The two-part finale for the second season of X Factor USA begins tonight. For those who invest a lot of time and money in the British show, it’s worth keeping an eye on what happens across the Pond as a way of seeing how the franchise is developing. Despite being much younger, the US version is going through many of the same problems witnessed in the UK.

First and foremost, ratings have been poor: far lower than hoped and trounced by its main rival, The Voice, which finished earlier this week. Secondly, the judging panel has been something of a disappointment, and all apart from Simon are rumoured to be leaving after this series ends; LA Reid definitely so, he has said. Demi Lovato has been miscast in the ‘annoy Simon’ role – it’s been a really one-sided fight.

When I talk to American friends about its fortunes, the most common complaint is that it feels “out of touch” or “ten years too late”. The inclusion of Britney Spears on the judging panel is a good example of this. She’s brought nothing more than her name to the show, and has been unable to emotionally connect, nor critique for more than a sentence. Ironically, her old rival in the charts, Christina Aguilera, has been much more effective on The Voice, sparking off colleagues Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green.

There’s been plenty for British students of the show to recognise in the familiar methods used to pimp and deramp contestants. Week 1 may have not gone to public vote but it was noticeable that the only two acts who were red and blacked (Willie Jones and David Correy) were sent home. Similar staging helped kill off Arin Ray in week 4 and CeCe Frey in week 6 (who was also trapped in the cage of light for ‘Edge of Glory’), although their time was largely up anyway, as LA Reid so ruthlessly said of the latter.

They were pretty inventive for Vino Alan in week 5, however, giving the previously pimped and likeably-portrayed contestant a diva VT then going to a commercial break before his rendition of ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ (an apt song title in the circumstances) with a very empty production.

The least interesting ‘controversy’ was the decision to once more bring back a contestant eliminated early on. Last year it was eventual winner Melanie Amaro, rejected by Simon at judges’ houses before he ‘realised his mistake’. This time it was Diamond White, one of four acts eliminated after the first live show. As plots go, it was a case of flogging a dead horse.

The most interesting innovation of the series has been the decision to reveal the ranking order of each week’s phone vote (though this was sensibly stopped in the semi-final). Viewers have learnt where the acts stand each week, who is gaining and losing momentum. We got to see how the sympathy bounce worked twice for CeCe Frey (up to fifth both times) and Paige Thomas (up to sixth) before they dropped back into the danger zone each time the following week.

13-year-old vocal powerhouse Carly Rose Sonenclar and 37-year-old country crooner Tate Stevens have been swapping the number one spot, and we’ve been told after week 3 and week 5 that it’s been very close at the top. They’ve been joined in the final by girlband Fifth Harmony, put together at bootcamp as Lylas before settling on a different name, a la Little Mix.

The girls bounced out of a quarter-final bottom two appearance and into the final thanks to some clever pushing in the semi-final, well described by lolhart. This included an ingenious Brian Friedman production of ‘Anything Could Happen’ before reprising their judges’ houses song, which just so happened to be ‘Impossible’, performed by James Arthur as his winner’s single in Manchester a few days earlier (though it’s hard to imagine him giving us some of the lines in Spanish, as Fifth Harmony did).

Despite all this, it’s difficult to see Fifth Harmony generating the momentum that propelled the UK winner from a long way behind the two early front-runners at a crucial stage. They’re 18/1 outsiders of three to do so.

It very much looks like a Carly v Tate showdown. Our commenters are torn between the two. Steven noted that producers were kinder to Tate once they got him off the top spot. His VT suggested he wouldn’t have a job to go back to, whilst there was a slight deramp for Carly Rose. It’s worth bearing in mind that this means the last time we were given the ranking order – in the quarter finals – Tate was on top, leaving Carly Rose looking like the underdog.

Since then however, Tate has been red and blacked, and had his name sent up in flames during his rendition of ‘Bonfire’ in the semi-finals. The other song choice of ‘Fall’ also seemed to be rather subliminal.

The fact that Simon says every week how happy he is to see Tate going so far in the competition reeks of insincerity and reverse psychology. Realistically, he must know that his act Fifth Harmony look booked for third, and in those circumstances, I think he is much more in favour of young Carly Rose taking the five-million dollar recording contract, despite the fact that as lolhart says, Tate is guaranteed to shift plenty of records within his demographic. Giving the prize to the younger performer, even if she’s far from cool, is the kind of thing that’s in his blood.

Carly Rose has the vocal range to produce something special in the final, which her rival doesn’t. For all these reasons, I expect her to get the pimp slot tonight. What’s more, whilst Tate obviously has his legion of country fans across the US, the flip side of the coin is that he’s less likely to win over floaters or those switching votes from eliminated acts. My feeling then, though I won’t be betting on the outcome, is that Carly Rose will be crowned the winner tomorrow night. Bookmakers have her as the marginal favourite too, at 4/6 over 11/8 for Tate.

Agree or disagree? If you’ve been following the US series, do let us know your thoughts below.

27 comments to X Factor USA 2012: Carly is Simon’s Final Choice

  • Rave

    Apparently Carly is opening the show tonight according to a family member, unless they swap it suddenly.

  • Tim B

    Does anyone know if one act is leaving the competition tonight, with the other two going through the second night? What’s the format?

    • Daniel

      Hi Tim, I’m assuming it’s the same as last year, when all three finalists stayed in and performed both nights until the results were announced.

  • lolhart

    Hi Daniel, I think you make good points on why Simon would want a Carly win. The X-Factor has been marketed as a cooler and younger alternative to Idol and so Carly as a winner suits the show’s image better, even if she doesn’t end up selling records. I am sure she’ll pick up a lot of the votes from Emblem 3 fans now that they have been eliminated. I think for ego reasons though Simon will still want Fifth Harmony to do well and they will get favourable treatment tonight and tomorrow.

    It’s interesting how they have used some of the same tactics as the UK show. Apart from the ones you mentioned, one of my “favourites” was Simon telling Jennel Garcia she was back in the race (i.e. safe) the week she got eliminated. There was also a distasteful death in the family VT for Fifth Harmony. What’s interesting is that revealing the weekly voting shows clearly how they “give up” on certain acts who don’t poll well in the beginning. For example, Arin Ray was given a great song choice and was praised by the judges, but still came 11th the second week. The next two weeks he got unsuitable ballads and negative feedback. Beatrice Miller was also a victim of this. I have a feeling they won’t introduce the weekly reveal in the UK version, as there’s too much awareness of the manipulation that goes on.

    From a viewing perspective the show has been quite a trainwreck, which is a shame as there are some talented contestants. However, there is something very off about the editing, overblown productions and of course Khloe Kardashian. I have definitely enjoyed The Voice a lot more.

  • Boki

    Hi Daniel, didn’t follow it much and not really involved (except a small early bet on Tate, courtesy of someone here who predicted his long run, which I hedged after semi).
    What would be very interesting is how the ranking order reveal would influence the odds of the certain contestants – unfortunately no elimination markets this year. I guess the next UK season is likely to also include the ranking order, do you think?

    • Daniel

      Hi Boki, it’s an intriguing question: whether the ranking order will be revealed each week in next year’s UK X Factor.

      My gut reckons they won’t do it, because as lolhart says, the Brits are wiser to the manipulation that goes on in the show.

      The changes currently being talked about are a ‘back to basics’ approach so that the show would look more like it did four years ago, with no arena auditions amongst other things. A weekly reveal doesn’t fit in with this.

      However, if they decided against this approach and went all out to shake the format up, that could be a reason for going ahead with it in the UK.

  • Jake Kl

    Tbh I dont know what red and black has to do with week 1. The judges (or more precisely producers) were getting rid of the contestants on week 1, not the public. Red and black usually tries to put off the public.

    • Daniel

      You’re right Jake, but much the same happened in the first live show in the 2011 series in the UK. There was no public vote, just judges deciding, yet it was amazing how much of the usual tricks that producers used against those contestants that were sent home. It was as if they were trying to put the public off them before sending them home themselves.

  • Tim B

    Despite betting on it, I didn’t watch last night’s part 1 as I didn’t want to stay up. Can anyone tell me roughly how it went? I have layed Fifth Harmony.

    • Jake Kl

      I may b biased but I thought 5th Harmony deserved to win last night.
      Carly gave a good performance of her audition song (“Feeling Good”) but her duet with LeAnn Rimes was a bit messed up (more due to LeAnn than Carly) and her winner song Hallelujah was a carbon copy of Burkes one and felt very unoriginal.
      Tates audition song was great. His duet with Little Big Town was (for me) his highlight of the series and, like L.A said looked great and comfortable in his element. His winner song, Tomorrow, was very country-esque and well done.
      5th Harmony sang the song that brought them to the finals, ”Anything could happen” very well, their duet with Demi (A song theyd already sang in the Lives) was cute and reminded me of Tulisa becoming LMs 5th member. They nailed their winner song Let it Be.
      Its gonna be hard for the group to surpass Tates country fans and Carlys massive support but they were clearly the most pimped act last night, and the whole series tbh (Singing James Impossible last week and Jahmenes Let it Be this week clearly showed it).

      • Tim B

        Thanks Jake. The audience won’t be familiar with Alexandra’s Hallelujah, so don’t see how that’s a problem. In fact I think it was an excellent choice and sure to go down a storm with the audience who are likely to be religious on the whole. Let’s not forget that Alexandra’s Hallelujah is the biggest-selling winner’s single in the UK – it is always the simplest songs that have the widest appeal.

        Even if Fifth Harmony manage to surpass either of the big 2 (which I don’t think will happen), I think the other one would beat them as we know that they have had more prolonged support across the series. At this stage I think that the most popular act will win, regardless of what happens with the performances. Still wouldn’t be able to call it between Carly and Tate though, even if I’d watched it.

        • Jake Kl

          When I said Carly didnt deserve to win, it was my personal opinion ofc. I still think 5th Harmony will come 3rd (even after those performances). Between Tate and Carly, its gonna b very close but Carly will narowly take it.

  • Henry VIII

    I didn’t see it but what Jake says makes sense. The 5 mill doesn’t really go to the act but to the act’s expenses, the bulk of which is promotion. Therefore, even more than XF UK, Cowell is going to want a money maker to win – I’d have thought anyone but Carly.

  • lolhart

    They couldn’t have done anymore to help Fifth Harmony last night. A really positive VT, decent song choices and positive comments from the judges on their journey and how much they’ve improved. Their duet with Demi was probably the best out of the three. I think Simon knows they’re not going to win and might be setting them up for a post-show career. He’d love a girlband to add to his roster and I can’t see Little Mix making it big in the US.

    They were very positive about Carly and Tate, but I think on balance Carly got the better treatment. Hallelujah really played to her strengths and there was the angelic staging and choir. The only minus was her song with LeAnn Rimes which was more like one of the battle rounds from The Voice than a duet. I didn’t really see any attempts to deramp Tate, although I thought his winner’s song performance was a bit too understated compared to Carly and Fifth Harmony’s. Also, I think Simon said something about how he would definitely be selling records after the show – the implication being he doesn’t need to win. I think we’re looking at a Carly win with Tate coming a close second.

    • Curtis

      Fifth Harmony are the most marketable act in the final, Simon knows this, so undoubtedly he’s looking to set them up the best he can, though we can presume the win is out of reach for them.

  • Guildo Horn Forever

    Disclaimer: X Factor USA – haven’t watched a second of it.

    But if Carly is TCO, why select LeAnn Rimes to duet with her?
    Is not LeAnn Rimes despised in the States? She certainly used to be.

    I suppose if this Tate is a country singer then choosing LeAnn Rimes for Carly might have been eyed as a savvy move, an attempt to tap into and dampen his core support.

    But of all country music singers: LeAnn Rimes? That sends a distressing visual prediction: a horrible before and after, now-and-future self image! I mean in Looper they cast Bruce Willis as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s future self – not Mel Gibson!

    Maybe Simon Cowell is getting stingier in his upper middle age.

    Also odd why LeAnn Rimes is reviled when Angelina Jolie remains Hollywood A-List popular.

  • Guildo Horn Forever

    Just watched the Carly-LeAnn performance.
    Part funny, part sad.

    LeAnn struts on in her FMBs and the crowd go mild for her introductory vocal. Sings with her squinty eyes shut throughout her performance (which at least distracts from her hair, which is having a bad hedge day).
    Difficult to say if she is hugging Carly or hanging onto her for balance purposes. Perhaps she mistook her for a can of something.
    Poor Carly is a proper trooper and soldiers on wonderfully.

    Very telling is the pattern of looks on Carly’s face between 1.38 -1.40 and 1.54 – 1.56.
    Link here: http://www.entertainmentwise.com/news/99071/WATCH-LeAnn-Rimes-Tries-To-Steal-Carly-Rose-Sonenclars-X-Factor-USA-Performance
    Each pattern begins with Carly looking at LeAnn (while she is singing her part). Carly’s face is set, with a look of suppressed shock/disbelief/horror (???) at what she is seeing before (suddenly remembering she is on camera) snapping out of the look lock with an emergency Bieber-like smiley happy face.

    The co-presenter’s nervous, “Huh!…Well, you’re doing it, ha, ha, ha”
    Carly’s, “…You made me very comfortable”
    And Britney’s hilarious, “I think they were (a)…shockingly amazing…”

    I was going to say that Faith Hill, or the like, would have made a more suitable, deserving duet partner; but on second thoughts perhaps booking LeAnn Rimes was a masterstroke!

    Watching LeAnn gave me a sudden urge to look up and enjoy this:

  • Guildo Horn Forever

    Go on – What do these 2 singers have in common?

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      Ah! Jake Kl, have just twigged that you’re not going to reply with a punchline. 🙁
      Or assert a little-known factoid.

      You actually want an explanation of, apart from the obvious commonalities, what LeAnn Rimes and Taylor Dayne have in common that led to the particular synaptic segue?
      Or more accurately, what was the factor from LeAnn’s performance near Carly that triggered the memory of Taylor Dayne Tell It to my Heart video?

      Well, the nature of involuntary memory was (famously) described and mulled over at some length (!) by Marcel Proust.

      But, anyhow, let’s try to see then, I don’t think there was a small cake involved, but you can never know, probably the black outfit, big fairish hair and loud performance of LeAnn reminded me a little of Taylor in her pomp, this video performance below probably wouldn’t have connected said dots:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90e8ryPDKWo
      which in no way reminds me of this:
      http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/drunk-kim-wilde-sings-to-a-train-1490017

      • lolhart

        It shows how bad the ratings have been that they had to resort to getting LeAnn “Homewrecker” Rimes to do the celebrity duet. I wonder if it cose Carly Rose the win.

  • Tim B

    Tate Stevens won? Yee-haw!!! I’m a winner. I watched about half the final performances on YouTube and I must say the calibre and quality is much higher across the pond than it is over here.

  • Jake Kl

    Never doubt the country vote

  • Boki

    Off topic but important: ESC rehearsal schedule is out. What strikes me is this:
    “The event weeks will kick off on Monday, 6th of May, one day later than usual. The EuroClub will open the same day
    Until Thursday, 9th of May, all Semi-Finalists will rehearse once behind closed doors. Journalists and fans can follow their rehearsal on screens at the EuroClub, which will facilitate the basic needs of the press.”

    It means there will be no clips from the 1st rehearsal – I also guess that filming in the EuroClub will be forbidden. Daniel, you were there last year, can you comment please?

    • Daniel

      Hi Boki, I have the same assumptions that you do. There will be no filming of the screens in the Euroclub, just as you are not allowed to in the press centre either.

      This means no Youtube clips from the first rehearsals. YouTube footage taken from within the arena isn’t ideal anyway, and first rehearsals are pretty rough and ready affairs.

      Therefore, whilst it may be frustrating to have no footage, it may force punters absent from Malmo to be a little more patient – and that may not be such a bad thing. The picture often only starts to get clearer during second rehearsals.

      I am hoping to be there throughout to bring you my thoughts on all the rehearsals. In those first couple of days, I fear punters not in Malmo may be pretty reliant on the opinions of bloggers to get a feel for what’s going on.

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