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X-Factor, Sept. 22 – The Lesson: Be Yourself

The first night of auditions for X-Factor went pretty well last night. In some ways it was reminiscent of American Idol, but in other ways it was much different. There was some great talent put through, and some great stories behind the talent, just like we find on Idol. I’m hoping for more of the same tonight in Miami and Dallas.

The judges in Miami are Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, L.A. Reid, and Nicole Scherzinger. First up is Ashley Sansone, 29. She’s an unemployed starving artist, although not truly starving, as she has not one, but two hot dogs with her. She figures people think she’s a pop singer already because of her outfits. She also can’t stop talking, as she tells her friend something about having to pee because of something pressing on her diaphragm. She’s asked who inspires her and first says herself, then says she doesn’t want to be cornball singing about gummy bears. She likes Madonna and gives her big props … Simon interrupters her asking if she works, which of course she doesn’t, but she continues on anyway.

Paula gets exhausted listening to Ashley and L.A.tells her to sing. She takes off her shoes and sings Piece of My Heart … badly. She does the whole thing in such a growl that you can’t understand her. L.A. hopes she has really thick skin, noting she was getting on his nerves when she was talking, but once she started singing, he wanted to slit his wrists. Simon explains the problem. He couldn’t understand a single word she sang. She asks if she can sing a ballad, and the audience cries no. She’s dismissed.

Chanel Simone Dixon, 34, a hairdresser, has a blonde flip hairstyle, black leggings, red boots, and a yellow one-shoulder top. She gets noes and is shocked. Demanding an explanation, Simon tells her it was awful as it sounded like all screaming. She vows to continue singing unless she dies. A group of three guys, Kanan Road, ages 27-30, a salesman and account managers, vow it won’t be the last time we see them when they’re rejected.

Mother and daughter group DreamGirlz, ages 39 and 15, a dog shelter associate and student, are stopped after just a few words by Simon, who says he can’t believe this act could sell records. One of the thirty family members they brought with them says that’s “bull…” When the other judges say no, he demands they get him out of this place and tells “Mom” it’s ridiculous. She tells him he’s embarrassing the family. He swears and yells all the way out.

Simon tells the other three judges it was his mistake when he told them not to worry about Miami. Marissa Hopson, 25, an Internet blogger, is told by Simon she sings like a 3-year-old with a cold. Famous Miami native Gloria Estefan shows up at the auditions, telling everyone to show the judges what makes Miami special, and so far they haven’t been.

Caitlynne Curtis, 16, a student, brought her whole family with her today and feels extremely lucky her family supports and believes in her. She’s so nervous, she’s gone to the bathroom “like ten times so far.” Her mom is a pharmacy tech and her dad a printer, but she wants to be a singer. She sings the piano version of Firework and for the first time tonight, it sounds promising, despite her seeming a little nervous in the beginning.

Nicole thinks Caitlynne shows room to grow. Simon tells her it’s not good news coming from Nicole. His advice is that she should sing in a group with three or four others her age where she doesn’t have to rely on a fantastic vocal. He doesn’t think her voice is good enough. Caitlynne tells them she’s just really nervous. Simon votes no, and Nicole thinks they just don’t have enough time to allow her to grow. Caitlynne starts to cry, and Paula begs her to please not break down. Paula goes up on the stage and hugs her and tells her it’s okay. Caitlynne just begs her to not say no. L.A. tells her it’s moments like this that creates champions. She doesn’t even care about the money and just wants to sing.

Simon is calling this the worst session. Nick Voss, 21, lives in a three-bedroom house with seven people, but they’re a strong family, so like to stay together. Paula and Simon talk backstage about their concerns. Nick got a job recently to help his mom with the bills, and his boss told him if he goes to the audition, he’s fired. He told him to fire him. His family thinks he’ll be the first to make it through today. He wants this for them. He tells the judges he feels like more of a performing artist than anything and that this would change his life. He got fired from a job for dancing. He sings Trouble, and definitely is a performance artist. He doesn’t have the best voice, but could have the X Factor.

As the crowd cheers for the first time today, L.A. tells Nick if it were purely the singing business, he wouldn’t have great things to say, but because it’s about the entertainment business in general, and because he brought it into the room and for the first time today made him excited, he’s impressed. Nicole was confused at first, because he’s like Jim Carrey meets Jerry Lewis, with a little sprinkle of Elvis, but she digs him. Paula advises him to keep being unique and lose the Michael Jackson choreography. If he keeps performing like he did, that’s what people pay money for, and if he can work on his vocals, that’s what makes her excited. Simon absolutely loves him. He loves that he got emotional talking to him. He’s looking for an entertainer, and likes him. He gets four yeses.

Ashley Deckard, 14, a student, is also a ghost hunter, and admits to seeing apparitions many times before. One crawled at her. She knows Simon is looking for different, and she knows that’s her. When Simon asks her what the ghosts look like, she tells him they look like people. Paula knows what she’s talking bout, as she sees ghosts too. Launching into her audition, Ashley might be best sticking to the ghost hunting.

L.A. is fascinated by Ashley on many levels, but the singing was the least of them. She gets four noes, and Simon is worried about demons coming to the auditions. With a bunch of bad auditions that follow, it seems to be happening. The lights flicker out, and as they wonder what’s happening, L.A. says it was the ghost girl. They asked her to bring her friends, and she did. Kevin Martin, 54, a delivery man, tells the judges people tell him it’s beautiful when he sings. Yet, he chooses to sing You Should Be Dancing … all in falsetto. He’s sent home. The lights flicker again, and the people behind the scenes don’t know what’s going on.

All in black, Marivana Viscuso, 55, an ex-music teacher, is asked if she has met any of the previous contestants before, and claims she hasn’t. I don’t know what to think good, bad, or indifferent, as she sings Summertime. It reminds Simon of wolves mating in the forest. She gets through, as Paula admits she might have been possessed, but she loved it. Simon turns to her and says that’s exactly how he felt. L.A. thinks they might be under a spell.

The group 2Squar’d, four women ages 24 through 28, perform with a definite Miami sound. Nicole loved the energy they came out with and the message that the beauty is from within. They get four yeses and are through. Kendra Williams, 32, a teacher, can belt it out and brings the audience to their feet. Nicole tells her she has a gift that is not to be wasted. She, too, gets four yeses. Brendan O’Hara, 30, a music instructor, appears to connect with Nicole. Simon tells him he has a fantastic voice and could sell a ton of records. He’s through. Jeremiah Pagan, 22, a college student, admits he’s a male soprano, so sings somewhat high. He’s good. L.A. tells him that voices like his are why great songs are written. He gets three yeses.

Melanie Amaro, 18, a college student, sings everywhere, and has her family’s support. She doesn’t want to disappoint them. Asked if she’s good, she replies she’ll let the judges decide. She sings Beyonce’s Listen, and is quite good. L.A. enjoys it with his eyes closed. Nicole and Paula give her a standing ovation before she even finishes, and Nicole even breaks out in tears. The audience and all the judge are in the standing O by the end.

L.A. tells Melanie she is truly amazing. She has the gift, the soul, the spirit, the swagger, and the X Factor. Nicole, still in tears, says this is why she does this. People like Melanie inspire her. Paula says she has a unique ability unlike anything they’ve heard, and unlike anything she’s ever heard in any audition she’s been in. When Simon was asked why he was bringing this show to America, it was because they hoped they’d find someone like her. L.A. walked away from a lot to do this show, and she just made it all worthwhile. Yeah, she’s through.

It’s on to Dallas, with the first auditioner being Jonny Rogers, 17, a student. He’s got some Justin Bieber hair thing going on, saying no one else in school has hair like this, and he spends a lot of time making sure it’s perfect, but hates when people compare his hair to Bieber’s, as he feels like he had it first. He wants to dance, but his mom tells him not to. Simon asks if he knows who he looks like, but says Barbie’s boyfriend Ken, not Bieber. When asked if he likes Bieber, he says he has a good voice, so kind of wishes he was in his spot. He sings one of his own songs, and dances anyway. Take that, Mom. It’s not good. Those Miami demons might have followed the show to Dallas. The crowd goes wild at the end.

L.A. liked the energy and his presence and says he’s entertaining for sure. Nicole loved the choreography, as he tells her he has a lot more. Paula loves surprises, and he surprised her like there was no tomorrow. It reminded Simon of a factory in China and being given an order to manufacture a bunch of Justin Bieber dolls that sing and dance, but it kind of goes wrong in production. He’s let down very easily, especially by Simon, who tells him to keep up the enthusiasm.

Nicole is embracing everything that Dallas is, loving the fried chicken and gravy, as well as the peanut butter cookies. Simon thinks she’s gotten very southern since arriving, and in fact she’s saying “y’all” quite frequently. She’s also calling people “Sugar.”

Dylan Lawson, 18, a student, lives out in the boondocks, and loves playing music. It runs through his family. This isn’t about winning the show for him, but going on and progressing with the future of music. He sold his truck, and took that money to fly here from Kentucky to audition. He’s done everything he set his mind to, and here he is. Nicole asks him what he would buy with a five million dollar recording contract, and L.A. cracks, “A truck.” Simon guesses talking isn’t his strong suit and moves on to the singing. I don’t think you can call it singing, though, as he just moves around the stage screaming obscenities, then falls down on the stage face first. Simon tells him it was horrible and that it’s time to leave the stage.

Wesley Kimbell, 40, a sales associate, sings Shine Down and only elicits a dropped jaw from Nicole. Michael and Michelle, a bank teller and personal trainer, 19 and 21, are up next. This heavyset guy being a personal trainer elicits surprised looks from the judges. They aren’t bad, but can’t harmonize at all. It makes Simon uncomfortable that Michael was pawing Michelle while he sang to her. It’s a no. Curtis Lawson, 19, a street vendor is nicknamed “Phoenix” because he dances through fire. Nicole notices the dreamcatcher he’s using as a belt buckle. L.A. cracks it just caught some dreams. He sings something that makes it seem like the demons definitely followed them to Dallas. Nicole feels violated. I don’t think he caught her dreams.

Dexter Haygood, 49, a bar singer, sees himself as a rock and roll soul man, with Mick Jagger, James Brown, and Elvis Presley all in there. It’s the high heels he’s wearing that I can’t stop thinking about.  He was in a band called Xavion back in 1984, but has been homeless since 1989 and lives from couch to couch after losing his house in foreclosure. He hopes this is his payoff, as the hope and psssion is what’s keeping him alive. He considers this a second chance. He tells Nicole he has children her age, then runs off and chases the ring he dropped. Simon knows what’s coming, and here it is, classic James Brown. It’s not bad, though.

Simon only sees this as a tribute act, and Paula would have loved to see more originality. Simon asks for another song, fifteen seconds a cappella. He sings It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World and doesn’t have the best voice, but is very compelling. Simon tells him this is what they call taking his moment. L.A. tells him he definitely turned the place out. With the crowd cheering behind him, he goes out on a limb and says yes. Nicole calls Dexter one the funkiest cats and says yes. Paula needs him to come back as Dexter, and not James Brown. He agrees, and she says yes. Simon thinks the first song was a bit of a joke, and that’s why he had him sing again. He doesn’t know what happened in his life, but he can actually sing, and he has soul. That’s why he gets four yeses. That just gave me the chills.

Dallas finally brings it as more people get through. Kyle Corr, 20, a hog farmer, notes there will be no more singing in front of the pigs. He knew this was what he was supposed to do. Hannah Jackson, 31, a teacher, worked so hard and feels like the door to the birdcage is flinging wide open. Ma’at Bingham Shango, 12, a student, makes it as well. Austin Simmons, 23, a hairdresser, only feels at home on the stage.

Caitlin Koch, 21, a rugy player and coach, is up next. Rugby is a rough sport, and she gets hurt a lot, but her real dream is to be a singer. She tells Simon she’s a rugby scrum-half, which is like a quarterback in football. She sings Stop, In the Name of Love, with a little twist. She sings it slowly, singing from the heart, and brings the emotion. She totally soaks in the applause, to which there are a lot.

L.A. tells Caitlin it was really special and that he likes her a lot. Nicole feels it would be an honor for her to work with Caitlin in the competition. Paula thinks she has a great, individual, authentic voice. Simon noticed she was almost losing control, but came out in control in the end. She did something he’d never heard with the song, and that’s what he liked. With a “big ole fat, juicy, delicious yes” from Nicole and “mustard, lettuce, and pickles on top” from Paula, Caitlin is through with four yeses.

Xander Alexander, 27, unemployed, says that 5 million is a lot, but when you’re worth 100 million, he doesn’t want them restricting his career. His musical idols are Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, before they lost it. He wants to be Donald Trump meets Martha Stewart without the jail time, meets Britney Spears, without the ugly husband. He gets offended when people call him Alexander, and knows he has what it takes. He’s black and Phillipino like Bruno Mars, but his hair isn’t nappy and he’s not chubby.

Xander debates his name with Simon and talks about his outfit with L.A. Simon addresses him as Alexander, and of course he flips out. He asks if he’s going to sing or not, wanting to sing I’ll Be. If he was to really perform he’d have his backup dancers out there in six inch stilettos. Simon asks if he’s ever performed in public before, and he responds by asking Simon if he’s ever worn a shirt that wasn’t grey. Simon calls him Alexander again, and Xander tells him to stop. He threatens to take Simon outside, and Simon offers one more chance, and tells him to shut it and start singing. He’s actually not bad. Simon tells him no way, as Nicole asks for another song. He gets out a note and starts making excuses about only having ballads prepared. Once he shuts up and stops trying to be the cool guy, he really is pretty good.

L.A. tells Xander vocally, it’s not so much, but he was very entertaining. Simon finally calls him by the right name, pleasing him to no end, and tells him he quite likes him. He’s lippy and gobby, but interesting. He’d like to hear him without nerves, but thinks him onstage with a full production would potentially be very good, even though it wsn’t a great audition. Paula tells him he’s her hero, but wants him to stop pretending to cry. He swears it’s not pretending.

Nicole advises Xander that while he has talent and Xander Xing, to get the audience to fall in love with him, he has to drop the ‘tude. L.A. says no, Nicole says yes, Paula says no. Simon tells him he needs three yeses; it’s too late. But where he blew this was getting the audience to hate him. The minute someone criticizes him, he turns into a bitchy, nasty diva. Backstsage, he suddenly loses that ‘tude, but it’s a bit too late.

I kind of wish Xander would have made it through. Yeah, he was annoying, but there might have been a diamond in the rough in there. To me isn’t any different than Dexter. Both he and Xander were pretending to be something they weren’t. If Dexter deserved to move on and prove himself, I feel Xander should have been too. The lesson in all this, though, is to not pretend to be something you’re not. It never gets them through, even if the rejection of being yourself is ultimately more painful.

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