'X Factor' Recap: Another Ex-Finalist Tries Again

Week two of auditions ends with a parade of stale contestants

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Week two of the X Factor auditions proved one thing: It's gonna be a long season. Mainly because the show has a serious problem on its hands: a lack of talent. Both onstage and on the judges' panel, something's just missing. 

So far there have been very few contestants who have blown us away – and definitely no one who screams "I am the person who is going to save this show." And the judges' panel is about as exciting as sitting down to eat a bowl of soggy cereal. Gone is the semi-entertaining love/hate relationship that Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato had last season, and newbie judges Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio bring little excitement to the table. (Paulina was a no-show once again for some of the auditions, due to "illness.")

Rolling Stone's Complete Coverage of 'The X Factor' 

In a nutshell: the show seems stale, coming off as a second-rate American Idol rip-off. And Idol is no spring chicken. 

Even the contestants are tired.

For the second time already this season, an ex-finalist tried out again. This time it was Ellona Santiago, a 16-year-old who had made it into Season One's top 12 as part of the manufactured group InTENsity. They got the boot in the very first round. (Last season another member of that group, Arin Ray, also returned to the show.)

While her audition this time around was good enough to get her through again ­– reminiscent of Idol's Season 11 runner-up Jessica Sanchez, petite Ellona worked the stage in high heels, animal print pants and a big, booming voice – she had been long forgotten by head honcho Simon. When she finished her performance, she meekly asked if he remembered her – he didn't. After awkwardly explaining who she was, it seemed to kinda, sorta come back to him. And we were left wondering, how can this girl have "the X factor" if judge, mentor and executive producer Simon Cowell doesn't even remember her from two years ago? 

Another red flag unfurled when the show acted like it was the Second Coming when 24-year-old Ashly Williams stepped onstage dressed like a Mouseketeer and dedicated "I Will Always Love You" to her murdered mother.

First, we got an over-the-top pre-taped package about the tragedy that changed her life at age 14, complete with a gravesite visit while doves flew overhead to the beat of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel." (You know, the sad song from those ASPCA commercials that makes you want to adopt every stray kitten in the world.) Then, they practically shot fireworks and confetti at the end of her audition, which was good but not as great as they made it out to be. (She certainly didn't slaughter the song, but she also didn't "make it her own," which begs the question: Why are some acts allowed to get away with that while others get penalized for the same approach?)

In praising her, the judges laid it on thick, with Simon saying, "This is why we brought this show to America, to find an artist like you." If that's true, no wonder the series is tanking. There were shades of Season One winner Melanie Amaro in Ashly's performance, and where is she now?

Then, when someone like Andrew Scholz – a blue-eyed, sandy-haired, 18-year-old jock with a million-dollar smile that made the girls in the audience go wild – stepped onstage, they inexplicably ripped him apart. Well, the three female judges did at least until Simon stepped in and saw the potential in the "corn-fed country boy" (Kelly's words). After making Andrew sing again, moving him away from pop (Alex Clare, "Too Close") to country (Little Big Town, "A Little More You"), he wound up getting four yeses. Because on this show, everyone must agree. It's imperative. Or, you know, the show might get boring. And we wouldn't want that.

Another act that made the little girlies go ape was 14-year-old Stone Martin, who rocked some serious Bieber bangs. This time, though, the judges saw the star potential right away. "Stone Martin, that's a pop star name," Simon said. Demi added, "Screaming girls are powerful," after the kid finished singing One Direction's "Little Things" and practically made the tween girls in the audience faint. (Another annoying pattern emerging this season on the show: using as much music from the U.K. version of The X Factor as humanly possible – One Direction, Little Mix, etc.)

But not every good-looking guy got a stamp of approval. Enter 19-year-old Blake Shankle, who walked around boasting about how he resembles Robin Thicke and David Beckham, among other hotties. And the ladies certainly did love him when he first stepped on stage. Kelly even pointed out, "You're hot. You have perfect hair, perfect teeth." But the cooing and screaming stopped once he opened his mouth and sang an overly theatrical version of Christina Perri's "Jar of Hearts." After he ended on a sour note, the crowd was silent till some guy in the audience yelled out, "What the hell?!" 

And with that, we'll end this recap there. See you next week!

Previous episode: Simon Cowell, Paulina Rubio Miss Auditions