X Factor USA 1.06 – Boot Camp Part 2

Here we are again, willing passengers on the SS Boot Camp of Doom. Hold on tight as we’re sprayed with the cold tears of rejected contestants, and tossed against the rocky cliffs of the judges’ criticism. Okay, I’ll stop now before I start talking about narwhals or something. It’s the second half of X Factor boot camp – on with the show! 

For the most part, the rest of the ensemble groups weren’t featured much during the auditions, so I can’t remind you who they are because I just don’t know, man. Your guess is as good as mine.

Group 1 – Singing What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye
Ma’at Bingham Shango (12 year old): She’s a sweetheart, but not as talented as the other kids her age we’ve seen.
Gina Rene (Chris’s sister): She isn’t as good as her brother, from the few seconds they showed of her.
Matthew Johnson: Nice, rich voice.
Brenin Hunt (Zoolander/musician): Not as memorable this time around, but still strong.
Marcus Canty (sang Stevie Wonder in the auditions): Owned the stage and then some.
Chris Rene (rehab rapper): Yikes! It didn’t sound good at all in my living room. I loved him before, so I hope my living room is wrong.
Equality: Um, not as awful as the other groups? Work with me, I’m trying as best I can here.
The judges say: They clap and cheer when the group lurches to a stop, for whatever that’s worth. The ensembles have all sounded disjointed and scratchy to me, but that may just be the acoustics of the show. They love Marcus Canty, a real diamond in the rough. It’s not looking so good for Ma’at.

Groups 2 and 3 – Good grief, they show a brief glimpse of the ensembles performing, and that’s it for them. That’s gotta hurt when they’ve come this far; I hope they didn’t set their PVRs. They sang Kids in America and I’m Every Woman. If you were wondering. They sounded good. If you were wondering.

Group 4 – Singing I Won’t Let Go by Rascal Flatts
Tim Cifers: Beautiful country voice.
Mathew Slovacek: Not as good as Tim, let’s say that.
Kingston: This duo has to be brothers. Like all the Group acts, they are squatters, but they can sing and I’d actually even like to hear them again! \0/
Hannah Bethel: Way better than I expected.
Thomas Wells: He may not look like a pop star, but the man can sing my underwear right off. I mean…his underwear. Heh.
Poor Jeremy Easly doesn’t get a moment in the spotlight.
The judges say: Simon is impressed with Tim Cifers (whom he calls “the guy in the hat”), as we all are. Go, Tim!

Group 5 – Singing Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol
Henri Bredouw: I love him! He just needs some confidence, yo. I hope he makes it through.
Hannah Jackson: Good but not great.
Emma Henry: I love her, too! Where did these guys come from?
The Brewer Boys (all bangs, all the time): I never get tired of listening to them. Sing on, boys.
Ryan Sims (no relation to the game): Wow, another terrific voice.
Christa Collins: Doesn’t come close to touching the other acts in this ensemble.
James Douglas and Kyle Corr are left behind.
The judges say: Not a damn thing. But I think this was probably the strongest ensemble overall. Colour me impressed.

And that’s it for the Group Challenge. Now comes the really hard part: waiting for the judges to choose which acts will move on and which acts will take the plane ride of shame home. They don’t show us much of the deliberations, but there are only a few squabbles, and not very passionate ones at that. Best line by a judge is from LA Reid, who replies when Simon says a certain act has energy, “She’s got energy, but BOY she can’t sing.”

Soon enough, the first of three groups goes on stage to find out their moosey fate. They don’t make it through, and that includes Emma Henry and Henri Bredouw from that last group. SIGH. It also includes Reina Williams, the female rapper who is enraged that they didn’t put her through, likely because she was “too talented!!” She could easily break me in half, then stack the two pieces of me together and break me in half again. She scares me. This is Nicole’s first group rejection, and she’s nice enough to cry. And this is the easy part, Nicole! The other two groups make it through to the next round, and lo, there is much rejoicing.

The remaining acts meet with the judges, where Simon tells them that the bad news is that after the next day’s challenge, their number will be cut in half. Eeks. They’ll be given a list of 35 songs to choose from, and they have to pick the one that will make them shine. We’ve heard these instructions before, and let’s say I don’t hold out much hope anybody is listening. They have 15 hours to learn the song, then they’ll perform it for the judges and a live audience. After that, the judges will choose the top 32, which will be split into Boys, Girls, Over 30, and Groups. God help the judge who has to mentor the Groups. I mean…good luck to everybody!

The next day, no crew member has to wake anybody up. These guys are in it to win it, and they’re up bright and early to practice. The hours fly, and soon enough it’s time to take the stage. Let’s review the acts they choose to show us.

Rachel Crow/If I Were a Boy: She’s the sassy girl. She’s technically excellent, but a 13 year old singing about cheating husbands makes me giggle. If you stole my biiiiiike, I think I could understaaaand. She’s excellent, and the audience loves her. The judges won’t give comments this round, but Nicole crying tends to give her away. Good start to the day.

Audrey Turner/Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: She’s the one who was married to Ike. She looks like she’s had quite the life, and she can pour all that experience into her music. She’s good, but we all know the odds of an older woman making it through are not good. And honestly, all things being equal there are lots of others who are just as good if not better than her.

Paige Ogle/Somewhere Only We Know: She’s the one Simon was willing to cut a bitch for to ensure she got voted through. She has a lovely tone, but her Blond Girl status might hurt her, as it’s hard to stand out when you’re one of many.

Tiger Budbill/Billy Jean: He’s the wedding singer who rose to the occasion during the group competition. He’s remixed Billy Jean, possibly not for the better, but he still sings remarkably well. He’s nervous, and well he should be since if this doesn’t pan out his house will be auctioned off in five week. Damn.

Josh Krajcik/Up to the Mountain: He’s the cutie burrito maker. He starts off by telling the audience he hopes they’ll remember this performance “forever”, which makes Simon laugh at his audacity. However, he has the talent to back up his bravado. We may not remember his performance forever, but we’ll remember it tonight, and that’s enough. He gets a standing O, and I can’t wait to hear him sing again.

Simone Battle/Your Song: She’s the one who wore those red short shorts at her audition. She’s wearing black and white short shorts today. I sense a trend. She tells the judges she’s like no other artist in the world today. Aaand…she forgets the words. All the words. She totally blanks. Also, she tortures Elton John with her urban version of his song. Many, many tears follow.

4Sure performs badly, and we don’t get to see much of it.

Little Ladiez performs even worse, and we see even less of it.

Mackenna & Brock/Billie Jean: They also forget the words, they’ve also remixed the song, but they still sound pretty darn good. Nicole loved it, Simon less so.

Siameze Floyd sings like a cat that’s been set on fire while climbing up a blackboard.

Brenin Hunt/If I Ain’t Got You: He’s Zoolander in Real Life. He sings the song with a guitar backing him up, and Simon is so distraught he stops the performance. He tells him he’d rather hear the song with just a piano, but Brenin isn’t buying what he’s selling. Because he obviously knows better than Simon Cowell. To be fair, the judges of these kinds of shows always say they want originality, but what they really want is the same…but different. You just can’t win. Simon is so upset by the song remixes that he needs to take a break. I guess David Cook is but a distant memory now.

The Stereo Hoggz/Cry Me a River : They’re the sunglass kings. And you know what? They sound great, they look great, they perform great. Good for them! Another standing O.

Brian Bradley: The 14 year old rapper. He raps. The judges smile. I don’t know what else to tell you.

Phillip Lomax/Summertime: He’s the crooner. He’s no Michael Buble (or Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. for that matter), but he’s good. The audience likes him, and so do I.

Chris Rene/Every Breath You Take: They’re still playing up the rehab backstory, but I think he’s losing some of his shine. It might be the nerves, but he’s not as good as he once was.

Nick Dean/Somewhere Only We Know: He’s the teen heartthrob. I couldn’t believe they put him through after he forgot all the words and sang like a boiling kettle in the last round, but here we are. He’s better than Nicole and I expect, but not as good as Simon expects.

Stacy Francis/Summertime : She tells the judges that on the first day of boot camp, her dad died and she had to miss his funeral to be on the show. As dramatic backstories go, it doesn’t get any more heartbreaking than that. She puts every bit of that emotion in her performance. Everybody stands up for her except Simon. Close enough. She goes backstage and collapses into Steve Jones’s arms.

Tiah Tolliver: Okay, Paula hates Tiah. Whether it’s on principle due to the brawl with Simon over her or because Tiah really is a DOA in her eyes, I don’t know. But she isn’t happy to see her, let’s just say that. Tiah, for her part, sings well and sexes it up while she does it, so Paula has a point. I like Tiah, and at least she’s singing instead of aspiring to be a video ho, so I say you go, girl.

Cari Fletcher/I’m Already There: She’s one of the many pretty blonds. Her voice is good, but they’re all good at this stage. Nothing about her stands out. Thus, she’ll almost certainly go through. Well, Paula likes her, anyway.

Drew Ryniewicz: She’s the 14 year old dynamo. She’s got a distinctive voice and all the confidence in the world. Very likable.

Caitlin Koch/Cry Me a River: She’s the sexy soccer player. But she sure doesn’t look like a soccer player for this performance – she’s beautiful in her sparkly dress. Her voice is as pretty as she is, but suffers in comparison to Stacy Francis’s version of the same song.

Leroy Bell/Make You Feel My Love: He’s the hot baby boomer. And I’m just sorry he didn’t have more success before this, because he deserves it. It’ll be a crying shame if he doesn’t make it through.

That’s it for the performances; now the judges have to somehow whittle their numbers down from 64 to 32. I don’t envy them their job, and I’m going to try my best not to be bitter if and when they cut loose the more unique contestants for the cookie-cutter singers who appeal most to young girls. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Just like us, the judges’ opinions have waxed and waned through the rounds, and it’s going to be a dog fight as they make their case for their favourites. They do it without bloodshed, so it’s a success in my book.

And here are your final 32:

Caitlin Koch
Tora Woloshin
Simone Battle
Drew Ryniewicz
Rachel Crow
Jazzlyn Little
Melanie Amaro
Tiah Tolliver

Well, I take it back already, because all of these girls deserved whole-heartedly to go through (except maybe Simone because I’m mean that way). Some of my favourites didn’t make it (I’m looking at you, Emily Michalak) but they’re all young enough to bounce back, and this will look great on their resumes regardless.

Brenin Hunt
Brian Bradley
Skyelor Anderson
Nick Voss
Tim Cifers
Phillip Lomax
Marcus Canty
Chris Rene

Okay then! Much more than in the girls’ group, I think some of these boys were chosen for their video potential rather than their singing talent. Hopefully they can grow into the confidence the judges have in them. Cause otherwise there are going to be some long-ass performances to sit through as this thing goes on.

Stereo Hoggz
The Brewer Boys
Illusion Confusion
The Anser

I know I was hard on the groups the whole way…because they were pretty bad, yo. But what the heck, I can’t even remember a couple of these acts from the other rounds, so maybe they’ll surprise me. As it stands, I at least enjoy half of them if not love them, so maybe they’ll grow on me. ::crosses fingers and eyes::

Over 30:
Elaine Gibbs
Tiger Budbill
Leroy Bell
James Kenney
Josh Krajcik
Christa Collins
Dexter Haygood
Stacy Francis

I couldn’t have picked them better myself(except Christa Collins OMG)! And all the acts going through deserve it so much, and are so grateful for the opportunity. It’s pretty heartwarming, and the judges are emotional for them.

So there are your top 32! Good night and god bl…wait a second. Did you notice they only put through six Group acts? That’s because now the judges call in 7 boys and 7 girls from the acts who didn’t make it for a little talk. Simon tells them that if they had been in groups they would have blown the other groups out of the water (no kidding). And so they’re now going to be groups, and go on to the next round. Woot! They pretty much go into shock en masse, which is fun to watch.

All that’s left now is to find out which Group each judge is going to mentor in their very own homes (which are going to be most excellent to comment upon). I have a feeling the producers are going to make this difficult for everybody, just to add some fake spice to the festivities. Some “reality TV” MSG, if you will.

Nicole – Over 30s (and not very excited about it)
LA – The Boys (and relatively happy about it)
Paula – The Groups (doesn’t cry through sheer strength of will)
Simon – The Girls (he’s happier for them than for himself LOL)

Now things get interesting. I’ll see you here next week; in the meantime I will try to learn how to spell some of these contestants’ names. Krajcik and Ryniewicz and Skyelor, oh my.