Judging The X Factor: The Oddsmaking Top 16 Megapost You Didn’t Know You Wanted, But Now Can’t Live Without

For reasons still not entirely clear to them, Grantland editors Jay Caspian Kang, Mark Lisanti, and Emily Yoshida have decided to track the second season of The X Factor. This is where things get hairy. You’re going to tell your kids about this one. (You are not going to tell your kids about this one.)

Last night, on the October 23rd of our Lord, we finally reached the edge of the tundra. How many frozen bodies we left behind atop the frozen ground without the decency of a good Christian burial! How many strong horses we lost to the unrelenting snows! Only 16 soldiers lived through the ordeal.

Here are their stories. — Kang

TEENS

Arin Ray

Yoshida:

Juygjnjjyntgyjjnhjjngjngjh wow but i feel that beatrice is better — bubblegum123576

It’s a shame, because if Arin Ray were 15 percent better at singing, he would definitely be a top contender just by virtue of being one of the only cute guys in the competition. (It’s him, David Correy if you’re into that kind of thing, and Emblem3, basically.) There’s a sizable break in the taping schedule between judges’ houses and the live shows, so that might be enough time for him to learn a bit of vocal control. He seems like the type who could clam up on live TV regardless of how much he practiced. I’m giving him higher odds just because of demographics. 50:1

Kang: He’s definitely a good-looking, charming dude. Maybe he can replace Nick Cannon at some point or take Mario Lopez’s spot on that weird TV show that nobody seems to know is still on the air. But sing he cannot. Honestly, this format makes me feel like Kelly Osbourne on that Fashion Police show. Lisanti is Joan Rivers because he’s the oldest, which makes Yoshida the guy who always wears the velvet tuxedo. Odds on Arin … 100:1

Lisanti: That’s so weird. I’ve been calling Kang the Kelly Osbourne of these recaps in my mind since he swallowed an entire bottle of Vicodin mid-way through the Idol season. My face-lift hurts. Probably another consequence of Jay invading my mind. Anyway. Arin Ray is, at best, the 10th or so best singer in the final 16. So … I say he wins the whole thing! Just kidding. OK, gotta go make my QVC show, these sweatshop necklaces aren’t going to sell themselves to sad ladies. 43:1

Beatrice Miller

Kang: I’m glad Melanie Amaro won last year, because it provided me with a glimmer of hope (however small the sample size) that The X Factor isn’t like Idol and someone other than the cute, white boy has a chance to win. If that’s true, then I’d give Beatrice Miller, who is certainly the most talented contestant on the show but might have trouble connecting with anyone over the age of 15, a pretty decent shot at this. I’ll go as high as 8:1.

Lisanti: I don’t think the word “certainly” means what you think it means. Beatrice isn’t even the most talented contestant in her group. That would be Carly Rose Sonenclar. Why must you continue to resist Sonenclar’s undeniable vocal gift? I’m willing to bet that just a few inches down the page, you’re going to say something insane about her. Just a feeling. Beatrice: 10:1.

Yoshida: If we were doing odds of getting me choked up during an episode of The X Factor, this wouldn’t even be a contest, but Beatrice has for some reason not connected with the social/tween demographic the way that Carly Rose has, probably because, for whatever reason, Beatrice didn’t have much screen time before the judges’ house. There seems to be a suspicion among YouTube commenters that she has a stank attitude. Once a vague, highly subjective problem like “attitude” enters the conversation, your ship is sunk, but in a slow way that will play out over weeks, which leaves plenty of time for denial and string-quartet David Guetta covers on the deck. 8:1

Carly Rose Sonenclar

Yoshida: She’s already the standard by which every other performance is being measured. Definitely makes it to the Top Four; Emblem3 are the only thing that stand between her and a Pepsi Commercial with Bruno Mars. #carlysangels 2:1

Kang: I’m missing something here re: Carly Rose. Isn’t she just a really good version of the girl who sings the “Lamb of God” song at Catholic school Mass? Just don’t see the star power here, like I do with Beatrice, who is one dreadlock away from becoming Bowersox-lite. The only reason I’m going with 20:1 is because I trust Joan Lisanti’s “experience” here and can’t completely discount his rabid Sonenclar support.

Lisanti: Just yesterday I saw Crystal Bowersox singing an acoustic cover of “Tick Tock” in front of an open guitar case on the Venice boardwalk, so you’re doing a bang-up job of projecting superstar career paths. She’s not fit to repair Carly Rose’s dream catcher. It’s impossible to know how the endgame is going to play out with just the one-season sample size of data (I just created Factormetrics right there), but CRS has to have the best odds to get there. Why? In the immortal words of Mandy Moore: Because I said so. 3:1

Kang: Crystal Bowersox is the Janis Joplin of her Idol season.

Lisanti: Can’t argue with that, whatever it means.

Diamond White

Yoshida: Despite her brand-ready name, I think Diamond White gets outshined both vocally and stage presence–wise by the other teens and young adults. Her YouTube comments are all about how she’s good, but not better than Carly. When YouTube commenters are able to give measured critiques, it’s usually a bad sign. 65:1

Kang: That’s just Carly’s street team (aka Yoshanti) on those YouTube comments. Diamond is suffering from Whitney fatigue. I’ll say it once, I’ll say it again: When you start with Whitney, you’ve got nowhere to go. Diamond should’ve started with “I Believe I Can Fly,” moved on to “Son of a Preacher Man,” and then gone to “MacArthur Park” (a calculated flop). When things were looking grim and she was in the bottom three with a stunned Emblem3, that’s when she should have gone Whitney. 65:1

Lisanti: I don’t know how anyone votes against the next Whitney Houston, especially when the next Whitney Houston comes prepackaged with the best name in the history of singing competitions, but here we are. She’s going to go out too early, and it will be heart-shattering. Britney’s gonna squeeze out, like, an entire tear. And then a tiny pharmaceutical goblin is going to climb out of her eye socket, collect the tear in an even tinier satchel, and escape into her ear canal. 7:1

YOUNG ADULTS

Jennel Garcia

Kang: I like her. She seems like a nice girl. But she has no chance to win. 250:1

Yoshida: Wouldn’t win in her own category, much less against the formidable Teens. Neon green lock of hair < Cheetah Face < Beatrice Miller. And I think she’s a really good singer! Jennel’s low odds prove that the talent this year didn’t end up sucking nearly as much as we originally feared. 100:1

Lisanti: She keeps throwing off this “young Katie Holmes trying to be naughty” vibe. As a country, we’re just not in that place anymore, and unfortunately for Jennel, shifting to the current Holmes branding isn’t going to carry her far in the competition. No one wants to see a singing version of “Not Without My Daughter” Katie on the Factor. Too real. 50:1

Willie Jones

Kang: Big meh from me vocally. I have a hard time seeing him performing well in the live shows. Probably goes out third or fourth. Odds 100:1.

Going to continue the Demi Lovato adoration fest and say that I’ve never watched a judge milk a situation so well.

Lisanti: When Willie goes home, Demi’s going to commemorate the loss by rocking a magenta flattop. Cannot wait. 99:1

Yoshida: I give up. 300:1.

Paige Thomas

Kang: You can cry once per reality TV show and you can say, “I’m doing this for my kids” once. Paige Thomas has cried like 15 times and has brought up the welfare of her daughter in every show. Maybe instead of having Obama and Romney talk about the health of the economy, we could have just watched Paige Thomas cry and remind us that the only way to raise a child in this country is to win a $5 million singing competition.

Do you remember the old Chris Rock bit about how he hates people who are proud of shit they’re supposed to do? Well, I hate people who are proud of themselves for carrying burdens everyone carries. Like you were bullied? Great, most kids were. Especially in the “arts.” You have a kid? So does everyone. This isn’t to discount your problems, but please don’t blabber about them on a reality TV singing competition to try to cull favor from the faceless mob of America.

And that, friends, is what you call useless self-righteousness. I put her odds at 200:1..

Yoshida If she can cheer the fuck up and break out some fireworks at the live shows, my opinion of her and her odds could shift, but there’s nobody in her lane on this show that she poses any kind of real threat to. Maybe Diamond White, except for the fact that Diamond White is a million times more likeable and has some actual hardships other than “want to be a famous person but I got knocked up instead.” When Diamond White talks about sharing a bed with her mom, she laughs, and stars and butterflies and miniature unicorns fall from the sky. When Paige talks about her (adorable) daughter, all you can think of is how many jars of baby food that silly garbage necklace cost. 80:1

Lisanti: You lost the right to play the Diamond White card when you saddled her with 65:1 odds. (I’ve got your back, Lil Whitney!) Based on the entire package, and putting aside the bullshit crying routine (which, admittedly, is a pretty giant ask), Paige could win the whole thing. Do they get a Pepsi commercial this year? She’d look pretty good pretending Pepsi Dragon doesn’t taste like hellpiss. 5:1

CeCe Frey

Kang: I’m 100 percent #TeamCeCe. Of all the sob stories we’ve heard on this show and all the “butterflies who grew out of a cocoon of bullying,” I found hers the most moving. Not because it was particularly compelling or tragic, but more because I believed it. Like, I think she’s actually the crazy theater girl who everyone made fun of in school and who grew up neglected and had to come up with her own measures of ambition and the work ethic necessary to fulfill her dreams. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for these sorts of crazies. I’m sure part of me identifies with them and therefore excuses them for all of their social miscues. CeCe, the other girls will always be saying mean things behind your back, but they’re just threatened because you don’t play by their rich-kid rules. Keep painting that batshit-crazy leopard print on the side of your head and win this whole damn thing.

I like her odds. 10:1

Yoshida:

Winner she’s hot she wins lmao YouTube recommended this i guess I’m the only one who doesn’t watch this show. But she wins right? Lol — Skyhighblu

This just comes down to a question of whether voters will feel more strongly about the host of nice girls on the show, or the reformed mean girl. Reformed mean girl is such a better and more memorable story, so if CeCe keeps it up vocally she could have a serious shot at the top four. I have a feeling they will be doing her a lot of favors in the live show, songwise, costumewise, stylewise. Bring it. I adore this girl. #TeamCeCe #LeopardPrintArmy #Freykaholics 4:1

Lisanti: Yeah, no. Be more wrong about everything, guys. 25:1

BTW, cheetah paint gives you face cancer.

OLDS

David Correy

Kang: Do you think they cut the show in half and only showed eight of the 16 because something really awful happened in the other tapings? Like they could have split up the final reveal between two weeks, but last week they very weirdly showed a rerun. My theory? L.A. got so sick of having to deal with the Olds and their broken dreams that he walked off the set. Also in play, the “L.A. Reid has no emotions and laughed while telling dejected contestants they were going home” and “Britney Spears slept through every audition.”

David Correy gets like a 55:1 shot here. He should’ve saved the news that he met his biological mom for the week he was most in danger. Only that type of brazenly cynical move could compensate for the brazen cynicism of David Correy’s entire act.

Lisanti: As editor, it’s my duty to point out the truncated show was the result of a rainout clusterfuck during the baseball playoffs last week, which cascaded into the scheduling shitshow that made last night’s borderline incomprehensible, hour-long episode possible. This is God’s way of punishing us all for the Yankees’ pathetic ALCS performance. David Correy: 14:1, adopted by Alex Rodriguez after a Top 10 exit.

Yoshida: David Correy jumping the gun and announcing his mother-and-child reunion prior to the live shows (when he knew he was going to the live shows! I understand doing that if you knew you had gotten cut and it didn’t matter anyway) proves one of two things: (1) David Correy’s mission to find his mother was real and genuine and was absolutely not an emotional ploy, or (2) David Correy has zero PR skills. Eventually you get someone to take care of those things for you, but in the live shows he’s going to have to get a little more savvy about that blatant audience manipulation. 24:1.

Jason Brock

Lisanti: How does “first one to go” translate into odds? 300:1 seems a reasonable estimate.

Kang: <3<3<3 30:1

Yoshida:

jack black + adam lambert= Jason Brock — marcos6710 (voted up 101 times)

Hahahahaha. L.A. Reid hates his job on this show so much. I’m not ruling out the possibility for some half-ironic, half-genuine, cult-like, Twitter-based fan rally around this guy, but U.S. X Factor fans have yet to really prove their mobilization skills. 80:1

Tate Stevens

Kang: I had to Google who Tate Stevens was. I wonder if they’ll even have the Olds category next year. It seems like just an excuse to throw out a bunch of sob stories and maybe one time strike gold with a Susan Boyle– or Paul Potts–style flash in the pan. Anyway, Tate, let’s say 200:1.

Yoshida: Wait. Oh. What? #FREEPANDA. 107:1

Lisanti: Can they just tie him to Jason Brock and throw them both into the ocean? Yeah, that seems pretty harsh, but in my defense: (1) Doesn’t Tate Stevens have a tire store to manage or something? (2) No one will read this far. #NoMoreOlds 250:1

Vino Alan

Kang: I like his voice and I like him, but I don’t know if he can be fully rehabilitated and win over the hearts of America like Tookie Williams and his children’s books. He’s still a bit too scary and his bursts of anger don’t really help matters. I say he rides the “talent/heart” thing to the final six and then bows out. 45:1

Yoshida: Yeah, poor L.A. Reid is not very comfortable working with people who aren’t conventionally attractive. He won’t know what to do with Vino. I really like Vino, and I think he would kill it on The Voice. I’m not saying that makes his career any more viable on or off a talent show, but the cynical vibe of The X Factor seems like a strange fit for him. 64:1

Lisanti: Great, now I can’t go back to the “Vino Alan feels like a Voice contestant” well for the fourth consecutive week. I don’t want to be around when they tell him he has to leave. (He’s going to cry like a colicky baby, and it will be weird for everybody.) 111:1

GROUPS

LYRIC 145

Kang: Man, I love Lyric Da Queen and I don’t even want to because she’s given no love to Left Eye despite stealing the whole eye-patch thing and she basically just took Da Brat’s flow and put it on a Miley Cyrus song. But damn if she isn’t talented … I don’t think America’s ready, though. They go out pretty quickly. 50:1

Lisanti: It’s my favorite thing when Kang calls himself “America.” It’s even better than when he projects his childhood trauma onto people inside his TV. 20:1

Yoshida: I love them, but unless Simon lets them do original stuff in the live shows (One4Five’s audition was one of the most memorable of the bunch, so let’s stop with the argument that original songs can’t leave an impression), they won’t last long. 88:1

Emblem3

Kang: If they win, does it mean that America has lost? I’m serious. They’re going to win and that’s why CeCe Frey kept getting pushed into lockers in high school. 3:1

Lisanti: I swear to you that Kang wrote this one without reading my comment in the previous section. Everything is coming up Joan! Take all of my odds to Vegas and retire to Majorca!

Emblem3 is your X Factor champion. 3:2 The Emblem3 musical, adapted from their four-sided concept album So Baked, So Totally Super Mega-Baked, You Guys, Did I Just Eat My Flip-Flop? Yup, I Did, debuts on Broadway in the summer of 2017.

Yoshida: I’m 99 percent positive they win, but I’ve never lived on any coast other than the Emblem3’s, so I have no way of knowing how their chill bro vibe plays with tweenage girls in Rhode Island. I imagine not that much differently than it does here, but I’d also love it if Emblem3 was the most coastally polarizing thing to happen to music since Biggie Tupac Phantom Planet. 2:1

Sister C

Kang: I have this theory that the sisters of Sister C only learned English in the past three years. Before that they communicated completely through pinches. Two pinches meant yes. One pinch meant no. All the pinches drew blood and their yelps eventually developed into beautiful singing voices. According to my mom, this is how Barbra Streisand built her singing voice.

They’re pretty talented though. But Simon’s right — nobody wants to hear three pretty sisters harmonize. Reminds them too much of those mean girls who would win the talent show just because they were popular. 20:1

Yoshida: Sister C’s odds went way up when they showed off their “goofy side” and talked about the weather in baby voices. Haha, no, just kidding. I hope we get to see their parents at the live shows so I can confirm they are as creepy as I imagine them to be. 400:1

Lisanti: I don’t know how anyone bets against what it would look like if the Dixie Chicks had been born conjoined twins, were medically separated as tweens, and then decided to launch their singing career via a disappointing singing competition reality show. These are harmonizing Terminators sent from the future to kill Hayden Panettiere’s character on Nashville before she sleeps with Connie Britton’s husband. Two of them are made from Taylor Swift’s spare parts, and the other one drinks Carrie Underwood’s blood for sustenance. They were arrested trying to pawn Lady Antebellum’s fiddles, made bail money by distilling moonshine in Randy Travis’s guest house, and sleep in Willie Nelson’s beard. They are legion. They are America. (#trade; JCK Industries Unlimited) 6:1

LYLAS

Kang: I don’t know why Simon didn’t pick the super cute boy band. They might have had a chance to win, right? I have no idea what to say about these girls. Honestly, I can’t remember any one of their performances, which doesn’t bode well for them. 75:1

Yoshida No, I get Simon’s game, putting the girl group through instead of the boy group, despite how boy bands are hot again now or whatever. Simon’s thinking one step ahead, to a year from now when this year’s winner is theoretically releasing their album, and we are all sick to death of One Direction. The problem is that I don’t think this kind of girl group is the right alternative. The entire nation of South Korea is laughing at us right now, basically. 100:1

Lisanti: I died by my own hand 2,000 words ago. Where are we? Oh, the end? NICE. W:%

Jay Caspian Kang is America.
Mark Lisanti is Joan Rivers.
Emily Yoshida is the tambourine player in Phantom Planet.

Filed Under: Britney Spears, Demi Lovato, Fox, La Reid, Simon Cowell, The X Factor

kodos2

Jay Caspian Kang is a Grantland contributor. His debut novel, The Dead Do Not Improve, is on sale now.

Archive @ jaycaspiankang

More from Jay Caspian Kang

See all from Jay Caspian Kang

More Britney Spears

See all Britney Spears

More Hollywood Prospectus

See all Hollywood Prospectus