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'X Factor' Michael Jackson night: On the scene

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Oprah Winfrey Presents: Their Eyes Were Watching GodIt’s been a while since I last stepped into The X Factor‘s Cylon basestar Galaga rollerderby Xanadome, so maybe it’s normal to see Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul milling outside the studio with a pregnant Kaitlin Olsen of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I’m just saying that that is at least three orders of magnitude of pop-culture coolness higher than pretty much any celebrity that’s come within spitting distance of the Idoldome. Maybe Paul and Olsen were tipped off that the Jackson dynasty would be plopping the late Michael Jackson’s children into the X Factor eardrum shatter factory to promote a new Cirque du Soleil show, and they wanted to be there to witness the circle of (mega-celebrity) life sprout anew. Me, I just happened to luck into it.

Listen: If you’ve come here for juicy gossip and spicy scuttlebutt and flavorful flibbertigibbeting about Prince, Paris, and Blanket Jackson, you’re going to leave disappointed. My overall impression was that the newest generation of Jacksons behaved as normally as those kids could possibly be in that situation. They applauded when everyone else did; they sat patiently and politely; they quietly shared their thoughts with each other — well, okay, Prince and Paris spoke with each other, but I don’t recall Blanket doing much more than occasionally stare at the ceiling. Then again, if I was the nine-year-old son of a ginormous celebrity suddenly stuck inside a deafening tribute to my late father that barely managed to adhere to the actual lyrics and melody lines of his songs, I may be bored to distraction, too.

In any event, none of them demonstrated any passionate interest in the performances — Paris seemed kinda keen on watching Astro — but they also didn’t seem all that bothered by any of the performances, either. At one point, Prince — whose only act of rebellion was that he never, not once, stopped chewing his gum — got up to stretch, and the crowd began to cheer him, so he waved, awkwardly, like an awkward teenager suddenly aware people care that he’s stretching. And then Paris stood to stretch, too, only to be hit with a spotlight, so she had to awkwardly wave as well, like a preternaturally pretty girl who suddenly finds herself stretching with a spotlight on her. Then the spotlight was turned off, the crowd stopped cheering, and Paris and Prince finished their cursory arm stretches. Which is to say: REALLY EXCITING STUFF, you guys.

If you absolutely must have a tasty tidbit to take back with you to your friends, here: There was a woman seated just behind Paris and Blanket who would, on occasion, help tend to their hair. Somewhere, someone at TMZ is madly crafting a logo for a series of stories just about this woman.

As for the rest of the show, either my Thanksgiving head cold has insulated my skull from extreme high and low frequencies, or I’m actually beginning to find parts of the live show not completely destructive to my limbic system. Anyhoodle, here are the rest of the highlights of what you didn’t see on TV:

Sound check For those of you new to our on the scene recaps of The X Factor, yes, the audience is encouraged from the start by Bill the Warm Up guy to be “loud, rowdy, and rude!” They want the crowd to drown out the judges, to catcall when someone is talking, to behave as “badly” as possible. And last night, they started early; as I made my way to my seat, BeyoncĂ©’s “Single Ladies” began to play, and up popped a lively and fashion-forward guy who happily popped his hips to the song, while a gaggle of similarly dressed women sitting in the row behind him cackled in approval.

Paula’s runaway jewelry After Steve Jones introduced her, Paula began dancing and one of her bracelets promptly jumped off her wrist. For a moment, Paula just kinda froze, as if waiting for a stagehand to grab it for her, since we all know Paula going any direction that isn’t completely vertical is a dicey proposition. But she managed to discretely bend her knees down to grab her bracelet. I am going to presume that it was from Paula’s own line of jewelry, if only because during an ad break later in the show, a camera crew came out to film Nicole conspicuously conferring with Paula at the judges table about what appeared to be that very same bracelet. I’m beginning to suspect that the entire Xanadome is powered purely by cross-promotion.

Rachel Crow’s psychedelic video background The X Factor overlords demand everyone be in their seat 45 minutes before showtime, which means there is a loooot of time to stare at the massive video screens that dominate the Xanadome stage. Usually, it’s just that giant X Factor “X” — I was so bored, in fact, I counted nine separate X’s within it. But at some point, someone decided just to run what we’d later learn was the backdrop to Rachel Crow’s performance, over and over and over again. To refresh your memory, it was a series of neon blue A’s (or occasionally V’s) slowly coming towards the audience, like something out of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon crossed with Tron crossed with…wait for it…Xanadu. And it was mesmerizing, so much so I actually started to nod off even amid the pulsating din of the best club mega-mix I’ve heard in many a moon.

Marcus Canty’s fickle light box I can spare no snark for the X Factor production team, who somehow manage to load in and out all the plexiglass platforms, fog machines, pyro rigs, and lighting apparatuses in between each ad break with time to spare. Even when one of the light boxes lining the front of Marcus Canty’s set up ran into issues fitting the magenta gel meant to cover it, the Xanadome’s crack team fixed the issue before Marcus’ opening video package had reached its halfway point. Honestly and truly, it’s this kind of capable dedication to putting on a show with polish and panache that makes me love showbiz.

Lakoda Rayne was in the house! Well, half of Lakoda Rayne, anyway. The two blonde ones. (No, not that blonde one. Those other two. Yeah, them. You know.) Look at them, sitting way in in the back. Waving to Paula when the warm up guy pointed them out. And grinning when Paula said she missed them and then made no overture to have them come down to say hi.

Oh, and Michael Jackson’s brothers? After their appearance at the top of the show, we never saw them again.

So what was your favorite part of last night’s X Factor? Did you approve of the use of Michael Jackson’s children as promotional tools? Do you think Marcus and Rachel realize they were served up as cannon fodder for this week? And don’t you think Steve Jones should do a little twirl a the start of every show from now on?

Read more:

‘The X Factor’ recap: Jackson 7

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