Simon Cowell Sings on Part Two of 'X Factor' Premiere - Rolling Stone
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‘X Factor’ Recap: Simon Cowell Sings, Demi Lovato Scowls

Kelly Rowland forces Cowell to take the mic as auditions continue

Well, it’s official: We can’t wait for The Voice – and even that rusty dinosaur American Idol ­­­­­­– to start its new season. Yes, there’s nothing like a two-hour episode of The X Factor to make you wish you were watching something else. (And we’re not the only ones who feel that way; just look at the abysmal ratings for Wednesday night’s premiere, when a measly 6.2 million viewers tuned in.) 

It pains us to say that, because we really want to like The X Factor. But Simon Cowell‘s frankenshow needs a serious overhaul – one that goes far beyond just shaking up the judges’ panel for the umpteenth time. May we suggest cutting every episode down to a single, more palatable hour? That would be a start. Otherwise, if last night’s episode is any indication, it’s gonna be a long season.

See Rolling Stone’s Complete Coverage of ‘The X Factor’

There was an off-putting anything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, including an odd opening montage of contestants singing in the shower and, later, newbie judge Kelly Rowland forcing Simon to sing. And then there was the fact that host Mario Lopez explained the show’s four artist categories – girls, boys, groups and over-25s – every time he was on screen, as if he were talking to a bunch of distracted first-graders, and the female judges played musical chairs, calling attention to the fact that the producers have no idea what to do with them.

Unlike Wednesday night’s premiere, which featured a couple of show-stopping performances, this episode mainly focused on mediocre auditions repackaged as “stand-out moments” and plain ol’ train wrecks. 

Speaking of the latter, 21-year-old Yosselin Marquez was a sight to behold. Simon called the thick-accented, popeyed Latina “nutty as a fruitcake” after she shocked everyone by asking him his name because she had supposedly never heard of him. Then, she whipped out her cell phone and read karaoke-like lyrics off the screen while singing Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In the World)” as if she were tone-deaf. Needless to say, she didn’t make the cut.

Also blazing a path of cluelessness was 34-year-old Jocelyn Hinton, who confidently compared herself to Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey before slaughtering “Firework” by Katy Perry. “The best part was when you forgot the words,” said Simon, referring to her momentary lapse in lyrics. Despite harsh critiques, the woman refused to budge, staying onstage belting out different tunes – from Houston’s “Saving All My Love” to “Wishing on a Star” – before Simon literally had to escort her off the stage.

Simon took center stage once again after a poor performance by Over 25er Russ Pouliot, who claimed to be a classically trained vocalist in the vein of Frank Sinatra but in reality butchered Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Demi commented that she envisioned that Simon had the same vocal range, and with that Kelly snatched a mic and coerced Mr. Cowell into singing a few notes. It was bad, of course, but he was seemingly making fun of the guy on stage.

Then there was the confounding Jorge Pena, a borderline sleazy 22-year-old who runs an ice cream truck and thinks he’s God’s gift to women. After ticking off the ladies on the panel (especially Demi, who wore a disgusted scowl most of the time) by winking and smirking through sexist comments, he did an average-at-best rendition of the Spanish-language song “Amame (Love Me).” When he asked the crowd whether they liked it, they responded with crickets. Yet he still made it through with four yeses!

Other head-scratching unanimous-yes decisions included the judges gushing over 15-year-old Rylie Brown, who at first forgot the words to Zedd’s “Clarity” but brushed herself off enough to finish the shaky performance; 19-year-old Al Calderon, who seemingly only had semi-good “looks and charisma” on his side, according to Demi; and 41-year-old New York City subway busker Denise Weeks who struggled tomake Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” work (we were supposed to believe she nailed the performance the second time around, but she really didn’t). 

Then there was 20-something sister act Roxxy Montana whomangled Jennifer Hudson’s “One Night Only” before getting a second chance to do an a cappella church song that allowed them to pull it together just enough to squeak by, mostly based on the powerhouse vocals of the sister named Temperance. But, for us, the main reason their performance was memorable was for the useless gem of non-information that Kelly spewed during her critique: “Simon has a girl group, and these girls are singing their faces off. And I’m hearing y’all sing y’all’s faces off. And it’s been a long time since we’ve had girl groups who sing their faces off!” Riveting stuff. 

But the night wasn’t a total waste. Dorky 19-year-old Latina Simone Torres evoked the unexpected charm of Season Four Voice runner-up Michelle Chamuel with her surprisingly deep-voiced, soulful take on “Mustang Sally.” Country singer Rachel Potter, 29, gave a pitch-perfect performance of Queen’s “Somebody to Love.” And the 36-year-old, doggy daycare-owning, ruggedly handsome Jeff Brinkman made the female judges swoon with his raspy croon and emotional rendition of Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful,” which he dedicated to his wife and newborn preemie daughter who was still in the hospital. 

Next week, more two-hour episodes are on the way. In the meantime, tell us: What did you think of the two-night premiere?

Previous episode: Kelly Rowland, Paulina Rubio Make Debut


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