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Before I get into the good, the bad and the ugly hairstyles for this week’s X Factor auditions, I have a quick bone to pick with the show. So excuse me for this quick rant (which you can easily skip by skimming down a few paragraphs). Since watching the last episode, it’s come to my attention that multiple auditioners have had professional careers before coming on the X Factor stage. Last week’s wannabe heartthrob Al Calderon was in the original Broadway cast of 13 (alongside future Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande) as a young teen. Rachel Potter, the best audition of last week’s two-part premiere, is an accomplished theater actress with lead roles in Broadway’s Evita, The Adams Family and the second national tour of Wicked. Oh, and remember Lillie McCloud, the 54-year-old Gospel-singing knockout from episode 1? Well, it turns out Miss McCloud’s real name is Nicole and she has released four albums, had singles that made it to number 3 on the Billboard charts and toured the world singing with the likes of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. After many years in the business, McCloud moved to Slovakia to be with her husband (and, ironically performed the title song for Slokavia’s Got Talent. ).
Now, I have no problem with contestants having professional backgrounds. Adam Lambert was a professional working actor at the time of his Idol audition, as was The Voice’s Frenchie Davis and Tony Vincent, who have both appeared in Rent on Broadway, among others shows. Tony Lucca was a mouseketeer. Even more contestants have had and lost record deals. That doesn’t bother me as these shows are, at least in a small part, about redemption. Vincent, for instance, a phenomenally talented singer with stage success, wanted something more stable for his family. I get it. But The Voice and Idol shared this information up front. These little “factual emissions” only make me mistrustful and suspicious of the X Factor producers. Are they hiding anything else? What’s next, something ridiculous like Kelly Rolland used be one of the biggest acts of the ‘90s and early 2000s? I kid, I kid.
Before we get to the contestants, since I shared my grievances, it seems a reader has a little bone to pick with me, too. In my last recap, it seems I misidentified a Rihanna song as a Beyoncé track. Sorry, folks. After a long day of TV watching and recap writing, the catalogue of fierce diva dance hits blurs together.
OK, you can start reading again!
Holy whistle tones, Batman! The third night of auditions kicked off with Cynthia and Shirley, a duo that sang “I Want You Back.” While the sisters looked great, theirs was a performance best watched on mute. This was a long show, and we have a lot to get to, so let’s leave it there, OK?
14-year-old Josh Levi, who looked like Fik-shun’s younger brother, took to the stage to perform an acoustic cover of Selena Gomez’s “Come and Get It.” Demi called him “adorable,” and Kelly called him “a star.” Personally, I found young Josh a little over-rehearsed, over-cocky and vocally underperforming. Think a black Justin Bieber. [Insert joke here].
Like Cynthia and Shirley, Drama, Drama was a girl group with a good look, great name and absolutely no musical talent. Their a cappella rendition of “Party In The USA” made me wish I was listening to Miley sing it… let that sink in for a moment. I hope these girls have other talents, although given the fact the leader was confused on the concept of what makes a teenager, I fear for their future.
After a montage of acts Simon deemed “outdated,” Aknu, a group made up of the Scott brothers, performed the throw-back Zutons/Amy Winehouse jam “Valerie.” While they got off to a shaky start with some strained vocals and awkward late-night-wedding-reception choreography, the vocals and dance moves clicked halfway through. The judges loved them - even Simon, who deemed them “outdated in a good way.”
Maybe it’s the suspiciousness I talked about at the top of this piece, but it sorta seemed like Brandy Love is too good to be true. She might just be the perfect reality TV show contestant. Memorable, slightly porn-actress-sounding name that will fit perfectly on the chyron? Check. Great backstory containing a boyfriend in the military? Check. Soulful, country-tinged version of a great song, “Up To The Mountain,” sung very well (although not quite as well as the versions by Kree and Crystal on Idol)? Check. This is not the last we’ll see of Brandy.
After her comes a montage of “yesses,” which really bothered me. I know people like watching untalented biddies sing off-key, but X wastes my time with multiple bad acts and yet skips over the auditions of clearly talented people like Millie Thrasher and Timmy Thames? Oy vey, i am crotchety tonight, aren't I?
Speaking of the criminally untalented, here comes Vincent Crisostomo! Although he says he’s a fan of Tupac and Biggie, Vincent auditions with a Leann Rimes tune. Odd. Even weirder is his voice, which sounds a bit like if Billie Joe Armstrong had a cold, fever and temporary deafness. Did I mention he couldn’t sing very well?
Now this is what I’m talking about! Carlos Guevara FTW! I was worried, when Carlos took the stage, that he would get the Rion Paige treatment, meaning his story would overshadow his talent. Cue the interview about his struggle with Tourette’s syndrome underscored with a Five For Fighting track. Cue the teary interviews with Mom and awkward confessionals with Carlos himself, uncomfortably picking at his knit beanie. But I was wrong. Yes, Carlos has Tourettes and, yes, I’m sure The X Factor will milk this fact as much as humanly possible. But truthfully, I don’t care if Carlos (or Rion or any other contestant afterwards) has mental or physical problems. I don’t really care if you’re living in your car or you walk with a limp. It’s not that I don’t have empathy or interest, but at the end of the day, this is a singing competition. Your voice is all that matters. And I’m happy to report that Carlos has one hell of a voice. Singing John Mayer’s “Gravity,” his voice is exceptional – great tone, phenomenal control and strong falsetto. And I couldn’t agree more with judge Demi (with whom I’ve agreed a startling amount this episode) when she calls him a “beautiful soul.” Carlos may not win, but he’s surely one to watch ‘cause he’ll go far.
Getting to the homestretch now. After that beautiful, emotional audition, we get introduced to Chloe J and CJ, two hairdressers who sing a riotously off-key version of “River Deep, Mountain High.” While Chloe and CJ will never have a career in the music biz, I’d be surprised if Bravo doesn’t snap them up for a reality show. Seriously, the two had really funny, snarky personalities that, combined with their profession, would make perfect sense for a new reality guilty pleasure. Does anyone know if Andy Cohen reads my recaps?
Oh, it’s time for another “yes” montage!
After that tease of talent was Colton Pack, an 18-year-old small town boy from West Virginia. Even before he opened his mouth to sing a Jason Aldean tune, you could tell Colton was a star. Yes, he needs some enunciation lessons and, yes, I agree with Demi (again) that his pitch was a little hit-or-miss. But Colton’s a good-looking kid with a solid country voice and sky-high likeability. I don’t think country has had a good teen idol in a while. Maybe it’s Colton’s turn.
I don’t want to bury the lead, so here it is: my favorite audition of the night was Danie Geimer. This quirky, bookish teen had a cute Ingrid Michaelson vibe about her even before she sang, but once she did, Danie exploded into a bluesy, soulful diva. Singing “House Of The Rising Sun” like an old pro, Danie’s voice is versatile, smooth and wonderfully controlled. I’d love to see her sing a softer song like Ingrid’s ”Ghost,” but there’ll be time for that. I’m not a betting man, but I’d be mighty tempted to put my money on Danie.
Last, but not least was Jeff “Remember Me From Last Season” Gutt, a rock-and-roll singer with an adorable son who had a successful audition and unsuccessful tenure on last year’s X Factor. His first song – “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” – was grating, overreaching and a bit pitchy to boot. But Simon let him sing another and Radiohead’s “Creep” landed much better. He’s no Homeless Mustard, but reality TV needs a solid rock vocalist and, with a little training, Jeff might be a contender.
That's it, folks. Leave a comment below with your favorite audition of the night, or so far, below.
X Factor airs Wednesday and Thursday nights on Fox