The X Factor: Miami and Dallas put out
Thank goodness everyone kept their pants on during Night 2 of The X Factor auditions, at least as far as I can tell.
After what's been a long week at the office and an especially late start to my blogging on Thursday, I hit the wrong button and wiped the show off my PVR. Oops. I was able to catch up with all but 45 minutes of it via the magic of time-shifting, but forgive me for the gaps.
I've been thinking about The X Factor today, especially after reading what other bloggers had to say about the debut (most of it wasn't complimentary). Honestly, I found Thursday's show more of a slog than Wednesday's.
I used to love hearing Simon Cowell put delusional singers in their place on Idol. Often I felt like he was saying what I was thinking, or what I would have said if I was a filthy rich music executive whose reputation rested on his caustic wit. But I'm getting a disconnect from Simon. He's putting through singers that, in some cases, strike me as quite ordinary. And even when he insults someone, it feels forced and kind of mean.
I'm not getting much satisfaction from his interaction with Paula Abdul, either. They seem more like an old, self-satisfied married couple than the sparring partners of Idol days.
And I have made my mind up about Nicole Scherzinger. She's extremely annoying. Her affectations are like nails on a chalk board: the way she kept forcing her mouth into a perfectly round "o" when somebody strange was onstage, or the way she started saying "y'all" during the Dallas auditions. You know, I didn't mind her so much on Dancing With the Stars, but maybe that's because she didn't have to talk much.
I am now officially in the bring back Cheryl Cole camp.
I'm still enjoying L.A. Reid, though. He seems to bring more gravitas to the panel than Simon does. You can tell the dude is deadly serious about music.
As for the show itself, it almost seems like it's being weighed down by its own pretensions. As pretty much every review has mentioned (including my blog post Thursday), we've seen all this before: the huge crowds of auditioners, the waiting room bravado and nerves, the cheering or jeering spectators, the freaks, the back stories, the surprise talents, the sympathetic host, the anxious families.
Perhaps, Simon thought his presence would be enough to paper over the similarities, but he's been away from our TV screens an awfully long time. And singing competitions have been popping up like dandelions in the meantime.
Anyway, enough pontificating. I'm going to take a very quick look at the singers that I saw, starting about 45 minutes in.
We had very brief glimpses of the girl group 2squar'd, teacher Kendra Williams and music instructor Brendan O'Hara. I liked the little bit I heard of Brendan's voice and he sure is easy on the eyes, but what was with Nicole flirting?
I thought college student Jeremiah Pagan had a nice voice, but his approach was kind of Broadway. Simon said he only got three yeses and L.A. was one of them, I'm guessing Simon was the holdout.
There's no question that 18-year-old Melanie Amaro is gifted. She has a huge voice, a nice vibrato and enormous control. Is her singing different enough from all the other divas out there? I'm not sure. The judges were ecstatic. Nicole cried and said that "people like you inspire me." Paula said the performance wasn't "like anything I've ever heard in any audition that I've ever been in" and Simon pronounced, "I was asked by a lot of people why I was bringing this show to America. It was because I hoped we were going to find someone like you."
(Actually, I suspect he wanted to become even more rich and famous than he already is, but I digress.)
Moving on to Dallas, we were thrown a couple of curves, one I saw coming and one I didn't.
It would have been shocking if Jonny Rogers, with his helmet of Justin Bieber-like hair and his pink shirt and tie, was good. The fact he had choreography to go with his song was a giveaway, plus it was an original number. The only person who's pulled that off so far was Chris Rene. But did Simon really have to tell the 17-year-old he looked like Barbie's boyfriend and that his performance was like a bunch of Justin Bieber dolls from China that went wrong in production? I don't even understand what that's supposed to mean.
On the other hand, I thought Dylan Lawson was going to surprise us. After hearing his story about how he'd sold his pickup truck to get to the audition, I thought he was going to come out with a big country voice that would belie his T-shirt, jeans and sideways baseball cap. He even charmed the crowd by telling Simon the first thing he'd buy if he won the $5 million was another truck. Then the 18-year-old screamed, swore and jumped around like he was possessed, finally lying face-down on the stage and tossing the microphone away. "He sold his truck to do that? Wow, that was insane," said L.A.
The performer with the most claim on our goodwill was Dexter Haygood, a 49-year-old who's been singing since 1981 and recently lost his house to foreclosure. The problem was that Dexter wanted to be James Brown. His version of James Brown's "Sex Machine" was a decent imitation, but it was just that, an imitation. Simon stopped the performance and gave him a second chance to sing 15 seconds of something a cappella. Dexter chose "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World," another James Brown song, true, but delivered with more conviction. The audience went wild and the judges said yes, although they indicated they were following the will of the crowd. It was a bit heart-rending to see Dexter sobbing in host Steve Jones's arms, especially since I have my doubts he'll get anywhere near the $5 million recording contract.
Caitlin Koch, 21, is gorgeous and has the added appeal of being a rugby player, but I was not blown away by her slowed-down verson of "Stop! In the Name of Love." I thought her voice sounded thin, but she got four enthusiastic yeses. I'm wondering if Paula and Nicole were getting hungry by then, since Nicole bestowed "a big old fat juicy delicious yes" and Paula followed up "with mustard, lettuce and pickles on top yes."
Finally, we had 27-year-old Xander Alexander, probably the most tightly wound contestant we've seen. He said he wanted to be "the next Donald Trump meets Martha Stewart without the jail time meets Britney Spears meets Beyonce without the ugly husband," which doesn't make the least bit of sense. He also dissed Bruno Mars, saying he'd been compared to the singer because of his black and Filipino heritage, but "my hair's not nappy and I'm not chubby." Meow.
It was more of the same when Xander took the stage, wearing what looked like blue-green silly string wrapped around his torso. He had a smartass answer for every question. "Have you ever performed in public before?" asked Simon. "Have you ever worn a shirt that isn't grey?" retorted Xander.
And then things really got silly when Xander, infuriated that Simon kept calling him Alexander, his real name, challenged the judge to step outside.
Suddenly tongue-tied when Simon ordered him to "shut it" and sing, Xander began a halting version of Edwin McCain's "I'll Be," which Simon stopped just a few lines in. Paula asked him if he had another song and Xander pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and was apologizing for his nervousness, and then my TV screen switched to The Mentalist.
After a quick peek at some other recaps, it appears Xander didn't make it through. He got shut down by no votes from Paula and L.A.
So how did Round 2 strike you? Will you keep watching?
I'll check it out next Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CTV and post the recap here.
(The photo of Xander Alexander is by Ray Mickshaw for Fox.)