The first two episodes this season tantalized us with glimpses of police chases and ambulance callings, like a hunk of red meat dangled over the cage of a hungry lionat the zoo. It looked like we were in for an oddly "gritty" sophomore season of The X Factor. Although we've yet to find out what provokes one contestant to spit right into the camera (another heavily teased moment), we now know who gets arrested and who shouts illicit come-ons to Simon Cowell from an ambulance's gurney.
Speaking of Simon and sickness, our Maestro of Mean is missing in action, due to a bothersome case of the sniffles during this week's Kansas City segment. There's a genuinely cute moment early in the episode when the announcement that Simon won't be at the auditions spreads through the crowd and meets with the kind of huge cheer that often signifies a glorious victory. No worries, though, because a pleasant enough chap replaces him: Simon's X Factor U.K. buddy, Louie Walsh.
Walsh fits right in among the other judges, mainly because they are all prone to saying variations on the phrase "We have a little star on our hands!" after any contestant gets passed through. Everybody's a star! When Simon gets backin the second half, though, he inflicts some signature insults on everyone ("I won't remember you in 15 minutes," etc.), thus restoring balance. The ice soon melts, though, as Austin seems filled with nothing but decent-to-great performers – and if it's only a trick of editing, then I would like to see the same trick applied to certain areas of my life.
Anyway, let's see how tonight's assault of auditions went.
The Real Deal
One of two contestants who sang (and nailed) "Trouble" by Ray LaMontagne, Vino Alan is a tender tough-guy dad. He has tattoos on the side of his face, and beneath his wool cap even more tattoos sub in for hair on his bald dome. Lucky for Vino, and us by proxy, he's got a Joe Cocker soul thing going on, which worked for Josh Krajcik last year. Lesson: dudes, when in doubt, song Ray LaMontagne.
I immediately took to Tate Stevens because his face turns unnaturally beet-red when he's nervous. He has a white cowboy hat and a quick wit, charming all the judges, but especially Demi Lovato, by smartly answering the question of what he'd do with $5 million by saying they'd have to ask his wife. All that would be for naught if he couldn't sing, but Tate blows the roof off of "Anything Goes," prompting Louie to announce, "We found ourselves a country star."
Diamond White is an adorable 13-year-old who says backstage that she'd like to win so that her family could leave their shoebox apartment and she could get her own bed. My heartstrings! Why must they be tugged so mercilessly? The little girl pulls out a big voice for "It's a Man's World," and wows the judges.
"My name is Panda Ross. I am 42 young," says Panda Ross, your new favorite person. She has a giant gold necklace that says "single" which probably partially serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy, but who cares. She's been sick for seven days with pneumonia, but got out of the hospital to go see Simon, her boo. She has undeniable personality, and a big, full-bodied voice with a pleading quality, like Cee Lo Green's. When Panda sings "Bring It On Home," she sounds "like a legend," as Simon says. Soon after her hilarious victory shuffle, she's carted away to the hospital, yelling about Simon all the way.
Jessica Espinoza has black hair with a shock of red framing her face, and ripped jeans that are more rip than jeans. She digs deep on Pink's "Nobody Knows,"and wrings out all the emotion from the song, prompting Demi's hilarious bit of praise, "You have that sparkle in your eye that you only see in people who have the X factor." Oh yeah, that sparkle. Jessie leaves the stage in happy tears.
Rizzloe Jones is a young freestyle rapper, which seems like an odd choice of talent to parade in front of these judges. L.A. Reid gives him the imaginative topic of "The X Factor" to freestyle to, and he unleashes a rapid-fire word tornado that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but sounds OK. His bro-squad goes crazy in the wings, and then they're allowed to swarm him on stage afterward. "We have a little pop star on our hands," Britney Spears says.
This week's villain is CeCe Frey, an attractive singer whose leopard print facepaint looks like kisses from a hamster wearing lipstick. She actually says, "I'm not hereto make friends" after conducting psychological warfare on a rival. Onstage, she unveils the CeCe-fied version of "Unchained Melody," which is garbage, and which is cut short right away. BUT THEN, it turns out she has a feisty Christina Aguilera impression in her, and spirited dancing, which makes you wonder why she didn't do "Ain't No Other Man" in the first place.
The five skinny boys of Citizen are introduced preening in front of a mirror to the tune of "It's Raining Men." They have a nice level of racial/hairstyle diversity, and they harmonize pretty well on En Vogue's "Don't Let Go." When we hear how poorly some other groups sound later in the episode, these guys seem like a clown car full of total troubadours by comparison.
The deep-v brothers Jeremiah & Josh sing an original song that sounds like running through a meadow holding hands. It's a bit saccharine with a weird syncopation. Britney is a big fan, though, so much so that she tells the two she'd like them to wake her up in the morning – which she realizes all too late gives off some lascivious undertones. "Mildly embarrassed" is a good look for Britney, though.
In a tight pink sweater, short dress and fedora, Ally Brooke certainly has the looks of a star. Her ambition is typically over the top too: "I want to do film and to act, and I want a perfume line . . . but my ultimate dream is I want to be as big as Beyoncé." OK! Ally has a fine voice, but she keeps going long after the song ends. I feel like somewhere she's still holding that note right now. That doesn't sway the judges, though. "I think we're looking at a future star," Simon says.
Deangelo Wallace talks smack about all the judges while he's backstage, as though they'll never hear about it. After Deangelo proves he not only has a whiny voice, but awful timing – he sounds like a little kid trying to get your attention – the judges walk out in protest, like that's the third option besides voting yes or no. The wannabe singer finishes up his song, though, and then he steals a microphone. This is where our promised police action comes in. "I'm getting arrested, but I'll be out in a few hours" Deangelo sings to the tune of "Find Your Love," while getting arrested. Ask me whether the Cops theme song played during this scene!
Last recap: Britney Spears Survives Day Two