X Factor USA 1.03 – Chicago / Seattle Auditions

You have to wonder how the X Factor judges tell one city from the next, what with the endless string of  luxury hotels, fawning personnel, and nervous contestants. Maybe Simon has a system of T-shirt colours for each state? If so, he’s picked white for Chicago, followed by black and then fifteen different shades of gray. 

First up are Brock and McKenna, two friends who look so much alike they could be sibs instead of pals. Well, she thinks they’re pals – he thinks he loves her and will do so until she loves him back or the end of time, whichever comes first. He tells the cameras about his secret love, like The X Factor cameramen will take the information to their graves. Heh, he’s obviously getting a little tired of waiting for her to figure it out on her own. They sing Colder Weather, and they’re both really good! All four judges give them warm yeses, including, um, Cheryl Cole, who’s suddenly back. I’m guessing we’re time travelling and Nicole will be back for good soon enough.

Kim’s up next, and she sounds like a dog who just saw the FedEx truck drive by. When she blames her poor performance  on the fact that she couldn’t hear herself singing, Simon tells her she’s lucky. There’s also Robin Royal, who happens to be my age (45), and is dressed like I would if I wanted to be a hipster dominatrix. But maybe that’s just me. Anyway, she doesn’t get through, but maybe picks up a few new clients from the audience. There’s a string of mediocre types, and one gal who wants to try out to be a judge instead of a contestant (she doesn’t get the job, but maybe Cheryl should have paid better attention).

But then comes Sylore Anderson, a high school student who’s driven nine hours with his mom all the way from Mississippi. He sings a country song, which he admits isn’t the typical song choice for a sixteen year old black kid. He starts his song, and just as he’s getting the swing of it, the music cuts out due to a glitch in the control booth. He barely hesitates then he’s off again, singing it a capella. This impresses the judges so much he gets four yeses. He’s a sweetheart, so good for him.

J. Mark Inman is a philosophy grad, and he pretty much embodies that. He sings Creep by Radiohead and he’s remarkably weird, and I mean that in the best way possible. The audience goes crazy for him, and Paula calls him “otherworldly’ and definitely from another jurisdiction – one she’s visited once or twice herself. Ha! LA says J. Mark’s performance sounds so bad but it feels so good. Much to Simon’s disbelief J. Mark gets three yeses and he’s through to the next round. Thus starts a montage of Planet Paula moments, with both our Paula and the contestants having some rather strange moments. We wouldn’t have you any other way, my dear.

Josh Krajcik’s mom is totally pumped that her son is going to try out. She’s this close to hyperventilating, in fact. Her son is a cuddly teddy bear, curly haired with a great smile, but he’s dressed like he’s possibly living out of his car. The judges are far from impressed when he walks on the stage, and Simon is even less so when he says he’s going to sing At Last by Etta James. “Good luck”, Simon tells him, and doesn’t bother to add, “You’re going to need it.” Josh opens his mouth aaand…is beyond wonderful. He has a rich, nuanced voice, and he’s going to be one I’m looking for at boot camp. The judges comment on just how good his before and after pictures are going to be, and Simon says that he always thinks nothing can surprise him anymore, but Josh surprised him. He is so through to the next round. Josh is thrilled – his mother is more thrilled. No more slinging burritos for Josh!

That was a fantastic way to end the Chicago auditions; the judges now head west back to Seattle, maybe hoping more good singers will give it a try this time if they ask really nice. Next up is one of the overweight, untalented mother/daughter acts that X Factor does love to make fun of. Well, they’re dumb enough to audition, so I guess they’re fair game. They were so bad that Paula stopped the song, so that tells you something.

Drew Ryniewicz is a fourteen year old young lady from Arizona, but enough about her. She wants to talk about Justin Bieber because he’s so cute and perfect and everything. I feel the same way, so no problems here. Hee, just kidding. She sings Baby, Baby, and hits it out of the park. She’s changed it just enough to make it her own. The judges love it, they love her, and she’s got four yeses. You can tell Simon is salivating to make her a STAR. Lucky her!

Peet Montzingo is next. His interesting backstory is he’s 6’1” and grew up in a family of all dwarves. He wants to be a teen heartthrob, and the only two things in his way are that he’s no longer a teen, and he’s a bad singer. Oops. He’s a charming and sweet guy though, and his family obviously loves him to bits, so he’s going to be just fine even though he doesn’t go through to the next round.

Four Sure are four good looking fellas who don’t lack in confidence – they’ve chosen to sing End of the Road , which LA Reid wrote himself. Do they do it justice? Well. As has happened before, I think their vocals are weak, but the audience and judges thought they were fab. There’s something about boy bands that make them more than the sum of their parts, I guess. They’re through and ready to make singles I look forward to not listening to. Snort!

I have no such qualms about Elaine Gibbs, who’s 53 and hits all her notes like they’re red-headed step children. But she’s through too, so I’m not complaining. Francesca Duncan’s also voted though, and the five seconds of her singing we get to hear sounds lovely enough, so good for her. That’s still five seconds more than the next few good contestants get; we just get to see them rejoice after getting through. Tiger Budbill the wedding singer gets his five seconds of air time, plus the nail-biting vote where it’s up to Simon whether he gets three yeses or not – and Simon says yes! Tears of joy follow, of course. See, Simon isn’t all mean…just most of him. He has, like, a pinky’s worth of kindness.

Phillip Lomax is a cute young hipster who also happens to be a crooner, which is a definite soft spot of mine. He’s confident and wears a jaunty fedora and points to the audience when he sings like he’s a Rat Packer. Is it enough? Why yes, it is. The judges freely admit that his voice is weak but his Force is strong, and he’s through to charm another day.

It seems the hot young girls are not quite so lucky when it comes to the female judges. Simon calls them DOA – dead on arrival, meaning if they’re hyper sexy they don’t stand a chance with Paula and Nicole. The truth is probably more that they don’t like women who try to use sex to get ahead over talent. Neither do I (except maybe in the case of hookers), so I’m with them all the way on that score. Simon makes the vast mistake of telling one sultry contestant that he’s sure her stripteasey audition was probably what Nicole would have sung if she’d been auditioning for the X Factor. Nicole instantly sets him straight by correcting him: she actually sang I Will Always Love You when she auditioned for Popstars. And she sings it again for him now, very well, and certainly well enough to make her point. Who exactly is the cat around here? Simon, I’m looking at you.

It’s funny for us, but Tiah Tolliver is caught in their cross-fire. The second she comes out with her tight sweater and red lipstick, Simon pronounces her a DOA. She sings, and she’s good but not great. Simon loves her though, and makes that known by yelling at Paula and Nicole to put her through because he “has a feeling about this one”. Needless to say, that doesn’t go over too well. With the deciding vote, Paula says no. Simon is beyond disgusted. LA asks Tiah to sing something that will make Paula change her mind. She tries, and the audience screams for her to go through. Nicole takes pity on her and puts her through, which was absolutely the right choice in my book. You can’t let the boys go through on their charm and not the girls, dammit. FWIW, I thought she was good enough to go to boot camp for sure. Paula is so so miffed by Simon’s self-congratulatory air that she smacks the bowl of snack food he’s eating, making it spill everywhere. He doesn’t care; he got his way and that’s all that matters.  Right?

See you tomorrow with the last round of auditions, and then it’s on to boot camp!