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X-Factor, Oct. 5 – Looking for an “All-Arounder” 

One of the best things about watching the X-Factor is that it’s all new. That’s the problem with watching American Idol, Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, etc. We’ve seen it all before and know exactly what’s going to happen, save for a twist here and there. However, X-Factor is all new. We’re done with the auditions, Tonight is Boot Camp, and we have no idea what that entails. That’s exciting.

The contestants are split into four categories – the Boys, the Girls, the Over 30s, and the Groups. The judges then will be told which category they will be mentoring. All we see in the previews out of Los Angeles is everyone being choreographed, Simon Cowell getting pissed off, and Paula Abdul breaking down in tears. That looks interesting! Simon and Paula are joined on the judging panel by L.A. Reid and Nicole Scherzinger. 

Marcus Canty, 20, a high school graduate from Bowie, Missouri, is getting jittery. 4Shore, ages 20-23, from Virginia Beach, Virginia, admit to being nervous, excited, and scared. Chris Rene, 28, a trash collector from Santa Cruz, California, calls it critical that he do better than anyone else there. Something that we didn’t know about him, is that his sister Gina Rene, 36, a stay-at-home mom, and also from Santa Cruz, auditioned and made it as well. She doesn’t know what’s coming, and that puts her on the edge. 

The judges face contestants with an appropriate pep talk, with Simon telling them it’s called Boot Camp for a reason. There are more professionals here to help the contestants – vocal coaches Claude Kelly and Savan Kotecha, stylist June Ambrose, and choreographer Brian Friedman, who many of us remember from the early years of So You Think You Can Dance

Brian leads everyone through a choreography session. Simon believes this could be everything, as the biggest star in the world was Michael Jackson. It wasn’t just about being a singer. If Beyonce was there, she’d be pushing her way to the front, trying to prove that she’s an “all-arounder.” Chris calls it frustrating, and it’s making him scared. Brian Bradley, 14, a student from Brooklyn, refuses to even participate. It’s not what he’s here for. 

Before the Boot Camp, each act was asked to prepare a song that showed they were worthy of this $5 million contract. They will be called to the front in groups of ten, and asked to perform individually. Only 162 will make it through. 

Up first is Siameze Floyd, 30, a hotel performer from Las Vegas. He sings More than a Feeling,. Also up is The Answer, ages 20-27, from Salt Lake City. They have great harmony, but Simon calls them very forgettable. Tiger Budbill, 42, a wedding DJ from Buthell, Washington, proves to Nicole he has some lungs. Caitlin Koch, 21, a rugby coach from Buffalo, takes it down a notch, Paula remarks that she has chills and loves her voice. Drew Ryniewicz, 14, a student from Chino Valley, Arizona, wows the judges like she did in her audition. 

Gina draws a smile from Paula, and Simon says without Rachel Crow, 13, a student from Boulder, Colorado, it would have been very boring, and asks Tora Woloshin, 22, a college student from Tucson, if she knows how frustrating it is that she chose to sing Soulmate when she could have chosen any song she wanted for $5 million. Marcus brings a smile from Paula as he dances, as does Brennin Hunt, 26, a graphic designer from Nashville, J Mark Inman, 31, a graduate student from Westboro, Massachusetts, sings Bennie and the Jets … badly. 

The Brewer Boys, 13 and 17 year old students from Temecula, California, have great harmony, and Brendan O’Hara, 30, a music instructor from Hollywood, Florida, seems to forget his lyrics. Chris gets Nicole rocking singing Sexual Healing, as she says the girls are going to love him. Melanie Amaro, 19, a college student from Sunrise, Florida, is just as impressive as her original audition. Stacy Francis, 42, a stay-at-home mom from L.A., has perhaps he longest note in the world, as Simon tells her less is more, and it was way over the top. 

It’s judgement time. They’re split into three groups like they do on American Idol, yet onstage, and not in separate rooms. Group one is told they should be proud of themselves. They make it through. It’s good news for Stacy. Group two are sent home, with one contestant begging for another shot. He’s rebuffed by Simon, only to have him track down the young guy afterwards to tell him to come back and try again. J Mark proves to be very unhinged as he jumps up and down screaming “I don’t have a life,” then falls to his knees in apparent sobs.  Group three is through. This includes Chris, Caitlin, and Tora. Groups one and three celebrate together. Simon and Paula watch as Gina and Chris search for each other, then hug, realizing they both made it. 

They all have a wild party, with some going to bed early, and others partying all night. It feels like a full show, but we’re only eighteen minutes into this 90-minute show. The next morning of Boot Camp, many of the partiers have overslept. They’re woken up and told they only have five minutes to get moving. 

The acts are put into ensembles, and only have a few hours to prepare a song they may or may not know to perform for the judges. They have the stylist, choreographer, and vocal coaches working with them. One third of them will be sent home.

The first ensemble is comprised of Drew, Caitlin, The Answer, Audrey Turner, Elaine Gibbs, Clayton Senne, and Dexter Haygood. They are given Creep by Radiohead. They start by determining what each other’s normal register is. Brian Friedman works with them on their choreography. Drew knows their expectations of her will be even higher this time. Dexter seems to be struggling. The good news is he finally dropped the James Brown persona, but now apparently has “moves like Jagger.” Brian sees it as very copycat. Audrey was once a backup singer for Ike Turner. 

It’s finally their time to perform, and they’re all talking of this being their big dream and all they want. Drew starts them off, and Paula is smiling again. Dexter joins her onstage, as Paula can only shake her head. The Answer is now up, and Audrey takes over the front stage just after them, but it’s Elaine who seems to be channeling Tina Turner more. Caitlin gets L.A.’s smile and head-nodding. The ensemble get cheered by the judges, as Nicole calls them amazing. They argue over whether Audrey or Dexter were the weakest. 

The next ensemble includes Jazzlyn Little, Melanie Amaro, Heather Gayle, Aaron Surgeon, Arin Ray, Special Guest, and Stacy Francis. Claude Kelly wants to hear them sing like they’ve been performing together. Stacy needs to prove herself. Jazzlyn was lacking confidence in herself at her first audition, and is now worried about being compared to the others in her group. They’re singing I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.

This ensemble takes the stage. They start it off with Jazzlyn, with Simon whispering in Paula’s ear that she has forgotten the lyrics. Stacy is up, with Paula enjoying her. She’s followed by Melanie who sounds like she’s taking it to the church, and wherever she didn’t take it, the group together takes them there at the end. Jazzlyn cries afterwards, saying she didn’t want to let anyone down. Stacy mothers her. 

The next ensemble includes Dani Knights, Skyelor Anderson, Leroy Bell, Chelsea Musick, Ben Rue, Paige Ogle, and Cari Fletcher. She calls this experience nerve-wracking. They’re singing Desperado, which excites Leroy, but not so much the younger ones in the ensemble. Skyelor talks about everything he’s gone through recently, losing his dad and a brother. 

The ensemble performs starting on a few risers, with Paige starting them off. Leroy follows her, and gets a “wow” from Nicole. Dani has Simon nodding along, and Cari and Skyelor follow her. He loses his lyrics and somewhat the tune. they judges like Dani and Paige. 

Another ensemble is singing Jay-Z’s Wishing on a Star, mixing both rapping and singing. The group is comprised of Tinuke Oyefule, Jennifay Joy Nichols, Lauren Ashley, Tatiana “Reina” Williams, and Brian Bradley. He had said in his audition in five years he’d be ready for Jay-Z, but will get therer this time. Jennifay has never rapped before, and it’s not going well. Reina feels born to do this though. 

It’s time for the ensemble to bring it. Tinuke starts them off., and Brian breaks out with his rap. Reina gets in a little bit of a rapping battle with him. They rap behind the others, then Jennifay comes out and tries her rap to Paula’s stunned face and Simon’s apparent amusement. The judges note the timing is all over the place, but the vocal coach tells them they were hitting it earlier. Brian knows he messed up his words a lot, but from a rap perspective, L.A. states he’s just too young.

The next ensemble is comprised of Josh Krajcik, Tiger Budbill, Nick Dean, Kompl3te, Andrew Muccitelli, James Kenney, and Thomas McAbee. They’ll be singing Five for Fighting’s Superman. Josh is worried about choreography looking awkward, and Brian promises to help him. Tiger knows he has to prove himself to L.A. after he wasn’t impressed during his audition.

Onstage, Nick starts the group off, but doesn’t seem to have it down, losing the lyrics and the tone, James takes over , but it’s Tiger who seems more smooth like the song needs. It totally takes off when Josh jumps in. He’s definitely the star of this group. It ends with Kompl3te. Tiger knows he squandered opportunities in his life. Simon likes him, and Nicole thinks his voice would be good on a record. 

The next ensemble includes Phillip Lomax, Tiah Olliver, Chesi Spriggs, Robert Cruz, Kelly Warner, Austin Simmons, and Nick Voss. Nick wants to put everything he’s learned into this performance, Chesi wants to show she doesn’t just sing, she performs. Phillip plans to seize the moment, and Tiah wants to win over the Nicole and Paula who weren’t impressed with her, going against Simon. Nicole and Paula are still against her, and Simon still thinks she’s very commercial. She notes she wants to be remembered as “the girl with steel eyes,” and maybe that’s where the problem is. She should be wanting to be remembered for her performance.

This ensemble with a lot to prove takes the stage, with Phillip starting them off, singing Feeling High. Chesi brings some surprising blues, and Austin stalks the stage, followed by Tiah, who brings it more than ever, eliciting smiles from Nicole and Paula. Simon loves being right. Kelly is ultra sexy again, and Nick definitely has an X-Factor. He’s not the best singer, but is … exciting. Simon talks about Tiah again. The other judges just want to know how the vocal coach got her to sing on key for once.

The next ensemble includes Rachel Crow, Joshua Maddox, 4Shore, Hayley Orrantia, Illusion Confusion, Caylie Gregorio, De’Quan Allen, and Ellona Santiago. They will be singing I Have Nothing, exciting them. Rachel has difficulties with it, with Savan trying to help her. He knows she’ll struggle to find the right key. Yet, he knows this group has the hardest song. Rachel knows she’s meant to be here.

It’s De’Quan who starts the performance off onstage. He’s somewhat weak, with Joshua not being much stronger. Rachel picks it up and finds what she was missing in her rehearsals, as does Hayley. Ellona has some pies with it, but does struggle to stay in tune. They all combine at the end very nicely. Rachel is nervous, despite thinking she did pretty good. 

The last ensemble of the night includes Siamaze Floyd, Jeremiah Pagan, Song Preservation Society, Cesar de la Rosa, Makenna & Brock, The Stereo Hogzz, and Emily Michalak. Makenna still isn’t memorable enough, as she’s called Mackenzie by someone in the group. Brock feels this all has made them closer, and the good news is she now sees that as well. Emily, 12 years old, has cold feet. Makenna tries to help her through it.

It’s the big moment for the ensemble, with Siameze taking center stage first, followed by Makenna & Brock. She’s stronger with her voice than she was in her audition. Emily shows a great voice as well, and that she had nerves for no reason at all. Stereo Hoggz brings it, and so does Jeremiah. Altogether this group has a lot of soul. Emily thinks she did okay, but Simon is seeing her as a wannabe. Nicole asks how many acts they need to lose today, and is told about half. 

Tomorrow night, we’ll finish off with the ensembles, and the acts will have one more shot to impress the judges. They’ll then be cut down to the final 32, and split into the four groups, and assigned a judge to mentor them. In this realm, doesn’t it seem like The Voice? That whole mentoring thing certainly leads to it, but I do believe the X-Factor was around longer, and is only new to this country. Either way, I fear that’s what everyone is going to think, that it’s really just a ripoff of The Voice. Interestingly enough, some of these acts would have faired better there, as they have great voices, but not all of them have that magnetic pull with their audience.

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