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X-Factor, Oct. 18 – Simon and His Plus One

Determining the top 24 or the top 20 is always a tough decision for the judges, and there always seems to be some audience favorites left out of the mix. But to take the final 32 and pare it down to the final 16 like this just seems like an impossible feat. I cannot think of 16 singers I want to get rid of tonight. Regardless, it’s going to happen. The judges will be paring down their groups, eliminating half of them. There’s going to be some hard knocks doled out, particularly to the Girls Under 30 and Over 30 categories.

Simon Cowell gets up the morning after listening to his eight Girls Under 30, having slept on his decision. His problem is he genuinely likes all of them. The first two up to hear the decision are college students Tora Woloshin, 22, of Tucson, and Simone Battle, 22, of L.A. There’s nothing else Simone would rather do than be a pop star, and she knows she’ll never have a chance like this one again. Tora hopes she did enough to get through; it’s her life. 

Simone has tears before even hearing a judgement. Simon then makes it worse, by telling her he’s loved her since the beginning, but forgetting the lyrics is a problem. Tora is told she’s current and different, but the not-great news is that she’s in what Simon considers the strongest category. Tora did not make it through, surprisingly. Simone did, surprisingly. Why it’s surprising is because Tora seemed to have the “X-Factor.” She had something special. 

Drew Ryniewicz, 14, of Chino Valley, Arizona, is the next to hear her judgement. I like this kid a lot, but I wouldn’t be crushed to not have to spell her name anymore. Her expectation is to be normal, not to do anything big. She wants to show teenage girls they can become something and don’t have to follow what others tell them to be. Simon tells her he saw an improvement in her, and she could not have done more, but he can only take four people, and she wasn’t the best teenager, but was the best of the entire day. She’s through. I’ll have to commit that spelling to memory somehow.

It’s Nicole Scherzinger’s turn to make some decisions in the Over 30 category. She feels these people’s lives and families on her shoulders. The first to hear the news from her will be Josh Krajcik, 30, a burrito maker from Columbus, Ohio. Each day has had a moment that was the biggest of his life. He knows at this point he just has to believe. All last year he only made $13,000 to $14,000. He wants to pay for his daughter’s college. Nicole tells him what is so great about him is he is so unassuming, but has such a big voice and so much soul, yet she isn’t sure if the “guy next door” is a superstar. All that considered, she has decided to keep him. 

 Three more are up to hear Nicole’s decisions. Christa Collins, 32, a hairdresser from L.A., is amazed to still be there, even though she was the first Disney recording star. She knows it’s her second chance at the life she was supposed to have. James Kenny, 34, of West Hollywood, was a pure ball of raging emotion during his performance, but he says this is why he works five jobs, to take care of his family. He’d rather live the dream and have his kids see that. Dexter Haygood, 49, a bar singer from Memphis, admits this competition has lit a spark in him. He knows he fumbled a little in his performance this time, and currently, he’s homeless. 

They all face Nicole separately. Christa is told as an artist she’s unique, but there’s still room for growth. James is told the way he is able to be vulnerable onstage isn’t something everyone can do, yet she’s not sure he’s the solo artist she’s looking for. Dexter hears he has an energy and a light about him, and he has a good voice, yet with him it’s like hit or miss. With Dexter, her head says one thing, and her heart another. But she has a big heart, and decided to go with it. Dexter is in; Nicole is not taking Christa or James. She wants Dexter to make her proud. He has somewhere to live. I hope Nicole doesn’t mind, but he jumps in her pool. Maybe he’s living there.

We go now to Paula Abdul’s house. The first three groups to hear her decision are 2 Squar’d, The Brewer Boys, and Illusion Confusion. The latter knows it will be a nightmare if it ends here. The gals in 2 Squar’d have quit their jobs and have bank accounts hovering around zero. For them there is no turning back. The Brewer Boys are closer than they were beforehand, and want the whole world to hear their music.

Paula tells Illusion Confusion that honestly they lacked in showmanship. 2 Squar’d are told their tender vocals and harmonies were spot on, but sometimes they will be asked as performers to sing songs that don’t seem right to them, She knows there are people who connect with The Brewer Boys’ sound, and people who don’t. She made her decision. Paula will not be taking Illusion Confusion or 2 Squar’d. One of the guys in Illusion Confusion is “mad as hell.” Of course, the Brewer Boys make it through. They can’t believe they are one of the sixteen acts making it out of 100,000.

Next up of the groups is 4Shore. Their friendship is built up out of the love they all have for music. It’s hard for them to practice, as they all go to different schools. They heard about the auditions, and decided to try it, and if it didn’t work out, to disband the group, and here they are. Paula tells them they are technically the most beuatiful sounding. Yet, there are times she questioned who was the lead, as a group needs that. She’s not able to take them to the live show, and she is so sorry. The group doesn’t feel this chance was in vain, though, feeling something will come of this.

We travel to L.A. Reid’s house in the Hamptons, where Brian Bradley, 14, of Brooklyn, will be the first to hear L.A.’s decision. If he gets chosen to go to the live shows, he knows his life will change. He won’t be able to walk into the corner store anymore, but will be able to buy his mom a great gift for Mother’s Day. Be proud, Mom! He’s a good kid. L.A. tells him he ws impressed with him the first time he saw him, yet he is struggling with if he will be able to maintain the right kind of attitude. He’ll get the chance, though, as he’s moving on.

Skyelor Anderson, 16, Southaven, Mississippi, is known as the black guy that sings country. He likes that genre becuse of the story it tells. Nick Voss, 22, of Hialeah, Florida, has wanted to be a star since he was 5 years old. He needs the opportunity for himself and his family. Brennin Hunt, 26, a graphic designer from Nashville, again mentions his age, feeling he’s getting too old for the industry standard. He may seem confident, but he’s really insecure. Phillip Lomax, 22, of Seattle, is worried that his style of singing is so particular and could be considered old-fashioned. These four guys are up next to hear their judgements from L.A. 

L.A. tells Nick there are moments of brilliance that he loves, but he struggles with thinking he hasn’t quite found his place as an artist yet. He tells Skyelor he thought his performance here was particularly good, but to be so specific about country, he finds limits him. Brennin hears that L.A. thinks his voice is amazing and that he really is a star. At the same time, he feels it’s a turbulent ride. L.A. found real moments of beauty in Phiillip’s voice, but he can’t have him giving him Sinatra every night. Nick, Skyelor, and Brennin won’t be moving on. Phillip is going through, because L.A. believes in him. Phillip promises to make him proud, and walking away, collapses a little.

It’s back to France with Simon. Up next to hear her judgement is Jazzlyn Little, 16, of Cape Coral, Florida, who knows confidence is her biggest obstacle. It’s terrifying to her, but throughout that, she still wants it. Simon explains that what he first loved about her when he first met her was her grit, yet that ended up being polished off in her time with the show. She’s here because of her potential, and because when she gets it together and believes in herself, she’s a great singer, and he thinks people will like her, because he likes her. He has to let her go, though. He wraps her up in his arms after giving her the news. Simone consoles her.

Leroy Bell, 60, a songwriter from Seattle, notes that each time the stakes get higher. yet that makes him want it more. He doesn’t want it any less than the younger people there. He’s not even close to thinking of retiring. Tiger Budbill, 42, a wedding singer from Bothell, Virginia, knows this show is giving him another chance to do what he loves. He’s not working as much as a DJ, and his house is about to be auctioned off. They get their decisions next from Nicole.

It isn’t possible for Nicole to hide her feelings as she doles out her judgements. She wears them on her sleeve, on her face, and all around her. There is no faking out on her part. She tells Leroy he has a really beautiful voice, and not only is he amazingly talented, but an amazing artist, yet she doesn’t know if he wants it enough. She tells Tiger she was blown away from him in the beginning, and has felt like she has seen him grow in the process. He’s a talented singer and amazing spirit and energy. On the other hand, she doesn’t always connect with him, and she wants more. Tiger isn’t going through, and she cries after she hugs him and he leaves, because he told her he felt his heart drop. Leroy, though, is “so going through.” She claps for the situation and hugs him. 

Chris Rene, 28, a trash collector from Santa Cruz, is next to hear his judgement from L.A. He had told Chris at his audition that Jay-Z and Kanye would be proud of him telling Chris he was the truth, but he had to stay straight. Chris experienced his darkest days in the hospital barely hanging on a few months ago and knew he needed a change. L.A. tells him now that he’s liked him from the beginning, but knows he’s had some struggles. He found his recent performance good, but has heard him better. He wonders if he’s the performer he felt he was from the beginning. L.A. has a better poker face than Nicole. It’s a yes. Chris calls his sister Gina, the one who was cut before making it to the judges’ homes.

Two more groups are up to hear judgements from Paula. They are the two groups created by the audition leftovers. Lakoda Rayne feel everything is on the line. Intensity feels the same, and no one wants it to be over. Paula tells the girl group she sensed an energy that was off with them, and she needs them to connect more and needs to work with them on facial expressions. She informs Intensity that watching them, she saw ten different personalities, and ten different talents. The boys really emerged, but the girls need to work on blending in more. She wondered if they could improve. She chooses Lakoda Rayne to go through, and also chooses Intensity. 

Two more acts are up to hear judgements from Seattle. Caitlin Koch, 21, a rugby coach from Buffalo, knows getting through would be the greatest opportunity in her life. She just wants to performt all the time, but if she doesn’t make it, she will continue with her rugby while singing to no one in a bar. Tiah Tolliver, 20, a deli clerk from Bremerton, Washington, a personal favorite of Simon’s, knows her audition didn’t go the way she wanted it to, and she worked hard for Simon, knowing he was in her corner.

Simon asks Tiah if she did her best, and she thinks she did. When she walked onstage he saw a little star walk out, but she has some pitch issues, and there was so much more that could have come out. The only thing wrong is that he’s the only person that seemed to like her. He wants to know what Caitlin felt about her performance this time, and she thought she really connected with the song, which he agrees with. He thinks she has an interesting voice and is beautiful. Caitlin isn’t going through. He says after he didn’t like doing that. This means Tiah is one of his four. He tells her she has the potential and needs to start believing in herself.

There is one spot and two Guys Under 30 left. Tim Cifers, 30, a sales manager from Willow Springs, North Carolina, says he is your everyday country guy, but his dream is to give his family the life they deserve. This is it for him, as he has to work to support his family, so he can’t quit to pursue a singing career. This will determine the rest of his life. Marcus Canty, 20, of Bowie, Maryland, grew up in a neighborhood that wasn’t the best, and music was what took his mind to a different place. His mom gave him two years, and this is his last chance to make this work. Both of these guys have a lot on the line for this last spot.

L.A. tells Tim he is amazing and he loves his voice tone. Rihanna had found his very humble nature to be very endearing. He knows Tim is doing it for his family, but it might take a little selfishness to become a star.  L.A. informs Marcus that in his last performance, he was really good, and it was a better display of his vocals than he’d heard before. Yet, he’s wondered how Marcus would fit in a musical landscape. Tim is being sent home, even though L.A. thinks he’s really great. This means Marcus is the last of his final four.

The last two groups in front of Paula are the Stereo Hoggz and The Anser. The latter feels this has only bonded them even more, becoming like brothers. They bought matching rings to show their commitment to their music. One of them works in a burger joint and goes back there if they don’t make it. Stereo Hoggz have the same dream, and one of them says he doesn’t even have a backup plan. They know the opportunity won’t come again.

Paula tells Stereo Hoggz they’re dressed very nicely. The lead singer has a voice that is natural. The other four need to really commit to building their vocals up, and she knows she’s not the first person to tell them that.  She tells The Anser it’s a tough day again. They know they’re talented and have a gift, and have three solid vocals, but they don’t always blend together. She’s not taking them forward, meaning the Stereo Hoggz get the last spot. Lakoda Rayne cries for The Anser guys, as the Stereo Hoggz jump in a fountain.

There is one spot left for the Over 30s. Elaine Gibbs, 53, a wedding singer from L.A. notes she has had to go through everything she has in her 53 years in life to get to this place today. She asks the interviewer if they have ever wanted something so bad and reached for it and lost it or reached for it and grabbed it. That’s where she’s at. While Stacy Francis, 42, a stay-at-home mom from L.A., was standing in line at the auditions, she heard her first husband’s voice telling her she wasn’t good enough. She decided then she was turning it off. Her confidence has built with each step in the process.

Nicole tells Elaine she has to be one of the most talented singers she’s ever come upon in her life. The X-FActor isn’t just about the best voice, though. It’s about having personality, charisma, and command of the stage.  Stacy hears she has an amazing voice; there’s no question about that. What she’s looking for is someone who has the confidence and belief in themselves. It’s such a hard business, and Nicole doesn’t know if she can handle it. This is the hardest decision she’s had to make; it’s Elaine not going through. Nicole sobs because she knows Elaine was counting on it the most. Stacy hears she is being taken through and it brings me to tears right along with Stacy and Nicole.  Stacy feels after so many times of not being good enough, she finally is. Here’s the secret, Hon. You were good enough all along.

And the last two girls up are the two I thought had the best chance of making it, but only one will go through. I’m heartbroken, and can’t believe he picked Tiah over one of them. Melanie Amaro, 19, of Sunrise, Florida, knew onstage this was what she wanted to do the rest of her life. She wonders if her performance was enough to get her through. Rachel Crow, 13, of Boulder, Colorado, has always loved to sing, and calls the first audition exciting, with the rest of it being a roller coaster. She again talks about not being from a wealthy family, and wants the money for that. All told, if I had to make a choice, I think Rachel has more of an “X-Factor” than Melanie. Melanie may have the better voice at this stage, but I think Rachel has that something extra.

Rachel admits to Simon she’s a bit nervous, but feels she’s toughing it out. He loved her first audition, but wasn’t expecting how good the others were going to be. She came in as a clear favorite, but he had to put the people through he felt he could work with and turn into a recording artist. He tells Melanie she has a heck of a voice, and he will never forget her first audition. She didn’t make it, and he admits he hated doing it. That must be the one we saw in the promos of him putting down on the table saying, “I didn’t just do that.” He admits he doesn’t like his job sometimes. Rachel, of course, did make it. He asks her how he could say no to her as he wraps her up in a hug. Now he likes his job. 

Simon is regretting his decision as night falls and feels it in his gut that he made a mistake. He goes to Sunrise, Florida, Oh my God, this is the best. He admits the other judges were asking him what he was thinking. He has to right his wrong, and Melanie has no idea he’s on his way to her doorstep. He gets to her trailer home, and a man answers and quietly lets him in. Melanie is watching TV and freaks out. He wants to personally apologize, and says they are asking her to come back into the competition. She doesn’t know what to say, but her family answers for her. “Yes!” A man in the house states that Simon does “have a heart.” All is good.

That’s what truly separates men from the boys, the ability to admit you made a mistake. However, it is his show, and he had that opportunity. Would Paula, Nicole, or L.A. have been afforded that same opportunity to right their wrong? It doesn’t matter at this point, but it is something to ponder. 

Either way, it’s a great final sixteen, and there aren’t any favorites of mine missing, other than ones I saw when I attended the Chicago auditions. I saw a group, the Badrigals, who were amazingly good, and got a great audience reaction. They made it, but were cut early on in Vegas. They had such unworthy groups in the very end, they had to make up two groups to come up with eight. It’s the weakest category, but would have been stronger if they had allowed the Badrigals through. It’s too bad Simon is only recognizing the mistake he made with Melanie. I know they were stronger than any of the groups Paula chose, especially the two they created.

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