As "The Voice" and "The X Factor" continue apace, with their respective finales now less than three weeks away, the eliminations just keep getting tougher. And while the cut that personally went deepest for me last week was that of absolutely fabulous "Voice" showman Cody Belew, the one that felt ickiest was that of "The X Factor's" Vino Alan, who was so blatantly thrown under the bus, he may as well go ahead and get some tire marks tattooed on his face now.
Only two weeks ago, Vino had been one of the shining stars of "The X Factor's" Thanksgiving-themed episode, with many pundits and even the judges predicting that his patriotic "God Bless The USA" performance would put him atop the leaderboard. And while that didn't happen, he did hold onto his third-place spot for the third week in a row, his momentum not slowed one bit. But it was a very different story last week, when his mentor L.A. Reid inexplicably switched his song at the last minute; gave him a song that absolutely did not suit him, despite Vino's very vehement protests; and then sat by while Vino floundered onstage and the other judges tore him to shreds. Vino subsequently plummeted from third to sixth/seventh place last Thursday, and after a sing-off against impossible-to-beat tween wondergirl Diamond White, he was booted from the show.
It didn't take long for conspiracy theories to start floating around the Interweb/my own brain. Had Simon Cowell orchestrated all this to ensure that his golden boys, Emblem3--who'd placed fourth the previous week, less than half a percentage point behind Vino--would make it to the finale instead? Did L.A., who'd already repeatedly expressed his intention to sign Emblem3 to Epic Records, also have a vested interest in getting Vino out of Emblem3's way--even if Vino was his own contestant? Or was Vino just too difficult, as his caught-on-camera, expletive-riddled reaction to his song switch-up indicated, for the show's producers to want to deal with him anymore?
We may never know. But the whole incident just smacked of shenanigans. Vino wasn't necessarily my favorite on this show, and I didn't necessarily want him to win...but I didn't want to see him go out like this. It just didn't seem right.
One "X Factor" contestant that many people had expected to go home last week was Season 2's token villainess/whipping girl/underdog CeCe Frey, who'd already had to sing for survival on no fewer than three elimination nights. For weeks, it'd seemed that no matter what CeCe did, she could not win. Literally. But she's nothing if not a "trier," according to Simon (is that even a word?), so last week CeCe tried, tried again--with a wild, flashy cover of "Lady Marmalade." And while CeCe's vocals in no way approximated the greatness of Patti LaBelle (or Christina Aguilera, or Pink, et al), she still put on an enjoyable, confetti-flecked revue. It had shades of Madonna's 1990 VMAs "Vogue" performance, Katy Perry's candy-coated concerts, Moulin Rouge...it was theater, it was fluff, and it was fun. An unimpressed L.A. rudely told her she was "going down," and Simon advised her "pack a suitcase," but those nasty threats apparently only galvanized her fanbase of "Warriors" to rock the vote, and she ended up being safe last Thursday. (Instead it was CeCe's Young Adults teammate, Paige Thomas, who went home that night.) Go CeCe! This chick is basically the Nikki McKibbin of "The X Factor," the contestant who takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'--and though she probably will have to sing a "save me" song yet again this coming Thursday, she may very well survive. She is a trier, after all.
Speaking of fun, confetti-flecked revues--and speaking of underdogs, too--Cody "Bam-Bam" Belew definitely came to entertain when he competed on "The Voice" last week. Belting out Queen's "Somebody To Love," he took all the peacockery and flamboyance of his leatherboy "Crazy In Love" spectacle from the previous week, combined it with the gentlemanly flair of earlier performances like "Jolene" and "One More Try," and delivered a grand performance that climaxed with him hopping atop a white grand piano. It all worked (or werked). At least for ME, it did. But apparently much of America did not think Cody was somebody to love, as he was sadly voted off the following night. This really was a shame. I miss Cody already, and "The Voice" will be much, much less exciting without him this week. But at least he went out with a bang...and with a bam-bam.
The other "Voice" castoff last Tuesday was Dez Duron, which meant Christina Aguilera did not get what a girl wants last week, because Dez was her one remaining contestant of the season. So Team Xtina is officially no more. On the bright side, Christina now has much more time to devote to other important pursuits, like shopping for rainbow-dip-dyed wigs, or, say, promoting her new album, Lotus. And there may actually be a legitimate glass-half-full way of looking at these results. First of all, the first three contestants to make it through to the top six--Cassadee Pope, Amanda Brown, and Melanie Martinez--were all female, and in an age when girls hardly ever succeed on "American Idol" (and didn't fare so well on "The Voice" Season 2, either), it was a bit heartening to see that the ladies could still rock the public vote. Second, Dez and Cody, arguably the most handsome and hunky contestants in "The Voice's" top eight, went home instead of less conventionally attractive hopefuls (Nicholas David, for instance), so maybe this proves that "The Voice" really is about the voice, after all. Because let's face it, if this were "American Idol," adorable, guitar-strumming MacKenzie Bourg probably would have won the whole competition by now.
"The Voice" is obviously a much more feelgood show than "The X Factor," but it did have its own bizarre bad-vibes moment last week. Last Monday, Adam Levine was critiquing Cassadee Pope's performance of a Michelle Branch song, but he actually used most of his airtime to quite harshly critique legendary Hollywood rock club the Roxy. "We used to open for Michelle Branch," the Maroon 5 singer grumbled, "and I remember we opened for her at the Roxy and they didn't even give us a dressing room. I hate the Roxy. I'll never play there again!" When Cassadee, a former frontwoman for the emo-rock band Hey Monday (who played the Roxy as recently as 2010), meekly attempted to defend the club, Adam silenced her with: "The Roxy's horrible; don't ever go there. They screwed us over, and now they're paying for it!"
The folks at the Roxy could have been angry about Adam's audacious statement, but in this any-publicity-is-good-publicity age, they decided to have a little fun with the situation instead, switching up their marquee immediately after last Monday's West Coast "Voice" broadcast to say: "ADAM LEVINE YOUR DRESSING ROOM IS READY." As of this writing, Adam has yet to take the Roxy up on that kind offer--but maybe he will this Friday, when Rozzi Crane, the first signing to his label 222 Records, ironically plays the venue on a bill with "Voice" alum Lily Elise.
But forget about Team Adam versus Team Roxy. There was a much bigger feud brewing in reality land last week, between new "American Idol" judge Nicki Minaj and her "Idol" predecessor, Steven Tyler. After Steven did an interview with MTV News in which he questioned the new "Idol" judges' qualifications and said if someone like Bob Dylan auditioned for the show, "Nicki Minaj would have had him sent to the cornfield," Her Minajesty went off on one of her famous Twitter rants, furiously posting: "Steven Tyler said I would have sent Bob Dylan to a cornfield??? Steven, you haven't seen me judge one single solitary contestant yet! I understand you really wanted to keep your job but take that up with the producers. I haven't done anything to you. That's a racist comment. You assume that I wouldn't have liked Bob Dylan??? why? black? rapper? what? go f*** yourself and worry about yourself babe. When Steven 1st went on Idol he was ridiculed by his peers & fans alike. Called a sell out. So what does he do? Ridicule the next judge."
Nicki also somewhat shockingly tweeted: "LOL lets make him a shirt that says 'No Coloreds Allowed' then escort him down 2 Barbara Walters so he can tell how he was threatened w/guns"--a reference to the interview her "Idol" co-star Mariah Carey did a couple months ago on "The View," in which Mariah had claimed that Nicki had violently threatened her. Steven later apologized to Nicki during an interview with Canada's "eTalk," admitting that he "spoke out of turn," but stressed, "I'm the last thing on this planet as far as being a racist." So I guess this leaves Nicki free to refocus her Romanesque wrath on Mariah now. Watch this space.
But let's not end this recap on such a negative note. Back on "The Voice" last week, coach Cee Lo Green dueted with another famous "green" singer, Kermit The Frog, and it was just about the cutest thing to ever appear on "The Voice." (Yes, even cuter than MacKenzie Bourg.) And hey, nothing against Shakira and Usher, who've signed on to be the new "Voice" judges for Season 4...but can't NBC just hire Fozzie Bear, Animal, Janice, or even the Muppet Cee Lo instead? They all looked so at home sitting in those big red chairs.