X Factor USA 1.05: Boot Camp Part 1

Welcome to boot camp, maggots! All the acts we instantly loved and/or hated during auditions are here, as pumped as a tank of gas. They’re thrilled to see the judges again, but I’m not sure why, seeing as how the judges are going to make them all start secretly cutting their arms again after they perform for a second time. 

But wait! Before they have to sing like this was a singing competition or something, for some inexplicable reason the judges want them all to learn how to dance first. Simon says it’s like Michael Jackson – HE wasn’t just a singer, was he now? Well, no. But let’s just say that Joe Cocker is every bit the artist Michael was, even if he can’t do double dream hands to save his life. However, Simon forgot to phone and ask me what I thought of the idea, so dance they do, some like a fish to water, some like fish flopping on the bottom of the boat. There’s only one holdout, Brian Bradley (that fourteen year old kid who rapped Stop Lookin’ at my Mom like a boss). As he tells us defiantly, when Jay-Z starts dancing at his shows, so will Brian. Good on ya, pal.

After everyone has busted their moves (and then put ice on them), they’re divided into groups of ten and brought before Caesar the judges to perform a song they think will prove they should win the five million dollar contract. As always, the people you think will shine often stumble, and the people you might barely remember often blow us away instead of just blowing. And the vast majority of the singers pick awful songs. Like, they picked them off of a karaoke sheet they found on the floor of a nightclub bathroom when they were drunk. Here’s a quick hit of the highlights:

Siamesze Floyd (Prince knock-off): Not as good as he is in his purple-tinged dreams. Makes Paula’s face freeze in pain.

The Anser (be-hatted hipster trio): Just as cute and mediocre as they were the first time, and perhaps the judges even agree with me this time.

Drew Ryniewicz (the teen who remixed Baby Baby): Equally wonderful this time around.

Rachel Crow (precocious tween): Fearless, which will probably take her and her strong voice far.

Tora Woloshin (Lady GaGa lookalike): Picked a bad song, and suffered from nerves. The judges are disappointed but her outstanding audition should probably earn her some forgiveness.

J. Mark Inman (strrrange): Still wacky this time around. It’s like performance art sponsored by Xanax.

Brewer Boys (teen idol duo): I love them. I can’t help it, I won’t deny it.

Brendan O’Hara (handsome as heck): He forgets the words to Price Tag. When the sale comes first, Brendan! WHEN THE SALE COMES FIRST OH GOD HE’S GOING HOME ISN’T HE? ::sobs::

Chris Rene (rehabbed): He’s scared, but his voice has such a gorgeous tone it doesn’t matter.

Melanie Amaro (got a standing O): All the makings of a diva, baby. Except without the ego.

Stacy Francis (abusive ex-boyfriend): She thinks holding her glory note for ten seconds is a good idea. It’s not. And she’s the first one to bawl this week. Drink!

That’s the end of the individual songs. Now everyone is split into three groups that come out one at a time to learn their fate. The ones who don’t make it cry and beg and hug, and J. Mark Inman has a suitably crazy breakdown. The ones who do make it, all 100 of them, also cry and hug, but it’s always much nicer when it’s due to happiness instead of contemplating which way they’re going to off themselves when they get home, and even the judges are excited and proud on their behalf. Aww. It’s time to celebrate good times, come on! Let’s celebrate. And so they do.

The next morning, it’s not quite as easy to celebrate for those contestants with hangovers and sleep deprivation. The crew has to come knock on their doors and drag them out of bed. I understand that they wanted to enjoy their good luck, but it seems the height of dumb to me that they make it into the next round and immediately proceed to not take it seriously. Smarten up, children!

They’re whisked away to meet with LA Reid, who tells them they’re now going to be split into ensembles (unlike American Idol, which always made them scramble to make their own groups, which was painful with a capital P). They’ll have a team of professional coaches and stylists to help them with their song, which is also pre-picked for them. They have five hours to learn the song and any choreography they choose, and after all is sang and done, a full third of them will be sent home. Yikes!

Let’s break it down by group.

Group 1 – Singing Creep by Radiohead
Drew Ryniewicz (has never heard the song before today): angelic voice, accompanied by nervous bang sweeps and horse-riding stances.
Dexter Haygood (James Brown tribute act guy): channels Mick Jagger, even though Paula specifically told him to be himself next time.
The Anser (judges still didn’t listen to me): much earnest straining, squatting, and hand-to-chest movements.
Audrey Turner (was married to Ike Turner): good voice, but overcompensates for her age, plus wears a leather cape. Batman approves, but will Simon?
Elaine Gibbs (ex wedding singer): blows these kids right out of the water.
Caitlin Koch (soccer babe): she wants it bad, and she proves it with this song.
The judges say: The Anser is the zero (I told you so!) and Audrey Turner is the hero.

Group 2 – Singing Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2
Jazzlyn Little (no confidence, amazing voice): her voice is one of the best aaand…she forgets the lyrics but at least sings a string of words instead of throwing up.
Stacy Francis (10 second note): reins it in with impressive results.
Melanie Amaro: guess what? She’s great this time too. I sense a trend.
Heather Gayle, Aaron Surgeon, Arin Ray, and the group Special Guest don’t get any face time. Sucks to be them.

Group 3 – Singing Desperado by The Eagles
Paige Ogle (pretty blond #1): She has a fine country voice, but nothing to distinguish her from the herd of other pretty blonds the judges seem to like so much, then immediately dismiss as forgettable.
Danni Knights (pretty blond #2):possibly the best of the blonds, for what that is worth.
Skyelor Anderson (unlikely country singer): he’d never heard of the song, but did a pretty good job despite that fact.
Leroy Bell (yummy baby boomer): he wears that toque to keep his smooth soul from escaping out of the top of his head. This is just a theory.
Poor Chelsea Musick (pretty blond #3), Cari Fletcher (pretty blond #4) and Ben Rue don’t get solos, or we don’t get to hear them, anyway.
The judges say: Simon is ready to start a knife fight to get the other judges to pick Paige. Otherwise, their applause are tepid.

Group 4 – Singing Wishing on a Star by Jay-Z
Tinuke Oyefule: her name is the only unusual thing about her.
Brian Bradley (teen rapper): born to do this thang, but very aggressive and forgot his words.
Reina Williams (who?): radio-ready voice, but her image needs work.
Lauren Ashley (who?): sweet, thin voice from a sweet, thin girl.
Jennifay Joy Nichols: THAT’S how you do it.
And now they’re not even naming the acts they don’t show. Major bummer for them.
The judges say: Brian is “just too young”.

Group 5 – Singing Superman by Five for Fighting
Nick Dean (desperate to be a pop idol): crashes and burns rather spectacularly.
James Kenney: Not bad at all, especially following Nick.
Tiger Budbill (wedding singer): starts shaky then comes on like gangbusters.
Josh Krajcik (cutie patootie burrito slinger): I <3 you, Josh. That is all.
Kompl3te (the group names just get worse and worse), Andrew Muccitelli, and Thomas McAbee are left out in the cold.
The judges say: Tiger is the standout for them. Yay for the underdog!

Group 6 – Singing Feeling Good by Everybody Ever
Chesi Spriggs: surprisingly average.
Nick Voss (nice moves, shaved eyebrow): too twitchy for my tastes.
Phillip Lomax (sweetheart crooner): lots of fun, but could overstay his welcome sooner rather than later.
Austin Simmons (white anime hair): lost in a sea of better voices.
Tiah Tolliver (almost a DOA, but damn, at least she’s not freaking blond): she has something to prove, and she does so like whoa.
Kelly Warner (great hair): looks and sounds like she just rolled out of bed.
Poor Robert Cruz is the only one skipped.
The judges say: Simon feels vindicated in sticking up for Tiah, and was quite anxious over it, which I find endearing.

Group 7 – Singing I Have Nothing by Whitny Houston
De’Quan Allen: Nice tone, but I can’t get over that he looks like Jar Jar Binks.
Joshua Maddox: I like him, but this is not his genre and it shows.
Rachel Crow (tiny dynamo): struggles both in the practice and during the performance.
Hayley Orrantia: she sang this in her shower every day for the last ten years, I guarantee it.
Ellona Santiago: not quite up for the challenge.
4Shore: make it stop, I beg you.
Illusion Confusion and Caylie Gregorio stay in the background.
The judges say: It was a hard song, so they weren’t completely surprised at the iffy results. I can’t believe that Groups will take up a full quarter of the final 32, because damn they’re a hot mess.

Group 8 – Singing Light Up by Snow Patrol
Siameze Floyd (Prince clone): dials it down, with good results.
Makenna & Brock (unrequited love story): not as good as the first time, possibly due to nerves, especially her.
Emily Michalak (12 years young): she’s scared to death but sure doesn’t have to be.
The Stereo Hoggz (use sunglasses as a crutch): much squatting and wailing, but what do I know?
Jeremiah Pagan: most excellent, at least of what they stingily showed us of him.
Song Preservation Society and Cesar De La Rosa also perform. Heh.
The judges say: They like Emily and Siameze, and are starting to feel the pressure of sending so many people home even if they don’t deserve to go.

And that’s it for tonight. Whew, that was nerve-wracking even for those of us sitting around in our underwear drinking rum and Coke Zero at home (tell me I can’t be the only one). I truly admire anyone who has the courage to sing for their lives in front of the firing squad, because I sure couldn’t do it. But there’s still more to come next time, plus the awful eliminations complete with gnashing of teeth and rending of hipster clothes. Can’t wait!