X Factor USA 1.02 – Miami/Dallas Auditions

Miami. Home to hurricanes, retirees, and serial killers — and all of them try out tonight on X Factor. The judges are excited, the audience is excited. So are the contestants. They shouldn’t be, because the vast majority of them suck out loud. I actually feel sorry for the show’s producers, because you can only do so much when you have to make a soufflé and all you’ve got to work with are rotten eggs. 

First up is Ashley Sansone, who talks. Talks and talks talks about the seventies and how Madonna doesn’t diet and how she wants to inspire someone even though she’s between jobs at the moment. The judges have to forcibly shut her up more than once, but the girl takes off her shoes, opens her mouth, aaaand…can’t sing worth spit. The disappointment that permeates the room feels like it’s not going anywhere soon, especially when LA tells her her singing made him want to slit his wrists. WTF man, that’s harsh. No worries about LA pulling his punches, I guess. Ashley slinks off the stage, crushed.

They go through a long line of awful singers and their rabid families who can’t believe that the judges hate them (although we absolutely can), and aren’t afraid to express their disapproval, mostly by swearing at the cameras. The poor singing does give Simon a chance to dish some zingers, including “You sing like a three year old with a cold”. Even Gloria Estefan showing up to support her homies can’t help these folks. “Show ‘em what makes Miami special,” she urges. Unfortunately, what makes Miami special is all its dreadful singers, yo.

But wait! Along comes the adorable and sweet Caitlynne Curtis to pull it out of the fire in her cheerful yellow dress. She sings Firework with just a piano accompaniment, and she’s got a nice, strong voice. Inexplicably, the judges don’t like her much. They want her to get some more life/experience under her cute belt. This annoys me, because they’ve put through weaker singers than her for less compelling reasons *cough*tight dress/long legs*cough*. It’s unanimous, though, so maybe the judges are right. She wilts more with each no, and eventually breaks down in an ugly cry. She cries so hard that Paula takes pity on her and comes onto the stage to turn her away from the (supportive) audience and gives her a big hug. Hopefully Caitlynne realizes that it doesn’t matter how many times you fall down, all that matters is how many times you get up. Especially when you’re drunk and looking for a taxi home.

Everyone is discouraged, but here come Nick Voss to save the day! He’s got cool hair (and eyebrow) and smouldering eyes and a cleft chin. But is that enough to get him through to the next round?? Heh, I’m being sarcastic except I’m totally not. He wants this so much that he’s on the verge of tears when he starts to sing Trouble by Elvis. Aaand…he’s pretty good. Not a great voice but not bad at all. And woo doggie does he have some fun dance moves. They put him through despite the weak(er) vocals based on his spark. At this point, we’ll take what we can get.

Ashley Deckard comes on next, and she and the judges have a little conversation about how she sees dead people – I mean ghosts, all the better to set up one of the fake jokes that Simon loves so well. Ashley has all the confidence in her 14 year old world. I don’t know why, because she’s awful just like the rest of them. It’s too bad, because she has tons of quirky personality. After she’s voted off, spooky – dare I say ghostly – things suddenly start to happen with the lights and sound system. Simon, don’t make me come over there and smack you upside the head. This kind of thing is not amusing, it’s silly, and it takes away from the X Factor experience in my opinion. I suppose it gives us something to think about instead of the parade of appalling singers who proceed her. What the hell, Miami? 55 year old Marivana Viscuso tries to turn this runaway donkey around with her swelling voice, and I try hard not to let her bad teeth take away from her talent. I try soooo hard. ::strains:: ::flosses teeth:: They put her through, because they have to put somebody through; the audience is reaching for their Xanax, man.

Things begin to turn around a bit, starting with 2Squar’d, a group of three girls dressed fetchingly in white. They get four yeses and Bob’s yer uncle. Then finally, finally, here comes something really special. Kendra Williams, a 32 year old teacher, sings Almost Home, and it is so full of yearning and pain it’s amazing. They can only show a few seconds of her performance because they needed all the extra time to show the bad acts. Anyway, they love her and put her through without hesitation. I love her too, and hope to see big things from her in the upcoming weeks.

And it doesn’t stop there; Brendon O’Hara is next. He’s good, but he’s so handsome that Nicole and I don’t really care. We just want to look at him some more. Yes! Put him through! See, I can be shallow, too. He comments on how nice it is that Paula and Simon are getting along, which is charming and funny. Thank the gods he gets voted through to the next round. Swoon!

Jeremiah Pagan comes next. He claims to be one of around seven males sopranos in the world (Kurt Hummel is number four), and holy moly, it’s one more contestant voted through. The sickly auditions from before are becoming a distant clanging memory. Will Melanie Amaro continue the streak, or will she let her loving family down? They’re all terribly nervous for her, but it seems like a good sign when she refuses to tell Simon if she thinks she’s any good; she tells him he’s going to have to determine that himself. Smart answer. It doesn’t take long for him to do so, because she’s a juggernaut. She sings Listen by Beyonce like you would not believe. The audience goes nuts, and the judges go still in their seats. Her family bawls their eyes out. The female judges leap to their feet mid-way through. Nicole bursts into tears. The sick are healed, the dead rise, etc., etc. The only thing stopping the judges from giving her the prize right then and there are the soulless sponsors who were promised more than two episodes when they signed on.

And that’s it for poor, talent-challenged Miami. It’s on to Dallas, where there MUST be better singers, right? Right?? Better or not, there are tons of people there to try out. All of them are worried about how they look, but none more than Johnny Rogers. He’s obsessed with his blond hair, whose style can only be described as Justin Bieber gone rogue. He can flip his hair like it’s a deadly weapon. His mom orders him not to dance during his audition, which can’t be a good sign, but he ignores her. Simon tells him he looks like Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken. You can tell Johnny has never heard of Ken in his short life. Hee. He’s earnestly bad; his mom should have warned him not to sing during his audition. His original song is good, though. Who would have guessed? Not I, said the internet recapper.

Nicole embraces the culture, instantly picking up a Texan accent, which is always fun. The next contestant is endearing Dillon Lawson, and he gets the full treatment with his lonely backstory and his dreams of being famous in this cruel business. I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping for a really great Country singer who’s going to make me tear up. He’s polite and stumbling with the judges, telling them he sold his truck to buy a plane ticket to get here. Aww. And then he opens his mouth and…sings his whacked out version of Thrash Metal (is there an even more obnoxious kind of Metal? If there is, that’s what he sings), complete with lots and lots of swears. Dillon, are you NUTS? The judges banish him from the stage, as disgusted as I am. Dallas, why you no sing good?

To rub it in they go through another crowd of stinkers, throughout which Simon and Paula eat…I’m not sure what? Popcorn? M & Ms? Uppers? It makes the day more bearable, I’m sure. Dexter Haygood hopes to break the losing streak. He’s 49 years old, living out of his car, and this is his last shot. He performs Sex Machine by James Brown, and Simon is not impressed because it doesn’t have a note of originality. Simon demands that he sing something else a cappella, once more with feeling! This time Dexter does A Man’s World. He has a lifetime of hard knocks to put into the performance, and when the judges still hesitate, the crowd begs them to vote him through. So they do. Yay!

Now comes a montage of good singers, each of whom get about ten seconds of camera time. Oh well, I’m sure the contestants don’t care. /Sarcasm. The cameras do pause to linger on Caitlin Koch, who’s a hottie female rugby player. She’s got it all: the looks, the voice, the creative spin (she changes Stop in the Name of Love to a bluesy ballad). The judges and audience can’t clap loudly enough for her. Simon even gives her a thumb’s up. She’s one to watch for sure.

The last act of the day is Xander (NOT Alexander) Alexander, a sassy boy covering his insecurities with some pretty funny one-liners such as:

Nicole: I wonder how them sunglasses are staying up there? (upside down on his ball cap)
Xander: You’ll keep wondering, too.

Simon: Have you ever performed in public before?
Xander: Have you ever worn a shirt that isn’t gray? No, I haven’t.

Simon: Okay, Alexander…
Xander: Stop calling me that, Simone.

He’s amusing, but his zingers are off-putting for the audience. Although he’s so nervous he can barely hold the mic, he sings well. The judges are torn, but end up shooting him down because of his attitude. I understand their reasoning, but would have loved to have seen Xander duke it out with Siameze the mini-Prince. Now THAT would have been some good reality TV. Sigh. As it is, we end the show with the judges cheerfully waving goodbye to their fans while Xander sobs his heart out backstage. Um. And then I threw myself off a bridge. It’s a mundo downer ending to a brutal two-city audition blowout.

The only thing that’s keeping me going is the preview for next week that shows Paula and Simon screaming at each other, just like the good old days. Whee! I’ll see you there.

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