A whole lotta nothin' happened during the two-hour X Factor finale. Oh, except Tate Stevens was crowned the winner. But that was about as exciting as waiting for the Sunday newspaper to be delivered to your door.
While Wednesday night's final performances gave us pause when Fifth Harmony delivered the strongest songs of the night, there was clearly no contest going into the Season Two coronation.
Although Simon Cowell and the show producers tried as hard as they could to drum up some drama, in the end everything shook out as expected – Tate took first place, Carly Rose Sonenclar was the runner-up and Fifth Harmony came in third.
All season long – once the live shows started, at least – the 37-year-old country crooner from L.A. Reid's Over 25s team positioned himself as the one to beat. Although Carly Rose nipped at his heels along the way with her powerhouse vocals, he always seemed to stay one step ahead. Everyone else was just trying to keep up with his "everyman" appeal as a "devoted family man" who was finally pursuing his dream while hoping he didn't have to go back home to his manual labor job. Turns out, he had nothing to worry about.
With 35 million votes cast – a far cry from the 132 million that Season 11 of American Idol raked in – it seemed like Tate pulled far ahead of the pack, since the dynamic duo of awkwardness, Mario Lopez and Khloe Kardashian, never made any indication that it was a close call.
Speaking of awkwardness (like, what was up with Khloe rubbing Simon's exposed chest and calling it "sexy"?), the whole finale basked in it, starting with a seemingly staged red carpet setting that looked like it was a scene from a movie being filmed on a studio backlot.
After a technical glitch that left Mario and Khloe looking completely clueless as to what to do (admittedly not hard), each of the top three acts rolled up in a vehicle on the red carpet, then appeared to lip-sync the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" while posing for paparazzi during a seemingly pre-recorded segment that then led up to them appearing onstage. There, they were joined by the rest of Season Two's top 13 contestants.
We were all excited to see some of our old faves perform – well, hello there, Lyric 145 and Vino Alan – but got bummed out when it became clear that they were just background fixtures, as not one of them took the stage again until the very end. Also not taking the stage as a performer? Britney Spears. Um, what exactly was the point of paying her $15 million to be on the judges' panel if she was never going to get up and entertain us at some point? (Sorry, but all those wacky faces don't count.)
What we did get to watch was each of the top three sing a holiday song. Tate did "Please Come Home for Christmas," which was his third Bon Jovi song this season, considering the Jersey rockers covered it on their 1992 A Very Special Christmas 2 album. Meanwhile, Fifth Harmony did "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" (which Jon Bon Jovi recorded for A Very Special Christmas Live – hmm, is there a theme here?) and Carly Rose sang Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You."
Also featured were performances by X Factor U.K. alums One Direction, who sang their new single "Kiss You"; and rapper Pitbull, who did "Don't Stop the Party."
Otherwise, we got to slog through loads and loads of packaged clips – Britney's funny faces! Simon and Demi Lovato's cat fights! A reminder that Tate Stevens is a devoted family man! Plus, Khloe changed her outfit three times. All we really noticed, though, was how her overly-botoxed cheeks and painfully plumped lips desperately seemed to want to swallow her nose.
Right before the winner was announced, Tate and Carly took the stage together to perform a duet of Miley Cyrus' "The Climb." It almost seemed mean to make 13-year-old Carly belt out the lyric "Always gonna be an uphill battle, somebody's gonna have to lose," considering what was about to happen.
As they stood side by side waiting for the results, it never crossed our mind that Carly might win – even though she has the better voice. No, the decision seemed fairly cut and dried considering what a relentless job the show did all season of hammering home the fact that Tate "deserved" the win more than anyone else in the competition. Because of that, Tate topped the leaderboard three times to Carly's two during the previous live shows.
When the news of Tate's win was announced, he teared up and said: "First and foremost, I gotta thank the man upstairs for taking care of me, my family and all the country music fans. Thank you so very much for all the votes. This is the best day of my life."
Earlier in the show, Reid – who's going out on a high note after recently announcing he won't be returning for Season Three – wrapped Tate's win up with a bow, saying, "Tate stands as an example . . . he's 37 years old and he didn't give up his dreams. He put them on hold, but he never gave up. And if that isn't a lesson for everybody then I don't know what is. Never give up on your dreams."
Yes, anything can happen when you've got the backing of reality-show producers.
A grinning Tate then took the stage one last time to perform Chris Young's "Tomorrow," which was the "$5 million song" he sang Wednesday night, as confetti and streamers rained down while the rest of the Season Two contestants joined him onstage to commemorate the beginning of the end of their 15 minutes of fame.
Now, we'll see if Tate fares any better than Season One winner Melanie Amaro and actually launches a successful career. If nothing else, when and if he returns to Belton, Missouri, he can revel in the fact that his name is emblazoned on the town's water tower and a snowplow and that he has not one but four special plates named after him at the local diner.
Till next season . . .
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