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It's Been Real: The Week In Reality Rocks Ending Nov. 23

November 26, 2012 10:51 AM ET
Cody Belew on 'The Voice'
Cody Belew on 'The Voice'
Tyler Goldman/NBC

Last week was Thanksgiving week, which was cause for celebration, of course--at least on "The Voice." But it was a (melo)dramatically different story on "The X Factor," which cruelly opted to air a double-elimination episode ON THANKSGIVING, aka the night that will henceforth be known as Black Thursday to the latest two probably-unthankful†"X Factor" castoffs, Arin Ray and Beatrice Miller. Sheesh, that Simon Cowell really is a Scrooge.

But let's focus on the celebratory stuff for a moment, shall we? So last Monday on "The Voice," this happened:

Yes, Cody Belew's crazy "Crazy In Love" performance was the gift that kept right on giving, since I kept watching and re-watching it during the long holiday weekend like a Thanksgiving binge-eater going back to the fridge for an umpteenth helping of Tofurkey leftovers.

Last week--heeding a previous recommendation/request from coach Christina Aguilera to bring back the "little bit of bam-bam" from his earlier, wilder performances--Team Cee Lo's Cody proudly paraded out in a one-shouldered leather contraption that basically looked like Michael Jackson's "Bad" jacket, Rose McGowan's 1998 VMAs chainmail dress, and everything Seth Aaron ever designed on "Project Runway" Season 7, thrown all at once into a shredder. And he was flanked by two backup dancers, one of whom may or may not have been his former Battle Rounds sparring partner, Domo. And he outdanced them both. And he served a little bit of Glambert realness. And he left the audience panting for more...and then he actually gave them more, by quipping, "Wait, I ain't done yet!" and doing a boogie that he later described as "three parts attitude, one part hip action."

And a gazillion parts awesomeness, of course.

While Cody's unabashed flamboyance and Sasha-fierceness could have backfired on him--and I was indeed worried for his chances when I noticed that he'd sold the second-fewest number of iTunes downloads out of all the top 10 contestants--luckily, he survived another week. (Team Xtina's Sylvia Yacoub and Team Adam's Bryan Keith weren't so fortunate.) And now I cannot wait to see what Cody comes up with this Monday. Viva la bam-bam!

Now, back to the decidedly less bam-bammy "X Factor." In honor of Thanksgiving, the show aired a presumably well-intentioned "What I Am Thankful For"-themed episode last Wednesday, filled with heartfelt dedications and sympathy stories that rivaled those of even "American Idol's" Danny Gokey, Angela Martin, and Chris Medina. The most riveting and harrowing backstories†no doubt belonged to CeCe Frey and Paige Thomas, both of whom already had terrible memories associated with the holiday season: CeCe's sister died from cerebral palsy complications at age 7 on Christmas Eve, and on another horrific Christmas Eve long ago, Paige's mother was killed in a drunk-driving accident. Both CeCe and Paige poured their hearts, souls, and quite literally their tears into their uneven but undeniably passionate performances, and understandably, neither were able to get through their songs without breaking down. And obviously, neither were looking forward to the possibility of being burdened with new sad holiday memories, if they got eliminated the following evening on Thanksgiving.

So on Thanksgiving night--i.e., elimination night on "The X Factor"--Scroogey Simon Cowell and Grinchy L.A. Reid didn't let a little something like a major national holiday stop them from getting down to business. (If you'd expected hosts Mario Lopez and Khloe Kardashian to gleefully announce, "Hey, guess what? Surprise! No one goes home this week!"--well, that didn't happen.) Seventeen-year-old Arin Ray, who was the first to get the boot after somewhat awkwardly dedicating Enrique Iglesias's romantic ballad "Hero" to his older brother, took his elimination like a man. But Beatrice Miller took her bad news, well, like a 13-year-old girl. And that is when things got heavy, like heavier than a carbo-loaded plateful of Thanksgiving seconds.

CeCe was up for elimination for the third time in just four weeks; a teary-eyed tale of woe apparently still wasn't enough to help this season's token villainess†win over America. Interestingly, Paige was NOT at risk last week, so viewers seemed to connect with Paige's sob story much more than with CeCe's. It must have been Paige's hardship tale that gave her the edge, because let's face it: Vocally, CeCe, while far from perfect, had been better than Paige last Wednesday. And so had Beatrice...but she too was in the bottom, and she was forced to sing for survival against CeCe on Thursday.

CeCe's "save me" song performance was flawed, but at least she held it together, for the most part. Meanwhile, poor Beatrice was an absolute blubbering mess, barely making it through her rendition of Dido's "White Flag"--a perhaps unintentionally fitting song title, since it seemed like she'd already given up and surrendered. Although Beatrice actually sang quite well for someone with a Butterball-sized lump in her throat (and she sang better than CeCe did, actually), it was still really, really painful to watch her unravel like this; it broke my heart, and it made me wonder, once again, if 13 is just way too young to be on a high-pressure show like "The X Factor."

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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