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Simon Cowell, American Idol

“You never cease to… not blow me away,” Demi Lovato blundered during Wednesday’s finals on Fox — while deftly summing up my overall impression of The X Factor!

We stopped recapping this mess early in season 3 — not only because, as previously established, The X Factor has no soul, but because ratings dropped by a lot and we noticed barely anyone wanted to read about it. Yet the show has sputtered on, this time with bright yellow lights on the front of the judges’ table instead of red or blue, and Paulina Rubio wobbling around in her chair instead of Britney Spears sitting there like a sad statue. There’s still a lot of lasers. Alex & Sierra (pictured) have emerged as a duo you might have heard of this fall even if you don’t watch The X Factor. So that’s certainly new! Good for them. They’re lovely.

Overall, though, the show strikes me more than ever as a scripted yet poorly executed celebration of both the judges’ wealth and the contestants’ poverty. It could all change for them if they win the million-dollar recording contract. Meet the finalists in all their destitute glory, and run through their final performances with me, below.

Only if they win this reality show will our three finalists get to permanently use wealthy-person transportation such as….

Helicopters (modeled by college students Alex & Sierra, one of Simon Cowell’s groups)….

Motorcycles (modeled by Jeff Gutt, a 37-year-old ‘Over 25’ mentored by Kelly Rowland)….

….and Town Cars (modeled by Carlito Olivero, 24, one of Paulina Rubio’s ‘Boys’).

Once more, with beams of sunlight!

I AM LOVING THIS. No joke. Way to kick it up a notch. Shower me with riches!


Carlito Olivero — “The Latino Chris Brown” is “real, like fire,” according to mentor Paulina. At one point the Chicago native was homeless for months! After a mediocre rendition of Shontelle’s “Impossible” (complete with lyrics in Spanish), Simon Cowell droned, “I’ve really learned that I have to respect you.” Then after Carlito’s final performance/DANCE PARTY of “Maria Maria,” Simon said it was “the first time I believed you had a future in the music industry.” Did he mean the first time Carlito sang it, or just now? Does it matter? I don’t think it does! In between those two numbers, Carlito dueted with Prince Royce and earned a robotic “You have what it takes to be a Latino pop star” from Demi Lovato. This judging is even less lustrous than I’d remembered.

The thing I will remember most about Carlito was this interesting collar on his Christmas lights-infused jacket. Ah, the insanity!

Oh and throughout the night, we got sweet picture-in-picture shots of the contestants reacting to the celebrations in their hometowns.

No deep-dish, but what can you do? At least flatbread pizza guy is super hearty.

Alex & Sierra — Ed Sheeran’s “Give Me Love” and the pair’s reprise of A Great Big World (feat. Christina Aguilera)’s “Say Something” were solid, soothing, and more sensual than expected performances from them. But their second-round jaunt with eternal X Factor UK mascot Leona Lewis on “Bleeding Love” was a complete mess. All three of them sounded off! In order from least to most off: Alex, Sierra, Leona. Tragedy! The rendition was also way too slow. I would never even imagine “Bleeding Love” sung as a trio. I still don’t want to. Bad idea.

This Alex is way more adorable than I remembered, too. He cried real tears following “Say Something.” Mario Lopez and his purple hair could not wait to capitalize on that.

Jeff Gutt — I remember this guy from season 2 and the early part of season 3 as a nondescript performer with a decent voice and that’s pretty much it. So he blew away my expectations tonight. I still think he makes much more sense in my head as a brilliant karaoke artist who covers really amazing rock songs than a viable Top 40 solo artist — but who knows? With Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” a truly enjoyable duet with the Goo Goo Dolls’ John Rzeznick on “Iris,” and a swelling reprise of his original audition song, Radiohead’s “Creep,” Jeff was vocally the most consistent act of the night. Can he give lovebirds Alex & Sierra a run for the money none of them currently have?

Who should win Thursday night?

Episode Recaps

Simon Cowell, American Idol
The X Factor
Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Paulina Rubio judge Season 3.
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