Tate Stevens, the winner of the second season of "The X Factor,"… (Ray Mickshaw / FOX )
Country-crooning family man Tate Stevens has won Season 2 of "The X Factor," beating out preternaturally talented teen Carly Rose Sonenclar, who came in second, and show-manufactured girl group Fifth Harmony, which came in third.
That news was delivered on Thursday night after two hours of "grand finale" filler that included only a stingy two musical acts (One Direction, in their second appearance on the U.S. version of the British show that launched them, and Pitbull) to help us pass the time.
It also included a stagey-looking red carpet set-up, complete with paparazzi who may or may not have been real paparazzi and screaming fans who may or may not have been real screaming fans.
We also got brief glimpses of previously eliminated contestants (Emblem 3 wants to take all their colleagues snowboarding), finalists singing Christmas songs, video montages highlighting the judges' quirks, a few live-show gaffes (the final three missed their first entrance), a chance to see how Khloe Kardashian Odom looks wearing different outfits and hairstyles (like a curvy dress-up doll) and also more than ample opportunities to watch her flirt with Simon Cowell (she was kidding when she complimented him on his chest hair, right?), as well as endless interludes in which the mentors and finalists were dramatically introduced and prompted to walk out onstage as bombastic music played.
And then we got the best part, aside from the results themselves, which was a chance to see the real people behind these contestants who had, strangely, found themselves on a strikingly unreal-seeming show: neighbors, best friends, in-laws, mothers and fathers, grandmas and grandpas, brothers and sisters, a wife, a son, a daughter all declaring their love and admiration for these talented people they'd hung out with or welcomed to the family or married or raised or been raised by.
It felt so honest and earnest that to return our attention to the flashy set felt jarring. Asked how she felt after her loved ones' montage was shown, Sonenclar tried to explain her sense of cognitive dissonance, stammering how strange it was to watch her family "with the judges right there."
Now, of course, Sonenclar has been released from the judges' cool scrutiny back to the warmth of her devoted family. She's not $5 million richer, but she'll almost certainly get a record deal out of all this.
And Stevens? He's definitely not going back to that road construction job, as Cowell long ago predicted, and we may, in fact, be talking about his record sales one year hence. He may yet play those stadium shows Demi Lovato sees in his future, or win those country-music awards Britney Spears once foretold.
Clearly, the "X Factor" powers that be were pleased with the results. L.A. Reid told Stevens that they felt he would "represent 'The X Factor' really, really well." And even Sonenclar fans and those left cold by country music will have a hard time begrudging this hard-working, dedicated 37-year-old husband and dad his shot at making his dreams come true and securing his family's future. Doesn't seem like it could have happened to a sweeter guy.
Do you think the right contestant won?
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