What we learn in this episode: Simon & his chest are fabulously wealthy.
If you’re anything like me, you watched baseball for 20 minutes on Wednesday night before realizing that The X Factor hadn’t taken on an all new format. I mean, it could have happened right? This show is insane. You never know what’s going on and they’ve only cut the number of contestants from 15,000 down to 14,030. But as it turned out, baseball went late on Wednesday, so X Factor was pushed back to Thursday. The second episode will air on Sunday night.
Fortunately, Steve Jones is here to explain to us what the hell is going on. The remaining acts were split into four categories and last week we watched as the judges were called and assigned to categories. LA Reid would be mentoring the boys (his response: maniacal cackle), Simon would be mentoring the girls (his response: more Restalin), Paula would be mentoring the groups (her reaction: “Who is this? I think you have the wrong number.”), and Nicole would be mentoring the over 30s (her response: “The over what-ies? I don’t know nothin’ about being over 30. I’m just 19.”)
So all the acts head to the judges’ homes for mentoring and to fight for a place in the live shows coming up later this season. The group has to be cut in half in this round.
Our first destination: Paris. Steve Jones is dressed as a mime, but without the face paint. And he’s talking. Why is he in Paris? Because Simon Cowell lives in a villa in France. Of course he does. That guy literally has more money than I can imagine. I can imagine having enough money to pay off my loans, buy a nice car, and live in a house with more than one bathroom. Simon Cowell has enough money to buy a small island nation and lord over it; he’d be carried around on a litter by his all-lady bodyguard and would spit insults at his subjects. “You call that genuflecting? I’ve seen donkeys bow before me with more grace.”
Little Rachel Crow is super thrilled to be singing in France. She gives a very Joey Lawrence-style “Whoah” to vocalize her excitement. She knows she’s off to Paris, but she and the other contestants don’t know they’re stuck with Simon, who is known in France as “Simone, La Terroir.”
The eight girls — Rachel, Tora, Simone, Drew, Caitlin, Jazzlyn, Tiah and Melanie — go sightseeing and act like tourists. Just in case the t-shirts and jeans and camera crew weren’t enough, Simone has wrapped an American flag around her head.
Later, she classed things up with some American flag coochie cutters.
Simon is riding around on a yacht, of course, and assures us that this is the category that he wanted because they’re all winners. And it guarantees him a legit reason to fill his French villa with teenage girls. Later, he’s going to invite his good friend Dominique Strauss-Kahn over for some wine and dancing…
After leaving his yacht, Simon jumps into his convertible Corvette, because that’s just how you roll en francais.
Back at his house, Rachel is hoping that she’ll get to live there if she wins the competition. Sorry, babe. Don’t be fooled — the judges will be all done with you when this is over. You don’t get to become roomies with Simon Cowell and stay up late drinking hot cocoa and counting your money together.
The girls squeal and jump up and down with delight and run to hug Simon when he enters. He looks happy to see them and happy to participate in the group hug. Simone is sure to give him an extra hug. Simon is her dream judge, she says. I agree — being in the home of the show’s executive producer is prettay, prettay sweet.
The first time Simon has smiled all season.
Jazzlyn Little says the biggest fear just came over her because she’s going to have to perform for Simon Cowell. THE Simon Cowell. The guy who she’s performed in front of at least three times now. For Jazzlyn’s sake, I hope she gets a record deal out of this. ‘Cause the girl ain’t going to college.
In Santa Barbara, the groups are Paula’s house. It’s got flowers and fountains and bunnies hopping around, so the kids figure they’re not at Simon’s place.
Now roaming around Paula’s property are: The Stereo Hogzz, The Brewer Boys, The Anser, 2 Squar’d, Illusion Confusion, 4Shore, and the two groups that the judges formed at bootcamp: Intensity and Lakoda Rayne. The last two groups don’t look particularly happy to be there. Perhaps because they are known as Lakoda Rayne. Hopefully, they’ll just be thankful for the opportunity.
Paula is excited because her experience in choreography and show production means she works best with groups. The groups are excited to see her and they, too, run to hug her.
2 Squar’d says Paula represents everything a woman wants to be. Number one: I want to hear more about this. Yes, I would like to be able to get work in spite of being under the influence of pharmaceuticals, but I doubt that’s what they mean. Number two: someone should change the name of this group. It’s very “talk like a pirate day.” “Arrrrgh. I’m going to put on me peg leg and listen to some two squarrrrrd. Arrrrgh.”
Paula assures the group that she’s the right mentor. After all, she says, she’s worked with the Jacksons, Kool and the Gang, Duran Duran and ZZ Top. She’s the one who confirmed that, yes, every girl is crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man. So we, as Americans, owe a lot to Paula.
Down to Malibu, where the over 30s are being brought into Nicole’s condo in wheelchairs. They were rolled right in by West Indian women wearing colorfully patterned scrubs and white tennis shoes. “You sit quietly right dere nah,” they said. “Me get ya some prune juice while ya wet fer Miss Nee-cole.”
Elaine, Tiger, Christa, Leroy (or as Steve Jones calls him “Luh-roy”), James, Stacy, Josh and Dexter are all in this group. Leroy thinks they’re at Simon’s house because it’s the biggest one in the neighborhood. Oh, Leroy. Leroy, Leroy, Leroy. You fine, stupid man. Simon wouldn’t be caught dead in this neighborhood. He lives in FRANCE.
Elaine hopes that they get Simon or LA Reid. Aww… nobody wants Nicole.
Meanwhile, Nicole interviews that she loves having the over 30s because this means so much mroe to them. They have a story to tell and they’ve lived a life or two lives. They’re so olllldddd and desperate. They’ll work their asses off while I sip margaritas and check in on the other Pussycat Dolls. “Hey girl! It’s me, Nicole! …Oh, things are OK. You know, I’m just doing this little TV show now. Gettin’ my tay-vay on. Are you still stripping in Vegas?”
Nicole walks out, and everybody seems pretty happy, especially Dexter, who is the first one to run up and hug her. What is up with all of the hugging? Since when did that become a thing that we do with people we don’t know. I hate hugging strangers. I just don’t like having my boobs being squished by stranger boobs, which are usually a lot bigger…
Tiger Budbill makes a good point when he says that Nicole is the only judge who was discovered on a reality TV show, so she knows exactly what they’re going through.
To her credit, Nicole acknowledges that she may not have been their first choice, but she knows what it takes to make it in the business because she’s there right now. She assures them that she’s a hard worker and she’ll commit herself 1000% to everything she does. This sad little group applauds her depressing speech…
…and we’re off to the Hamptons with the boys under 30. They are: Brennin, Nick, Chris, Brian, Tim, Marcus, Skyelor and Phillip (who is really committing to his look; it looks warm there and he’s got on a leather jacket and fedora).
LA Reid thinks this is the category with the most talent. And the boys are, for the most part, excited. Phillip’s worried that LA might not get his crooner style of music.
Now that we’ve met everyone all over again, we’re going to meet the special guests that the judges have pulled in for this episode to help them out and give the show more star power than Idol.
The over 30s get Enrique Iglesias, who wanders out and seems confused by the geriatrics before him.
“Nicole, why do they all smell like mothballs and keep offering me Werther’s Originals?”
The groups will get to work with Pharrell. Hmmm. I’m going to have to give him a talking to. I don’t like when my boyfriend does things like this without telling me…
You’re getting a spanking later.
The girls’ special guest is a no show. Simon tells them that it was going to be Mariah Carey, but she’s been “stranded” by Hurricane Irene. So Simon has chosen himself to be the guest mentor.
A better offer came up and Mimi “missed” her flight.
The boys’ special gust mentor is “one of the most important artists in the world:” Rihanna. When she walks through the door, the boys are physically pushed back a few steps. That’s the power of her fierceness. Brian says it’s probably the best thing that’s ever happened to him in years.
Now that meet-n-greets are out of the way, it’s time for the first task. The contestants are going to perform a song that the judges have selected. On Sunday, the judges and the guest mentors will cut the groups in half.
Up first is 14-year-old Brian Bradley. Brian had a great first audition, but LA had second thoughts about him during bootcamp. To prepare for this round, he says he’s been practicing every single night. Even when his mom tells him to stop, he doesn’t; just keeps right on practicing. “That should tell you how bad I want this,” he informs us. Yeah, when you don’t listen to your moms, you better want something pretty bad. Otherwise, no cellphone for a week. I hear that’s how they’re punishing kids these days. No cell phone. Huh. The times we live in….
Brian tells Rihanna that his artist name is “The Astronomical Kid” but people call him “Astro” for short. “Got it,” she says. Only in the entertainment world would a statement as ridiculous as that be taken seriously.
Brian’s song is Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message.” It’s a good song choice, particularly for a kid on network TV and he does well. He really impresses Rihanna with his beatboxing. Unlike his last performance, he remembered his lyrics and seemed confident — right at home performing.
When he’s done, he walks off stage and Rihanna covers her mouth with her talons and calls him cute. She tries to calculate the age difference while LA wonders if a rapper can have any shot at winning a singing competition. While they deliberate, Bryan and Steve Jones have a conversation about how Rihanna is “megahot.” Steve said that. Kids don’t say “megahot.” They might punch you in the ear and take your iPhone while you’re playing Angry Birds on the train, but they don’t say “megahot.”
Over to France now, Simone Battle is up to sing for Simon first. She likes to sing but admits what she really likes is being the center of attention. She has to make up for her last bootcamp performance when she couldn’t remember any lyrics. Just in case she forgets again, she decides to distract everyone by wearing a see through dress and leotard. Simon thinks she looks “fantastic.” I think she looks like she’s on her way to a Halloween orgy.
She has a pianist and guitar backing her for “Help” by the Beatles. She sounds better than she has at other performances and gives a passionate, but slightly boring performance. We know that she’s not a boring performer, so I think it had more to do with Simon’s song choice than anything.
Afterward, she admits that her voice cracked a couple times, but she’s happy. Since Mariah Carey isn’t there, Simon discusses the performance with a vocal coach and a couple of music producers. They say she’s not the best singer, but Simon thinks she was fantastic and liked her voice cracking because it seemed emotional.
Up first at Paula’s is The Anser. It’s a group from Salt Lake City that formed when the only two minority guys in the state met up with the only openly gay guy. Their “anser’ to being fish out of water was to form a singing group.
The knitting business is now solely reliant on hipsters and my grandma.
The Anser is composed of Black Guy, Some Sort of Minority Guy, and Redglasses. But when they get on stage, Pharrell wonders where Redglasses’s red glasses are. They’re chillin’ over to the side, he answers, completely losing his cool in front of Pharrell. He should have kept those glasses on, otherwise he’s unrecognizable. Anyway, they’re singing “Perfect”. They sound OK but are fun to look at and Paula and Pharrell especially like Redglasses. Get those glasses back on!
49-year-old Dexter Haygood is up first at Nicole’s. During auditions he’s been accused of sounding James Brown and Mick Jagger and the judges want him to be himself. Dexter is very emotional because he’s gone from homeless to Nicole Scherzinger’s house and this experience represents an answered prayer, so he’s going to try.
He’s doing Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love.” Actually, I’m not sure what he’s singing. The backing track is “Crazy in Love.” But his lyrics are not. Dexter is screaming, jumping around, and dancing like a fool. At one point, Enrique looks around in concern.
“We call this move ‘The Dangling Eggs.’”
When it’s all over, everyone is left panting and confused. Nicole says she wishes he had sung at least part of the song and Enrique points out that it was entertaining. I think the word he was looking for was grotesque.
“I missed some lyrics and I think the judges noticed it,” Dexter says later. Um, yeah. That’s a safe bet. I don’t think your spams, paroxysms, and karate moves distracted them from the fact that you didn’t attempt to sing the song. This ain’t Skid Row. You don’t just get to screech the first thing that pops into your head.
Later, he weeps into Steve Jones’s arms. Oh Steve, even though you’re wearing a pinky ring, you’re still winning me over with your goofy charm, blindingly white teeth, and endearing mispronunciations. “I wanna be the best,” Dexter bawls. “It ain’t over yet,” Steve assures him.
In the Hamptons, 16-year-old Skyelor Anderson is preparing to perform. He reassures us that even though he’s African American, he still wants to sing country music because he can relate to hard knock stories. After all, he watched his dad die and lost his brother to a mugger who shot him nine times.
He sings “Nobody Knows it But Me,” a song that has popular R&B AND country versions. I’m still not a huge fan of his, but this is the best I’ve heard him. He goes a bit offkey at the end, but Rihanna sees the potential once he’s polished.
Meanwhile, Tora Woloshin managed to get through airport security with all of the hardware in her face and is ready to perform in France. She says she’s been struggling with memorizing her song and feels like she’s loosing it.
She is dressed in a truly horrifying outfit. I don’t really know what to call any of it. Shoes. She’s wearing some hideous shoes, I know that. The rest… not sure. Maybe we’ll call it German Toddler Hooker Chic for now.
I’m not nearly cool enough to understand what’s going on here.
She’s doing a techno version of “Satisfaction.” I’m less sympathetic with her lyrics struggle for this song. A) because the song only has about six lyrics and B) who doesn’t know this song? Fortunately, she remembers all the words and she sounds great, as usual.
Simon and his flunkies say she’s a good performer but she needs a lot of work. Don’t. Understand. She’s the best we’ve heard so far!
Back to Santa Barbara where Lakoda Rayne is preparing to perform. After getting booted from bootcamp, Paige, Dani, Hailey, and Cari were offered to come back as a pop country group. Initially, Paige didn’t want to participate. And then someone must have reminded her that she could still be in the running to win and that splitting $5 million was better than nothing at all and she came to her senses. Moron.
So, Lakoda Rayne decided to come together to rehearse and research stupid group names on the internet. Their name means something like friendship, togetherness and golden showers from above. Something like that.
They’re doing a country version “Born This Way.” They are… loud. And somewhat choreographed. Like they practiced really hard for Thirsty Thursday Karaoke. They all sang at full volume the entire time and then did slow, simple dance moves.
After they finish the song, Dani implores Paula and Pharrell to remember that they were just thrown together and asks them to imagine what the group could be with mentoring. Back in the house, they all agree that something was off. And then they circle together for a group hug. While they hug, one long, lean arm slowly comes from the circle and gently pats the counter, the acrylic nails barely making a sound as they slide across the counter towards the knife block…
Back in Malibu, Stacy Francis is trying not to have a nervous breakdown as she prepares to perform. She’s spent a lot of time crying and being unsure of herself, but now she’s confident and ready to work for this.
She’s wearing a dress and shoes that she borrowed. The dress is too tight and the shoes are too big, but she’s ready to go. She’s singing “Purple Rain,” which is a great choice for her. She can show off her strong voice without being too tempted to go ridiculously overboard. It’s slow enough for her to take her time and give a good performance.
Early on, Nicole is crying and Enrique is holding his head in his hands, perhaps to keep it from exploding from how loud Stacy gets. She finishes and then starts crying again. You would think by this point she’d have invested in waterproof mascara. She talks into the mic even though she’s only a few feet away from the mentors and tells them how badly she wants this and then walks off.
Nicole tells Enrique she doesn’t understand why someone as talented as Stacy hasn’t found success yet. I’m guessing that people can smell her drama from down the hall and around the corner.
In Santa Barbara, The Brewer Boys are brushing their shaggy hair to the side and preparing to sing Rihanna’s “Only Girl in the World.” They’re a little confused by the song choice, but are ready to give it their all. Then they take turns swinging their hair out of their eyes.
They’ve got the need. The need for Biebs.
It’s a very awkward performance. They’ve changed up the lyrics and do a lot of bouncing around. It’s also a very adult song, and their appearance is incongruous with the content. Pharrell looks appropriately confused. Oh, Paula. Good job. You’ve once again managed to make everyone around you feel puzzled and uncomfortable. I bet she throws a memorable party.
Thanksgiving at Paula’s.
Pharrell thinks they’re good, but they wonder whether they’re good enough. Meanwhile, the oldest Brewer Boy is pretty sure that Paula has fallen in love with him.
Phillip Lomax is in the Hamptons and he, too, is about to perform a Rihanna song. In front of Rihanna. The other guys smirk at him. He’s nervous because he has rearranged the song and his style is different.
Actually, his style is not different. And thanks to Bruno Mars and Michael Buble, it’s not even different for this particular time.
He’s turned “Please Don’t Stop the Music” into something unrecognizable but better suited to his style, rather than trying to fit his style to the song. Still, it’s a little odd to hear the song as though it’s being sung by a Sinatra impersonator. He does remember to smile at Rihanna, who looks like she’s ready to eat him alive.
She tells LA that she found Phillip very charming and confident. LA isn’t sure he will work commercially.
Back in Malibu, wedding singer Elaine Gibbs is going to perform for Nicole and Enrique. She’s rocking the zebra print to sing “Stop Crying Your Heart Out.”
She acts out the song as she sings and gets totally caught up in it. Enrique thinks her confidence can make her a superstar. Nicole doesn’t seem so sure.
Caitlin Koch is up next to perform for Simon. Guess what? She wants this “really bad.” Unlike all the other contestants.
She’s wearing a bridesmaid dress from the 1990s and sings a slow, ballady version of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.” Her voice is soft and husky. She has great control over her voice, although she made the song super sad.
Simon thought her tone and pitch was fantastic. His helper monkeys say it wasn’t super exciting, but she’s a good singer.
Nick Voss and his questionable style are up next. Dear Nick, put the razor blade down; let your beautiful eyebrows grow back.
Trying too hard…
He sings a high-pitched version for “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” His performance is confusing. It’s in a weird key, it’s oddly breathy, and mildly spastic. Also, he has a belt buckle that spells out his last name. He should get cut simply for being a d-bag.
Rihanna asks if he’s performed better and LA says yes. But questions whether that performance was worthy of a $5 million prize.
4Shore is up to perform next for Paula and Pharrell. They impressed the judges in Seattle first by singing the LA Reid-penned song “End of the Road.” They met in high school and ever since then, they’ve been color coordinating their outfits.
First rule of being in 4Shore: all clothes and movements must be coordinated.
They’re singing Brownstone’s “If You Love Me.” They’ve definitely got the dance moves. They sound good when they’re harmonizing, but less so when they have solo parts. Pharrell tells them they’re holding it down vocally.
Paula thinks they’re too polished but Pharrell says that’s what you need to bring a song to life, even if you dirty it up a little.
In Malibu, James Kenney is next. His 34, but actually looks younger than some of the under 30s. He’s a dad and works five jobs, so he really, REALLY wants this.
It’s a good thing one of those jobs is waiting tables. Cause he didn’t even have to buy a new outfit for this audition.
He’s singing “Russian Roulette.” He sounds very good and is actually fun to watch. By this point, though, we’ve seen so many acts that I think they’re starting to cut them a bit short, so we didn’t get to hear much.
Enrique thinks James could be a rock star in a Maroon 5 type band. All sex and no substance.
Back in France, 14-year-old Drew is daydreaming about Justin Beiber and preparing to sing “It Must Have Ben Love.” Guess what. She wants this so bad.
What are you thinking about Drew?
Faces of Evil 10
Drew sits in a director’s chair barefoot to sing. Her voice is clear and haunting. She sounds a little like Dolores O’Riordan from The Cranberries. Slightly yodely. She seems to get a little stuck on some of the higher notes, but overall sounds great.
Simon and the others think she’s amazing and worry that she’s still too young. I’m sure the number of records she’d sell will help them re-think that.
Coming up on Sunday night… 16 more performances (sigh), plus eliminations. Even without seeing the other 16, I think it’s safe to say Dexter and Nick need to kick rocks. Far more distracting than their off key, off-kilter performances was the fact that this round of auditions takes place in four different cities. I’m not sure why. Are the judges actually letting contestants stay at their houses? And while we’re on the subject, who really believes that those are the judges’ actual homes? Who are you pulling for for Sunday night?