The X Factor Season 2 Episode 1 Recap: Austin, San Francisco and Providence Auditions
Sep 12 2012 11:04 pm ET
It's Time! To Face! The Music! Again! The X Factor returns with new judges Britney Spears and Demi Lovato joining Simon Cowell and LA Reid. Tonight's auditions feature unsolicited advice, Bieber fever, misguided uses of time, and some major cathartic moments from Austin, TX, San Francisco, CA and Providence, RI.
Previously on The X Factor: Ooof. Fox was all over the place with its adaptation of the UK music juggernaut. Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger got the boot, as did robotic Guy Smiley, uh, what was his name? Steve Jones, that's it. Poor Steve. Melanie Amaro won a $5 million contract, filmed a poorly received Super Bowl commercial and has rarely be seen since. Her debut album comes out in a couple of weeks, but we'll see if it makes a dent. As for the other alums, Rachel Crow seems to have the highest profile, logging in many hours on Nickelodeon. Good for her. Will this season generate more stars?
This year, the show opens with a montage of how insanely popular The X Factor format is in every other country. Then we're reminded of how many current Top 40 radio acts have been imported from the UK version: Leona Lewis, Cher Lloyd, Olly Murs, and One Direction. We then meet this year's panel: Simon Cowell and LA Reid are the only survivors from last year and they will be joined by Demi Lovato and Britney Spears. I'm still sad that Whitney Houston will not have the opportunity to participate because that would have been INSANE. Still, I'm optimistic about this configuration. We see a lot of backstage footage and it looks like the new judges have a good rapport with the old judges.
Our first audition of the season is courtesy of 21-year-old nursing student Paige Thomas. We also meet Kaci Newton, a 22-year-old who is a recent graduate of Not Here to Make Friends University. Kaci and her sister Kaylee exchange insults about the competition, because that's how you win a show that is ultimately a popularity contest. They make some remarks about Paige's outfit before introducing themselves to her and her daughter Jade. Jade is three and like most kids her age, she's very social and has less than clean hands. A smudge appears on Kaci's outfit and she begins plotting revenge scenarios with Kaylee. Seriously. Oh, and Kaci describes herself as a hybrid of Adele and Carrie Underwood. A: that hybrid is kind of gross if you think about it. B: I love that this hostless format is allowing for villain edits to creep in. So far so good, season two!
Anyway, Paige takes the stage in Austin and performs Mary J Blige's version of "I'm Going Down." Paige sings the song well, but there's nothing about it to make it noteworthy. Jade is just off-staging being adorable and since this audition is early in the day, the judges are in a good mood. Britney liked Paige's confidence, LA says Paige reminds him of Rihanna, and Demi loved the stage presence. I will give Paige that last one – she knew how to work the room. Simon loves the narrative potential Jade provides and thinks Paige is "commercial with a capital C." Four yeses and it's off to boot camp!
Sean Armenta is a 50-year-old airline baggage handler who has been preparing for his audition for the last 18 months. Hmmm. He decides to perform an original song called "Candy Girl," which sounds like what an 80s sitcom would come up with if they were doing an episode about a fake ZZTop-type band. The song ends and there is no reaction from the crowd or the judges. The judges start to offer negative critiques but Sean isn't interested. Britney asks him point blank who let him on stage. Sean storms off and we get treated to a montage of Britney evolving from a disappointed third grade teacher to a talent show judge. She's a work in progress.
Next to audition is 13-year-old Reed Demming. He bears a striking resemblance to Justin Bieber, which I don't see helping him in the long run, but we'll see how it works for him here. He opens his audition with "It Will Rain" by Bruno Mars. It's probably nerves, but Reed sounds like a supporting character who inexplicably gets a solo in the seventh-grade school musical. Simon stops the music and asks for a different song. Reed goes for a stripped down version of "Grenade." Hmm, regardless of how this goes, this lack of variation is a concern for down the road. This second performance is not as community theater heavy, but Reed still has some growing to do in terms of powerful delivery. The judges are won over, though Simon and LA warn there is a lot of work ahead if he wants to become a pop star.
After some more sniping, it's time for Kaci Newton to take the stage. Now that we see the full outfit, we now know Jade was trying to help Kaci – a pink, mother-of-the-bride dress with a few strings of pearls. Oh, honey. Kaci says she will sing "Firework" by Katy Perry. LA asks if Kaci has ever sung before. Ha! Kaci starts out ok-ish, but then builds up to a warble by the time she gets to the bridge. Simon tells her it sounded like she was dying. Kaci asks for a second song, Simon says no, but she goes into an a capella version of "Mercy" anyway. "You feel better?" LA asks, "you think you nailed it that time?" Simon calls Kaci annoying before dismissing her. To her credit, she doesn't throw a fit and handles her rejection like an adult.
We then jet over to San Francisco: the land of drag queens, at least how this show decides to present it. Come to think of it, the last time I was in the Bay Area I don't think I saw one drag queen. Pity. Also a pity: several of the auditions. We get a rather lengthy montage of bad auditions before we meet Quatrele Da'an Smith, a 21-year-old cake decorate and hot pink lipstick enthusiast. He decided to go bridal for his audition, using "Born This Way" as his song. His vocals are hit-or-miss, but he's fully committed to the performance and has an engaging personality. Britney and Demi thought the audition was really entertaining. Simon calls Quatrele a cross between Madonna, Bobby Brown and Dracula, but also says he liked what he saw. LA wasn't a fan, but the other three vote yes.
We get another dual introduction: Emblem 3, a trio from Huntington Beach, and Vincent Thomas, a 22-year-old actor. Vincent has been a professional singer for several years and was in a European boyband for a brief stint. He doesn't name the group, probably because US5 only hit it big in central Europe. Before taking the stage, Vincent offers tons of unsolicited advice to the bros of Emblem 3. They don't even smile and nod. Anyway, Vincent goes out for his audition, attributing "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" to Blue instead of Elton John. Oh, honey. There is nothing engaging about the performance. Simon muses on the idea of how there's always one guy in every boyband who doesn't sing or dance, suggesting Vincent might be the Lance Bass of the group. Boosh. Vincent leaves and Simon and LA gossip a bit, guessing he goes on about 500 auditions a year. That number seems low.
Emblem 3 are next on stage and have decided to perform their original song called "Sunset Boulevard." There style is very 311-meets-Eve 6, but compared to the groups that made it to the live shows last year they are rather fantastic. The judges are won over instantly and Demi may have a crush on all three of the guys. One of the boys mentions the advice they got from Vincent, which gets a huge laugh from Simon and LA. The group gets four yes votes.
The final San Francisco audition tonight is from Don Philip, a 32-year-old music coach from The Bronx. His major claim to fame was recording the song "I Will Still Love You" with Britney for her debut album way back in 1999. Britney recognizes Don instantly. Simon asks what Don's been up to in the mean time, and the emotions start pouring over. What we don't see is Don Philip using the opportunity to come out, which is an interesting editorial choice. He sings Beyoncé's "Halo" and…it's not good. The notes are all over the place and it looks like he's singing from his chin. The audience gets restless rather early and Britney looks like she would like to be anywhere else in the world than that auditorium. Simon says the problem is Don doesn't have a good singing voice. Britney tries to soften the blow, but sums up her negative critique with "your voice isn't up the the bar and standards of the X Factor." Don is devastated. He completely breaks down backstage, sobbing "did you see Britney's eyes? It looked like I hurt her." Don's got some issues to work through, but hopefully what happened on stage before the singing allows for progress.
Our last two auditions come from Providence, Rhode Island. Up first is Jennel Garcia, an 18-year-old student. She tells the panel she's inspired by older rock music, such as Pat Benatar. I'm listening. Her song choice is "Paris (Ooh La La)," a track I'm not familiar with. It's a solid audition, though I'm reminded of Tia Carerre and the rest of Crucial Taunt from Wayne's World. The judges loved the audition and think Jennel could fill a void in the current state of pop music. "I didn't expect them to like me that much."
Finally, Jillian Jensen from Rochester, Massachusetts performs. She's 19 years old, only a month younger than Demi Lovato. Also like Demi, Jillian experienced a significant amount of bullying while growing up. She has a difficult time maintaining her composure during the on-stage interview and almost starts bawling before starting her song. Jillian has a husky lower register that builds into a rasp that's attractive rather than abrasive. I think the song is one of Demi's, but the near-crying makes it difficult to figure out. However, Jillian is still singing, performing, and executing. The song ends and Demi goes up tot he stage to give Jillian a hug. This was a catharsis for Jillian. LA starts the critiques, saying he has never heard someone pour emotion into a song the way Jillian just did. Britney says she shouldn't be crying because she is amazing. Simon takes a second, grabs a piece of candy to put in his mouth, sucks on it for half a moment before saying "that was incredible." The candy grab wasn't a distraction from Money Eyes – I think he was trying to regain his own composure. Demi says she could not believe the amazingness of the performance. "When you sang you broke my heart," she adds. Jillian gets all the yeses.
Tomorrow night on The X Factor: More auditions and hopefully a continuation of an excellent start to the season.
Mike McComb – TVLatest.com
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