Define failure whichever way you want: The X Factor USA is definitely heading there. The reality singing competition to find the next pop star has had a rocky second season, with floundering ratings at the hands of competitors The Voice. So, what did Simon Cowell and company do? They upped the out-of-body experience. Out with talented singers like David Correy, Willie Jones and Jillian Jensen (the girl that got bullied, FYI) and in with the crazy antics of CeCe Frey, Paige Thomas, Lyric 145 and Emblem3. Yet, the public vote on the Top 12 leaderboard, shown for the first time on the show, took a very strange turn: the top four were dominated by the likes of powerhouse vocalists Tate Stevens, Carly Rose Sonenclar, Vino Alan and returning wildcard contestant Diamond White.

While scanning comments on YouTube (as I always love to do to suss out voter reaction), I spotted this comment on Carly’s Top 11 sing video:

A circus, it has indeed become. From pyrotechnics to tricked-out stage sets, the live shows for the Top 16 and Top 12 have spared no expense in the glitz and glam department. Why is there a need for a bajillion mega-huge LCD screens, spotlights and other strobelights on stage? The opening announcement roll before the contestant goes on stage, where editors milk every single outre pose during contestant imaging and pair them up with quotes about contestants doubting themselves and judges giving those “golden nuggets” of advice — not to mention the dramatic fade-in-fade-out and fast cuts that pervade every roll? Those backstage interviews where Ms Khloe “Clueless Host” Kardashian shoves inane questions like “Did you think you failed yesterday?

And oh, the smokescreen, that goddamn smokescreen covering all those expensive strip lights on the stage floor.

(Forgive my run-on sentences. This is how I talk like when I’m exasperated.)

I am a sucker for drama. I really am — but only when it’s used to appropriate (and consequently, sparse) effect. Those cheesy graphics on the screens that pretend to contract all its colourful fabulousness into the ‘X’ logo as the performance ends, never fails to hit me right in the guts. In a bad way, of course. What, you were thinking that I’m enjoying myself looking at all this hyped-up drivel when I really just want to see a simple Carly Rose rendition of a song? I know Carly Rose will kill it and she does not need the smokescreen or fancy-schmancy graphicvs to do it. That woman is a star and she don’t need no bright light for her come-up, ya get what I’m sayin’ gurl?

Fast forward to the Top 10 and — wahey — Tate Stevens is on the top of the leaderboard for the second time, with Carly Rose Sonenclar and Vino Alan rounding up the top 3. Yes, again. CeCe Frey’s Twitter campaign spearheaded by Demi Lovato was instrumental to her climbing seven spots in the leaderboard and keeping her in the competition. But sadly, it’s the end for Lyric 145 who really tried to give their best and go hard but were instead given psychedelic costumes and apes as back-up dancers for Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

So, you know what, X Factor USA? Quit it. Simon, quit saying “We need to take Emblem3 and Fifth Harmony to another level” because you don’t need to do that: just let them quit this farce of a show and then you can pimp out those poor boys and girls to the hordes of raging fangirls on Twitter and Tumblr. (Some of whom, have surprisingly ditched their Bieber/Direction/Wanted affiliations for a little E3 tagging on their Twitter usernames — oh, you poor sods.) Britney, oh how much do I love your ditziness but saying “That was special” to every single contestant is not special. Demi, those eyebrows. LA, (still) those dance moves.

To the producers, I don’t even know how you still have your jobs. You create a villain out of CeCe Frey and put her in competition with Paige Thomas and Jillian Jensen to show that, oh, women still are jealous of each other and fight every time they are put side-by-side. (Also, Tara Simon with the others adults.) You fail to get deeper than skin-deep with any of the teens because gee, what do they know about life et cetera, and pair them up with squealing Britney who just won’t stray from the script? You paint Fifth Harmony as girls getting together like they should do at prom or sorority sleepover night and promote Playback (remember that group?) as the pre-pubescent boyband with those tacky neon tank tops? You portray Emblem3 as pseudo-douchebags when they are just normal boys horsing around and let Simon call them “dogs” during rehearsal just for laughs? Of course, you ignore David Correy because, well, who wants another contemporary black pop-soul singer when we have Bruno Mars? I can go on forever.

But you know, like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, this show is so bad that I will still watch it just for kicks and to see the winner become another flop Melanie Amaro that failed to produce anything worth $5 million. So go on X Factor, blow your budgets on those lavish sets and leave your contestants out in the lurch once the show is over while they try to harness weeks and weeks of ball-patting into making one solitary single post-Factor.

Such riveting reality TV.