X Factor Auditions: One Part Singing, One Part Poison

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Resident X Factor expert Josh Ridgway will be blogging about the US version of The X Factor on FOX this season.  You can also follow Josh on Twitter: @JoshFactor.

“This is the X Factor.”  That’s all Steve Jones had to say to begin America’s newest search for a superstar.  And this search has a huge payday: a $5 million recording contract and the opportunity to be the face of a new Pepsi ad during the Super Bowl. Quite the prize package.

Auditions opened in Los Angeles, where dreams have been made and crushed since the Hollywood sign went up on the hills.

The L.A. auditions contained the first and last time you will see Cheryl Cole on the show, which is really too bad.  I think she knows what she’s talking about, as she has a hugely successful recording career and gained fame in a reality competition show.  Oh well, I guess everything happens for a reason.  As for those reports about her accent being hard to understand: I had no trouble deciphering what she was saying.  She does speak English after all.  Sure she has an accent Americans aren’t used to and says things like, “I don’t know what me answer is,” but we can hardly fault her for having a strong regional accent.  I’m sure people in Europe have trouble understanding things Dolly Parton says.  But enough of that.  Cheryl did a fine job in her judging.

As for the other judges, you have your standards in Simon and Paula, and a new face in L.A. Reid.  When they introduced the judges, I got held up on Paula’s shoulder pads.  I know that’s a weird thing to focus on when blogging about a singing show, but, “Holy shoulder pads, Paula!”  I’m guessing my neighbors heard me yell that.  They were just so…pointy.

Enough of my digressions.  On with the singing!  The first audition out of the gate was 13-year-old Rachel Crow.  Rachel took on a song well beyond her years, “Mercy” by Duffy.  But Rachel tore it up.  She had personality.  She had spunk.  And most importantly, she had a voice.  She was the perfect way to start the show.  She gave viewers a taste of what ‘The X Factor’ is all about.  It’s about giving people a chance at living their dreams who otherwise wouldn’t even get the time of day.  It’s about helping people realize potential and pushing them to live up to it.  As Simon told her, it’s a good thing the show lowered it’s age limit to 12, or else we wouldn’t have gotten the chance to see Rachel on stage singing like she’s been doing it all of her life.  Sadly, all of the auditions wouldn’t quite live up to the standard set by Rachel.

Sure, we followed up with Terrell Carter, who had a great voice.  Then we had 14-year-old John Lindahl, who had the Justin Bieber factor going on.  The teenage girls in the audience about jumped out of the balcony when he took the stage.  I don’t get it.  Then again, I’m not a teenage girl or  a huge fan of Justin Bieber, so his appeal is lost on me.

So far so good, right?  Wrong.  Enter Siameze Floyd.  I knew something was about to go down when I saw the high-heeled purple snakeskin boots, the jeans that were way too tight, the mesh tank top, jean jacket and Jackee Harry hair.  I know this isn’t ‘Project Runway,’ so fashion sense (or lack thereof) shouldn’t factor into anything, but for Siameze, it kind of set the scene for what we all had to witness.  In my show notes, I quote: What’s up with this Prince/Beyonce wannabe?  He’s drinking water straight from a jug, eating a jar of peanut butter and doing the splits.  End note quote.  Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that; I’ve been known to lay into a jar of Nutella on occasion.  However, combining everything Siameze had to offer was just all too much.  And a bit ridiculous.  Cheryl Cole put it best when she said, “Is this genius or weird?  I don’t know what me answer is.”  Well, Cheryl, I don’t know what me answer is either.

After Siameze, I took a dip into the Nutella jar, which was just enough to get me through the next few auditions.  We had Dan and Venita from Pahrump, Nevada.  Dan was 70.  Venita was 83.  They were married and didn’t seem to have a working hearing aid between them.  Horribly off pitch.  Then we had another group known as You Only Live Twice.  I think I burst a hearing drum listening to those young ladies.  Simon’s take?  “You were singing, and it sounded like you swallowed poison.”

After the poisonous melodies, we witnessed 61-year-old Linda Ostrovsky’s interpretation of the karaoke classic, “I Touch Myself.”  I’m not going to touch that one with a 39 and a half foot pole.  Linda was followed by Miranda Singleton, who listed Madonna as her inspiration.  Miranda is the straw that finally broke the camel’s back for me.  She caused me to yell at the TV and wonder if people don’t know they are tone deaf.  Do they hear perfect pitch or think everyone else is singing off key?  This is something that needs to be researched in-depth.

About 45-minutes into the show, the fighting started to happen.  It seems like Simon and L.A. are going to butt heads quite often, as they are apparently looking for different things.  Case and point?  The Pussycat Doll inspired, self-described “cheerleader, hipster and drag queen,” Simone Battle.  The good thing about Simone is that she was fierce.  Just ask her.  She said she was enough times.  L.A. wasn’t impressed, but Simon was.  Generally, I agree with Simon, but this time, I took L.A.’s side.  Simone’s audition was nothing I haven’t already seen on ‘Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search For The Next Doll.’  Simon was able to persuade Paula and Cheryl to join his cause, so Simone went through.  We’ll see just how far her fierceness carries her.

Rounding out the Los Angeles audition and first hour of the show was 42-year-old Stacy Francis.  She told a story of how she had been told she was too old and not good enough to every be a popular singer.  But she took a chance and auditioned for ‘The X Factor.’  Stacy certainly has it.  She sang Aretha Franklin’s “You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman)” and made the song sound new and fresh.  Stacy got a standing ovation and approval from the judges and the audience.  I think Stacy is one we will be seeing a lot more of as the show progresses.

After Stacy, the Los Angeles auditions were over, as was our time with Cheryl Cole.  We told her goodbye and said hello to our permanent judge, Nicole Scherzinger.  Nicole, like Cheryl, also got her start in a show similar to ‘The X Factor.’  Do you remember the ill-fated ‘Popstars’ that created the group Eden’s Crush?  Yeah.  I barely remember it, either, but I know enough about it to know Nicole was on it and probably wouldn’t be where she is today without it.  So, Nicole put on her sassiest dress and joined the other three judges for the Seattle auditions, which started off…less than tastefully.

Oh, Geo Godley.  What were you thinking?  Geo came onto the stage wearing some sort of silver track suit thing with a tie dye shirt underneath.  Warning flag one.  Warning flag two?  When he said he was going to perform an original track, “I’m A Stud.”  The judges shouldn’t have even let him begin because what happened after caused me to want to bleach out my eyes.  It also caused Paula to throw up.  Let’s just leave it at Geo’s pants fell down (or came off, depending on who you believe), and he wasn’t wearing any underwear.  It’s going to cause nightmares and left me moderately traumatized.  Perhaps there’s a therapist with a session open before the weekend so I can discuss what I saw.  Needless to say, Geo did not progress.

The producers saved face, though, by going from tasteless to tasteful.  20-year-old Marcus Canty’s mother told him he had two years to follow his dream of becoming a singer.  If he didn’t make it by the end of the two years, he agreed to go to college to get a degree.  ‘The X Factor’ auditions came right as his two years were ending.  Marcus blew me away.  He sang Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” and looked like a new version of Usher up on the stage.  L.A. Reid told him he was like the next Bobby Brown, which is not a reference I would enjoy hearing, but that’s just my prerogative.

After Marcus, we found out it was Nicole’s birthday and I realized Paula Abdul was extremely lucid.  She made sense the entire show and didn’t seem out of it at all.  Atta girl, Paula!  After this realization came the group, The Anser, three guys I really didn’t want to like.  They just seemed cocky and came off way too full of themselves when they announced they were singing Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep,” with an “added twist” at the end.  Then they proceeded to sing Nicole “Happy Birthday.“  The dog I am dog-sitting looked at me because she could hear my eyes rolling around in my head.  But then The Anser started singing and I decided my first impression wasn’t entirely correct.  Their harmonies and vocal-abilities were too tight and strong for me to completely dislike them.  I’m still not a huge fan though.

Next up: another fierce competitor?  Nici Collins certainly thought she was fierce.  She had the sass, the swag and the attitude of a diva.  However, when she started belting out her version of Mariah Carey’s “Emotions,” she had me feeling emotions for sure.  Deeper than I’ve ever dreamed of.  In fact, my emotions were so deep, I proclaimed Nici as the first singer of the season to sound like a bag full of cats.  She was that bad and dared to talk back to the judges about how fantastic she was.  At least she has confidence.  That will get her far in life.  Just not in singing.  Nici promised to post some videos of her singing on YouTube.  She’s a liar.  I looked for these alleged videos.  There are none.  Sigh.  My dreams have been crushed.

Nici was followed by more unsuccessful auditions with a mother and daughter duo, a 40-year-old man singing “Like A Virgin,” and some girl group singing a song that sounded like a 12th-century church chant.

Then, before I knew it, 850 was upon me and the final audition was on.  Twenty-eight-year-old Chris Rene told a story of addiction.  He had been addicted to about every drug you can think of, but went to rehab, and at the time of his audition, had been clean for 70 days.  When he said he was singing an original composition, “Young Homie,” I thought, “Not again with the original songs,” but Chris was a welcome surprise.  His song told his story through a little rap and a little singing.  He lit up the stage and had everyone in the audience wanting to hear more.  The judges, as well as I, hope Chris stays sober so he can continue on his journey on ‘The X Factor.’

So there we have it.  The first night of ‘The X Factor’ is in the books.  I think the judges did a fantastic job giving credit where it was due and shutting down the people who clearly had no X, Y or even Z Factor.  Miranda Singleton, I’m talking to you.

So who were your favorite auditions, and who did you think should have just stayed at home?  Do you think the judges did a good job?  Are you looking forward to watching more? 

Until next time.  Don’t forget to tune into ‘The X Factor’ Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7, right here on Fox 4.

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