So far, the X-Factor is seeming like a mix of American Idol and The Voice. They’re being put in ensembles to narrow down the finalists, yet after that, the judges will act as mentors to them. My only complaint is that some of the “chosen ones” don’t have “it,” and just have a good voice. Tonight we’ll see the last of the ensembles and find out who the final thirty-two are, and who their mentors will be.
The first ensemble up tonight is comprised of Brennin Hunt, Equality, Marcus Canty, Matthew Johnson, Ma’at Bingham Shango, Chris Rene, and Gina Rene. They’ll be singing What’s Going On to Marcus’ delight. Chris has now been sober for forty-nine days. Gina is also talented, but lacking confidence. They’re excited to perform together.
In front of the judges – Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger, and L.A. Reid – the ensemble starts it off on the risers. Ma’at sings first, and Gina takes it over from there. This group is well-choreographed, and each sounds great. Paula mentions to Simon afterward how amazing it was. L.A. thinks Marcus was amazing, but Simon thinks he needs a lot of work. And he feels one of the girls just lost it, so it’s either Ma’at or Gina.
The next ensemble includes Matthew Slovacek, Tim Cifers, Hannah Bethel, Thomas Wells, Jeremy Easley, and Kingston. They’re singing I Won’t Let Go, which Matthew figures is perfect. They work with the vocal coach who tells them not to wail just to wail, but to make him believe it. Tim has a 4-year-old son and 3-moth-old daughter and misses them like crazy, but it’s the biggest opportunity for him. Kingston just wants to hear they have what it takes.
Onstage tonight, this ensemble brings out each act one by one instead of collectively. They sound great, with Thomas possibly being he weakest in the group. Either way, all of them know how to deliver a song emotionally. Simon sees Tim as the star of the bunch, even though he didn’t get him before. L.A. isn’t sure if he’s a star, but he knows he’s a great singer.
The last ensemble to perform includes The Brewer Boys, Henri Bredouw, James Douglas, Emma Henry, Hannah Jackson, Ryan Sims, Kyle Corr, and Christa Collins. The Brewer Boys don’t usually get nervous, but note this is pretty intense. They hope their unique sound takes them somewhere. Hannah and Emma both want the same part of the song and have to duke it out. Hannah thinks the part needs a more mature person, and in a coin flip, she gets it.
The ensemble takes the stage, with Henri as leadoff man. Emma struggles to keep the tune. The Brewer Boys sound the best of the bunch, but Ryan truly belts this song out. Christa does admirably as well.
The judges need to send a third of the acts home at this point. They start by discussing Tiah, who Simon wants to keep, but who Paula and Nicole disagree about. The Brewer Boys know most of their ensemble is probably going home, but they’re hoping for the best. Simon calls Siameze a no, and Paula disagrees. He explains they have to lose people. Nick Voss calls it heartbreaking if he goes home. Simon likes Chelsea Frederick’s energy, but L.A. says she can’t sing.
The contestants are broken down into three more groups, between yes or no. The first group called up is sent home. Nicole fights back tears watching them leave. Tatiana “Reina” Williams can’t believe it and starts loudly shouting about needing to talk to someone. Also going home is Emma Henry.
The next group up to hear their fate has to be a “yes” group. There are too many talented people in the group, such as Chris Rene, Gina Rene, Siameze Floyd, and Tiah Olliver. Nicole addresses them and tells them they have made it to the next round.
Simon tells the last group it’s not good news, but great news. Making it through in this group are Rachel Crowe, The Brewer Boys, Stacy Francis, Hannah Bethel. and Tiger Budbill, who makes a call to someone saying he made it, then tells the camera that was the call he wanted to make.
Simon addresses the sixty-four acts that made it through, then tells them after the next day’s challenge, half of them will be out of the competition. They will be given about thirty-five songs and asked to find the one that best represents them. Paula tells them to trust their gut and find what resonates with them. L.A. wants them to show their absolute finest. And they will be performing for an audience as well as the judges.
By the next day, everyone’s up early to work on their songs. Apparently they either learned their lessons about sleeping in on day two of Boot Camp, or those people were among the 100 acts eliminated already. They’re working with the choreographer, vocal coaches, stylist, etc. Some look out the window and see all the people waiting to watch them and freak out a little.
The first one to perform in the last Boot Camp challenge is Rachel Crowe, 13, a student from Boulder, Colorado. It’s only fitting, as she was the first audition we saw. She’s a little nervous, but knows she’s meant to be there. Simon asks what she’s chosen to sing, but she wants it to remain a surprise. She sings If I Were a Boy and completely kills it, getting the audience on their feet. This girl definitely has the X-Factor. She’s not just a good voice. No comments from the judges. Simon notes she’s getting better. Rachel walks offstage and gets a big hug from her mom.
Audrey Turner, 53, unemployed from L.A. is next. She sings Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. She wants to blow the the judges away and just give everything she has. What I sincerely think about her is that she’s good, but she needs to change her name. If she truly wants to escape being Ike Turner’s backup singer and wife, she needs a name change. Otherwise, she’ll always be connected to Ike and be thought of as a Tina wannabe.
Paige Ogle, 18, a day camp counselor from Baltimore, wants it more than anything, and to know she has this person inside of her, she’s not happy doing anything else. She sings Somewhere Only We Know. It’s good, but I don’t see the “X-Factor” in it, and by this stage, I think we should.
Tiger Budbill, 42, a wedding DJ from Buthell, Washington, sings Billie Jean, and does it very non-MJ. This audition means everything to him. In five weeks, his house will be auctioned. He has the X-Factor.
Josh Krajcik, 30, a burrito maker from Columbus, Ohio, has been a surprise from the moment he first stepped out for his audition. He didn’t look like a serious contender, but blew everyone away with his audition. He doesn’t want to go back to burritos and empty night clubs. Josh tells the audience he doesn’t want them to remember him for the performance; he wants them to remember it forever. He sings Up to the Mountain, and gets smiles from Nicole, Paula, and L.A. He’s as amazing as he was in his first audition.
Simone Battle, 22, a college student from L.A., hasn’t been seen much since her audition. She can’t wait to show off, and is, wearing hot pants again. She believes there is no one else like her out there, and Simon cracks they need more confidence from her. She singsYour Song, but to me this is a song you don’t mess with. The audience looks stunned. Simon looks like he’s upset with her. They aren’t supposed to be commenting, but he mentions she didn’t remember a single word of the song. She says she was trying to do something different, and he says he hates the version as she walks away, but Nicole finds it the best she ever heard her.
4Shore, ages 20-23, from Virginia Beach, Virginia, sound terrible in their harmonies. Simon says afterwards it’s the worst they ever sounded. Little Ladiez ages 14-15, from Valencia, California, is a group we haven’t seen before. They don’t give us anything to make us wish we did. Makenna & Brock, ages 22 and 18, students from Springfield, Missouri, sing BillieJean, and she has gone back to sounding terrible. Nicole oddly loves it. Siameze Floyd, 30, a hotel performer from Las Vegas, hits a screaming note at the end.
Brennin Hunt, 26, a graphic designer from Nashville, sings If I Ain’t Got You, and guarantees we haven’t heard it like this. Simon tells L.A. he wants to hear someone sing this song with just a piano, not this jazzed up version. Simon stops and asks him, as he says he wanted to give his own twist and own style, and think outside the box. Simon calls over the producers and and says he’s hating this. He wants to know why they’re singing these “weirdo versions.” Because it’s a talent show, and everyone tries so hard they mess up trying. It happens here, it happens in Idol, it happens on America’s Got Talent, The Voice, etc.
The Stereo Hoggz, ages 23-25, from Houston, find it an odd coincident that they have five members, and the prize is $5 million. One of the singers dedicates the performance to his one-month-old baby. They sing Cry Me a River, and here’s a different version of a song that absolutely kills it! They get it, about making it different, and they have the X-Factor. Nicole says they stepped it up, and Simon notes how consistent they are.
Brian Bradley, 14, a student from Brooklyn, says he’s been practicing every single minute. The crowd and L.A. love him. Phillip Lomax, 21, a part-time waiter from Seattle, sings Summertime, and the version works well with the hat. Chris Rene, 28, a trash collector from Santa Cruz, sings Every Breath You Take, and calls it his second chance. It’s good, but we’ve seen him better.
Nick Dean, 15, a student from Rochester, NY, sings Something Only We Know, and has something that makes him more than just your average Bieber type. Nicole feels like this was his strongest performance, but Simon thinks he was cocky and not well-rehearsed.
Stacy Francis, 42, a stay-at-home mom from L.A., was told in her original audition that it was one of the best Simon ever heard, but then he told her the first day in Boot Camp that it was way over the top. In her heart, she’s holding on for dear life. For the first time, she tells the judges and audience that her dad died the day she arrived in Boot Camp, and she’s feeling guilt for not being with her mom, and will deal with missing his funeral the rest of her life. Her mom told her her dad would have wanted her to be there. She knows her dad is with her tonight.
Stacy sings Summertime, and I’m feeling like this could be a performance to finally challenge Fantasia’s version. Yeah, she gives me chills. She gets a standing O from the judges, minus Simon. L.A. says afterward it was deep, deep pain. Stacy feels like she has a new angel tonight. I have chills all over again.
Tiah Tolliver, 20, a deli clerk, from Bremerton, Washington, is asked by L.A. what she wants them to know in case it’s her last performance. She replies simply, “It won’t be my last performance.” This is the best I’ve heard her. Cari Fletcher, 17, a student from Wall Township, New Jersey, sings I’m Already There, eliciting a smile from Paula. Drew Ryniewicz, 14, a student from Chino Valley, Arizona, sings Like a Star, and seems so much more mature than 14. Caitlin Koch, 21, a rugby coach from Buffalo, sings Cry Me a River, beautifully.
Leroy Bell, 59, a songwriter from Seattle, knows this is what he loves to do, but did lose interest for awhile in it. He doesn’t want to be old and bitter, not following the passion. L.A. tells him he looks amazing for his age. He sings Make You Feel My Love, and it looks like Paula is ready to feel his love. It’ a simple performance, but less is more. Simon is trying to figure out what it would be like to have that talent and be so frustrated. Yet, he’s competing with 12-year-olds. Simon notes it’s not an audition, and Paula adds, “It’s his life.”
It’s now up to the judges to decide which thirty-two will move on to the judges’ homes next week. The contestants deal with various emotions, from wanting to hide under a rock, to hoping and praying they get through. Simon has been dreading this, as he’s gotten attached to some of the contestants that he doesn’t think the other judges are attached to. He has to go in and fight for them. He does, and by the end, Nicole remarks they all had to let go of a some that were important to them.
The contestants get split into their categories to start the day, Boys, Girls, Over 30s, and Groups. The first to find out their fate is the Girls. Those making it through are Caitlin Koch, Tora Woloshin, Simone Battle, Drew Ryniewicz, Rachel Crowe, Jazzlyn Little, Melanie Amoro, and Tiah Tolliver. Simon won that one apparently. The others leave heartbroken.
The eight Guys moving through are Brennin Hunt, Brian Bradley, Skyelor Anderson, Nick Voss, Tim Ciphers, Phillip Lomax, Marcus Canty, and Chris Rene. The younger ones not making it through console each other.
The eight Groups making it to next week are The Stereo Hoggz, 2Squar’d, 4Shore, The Brewer Boys, Illusion Confusion, and Anser.
The eight Over 30s making it through are Elaine Gibbs, Tiger Budbill, Leroy Bell, James Kenny, Josh Krajcik, Christa Collins, Dexter Haygood, and Stacy Francis. I think her angel is with her. Dexter cries so hard, and L.A. tells him he always thought it was over, but it’s time to start believing in himself. Paula runs up and cries along with him. He says, “From Skid Row to here, man.” L.A. pulls Gina to the side to tell her her brother Chris made it. She knows he’s going to do it.
But wait, it’s not over yet. The judges ask fourteen acts from the 30 and under category to come back to the stage. Nick Dean is among those called back. L.A. tells them they often look for artists that have the potential to be solo performers, but they often cast them in groups. They are making two groups out of these performers, as they think if they had come in as groups, it would have been a no-brainer.
The judges are now being assigned their categories. Funny that L.A. is at work, Nicole is at work, Paula is at home in L.A., and Simon is on vacation in France. Just … funny. L.A. mentions the strongest category is the Over 30s, and Paula would be excited to work with the Guys. Simon thinks whoever has Groups will have a hard time, and Paula agrees. Nicole would like the Girls category. L.A. believes has a better shot at winning no matter what category he gets.
Nicole will be mentoring the Over 30s. So they give the youngest judge to them? She says she can do that. L.A. gets the Boys. He thinks he just won, but wants to know what Simon got. Paula gets the Groups. Simon, then, gets the Girls, of course. He mentions that the eight girls were just made very happy. L.A. tells Simon he just met his match. Simon has a bag of tricks, but L.A. thinks his is a little deeper.
It seems they gave the judges categories that will challenge them, that is, Nicole and Paula. Simply put, L.A. and Simon aren’t going to be challenged no matter what, as this is what they do. And already next week, although it was hard to cut these categories down to eight apiece, they’ll be down to four in each category after spending time in the judges’ homes. At this point, I can’t imagine losing any more than a handful collectively from all the categories.
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