Woo boy, so the first live show of X Factor’s second season, ey? It certainly wasn’t boring! I feel as though I should start by noting that last night’s show was jam-packed and fast-paced, but with new hosts Khloe Kardashian(dash something? Sorry, I know just enough to correctly spell Khloe with a K, and beyond that I just don’t care enough to look it up.) and Mario Lopez behind the wheel, I didn’t feel nearly as stressed out about it as I did when Steve Jones was in charge. Other than that, I don’t have much to say about the new hosts – they’re irksome for sure, but they haven’t done much to invoke my full vitriol yet. Oh, but wait, if Khloe and Simon keep it up with the flirting, my faux gags are going to make way for no-shit Pitch Perfect-esque projectile vomit.

So, the theme of the week was “Made in America.” I would call that the stupidest theme ever, had I not lived through Idol’s disco and “boys sing Stevie Wonder while girls sing Mariah Carey” weeks. Nevertheless, it’d be tough to argue that the overall quality of the performances wasn’t a MASSIVE improvement over last year’s top 16. There’s a lot of talent in this group, and even the very worst of the night didn’t quite venture into train-wreck territory. For the most part. Before we get to the contestants though, let’s talk about the judges for a second. I thought Britney and Demi both lived up to the promise they showed in the earlier rounds beautifully. Britney gave thoughtful, honest and appropriately critical feedback, and Demi did a pretty decent job at speaking to and for the younger audience without sounding overly childish, which isn’t an easy balance to strike. As per usual, Simon and L.A. were the most useful and the most useless at judging, respectively. As for the mentoring, I think Britney did far and away the best job of the four with her group, with Simon at a distant second and L.A. and Demi neck and neck for the rear.

Now to the ladies, ranked anew by my personal (purely subjective) preference with consideration to this week’s performance and everything that came before:

9: Paige Thomas

Oof da. Paige’s was the hardest of the week for me to watch. I like that she took a risk with the elaborate staging, costume and choreography, but in the end the production kind of ate her alive. To be fair, there are a lot of very successful singers in the pop music industry who don’t sing much better than Paige did live last night, but that’s not going to cut it for me, especially given her competition. I’m just going to assume that the judges couldn’t hear properly and that was the cause of the ridiculously unwarranted praise they heaped on her after that travesty of a performance. I don’t see how she survives the first cut.

8: CeCe Frey

Well, given all the fun the editors had in the early rounds playing up a faux-rivalry between them, I suppose the nicest thing I can say about CeCe is that, uh, she was considerably better than Paige… I also kind of dig the makeover; it says, “Yeah, I’m a bitch, but I’m 1 million times fiercer than any real live human person you know, so you can either love to hate me or hate that you love me.” As for me, I don’t hate her, but I’m not impressed. I find the nasally tone of her voice mildly irksome, I don’t think she has the requisite power or control to pull off the songs she’s attempting, and I’m generally not a fan of mean girls. But I do respect her ridiculousness.

7: 1432 (aka the artists formerly known as LYLAS)

Yes, their name is monumentally stupid. So was LYLAS, and so is the fact that they can’t use the name LYLAS because Bruno Mars’ sisters have a group called The Lylas, which is an epically stupid name for a group of sisters to begin with, given that “lylas” is an acronym for “love you like a sister.” Let’s move on. Again, individually these girls are all super talented, but I’m still not buying them as a group. Their physical chemistry was much improved since Impossible, but if they can’t do harmonies, I just don’t get their appeal as a group. I loved that Demi pointed out that one of them totally dominates the rest of them, and I was about to love even more that she wasn’t going to name her, even though those of us with ears all knew who she was talking about (and just for the sake of being THAT girl, I picked up on Camila back at judges houses – looked her up and noted her name and everything). As much as I love Camila, she did accentuate the problem for me this week. They had the strongest voice doing the upper harmony, and it totally threw the whole balance of their blend off. I’ll be sad to see them go, but at this point, they’re just too rough to compete with the rest of the solid group category.

6: Diamond White

Ugh, how cute is this girl?? That performance was spot on, and kudos to Britney for knowing exactly what to do with Diamond. When last night’s performance started I kind of groaned a little and thought “this is sooo Kidz Bop” but I mean, she’s a kid, that’s what she should be doing! Both ladies on the judging panel got their start doing that same cheesy Disney stuff, and I think that’s exactly where Diamond belongs right now. So despite the fact that kiddie music makes me groan, objectively I thought her performance was great. She had fun, she had swagger, and that voice is killer. Most importantly though, it set her apart form the pack – it was different enough that it’s not even worth comparing to the other teen girls in her category. Smart money says it’s between Diamond and Arin to go home tonight, and I’m really pulling for my girl!

5: Sister C

Oh hey, X Factor, are you serious with this shit?? If you’re really concerned that Sister C is unlikable, STOP FUCKING TALKING ABOUT HOW UNLIKABLE THEY ARE! Why not make a package that shows them being likable instead of two consecutive packages in which they and their mentor Simon speculate about why no one likes them? These girls are like Toby on the Office or Jerry on Parks and Rec; there’s just no logical explanation for the severe loathing the undefined masses are supposed to be feeling for them. So far the only thing I can find not to like about them is the awful UberAryan triple-date situation they caught on tape between them and the boy group I loathe so much I refuse to speak their name. It would all be highly comical except that these girls have BY FAR the strongest blend of any vocal group EVER ON THIS SHOW. They’re damn good! And they got stupid baseless mixed reviews last night! And I’m going to be SO PISSED if they’re the first ones offed!!

4: Carly Rose

So, an uptempo number from Carly this week was probably the last thing any of us were expecting, ey? But even though I think it proved a little too far outside her comfort zone, the fact that Britney pushed her there gives me hope for Carly in the future. Even though she didn’t display quite the same ease or charisma Diamond showed in her own similar performance, Carly did bring enough youthful energy and swagger to prove she’s more than a balladeer and that with a little practice she is capable of doing more uptempo stuff in the future. Britney does need to help her watch it with the stank face while she’s singing though. Sometimes it’s appropriate, the rest of the time it’s very, very distracting.

3: Jennel Garcia

Jennel, baby girl, it’s time for me to take the top spot away from you. I gave it to you the last time despite a slew of sub-par performances because you had this enormous potential, and this week for the first time we got to see a glint of that potential fully realized. This week, all of the issues I was having with your performance in the early shows – bad habits I suspected would haunt you for the rest of the competition – completely melted away and left us with the stunning bare essence of Jennel Garcia: Rock Goddess. I was and am so impressed and so excited by you. Here’s the thing though, that song Demi gave you was only half a good idea. There’s nothing so dear to my heart of hearts as a good power ballad, and Home Sweet Home is one of the best. It’s just about the only thing I’ve ever liked about Motley Crue. You should totally be singing songs like this, exactly like this, but that specific song and that specific arrangement did nothing for your voice. You had about 5 seconds to shine in your glorious upper register, and that didn’t happen until the very end. The rest of the arrangement was the musical equivalent of watching a toy plane hover just a little too close to the ground for comfort. It never really went anywhere is what I’m trying to say, and those of us who rock out to that song on the regular know that there are certain places where it’s supposed to take off and go up and you went down instead and boy was that a let-down. There are better songs for your voice, baby girl; find one, slay it like I know you can, and take back your rightful place at the top!

2: Beatrice Miller

Beatrice was making me nervous with all her talk at the top about not being comfortable with the song and blah blah blah, but holy hell if that performance wasn’t FLAWLESS. I really don’t know what I can say except, dayum girl. I mean, that was like, holy shit good. Packed with power, soul, emotional depth, and technical perfection, Beatrice gave hands down, far and away the best vocal of the night. No contest. Gersberms. Ermahgerd.

1: Lyric 145

Lyyyyyyyriiiiiiiic!!! Okay, so I’m a music nerd, a big one, and if you’d ever told me that my absolute favorite act in a music competition like this would EVER be a rapper, I would’ve laughed in your face. But LYRIC… LYRIC! I CAN’T EVEN TALK ABOUT HER. I CAN’T NOT TYPE ABOUT HER IN CAPS. SHE’S SO AWESOME. At the end of their performance last night my face literally hurt from smiling so hard. The song choice was a little suspect, especially when they threw Gangnam Style into the middle of the mix (whyyyyyy?) but Lyric Da Queen is such a fucking BALLER she could literally rap anything and I would buy it. I’ve had fucking Party in The U.S.A in my head for weeks, and I don’t even care because it’s Lyric’s voice I’m hearing, and she’s moving her hips like yeah… gaaawd SOMEONE GIVE THAT GIRL A PRIZE ALREADY! I can’t take it anymore, I caaaaaan’t.

Anyway, that’s all for today. I scattered my predictions throughout a bit, but here’s how I think it’ll go tonight:

Groups: Sister C (fuck!) will sing off against 1432. 1432 will go home.

Over 25s: Vino and David will sing off. Vino will go home.

Young Adults: Paige against Willie Jones. I really hope Willie’s safe, and I kind of need Paige to go.

Teens: Arin v Diamond. Bye Arin.

Til next time!