|If you’re a contestant on X-Factor this week, are you more excited to still be in it, making it through the auditions and Las Vegas, or are you more excited to be going to the home of one of the judges, the person who will serve as your mentor throughout the competition? One week they’re someone who has always had the dream to be a recording star, but has been living an everyday existence, and now they’ll be spending time at Simon Cowell’s home, or Paula Abdul’s, Nicole Scherzinger’s, or L.A. Reid’s. It has to be mind-boggling for them.
After waiting an entire extra day because of the baseball playoffs, we learn the group category are headed to Paula’s house in Santa Barbara, the Boys under 30 are heading to L.A.’s place in the Hamptons, the Over 30s are headed to Nicole’s place in Malibu, and the Girls under 30 are headed to Simon’s place in France. Hmmm. Who made out better here? Frankly, I’d rather be in any of those places than where I am now, and the contestants probably feel the same. But France has a certain extra allure over Santa Barbara. Rachel Crow, 13, of Boulder, Colorado asks how many girls her age get to say they’re going to France.
The girls, Rachel, Caitlin Koch, Tora Woloshin, Simone Battle, Drew Ryniewicz, Jazzlyn Little, Melanie Amoro, and Tiah Tolliver, who don’t know who their mentor will be yet, arrive in France, and they pose for pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower, of course, Rachel is hoping someday they’ll get to live here when their careers take off. The eight girls meet Simon, and everyone is happy. He tells them this is absolutely the category he wanted, as he knows the winner is one of them.
In Santa Barbara, the groups arrive and try to figure out who it is that lives in this palatial mansion. They include The Stereo Hoggz, 2Squar’d, 4Shore, The Brewer Boys, Illusion Confusion, and Anser, and the two new groups formed from other acts, Intensity, and Lakoda Rayne. Paula feels there is no one better than her to work with them, as she has built a whole career out of choreography and staging. She greets them all with a hug. A member of 2Squar’d mentions that Paula represents everything a woman wants to be, and I’m not sure what that means.
The Over 30s, Elaine Gibbs, Tiger Budbill, Leroy Bell, James Kenny, Josh Krajcik, Christa Collins, Dexter Haygood, and Stacy Francis, arrive in Malibu. Leroy thinks it must be Simon’s house they’re at, as it’s the biggest house in the neighborhood. Instead, it’s Nicole’s, and she mentions she loves this category, as each of them have a story to tell. They meet her and are a little less bubbly than than the Girls under 30. Tiger thinks Nicole is the only one of the judges that knows what they’re going through, as she came up and made it to the top. He’s old enough that he should remember Paula’s chart-topping hits. She did make it to the top and has fought hard since.
In the Hamptons, the Boys under 30, Brennin Hunt, Brian Bradley, Skyelor Anderson, Nick Voss, Tim Ciphers, Phillip Lomax, Marcus Canty, and Chris Rene, are living it up. This is how Marcus wants to live. L.A. figures pound for pound, they have the most talent. They’re excited to see L.A. is their their mentor. Phillip is worried his style is a little different than what L.A. is looking for, and Chris just feels blessed.
Each judge has another person from the music industry to help them shape this talent. Nicole and the Over 30s get help from Enrique Iglesias. It’s going to be hard for Christa to focus, because he’s just so pretty. He explains when Nicole invited him, he was extremely happy, because they get along, are good friends, and have worked together in the past. For him it’s about the uniqueness.
Paula’s guest is Pharrell. Some, as well as me, seem to have no idea who this guy is, but others are ecstatic just at the mention of the name. Simon’s special guest was supposed to be Mariah Carey, but because of Hurricane Irene, her plane didn’t take off, leaving Simon to judge the girls on his own. L.A. introduces his special guest, Rihanna. L.A. is the one who originally signed her. He definitely has an eye for talent, doesn’t he?
Brian, 14, of Brooklyn, is the first to perform for L.A. and Rihanna. He was impressed with him during his audition, but felt later in Boot Camp he was too young. A lot of people told him he wasn’t going to make it far because he was a rapper, but to be top eight in his category, it tells him he’s talented. He thinks this house looks like the perfect one for himself and his mom to live in. He’s practicing every single night, because he wants to make it to the live shows. He even practiced after his mom told him to stop. L.A.’s backyard is missing some acoustics. It’s hard to hear Brian over the music track.
Rihanna and L.A. seem like they’re enjoying Brian. Rihanna has a hard time commenting after, but does say he’s cute, like a mini J-Cool. She likes his confidence, and can’t believe he’s just 14. L.A. knows the country has never judged a rapper in this type of environment, and is worried he’ll be seen as a novelty.
Simone, 22, of L.A., has seemed to be more into being a star than a singer. Regardless, she’s wanted to be a singer since she was 4. She forgot her words in her last performance, and wants to be sure she’s on point this time. She sings the Beatles’ Help, and adds her own spin, slowing it down quite a bit. I’ve never liked her as much as I do now. However, the song does tend to drag a little. She admits afterwards that her voice cracked a few times because she was so nervous,
Simon isn’t truly doing this alone. He’s getting some insight from vocal coach Savan Kotecha and producers Graham Stack and Ray Hedges. They discuss how badly Simone messed up. It doesn’t bother Simon, though, as he feels the crack added to the emotion of the performance. He just thinks she’s fantastic.