The X Factor pulled out all of the stops for the final audition night, giving us the best episode of the show so far complete with a tiny hipster, a Gaga knockoff, and enough mortifying moments to send a few teen girls reeling. That, my friends can only lead to three things: alcoholism, whoring, and a $5 million recording contract.
What happens when you make millions in the recording industry.
Things get kicked off with some graphics explaining to us that these are all ordinary people with one dream. There’s nothing ordinary about subjecting yourself to the judgment of millions of strangers. All of them, however, do seem to have the same dream of owning a big ol’ McMansion. Didn’t we already learn our lesson on that one, folks? No more ginormous houses! You don’t need more toilets than asses in your house. Your ass can only use one toilet at the time! Servants’ apartment? This isn’t 1860. Your housekeeper doesn’t have to live with you. What’s she gonna do while you’re asleep? Wipe your ass every time you fart? Koi pond? Don’t be ridiculous! Gift wrapping room? If your name isn’t Candy Spelling or Santa, you don’t need that either.
Where were we? Ah yes, beauty shots of NYC and host Steve Jones (whose painfully generic name I have to look up every time I type it) informs us that all of the talent on the east coast is concentrated in one spot… the city that sleeps and then gets up early to carjack you: Newark, NJ.
Brian Bradley is the first contestant to take the stage. His mom and “step pops” brought him over from Brooklyn. They had to drive him because he’s 14 and neither old enough nor tall enough to drive yet. He is soooo adorable with his fedora and thick black glasses. These are things I would ridicule an adult for, but on my lil boo Brian, they’re OK.
Brian tells us that he has an insane love for music and he wants to be bigger than Jay-Z and Kanye West — he just needs five more years to do it. I’m confident that with a little practice, some manwhoring, an Autotune, a mind-numbingly large ego, and absolutely no shame he can be just like Jay and ‘Ye.
When Brian gets on stage, Simon asks him why he doesn’t have a record deal yet. “It’s politics. You gotta know somebody,” Brian answers immediately.
Simon leans back to make a joke about Brian being a mini LA Reid when Brian interrupts him. “Yo, yo, yo man… are you serious?”
Brian throws his glasses and hat down on the stage. “What’s your problem, son?”
Simon looks surprised and the audience murmurs.
“If we was in the streets, this is what I’d say to you. Soundman! Drop that!” Brian then launched into a rap song he wrote called “Stop Lookin’ at my Mom.” Nicole looked very concerned for much of his performance, but this was all obviously set up in advance and the song is pretty funny and Brian performed it well. Plus, his mom is really hot, so you know he’s rapping from experience.
Keep your hands to yourself, Jones.
After Brian finishes, Nicole Scherzinger promises not to look at his mom and he tells her that ladies are an exception. Before this can veer into uh-oh territory, Simon tells Brian that he’s arrogant, obnoxious, argumentative and one of the most talented people he’s heard in a long time. If there’s one opinion I trust when it comes to my rap music, it’s Simon Cowell’s. Hip hop aficionado, that one. Smokes weed with Snoop and hits the champagne room with Lil’ Weezy in his spare time. On the street they call him MC Man Boobs a/k/a Brit Wit.
LA Reid says that in all of the years he ran Def Jam he was looking for Brian; but Brian never walked in so he had to make due with Rihanna and Justin Bieber and Kanye West. It was like a talent desert over there! Anywho, he’s glad that Brian’s in his life so that now he’ll have a black Justin Bieber to mass market to little girls.
So Brian got four yeses, meaning he’s on his way to bootcamp. But first, he says, he’s going to go back to Brooklyn, jump up and down on his bed and then take a nap. Awww. I wish we could end the show right here on this heartwarming note, but we’ve still got about 999 auditions to sit through, so let’s get on with it.
Kelly Warner is an adorable Jersey girl who does hair in a nursing home. Judging by her own hair, she got her training at Barb’s Beauty Palace back in 1988 and specializes in a style called “The Scrunch.” She does a great job on “Hallelujah,” a beautiful song that always reminds me of Shrek. All four judges put Kelly through. How do you think she explained to her nursing home clients why she was leaving. I imagine the conversation went something like this:
Myrtle: “Where did you say you were going, Kelly?”
Kelly: “I’m gonna be on The X Factor.”
Myrtle: “Huh? Speak up!”
Kelly: “I’m going to Hollywood to become a pop star.”
Myrtle: “Why? We’ve got Pop-Tarts right in the cafeteria.”
Kelly: “No, no. I’m gonna be a pop star. A singer like Mariah Carey or Britney Spears.”
Myrtle: “I went to Hollywood once. It was 1923. Or was it ’25? In any case, I was working as a secretary at a studio and you’ll never believe who came in. Walt Disney himself! My, was he a fresh one! One time, I asked him for a job — I needed to make more money to support my opium habit, you see — and he said, ‘sure I got a job for you! A job in my pants! Why don’t you get down –’
Kelly: “Stop talking so I can finish your hair cut.”
Speaking of hair…
In addition to having a fake-sounding name, Aaron Surgeon has fake-looking hair. It is very 90s. Very Lisa Bonet. Very Milli Vanilli.
Remember when this was hot?
So Aaron sang Aerosmith’s “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” and Simon says no but the others say yes, so he moves through. I don’t think he’ll make it through boot camp, but I always enjoy when black people do “white music” and white people do “black music” so I’d like to see where Aaron is taking this.
Liliana Rose works in an office and applies tube upon tube of tooth whitener to her giant chompers all day and sings in her cubicle while she’s doing it. Ugh. I feel sorry for her co-workers. I know from personal experience that the only thing more irritating than personal hygiene at one’s desk is singing at one’s desk. I’ve left work many a day with an out-of-tune version of The Golden Girls theme song stuck in my head thanks to a certain foreign co-worker who learned English from watching Nick at Night.
Fortunately for her co-workers, Liliana Rose is a good singer and the judges send her through after she sings a slow, cheerless version of “You Are My Sunshine.” If a sad ghost sang that song, it would sound like Liliana Rose. I expect a couple more weeks of her hipster sadness moving forward.
43-year-old Andy had quite a journey to The X Factor. After leaving the Shire and passing through Rivendell, he stopped by the audition on his way to Mount Doom.
On a mission to destroy the precious.
Andy tells [hold on, lemme look it up again] Steve Jones that he wants this record deal so that he can buy a nice house and be on MTV Cribs. “Ooa, hello!” Steve says.
Phone call for Andy. 2002 called and wants you to stay the hell away from Cribs! Do you think he practices what he’s going to say when he’s on Cribs? “Yeah, this is just my 12-car garage where I keep my Tercel. I customized it with a coupla phone books so I can see over the steering wheel. Oh yeah, and this is my bedroom… where all the magic happens.”
As it turns out, there’s not a whole lotta magic happening in Andy’s bedroom or anywhere else in his house. “I don’t think I’ve ever kissed a girl before,” he tells us. You don’t think?? Oh, Andy, I know you’ve never kissed a girl before. It’s pretty safe to guess that if you don’t recall ever doing something, you probably haven’t done it. “Gee, I don’t think I’ve ever taken a rocket to Uranus before… but I have such a terrible memory, you never know!”
Andy’s mom thinks her son is an awesome singer. So awesome, he could open for Billy Joel. The kids these days love Billy Joel! Why, every time Andy comes home, he can’t stop talking about how all his school chums are just mad for Billy!
With this delusional support system behind him, Andy marches out before the judges determinedly. He tells the judges that he’s been single all his life. “You got a girlfriend?” Simon asks, smirking. When Andy says no, Simon tells him that maybe today he can find someone who is also single and nods toward Paula. Simon should focus less on others and more on the insane amount of cleavage he’s showing in that shirt. Good gravy! Was he walking around all day like that? So sleazy! I hope he’s wearing leather pants under that table….
Simon tells Andy that if he wins the $5 million it will definitely help him get women because women are money-grubbing whores who don’t care how much you’ve ruined your face with plastic surgery or how nasty your personality is, as long as you can buy them stuff.
Andy says he’ll be singing Mariah Carey’s “Hero” and the audience holds its collective breath in anticipation. You know they were all kind of wondering if he’d be the next Susan Boyle. The unconventional-looking nobody with the voice of an angel. The representation of all of our fantasies: down-trodden, cheated by nature, but with an extraordinary gift that all the world would appreciate, if only we were given the right opportunity, the right stage. Maybe, for one night, Andy could be our hero.
No. No, no, no. If Andy’s our hero, then we’re all doomed. If Andy’s our hero then we’re stuck in eternal winter, every day grayer, colder, more dismal than the last. If Andy’s our hero, then we have no hope. Because Andy was terrible. As he warbles away, Paula does her best to send some good juju his way, smiling at him and nodding encouragingly.
Back stage, Steve Jobs Jones, squats down next to Andy’s elfin mother as she smiles her bird-like smile and fantasizes about hanging out with Billy Joel.
“Maybe Christie Brinkley and I can give each other makeovers!”
The judges all say nice things to Andy — it’s not clear why they’re being so nice to him, he was really awful — and decline to bring him to bootcamp. While Andy silently wonders if he’s on that new MTV show Punk’d, Simon invites him to the judges’ table to give Paula a hug. As Paula bends down to comfort him, Andy tells her he should have done “My Way.” I disagree. If you’re going to ruin a song for the rest of humanity, I’d rather it not be a classic.
Clarissa Cheatam would like for you to call her Cashmere. I don’t trust women who give themselves sexy nicknames. They’re trouble. “Call me Satin.” I’ll call you Satan, thankyouverymuch. “My name’s Catherine, but you can call me Venus.” Oh no I can’t! “Why hello, I’m Crystal. Crystal Chandelier.” OK, I like that one.
Anyway. Poly-esther says that when she’s at work she daydreams about being a star. These people all need more challenging jobs. When she introduces herself to the judges as Cashmere, Nicole embodies my sentiments by dropping her head into her hands. Paula thinks it’s a pretty name. It makes her think of touching soft things and she likes that.
Angora got her performing start by doing karaoke. She’s so good at it that her friends and family and even strangers scream every time she sings. You see where this is going, right? Oh, we’re still going through with this whole charade? OK. Here we go.
So Chiffon does a predictably awful version of Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” (poor Mariah! Isn’t she affiliated with this show? Won’t she be on at some point to butcher her own songs?). Not only was Nylon off key, the girl was offbeat, too! How does that happen? The music is playing along with you, you just have to keep up with it.
The judges send Taffeta packing along with a joke about people at karaoke screaming because she was so godawful.
Nouf. There’s not much to say about Nouf except she is, indeed a Nouf. I don’t know what a Nouf is, actually, but if someone came up to me and said “Nouf!” I would assume that it involved a camel toe and terrible attitude. And that was Nouf. That was Nouf’s contribution to the world. Thank you, Nouf.
Don’t look directly into the Nouf. You’ll go blind.
Jean Loup Wolfman (seriously, did everyone make up a name?) is a “life coach” [read: unemployed guy who calls his friends while they're at work to give them unsolicited advice so that he can write off his cell phone bill]. Jean Loup Wolfman came on stage while hoola hooping. Why? Because no one else did. He sings, gets booed, says he couldn’t hear himself well. LA Reid says he’s lucky for that. I hope that all of his life coaching clients get to see what an ass they’ve hired to guide their lives.
Maya is a 58-year-old teacher who stuns everyone with her terrible-ness. I hope the ghost of Freddie Mercury haunts her for what she did to “We Are the Champions.” The judges say no in spite of her insistence that her voice is both beautiful and powerful.
The judges positively light up when Cari walks on stage. She has the misfortune of being 17, blond and gorgeous. Poor thing. If I could, I would trade with her. I would give up being 30, bitter, and hairy and all of the benefits that come with it.
Cari sings Heart’s “Alone,” which the judges really like. She stays soft and level until she comes to the chorus. As soon as she hits her first big note, the audience goes nuts. She sounded great, but if she’d had a paper bag over her head, she wouldn’t have been very interesting to watch, especially compared to Brian.
Nicole likes Cari’s focus and thinks she has great potential. Paula thinks she’s talented. LA says she has a star’s name, face and voice. Simon thinks that she was boring, unmemorable and says that her voice isn’t distinctive. However, he joins the other judges in putting her through to boot camp. Those mean things he said were just to fuck with her head! Hahaha! 17-year-olds are so easily manipulated.
Can we talk for a second about the death chamber they have on this show? Tom Steve Jones calls it The X Factor Pod. It’s the little interview room the contestants go into after performing. It looks like it’s made entirely of white light. It’s like they’ve all been killed backstage and are doing interviews from heaven.
“Dude, are we dead?” “Party on!”
This is really off-putting. Plus, anyone who’s been in a department store dressing room will tell you that those bright white lights are really unflattering. They totally make your stomach look like it can’t fit into a size Small top and they make your mustache hairs cast shadows. Whatevs.
The final audition in Newark is a 15-year-old duo consisting of a nerd and a dork. Their names are Austin and Emily, but when they’re combined into their SuperRobot they go by “Aus-Em” which is really just the first syllables of their first names combined. FYI. In case you hadn’t figured it out. If there’s one thing the kids love with their music it’s portmanteaus.
Totally know what the cool kids like.
Aus-Em has big plans and they’ll know they’ve made it big when they beat Lady Gaga for a Grammy. They will not have found success until this happens. Record deal? Pshaw! Double platinum-selling album? Whatevs! Grammy nomination? Meh. Gaga’s the one to beat.
As soon as they start singing, it’s clear that these two have spent a lot of time at theater camp. They sing Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts.” I have to be honest with you. I had to look that one up. I’d never heard of it and couldn’t figure out why anyone would write a song about a “jar of farts.” Turns out I misheard some of the lyrics. I like mine better. Anyway, Aus-Em sing very passionately to one another.
Austin is quite good. Emily, less so, although I will admit to being rather distracted by her outfit. Someone’s being taking styling tips from Blossom.
Blossom says: “Wearing a distracting hat will keep people from looking at your awful clothes.”
Simon thinks that the audience Aus-Em is aiming for will understand them perfectly and wants them at boot camp. LA Reid says don’t take this the wrong way but Austin is a star and Emily is the carbuncle on his ass weighing him down and preventing him from being on MTV Cribs. So he’ll say yes.
Nicole says she believes in Austin but not Aus-Em. Simon asks her if she’d split them up now and Nicole starts jabbering and rambling incoherently. She sounds like Miley Cyrus. “Yes or bloody no?” Simon will not be distracted so easily. There’s a whole lot of back and forth for a really long time, with Paula and Nicole taking sides against Simon and the audience yelling and Nicole spluttering and Simon walking off stage and Nicole finally saying yes. And then Paula says yes, so all of that was for nothing.
The kids head backstage, Austin glowing with victory and Emily completely destroyed as a human being. As their family’s chant “Ausem! Ausem!” Emily vows to step up her game. I’m guessing she’s going to show up at boot camp with a totally horrifying and unnatural makeover.
Make a note people. This is the exact moment when one girl’s life took a turn in the wrong direction.
For some reason, the rest of the show is a compilation of auditions from all over the country.
21-year-old Tora from Tuscon is in school to be an automotive tech. She has matched her makeup to her tattoos and the one-armed muumuu she’s wearing. She’s got the Gaga look: unnaturally blond hair and an “is she hot or not” face. She tells the judges that if she wasn’t singing she’d own her own auto shop and build racecars. Simon calls her the perfect girl: cute, tattoos, loves racecars.
Tora starts off “I Want You Back” by getting the audience clapping. She hits her first note and she is loud and awesome. She’s a great performer, sounds amazing and is a blast to watch. When the audience stands and cheers for her at the end, she looks endearingly overwhelmed.
The judges love her, her voice and her look and they would have been fools not to put her through. She’s sent backstage, crying, into the arms of her boyfriend. I hope she remembers how supportive he is when he comes out of the closet.
Nicole Scherzinger had high hopes for Jarelle, the highly groomed young man who came to sing “Lucky Star.” He’s a drama queen and he starts the song from off stage. The highlight of the performance was the moment when the only thing we had to watch was his hand peeking out from backstage. It was all down hill from there. It was all slick hair and Miami Vice beard and hip thrusts from there. While Jarelle gyrated on national TV, his mom stood backstage covering her face with her hands. “That’s my son,” she said over and over. “That’s my son?”
This led to a montage of awkward dancing that including a guy who called himself Katy Perry mixed with Nicky Minaj. Darlene and Sherone appeared to be siblings who were doing some bumping and grinding and Ric White inspired Paula Abdul to bust out some old school music video moves.
Steve Jones tells us that the next group, The Stereo Hogzz, are from “Hooston, Texas” where the school system has failed its students when it comes to spelling. One of the group members just had a baby that very morning, and nothing says “responsible parent” like playing dress up in black pleather outfits with four other dudes and performing a highly choreographed dance to a made-up song.
They weren’t bad. They weren’t awesome. I say that means they don’t have the X factor and will probably be performing on subway trains in a few years. Simon thinks that they were over-rehearsed, but all four judges put them through.
Brennin from Nashville. Brennin, Brennin, Brennin. That is one fine piece of man meat. Finger lickin’ good. He plays music and does some modeling on the side. Ya’ll know how it goes. Modeling in your spare time. I’m doing some of that this weekend. Modeling some electrolysis equipment. I think there’s gonna be an awesome afterparty when we wrap shooting. It’s gonna be in the rec room at the Y.
Enough about my weekend plans. Let’s go back to Brennin and his pretty hair and manly chin. He says those very looks are a strike against him. Huh? Shhhh… Don’t speak, Brennin. Shut that sexy mouth up.
When he walks on stage, Paula and Nicole sort light up and sit a little straighter. He tells the judges that he was on tour for four years with some band. Simon asks him why he doesn’t have a deal yet. He doesn’t give a real solid answer, which means he came close to having a deal and fucked something up majorly.
Brennin says that he’s going to sing an original song called “How We Make It.” Simon calls it a risky move and Brennin glares at him. Fortunately for him, the song’s good and he has a great voice. Paula looks like she’s having a tiny orgasm while watching and listening. And the rest of the judges look equally happy, though less sated.
They think that he has a brilliant voice and plenty of charisma (really? He struck me as a bit of an ass) and LA asks the audience to weigh in on the hotness factor. There’s a lot of squealing and four yeses and the surest thing to walk into the auditions walks out holding hands with his girlfriend. Good luck, honey. Your relationship will never be the same.
Paige Elizabeth is 18 and wants to murder be bigger than Justin Bieber. She sings Lady Gaga’s “You and I” — which happens to be on repeat on my iPod right now — and Simon says she’s the easiest yes so far.
Leroy Bell is 59 but looks 35. He sings an acapella version of “Lean on Me” and is put through. He and his friends waiting backstage look very cool; like professors you’d smoke weed with in a brownstone in Cambridge.
The Brewer Boys look like chubby Justin Biebers and Simon’s eyes light up and his tongue rolls out and he makes this noise: “ca-ching! ca-ching!”
Nick Dean is 14 and says he’s singing his “first single,” “Walk Away.” Seriously, why are kids so confident? When I was 14, I was a tragic, moping pimple. I just slouched around and oozed. Anyway, the ladies love Nick Dean and the judges put him through and he goes backstage to plan his bright future with his hot dad. Or maybe that’s his brother. Or gay uncle. Whoever he is, he’s a cutie.
Devon Talley has a hat made from the hair clippings swept up from the floor of Barb’s Beauty Palace. He’s singing “Season of Love” from Rent and it’s a disaster before the music even beings. He starts singing before the track begins, he’s all out of tune and he forgets the lyrics. It’s painful. At one point he draws a note out and a chill travels down my spine. The kind of chill you get when a nail scratches glass. The kind of chill you get when someone walks over your grave.
Season of Torment
“Five-hundred-twenty-five-thousand-six-hundred-miiiinutes” Devon sings over and over and over again. The song goes on forever before they can get him to stop. It’s obvious that this isn’t going to go in his favor, so he tells them he’s prepared a second song. And then he starts all over again: “five-hundred-twenty-five-thousand-six-hundred miiinutes.”
It’s a no and Paula tells Devon that he has a great spirit, and he kind of smiles at that, so you figure he’s not leaving a complete wreck, but he is going to go home and rip all of the Rent posters off his wall and replace it with this:
Paula’s greatest work to date.
The final contestant of the audition round is 16-year-old Jazzlyn Little, a pretty girl with long black curls and the worst self-esteem on the planet. She is a ball of nerves. She says that she feels like someone opened a cage full of butterflies into her stomach. As we all know, butterflies are kept in cages to protect us from their vicious fluttering and violent kisses.
Jazzlyn tells us that singing is her escape from reality, which is a little bit sad. She looks completely shell shocked from the moment she walks out on stage. She tells the judges that she’s nervous because everyone is looking at her. Never mind that it’s because she’s onstage auditioning for a chance to become a performer so that she can perform in front of people all the time.
Simon asks her if she’s ever posted a video of herself singing online. She did and it got 500 hits. Hey! That’s awesome! I posted a video on YouTube once and it got six hits. Five were from my mom. Oh, wait, Simon says 500 hits is no good. He wants to know if it was her or the song choice. She assures him that it was her. Yiiikes. This is not off to a good start. It doesn’t matter. Only one thing counts… can the girl sing?
She selected Mary J. Blige’s “I’m Going Down.” As soon as she starts to sing her nerves seem to melt away and her stage presence does a total 180. She’s confident. She’s loud. She can sang. LA is impressed, Simon is smiling and for some reason Paula and Nicole are snuggling. They all seem to be patting themselves on the back, although they haven’t done anything so far aside from show up and refrain from saying ridiculous things.
Jazzlyn gets a standing ovation from everyone in the room, although we could have done without having to watch Paula and Nicole nearly blind us with crotch as they adjusted their tiny, tiny dresses.
LA says that Jazzlyn has a superstar name and voice. “I named her that!” her dad yells backstage. Congratulations, Mr. Little. The hideousness of her name is matched only by that of your silk mock turtleneck.
Nicole says the song brought her to tears. Paula thinks she’s a little gem. Simon says you need to have more confidence, you little pile of rubbish. All four judges say yes. Well, Paula says “God bless you,” instead of yes, but I think that counts.
After Jazzlyn walks backstage, we watch the judges wrapping things up in completely different outfits. I’m telling you, zero continuity on this show. The only thing that remains the same are Simon’s gray sweaters. And he’s switching those up for buttondowns so he can show off his chest hair implants.
This week: boot camp, where the good is separated from the great and only 32 acts will make it through to the next round. Who do you expect to make it through boot camp? Who will fold under the pressure? Did Brennin impress you? Will Emily get her act together? Can Jazzlyn be turned into a performer? Will I ever be as cool as Brian or Tora? Do you think that Andy has gotten laid by now? I sure hope so…