The X Factor was more painful than ever now that the new season of The Voice premiered this past week – and even the show's own judges seemed to agree, since three out of four of them were M.I.A. for some of the auditions. Simon Cowell showed up late in Denver, and both Demi Lovato and Paulina Rubio (her third absence in as many episodes) were missing in Los Angeles. Perhaps they all had job interviews for next season?
Still, there were gimmicks galore as the season rounded into its second week of auditions, and we knew exactly what we were in for during the next two hours when the episode kicked off with a bad audition.
We knew we were in trouble when first contestant Melanie Wright said she would be singing "Titanium" by David Goo-etta. Dressed in high heels, a blue cocktail dress and long, velvet gloves, the 48-year-old paralegal compared herself to Carrie Underwood before making small talk with the judges – comparing gloves with Paulina, natch – and then delivering a painful performance. You know it's bad when all the judges have to say are things like, "Your shoes are cute," with a shrug.
Melanie kicked off a string of performances that went from bad to worse, from an overly enthusiastic 55-year-old man who Simonsaid was "like watching something out of an Austin Powers movie" to a woman with an alien voice to a guy wearing a Tony the Tiger-inspired jacket who sang a so-bad-it-has-to-be-fake version of Madonna's "Like a Virgin."
Then there was 19-year-old Joseph Tolve, who conveniently emerged onstage right after Simon said he'd love to find a "different" voice. Talking in an effeminate, high-pitched tone that sounded like a cartoon character, Joseph raised eyebrows with his unique sound. Wondering if he was hoarse, Simon offered Joseph a drink of water, which he accepted – and then proceeded to sing Demi Lovato's "Skyscraper" in the same voice. Demi was less than thrilled: "In this competition we do look for people who are unique and have a unique voice, but I'm not sure this is the kind of unique that we're looking for." Kelly Rowland offered some career advice, saying, "I think you'd be great on a Sesame Street-type show. Do you know how much Dora the Explorer makes?"
But the biggest gimmick of the night came in the form of a marriage proposal between a couple that came together but tried out separately.
David Gray came out onstage alone, saying he stepped out of his element "for love" before singing a flat version of Usher's "Nice and Slow" that made the judges question why the 31-year-old would embarrass himself for his girlfriend.
When said girlfriend, 25-year-old Lauren Waguespack (aka Wag), stepped onstage she said she didn't make him audition, they just "do everything together and love competing against each other." After she delivered a spotty-at-best rendition of Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream," her boyfriend came back out yelling, "Hey! Hey!" to get her attention. (What a gentleman, right?) He then got on one knee with a ring, causing Kellyto jump out of her seat in delight. While the woman said "yes" to the proposal, it was a "no" from the judges, with Simon the Grinch delivering the news mere seconds after the sappy moment unfolded. Next week, in yet another attempt to get viewers to tune in, expect "The X Factor: The Wedding Episode," with Simon presiding as minister.
With so much time spent on gimmicks, the best singers of the night were relegated to a montage because they all sang the same song ("I'm Going Down"): 24-year-old Isabel Requena; 26-year-old Allison Davis, a Ke$ha knockoff with a knockout voice; and 15-year-old Isaiah Alston, who Demi called "a little Michael Jackson."
But even some of the good singers came complete with stunts.
James Kenney was the third former finalist to try out – and make it – this season. The 35-year-old appeared on Season One, moving on to the judges' homes round but not much further. Then there was 34-year-old Lorie Moore, who showed up wearing a football jersey because she's a women's professional football player and did a solid rendition of "I Have Nothing" by Whitney Houston.
And 19-year-old lovesick Wesley Mountain nearly lost it when he found himself close to Kelly, freaking out and panting in her presence while unrelentingly fixating his gaze on her. He even walked right up to her unannounced and kissed her hand. But he went from "creepy to cute, " according to Demi, after singing Hunter Hayes' "Wanted" while making goo-goo eyes at Kelly. Despite his intensity, he got four yeses, with Simon equating him to a dog salivating over a steak and telling him to "take a long, cold shower." So, perhaps next week's episode will be called "Kelly Has a Stalker."
Previous recap: Another Ex-Finalist Tries Again