X Factor USA 1.09 – Judge’s Homes Part 3

Here’s where the rubber meets the road, my pudding pops. The judges have chosen their four top contestants to go through to the live shows — it’s time to introduce the Final 16. Let me say up front that I rather violently frothed at some of the choices that were made, so get ready because there’s a storm a-brewin’, and I plan on going all Category 5 on some of those judge’s asses. 

There’s no point in me recapping what each contestant says before they meet with their judge; every contestant repeats pretty much exactly the same thing. Therefore, here’s a handy checklist of what people say when they’re about to find out if they’re getting booted off X Factor or not:

  • This is the most important day of my life.
  • I just want to make my family proud.
  • This means the world to me.
  • I don’t want to go home yet.
  • I want it so badly!! ::tears::
  • I know where you live, Simon. ::maniacal laughter::

After that’s all out, they have to make the long, long walk to where their judgment awaits. No, really, it’s not a metaphorical long walk, it’s like half a mile from the kitchen to the back yard. It’s a hike, especially in heels (I’m looking at you, Dexter). Let’s take a look at what’s in store for each of the contestants, shall we?

Paula Abdul – Groups

2Squar’d: They’ve quit their jobs and have no money left, so this is it for the four girls. Paula tells them their harmonies are spot-on, but even when the song doesn’t feel right, they have to bring it.
My Bold Prediction: Bohemian Rhapsody was rough for them, but they have room and talent to grow. I predict…yes? That wasn’t very bold, was it?
The Judge’s Verdict:
It ends here for them. They are all crushed, holding each other up and bawling. It’s hard to watch. I hope they don’t give up, because I thought they were wonderful.

The Brewer Boys: The sweet brothers’ bangs are drooping in fear as they meet Paula in her back yard. I love them to bits, but their performance yesterday was lacking to say the least. It doesn’t look good.
My Bold Prediction: They’re sent home, much as it hurts me to say it.
The Judge’s Verdict: They make it through! Their last performance may not have been their best, but Paula (and I) still think they have a a whole lot of potential to become teen heartthrobs. Oh, happy day! They immediately go into shock. “16 out of hundreds of thousands of people. I can’t even explain it,” one of them says. I guess I’m going to have to learn their first names now, huh?

Illusion Confusion:  I think they sounded great and were fun to watch yesterday. Paula strongly disagrees with me. Oh-oh.
My Bold Prediction: They weren’t the best, but if they weren’t top four, then they were at least top five. Um, maybe?
The Judge’s Verdict: No such luck, they’re going home. They’re the only ones who are angry about not making it. Hmm.

4Shore: Music may be their life, but listening to them singing may be the death of me. If they dropped Mr. Curlylocks, that would go a long way in helping (but they’d have to change their name to 3Some. 3Peat? You get the idea) Paula says they sounded beautiful, but needed a lead singer. I…what? Since when did boy bands have lead singers? The whole point is they’re a unit, more than the sum of their parts. I think that’s just an excuse, but okay.
My Bold Prediction: Not this time, boys.
The Judge’s Verdict: Homeward bound. Paula’s chin gets very wibbly as she tells them. I feel for them, but the music industry is not known for its kindness.

InTENsity: They’re so stressed half of them start crying before Paula even starts to talk. She tells them they have to gel, and all of them have to do their part. Her voice gets teary as she says…
My Bold Prediction: LET THEM GO THROUGH.
The Judge’s Verdict: They’re through! That Paula is crafty with her fake tears. I can’t wait to see more of these kids in the live shows.

Lakota Rayne: Paula actually gives them some solid critiques, which is nice to see. She tells them their performance was joyless, and they have to work on that. I agree, and I also thought they weren’t good singers. That’s a bit bigger complaint, I suppose.
My Bold Prediction:  No way.
The Judge’s Verdict: Way. I won’t say it’s because they’re female and pretty and blond…but I’ll sure think it.

The Anser: I didn’t like these fellas from the beginning, and they have grown on me somewhat. Just not enough to think they should be allowed to the live shows. They’ve bought each other promise rings to show their solidarity to the group. Also, they pledge not to sleep with each until they get married, more’s the pity. Paula tells them they’ve fallen short of her expectations, and their voices don’t blend. That’s when they start to cry. Paula, getting all tough and shit. Looks like her sweet American Idol days are over.
My Bold Prediction: Close, but no cigar.
The Judge’s Verdict: Paula agrees with me. The members of Lakota Rayne are just as upset as the boys themselves.

Stereo Hogzz: The boys are dressed to kill today, a fact even Paula comments upon. She tells them they have to work on their backup vocals, and she has to go with her gut on her decision. She begins to cry as she says this.
My Bold Prediction: They’re going through OMG.
The Judge’s Verdict: That’s right they are! Paula’s a pretty good actor, although maybe she really is crying –  with happiness instead of woe. All the guys immediately somersault into her pool. They’re cuties, all right.
Nicole Scherzinger – Over 30s

Josh Krajcik: Nicole’s sitting on her outdoor loveseat with her bare feet tucked up under her like she’s 12. All of her group would probably break a hip if they tried that. Anyway, Nicole tells Josh that he was like the guy next door in auditions, but then he blew them away. The question is, can the guy next door win this competition?
My Bold Prediction: Gods of reality TV! Make it so!
The Judge’s Verdict: He makes it through. Yay! Nicole literally crawls across the loveseat to hug him. Steve Jones offers to hug him, but Josh is having none of it so they grab hands high-five style instead. Ha!

James Kenney: James is the perfect example of how hard it is to follow your dreams when you have a family depending on you. He’s hoping X Factor will do all the heavy lifting on building his singing career, but is he good enough for that to happen?
My Bold Prediction: No, he’s not. But he would make an excellent front man in a band. He reminds me very much of Chris Daughtry, and look how that family man fared!
The Judge’s Verdict: He’s going home. Nicole pretty much tells him to join a band.

Christa Collins: Christa is wearing a roasted baby in her hair today. I’m just saying. Nicole tells her that she’s unique, but there’s room for improvement.
My Bold Prediction: Pleasenopleasenopleaseno.
The Judge’s Verdict: She doesn’t make it. Her spider eyelashes bleed black. To her credit, she takes it in stride. I wish her well…just not on this show.

Dexter Haygood: “They may want it as much as I want it — but they don’t need it as much as I need it.” Good lord, it’s hard not to break down with Dexter, because he knows he didn’t do a very good job yesterday. He tries to keep it together as Nicole tells him her decision. She even holds his hand to make it easier for him as she tells him he’s hit or miss.
My Bold Prediction: He’s a character, but he’s not a great enough singer compared to his competitors.
The Judge’s Verdict: He’s what?! He’s THROUGH?? Okay, whatever, Nicole. She tells him she’s going to listen to her heart instead of her brain on this one. No kidding. He jumps in the pool to celebrate. Honestly, I think she fears he’ll be dead within six months if she doesn’t put him through – and I think she’s right to worry.

Leroy Bell: At 60, he’s the oldest in the competition, and he has enough life experience to know that’s not a plus. Nicole rubs him on the shoulder as he sits down, another bad sign. He braces himself when Nicole says “Leroy…” in a sad voice.
My Bold Prediction: He’s going through if there’s a god of justice (PS There isn’t; I googled it).
The Judge’s Verdict:  “Leroy…you are so going through!” There is much rejoicing and bear hugs. I don’t think he can really believe it. He’s fairly calm until he gets back to the kitchen, then he breaks down in tears. Aww.

Tiger Budbill: Nicole tells Tiger she loves his spirit and voice, but wants more from his performances. I agree that boot camp was his apex, and he’s been losing steam ever since, I think due to his jangling nerves re: his life will fall apart if he doesn’t make it.
My Bold Prediction: Not as good as the others, but when did that ever matter?
The Judge’s Verdict: Nah, he’s gone. He’s so beaten down by the news that after he’s gone Nicole sort of falls apart and has to be comforted by a crew member. Tiger calls his wife and says he just wanted her to be proud of him. “I’m proud of you no matter what – no matter what,” she replies. I think Tiger is richer than he thinks. Good luck to him and his family.

Elaine Gibbs: She’s 53, and wants to go through so bad. She has the talent to back up her wish, and Nicole tells her as much. Except the X Factor isn’t just about the best voice, she goes on, and already I’m irked. What the fuck ever.
My Bold Prediction: She damn well better go through.
The Judge’s Verdict:  She doesn’t go through. Argh!!! Even worse, she has to comfort Nicole because Nicole’s upset she crushed Elaine’s dreams. How terrible for poor Nicole. Elaine takes it in stride, and I hope she feels like she proved something to everyone, because she did. Dexter Haygood couldn’t shine her shoes. Hmph.

Stacy Francis: Nicole warns her that she’s looking for someone with confidence, and how hard the music business can be. Stacy is stoic, her expression not changing as the tears run down her cheeks. When Nicole is ready to tell her her decision, Stacy hides her face in her hands.
My Bold Prediction: Through, and deservedly so.
The Judge’s Verdict: Nicole agrees with me. She also tells Stacy that she’s as much of a fighter as Stacy and they’re going to make a good team, which is nice. Stacy’s abusive ex can bite it, she’s in the top 16!

 LA Reid – Boys

Brian “Astro” Bradley: He says he’s in the music biz for fame, fortune, and girls. I guess ‘artistic integrity’ was fourth on the list. Heh, he’s only 14 so I don’t expect him to be that altruistic, don’t worry. Even LA mentions his questionable attitude and youth. His narrow niche market and inexperience doesn’t bode well when compared to his competition.
My Bold Prediction: Let him ripen a little bit more.
The Judge’s Verdict: Sails on through to the live shows. Does he cry? Rejoice? Nah, he pops the non-existent collar of his shirt like he knew it all along. I’ll keep an open mind, but he better be spectacular next week if he wants to win me over.

Nick Voss: LA wonders if Nick has found his identity as a singer, and I actually agree with that concern. Nick’s fun and cool, but he seems very young on that stage, and not in the good way.
My Bold Prediction: His eyebrow makes it through, he doesn’t.
The Judge’s Verdict: His eyebrow is sent home, too.

Skyelore Anderson:  LA tells him right off the bat that even though he has an amazing voice, being a country singer limits him. What!? Doesn’t rapping limit Astro Boy, there? I think what LA really means is that it limits HIM, and what he thinks he can do for the acts as a mentor. It makes sense, but it sure as hell isn’t fair.
My Bold Prediction: If only one country singer can go through, Tim Cifers is the stronger singer. Sorry, Skyelor.
The Judge’s Verdict: He’s toast. I hope he keeps singing, because he deserves success.

Brenin Hunt: LA tells him that although he considers him a star, he feels Brenin struggled. I agree. He peaked at his audition, and it’s all been downhill from there.
My Bold Prediction: He’s the kind of guy these shows love. I say yes.
The Judge’s Verdict: No, he doesn’t make it! Brenin is shocked and disappointed, but I have a feeling he’ll land on his charming, handsome feet.

Phillip Lomax: LA says he sees flashes of brilliance in his performances, but can’t just be singing Sinatra ad nauseum, and he needs a little more time. Phillip is so sure this is it for him that he accepts the criticism rather gracefully.
My Bold Prediction: Crooners are even more rarified than Country boys. I say no.
The Judge’s Verdict: He’s in. Phillip is so genuinely shocked its rather adorkable. I’m glad he made it through, and look forward to what happens next for him and his stylin’ fedora. “I’m gonna make you so proud, LA,” he says before he runs across the lawn, only to collapse onto his knees as his emotions overwhelm him.

Chris Rene: LA tells him he liked him from the very beginning, but he’s worried about Chris’s “struggles”. That’s code for “drug addiction”. Chris tells him he’s still clean, and he seems truly proud of that. LA isn’t convinced he can handle the pressure, and says it’s a difficult moment.
My Bold Prediction: Through like glue! That is meaningless, but rhymes.
The Judge’s Verdict:  He makes it through. I didn’t know how much I wanted him to until he almost didn’t. All three of us are just. So. Happy.

Tim Cifers: He and Marcus Canty both feel like this is their last shot, that if it doesn’t pan out they’re going to have to give up on music. It’s a sobering thought, and it’s admirable how responsible both of them are. There are dreams, and then there’s putting food on the table. LA tells him Rihanna thought his best quality was his humbleness. Maybe he’s even a little too humble for this business.
My Bold Prediction: He deserves to go through based on talent.
The Judge’s Verdict: This obviously isn’t only about talent, and he’s going home. I’m sad that there isn’t a country presence in the boy’s group, and annoyed at LA for making it so. Talk about wondering what might have been.

Marcus Canty: LA tells Marcus that he feels less than current, and it worries LA. But he does really likes him.
My Bold Prediction: Well, duh. He was a stand-out from day 1, and the show would be a darker place without him.
The Judge’s Verdict: LA agrees with me. Marcus is the last contestant chosen for the final four, and he’s positively giddy. Good on ya, Marcus!
Simon Cowell – Girls

Tora Woloshin: Simon calls her sweetheart (warning bells) and reminisces about her electrifying audition performance. He tells her how much he likes her, but that she’s in the strongest group of the show and her competition is fierce. I agree that although Tora is a wonderful performer, her performance in the last episode was not a standout one. Dammit!
My Bold Prediction: Love her, but she’s out.
The Judge’s Verdict: Love her, but she’s out. “I just wanted to make you proud,” she sobs into her cell phone to her mom afterward. ::heart breaks into tiny pieces::

Simone Battle: She starts to cry as soon as Simon opens his mouth. The smug take-no-prisoner Simone from boot camp is gone, leaving a much more likable, humble Simone in her place. Simon reminds her that she forgot the lyrics then, and of course that would be disastrous during the live shows. She doesn’t argue.
My Bold Prediction: Beautiful as she is talented? She’s in.
The Judge’s Verdict: She’s in. “I made it, Mommy!” she says into her cell phone. Her mom’s squeal can be heard all over Paris. Well, it’s on speaker phone, but you know what I mean.

Drew Ryniewicz: She tells Simon she did her best, but what will other people (ie: him) think of her best? He says he’s not going to lie, she wasn’t the best teenager yesterday. She braces herself. It’s hard to remember that Drew is only 14, but it shows in her unvarnished reactions. Everything she feels just radiates out of her. She braces herself for the worst. “You weren’t the best teenager,” Simon continues. “You were the best contestant of the whole day.”
My Bold Prediction: Not a doubt in my mind she’s getting through.
The Judge’s Verdict: She’s through, of course. She’s so excited she forgets which way is the exit, but when she figures it out she scampers away, shrieking as only a 14 year old can do. “I don’t even know if I’m speaking English right now!” she tells Steve Jones.

Caitlin Koch: She’s got a beautiful voice and face, and the only thing against her is the fierce talent of the other girls in this category. She’s as self-assured and calm as a person can be under the circumstances.
My Bold Prediction: I can’t guess. It’s too close to call.
The Judge’s Verdict: She’s going home. Yikes. She’s so calm about it that I don’t feel quite as bad for her. It’s fairly certain by her work ethic, looks, and composure that she’ll go on to a successful life no matter what she decides to do.

Tiah Tolliver:  When Tiah stands in front of Simon for his verdict, she makes herself as small as possible, the better to disappear. He tells her nobody else likes her and her vocals are iffy. It’s true, and that makes it worse.
My Bold Prediction: She’s Simon special project, and he’s not going to give up on her now.
The Judge’s Verdict: Told you so.  She bawls like a little kid, and I’m glad that Simon put her through. I think she has the most potential for improvement. I see big things in her future. /crystal ball

Jazzlyn Little: Simon tells her that he really liked the grit she had when she auditioned, but the grit’s been polished off as the competition’s gone on. As so often before, Simon is right on the money. He tells her he likes her, and she thinks so little of herself that she’s surprised by that. Poor Jazzlyn is a victim of her own fear.
My Bold Prediction: Talented, pretty, insecure. Two out of three ain’t enough.
The Judge’s Verdict: She doesn’t make it through. Her face crumbles as she starts to cry, and Simon and Steve both give her big hugs. Don’t give up on yourself, Jazzlyn! I haven’t!

Rachel Crow: Not that she’s not scared, but she’s as composed as a bomb diffuser when she meets with Simon. She’s definitely more mature than most girls twice her age. Simon tells her he loves her, but he wasn’t counting on the rest of the girls being so terrific themselves.
My Bold Prediction: Goin’ through.
The Judge’s Verdict: “It’s not great news. It’s fantastic news!” At long last, she cries. Aw, good for her. Because she’s a minor, her mom is right there to share in the joy. You go, girl!

Melanie Amaro: Simon reminds her how amazing her first audition was (earning her a thrilled standing O). But he also says that having to choose only 4 girls, he’s had to make some crazy decisions and tell great singers they didn’t make it.
My Bold Prediction: I said last week he was going to cut her, and I stand by that.
The Judge’s Verdict: Yup, I’m right. Dammit! That’s just not fair. She’s so talented, and so nice, and she deservs a shot even if she maybe isn’t as “pretty” as some of the others. A travesty. FWIW, Simon adjusts his sunglasses as he bemoans the fact he left her behind. Is Simon actually shedding a tear (or, as Simon likes to call it: loser juice)? Maybe he is, but it’s too late for I’m sorry now.

Or is it? As night falls and Simon is at the kitchen table dictating notes to his personal assistant, he suddenly tells her, “I’ve made a terrible mistake. A huge mistake.” And when Simon admits he’s wrong, people listen. Also, hell freezes over. Next thing you know, it’s a new day and he’s in front of Melanie Amaro’s house, and the people inside have no idea he’s coming over. Her dad answers the door, and is shocked to see Simon there, to say the least. Melanie screams out loud when she sees him, and everybody starts crying. When Simon apologizes for not choosing her, her dad shouts, “Apology accepted!” Ha! Simon invites her back to the show, and she…well, her dad…says yes! Absolutely yes! But so does she. Her dad promises that she won’t let Simon down, and Simon says no, he won’t let her down. Now that’s some good television drama right there.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with your Final 17:

(Please note that the official photos accompanying my recap look like they were taken by a hung-over roadie with his cell phone as the contestants exited a public washroom.)

Chris Rene


Marcus Canty

Josh Krajcik

Leroy Bell

Dexter Haygood

Stacy Francis

Rachel Wood

Drew Ryniewicz

Tiah Tolliver

Simone Battle

Stereo Hogzz

The Brewer Boys


Lakoda Rayne

and Melanie Amaro!