It seems like the X-Factor just started, but already tonight is the last of the auditions. Unlike American Idol, we don’t have to sit through weeks on end of this. We don’t have to have a whole night of “Best of the Worst” or “Worst of the Best.” This is the best way to go out, to leave us wanting more.
With Cheryl Cole permanently removed from the situation, our judges tonight are Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger, and L.A. Reid. Our first city tonight is Newark, New Jersey. No sight of anyone from Jersey Shore in the audience.
First up tonight is Brian Bradley, 14, a student. His mom and step dad are both huge supporters of him. He has an insane love of music, and feels it’s in his blood. He’d like to be bigger than Jay-Z or Kanye West. He figures he’ll be better than Jay-Z in five years, and tells Simon he hasn’t had a record deal yet because of politics. He yo-yo-yos Simon and asks him what his problem is and if he’s serious. He takes his hat off and leads into his audition. He’s pretty good and definitely has “it.” He gets the crowd on their feet and Paula raps with him … as Simon smiles.
Nicole tells Brian she’s scared of him and isn’t going to look at his mom. Simon tells him he’s arrogant, obnoxious, and argumentative, but one of the most talented young people he’s heard in a long, long time. This is why the show is in New Jersey. Paula sees Brian as very unique, operating in that place that is just fantastic. L.A. tells him he used to run the Def Jam label, and all those years he was looking for Brian, but he never walked in. He’s the luckiest man in the world that he walked in today. He gets four yeses, as Simon says he’s never seen anything like that.
Kelly Warner, 22, a hairdresser in a nursing home, takes the stage with much bounciness.
She sings Hallelujah, and does quite well. L.A. likes her beautiful voice, as do the others. She gets four yeses. Aaron Surgeon, 27, a store manager, wants to be a pop star with an R&B/rock edge. He sings I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing,, and is better than average, but wasn’t knocking my socks off. Nicole felt it was genuine, and Simon thought it was average. He says no. L.A. thinks he has what it takes and puts him through. I guess my opinion falls somewhere between Simon’s and L.A.’s
Liliana Rose Andreano, 26, works in an office and sings in her cubicle. She sings Your Are My Sunshine quite uniquely. Simon tells her she doesn’t look like a pop star until she starts singing. She surprised him, and he likes her a lot. She’s one of his favorites on the day, and an easy, easy yes.
Andy Silikovitz, 43, wants to get a recording contact, a nice house, and maybe even be on an episode of MTV Cribs. He wants to be an opening act for Billy Joel. Another interesting tidbit is that he hasn’t ever kissed a girl, but thinks he’ll have lots of that if he wins. L.A. promises him if he gets real far, he’ll get a girlfriend. He sings Hero, and probably won’t be making it very far based on this audition. L.A. says no, but applauds him for having a great time. Nicole also says no, as do Paula and Simon. He does think he’ll find it easier with the chicks, and offers him Paula’s number. Awfully nice of him. She hugs him, but I don’t see any exchanging of numbers.
Josh Katzman, 22, a college graduate sings House of the Rising Sun with the same note throughout. While he does this, Simon is hand-feeding Paula. Josh gets four noes.
Clarissa “Kashmir” Cheatham, 27, an office clerk, spends her time at work daydreaming about being onstage and being famous. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She likes singing karaoke, and people that don’t even know her yell and scream her name. This gives Simon the giggles. Her first album would be self-titled. She sings Always Be My Baby, is off with the first “ooh,” and it goes downhill from there. Simon laughs and says when people screamed during her karaoke, he doesn’t think it was a compliment. He apologizes, saying it’s just one of those days. She gets four noes.
Nouf Taraman, 21, a bartender, says she’s in it to win it. She gets booed and stops, telling the crowd if they keep booing her, “how am I supposed to do anything?” Jean Loup Wolfman, 42, a life coach, takes the stage while dancing in a hula hoop. Asked why, he explains because no one is doing it. Simon points out no one is sitting there with a dog on their head either, but there’s a reason why not. He sings Think, and you would “think” a life coach would know better than to try this ill-advised audition. He thinks he sounds good, but L.A. corrects him. Simon points out for someone who does therapy, he’s really uptight.
Paula gives a round of applause to hear that Maya Lehmann, a teacher, is 58, as she doesn’t look it. She sings We Are the Champions, and there’s just really no way to describe it. Nicole tells her it’s hard, as she really likes the song, but she says no, as do the others. Maya feels her voice is very beautiful and powerful, despite failing in this pursuit.
Cari Fletcher, 17, a student, knows she’ll be up there one day and isn’t going to stop until she is. She’s been singing since she was around six years old. The audition is so important to her. Nicole remarks to L.A. that she’s beautiful. She sings Alone, as Paula notes she choreographed Heart. Cari is starting in a key just a little too low for her, but is very good when she hits the powerful part of the lyrics.
Nicole likes Cari’s focus and believes she has great potential. Paula really likes her, and L.A. thinks she has a star’s name, a star’s face, and a star’s voice. He was impressed. Simon tells her there was nothing distinctive about it, with nothing to remember for him. She was boring. Paula tells her she is going to get eaten alive if she doesn’t come back with confidence. She gets four yeses.
Others to get through include Joshua Blaylock, 30, a PR manager, who moved to NYC from a small town, so to live this dream means everything to him; Emily Michalak, 12, a student, who can’t believe she got four yeses; and Dorit Yehudai, 48, an office manager, who calls this a dream come true.
Ausem (Austin and Emily), 15, students, met during the fall play in sixth grade and became best friends. They have their school friends and families there to support them. They’ll know they’re on top when they compete against Lady Gaga at the Grammys and win. They both feel the passion when they sing together and have created tears of joy when they perform. What they do is more musical theater. Yet, they’re good. Simon gets a sneer, so you know he likes them.
Simon thinks the audience Ausem is aiming at will understand them perfectly, and that’s why they have such support. He says yes. L.A. thinks Austin is a star, and isn’t convinced of the duet. One of the parents, most likely Emily’s dad, complains it’s not fair. But because L.A. thinks Austin is a star, he says yes. Nicole agrees Austin has a pretty good voice, and struggles whether she should say yes to just Austin or no to the group. Simon pushes her for an answer, and when she won’t commit, he walks off. The crowd starts chanting for them, and Nicole finally gives the group a yes, as does Paula.
We round up the auditions with those from all of the cities, ones that didn’t make the cut for the shows originally. First up from this group is Tora Woloshin, 21, a college student, who is gong to school to become an automotive technician. She loves building race cars and racing. Music comes first though, as she imagines herself on a huge stage. Hearing she loves race cars, Simon figures she’s the most perfect girl in the world. She sings I Want You Back, and is as vivacious as her colorful outfit that matches her personality. The judges are all digging her.
Tora gets a standing ovation, and she tells the crowd they’re awesome and admits it felt good. Paula calls her a little firecracker. L.A. saw how blown away she was by her reception here and tells her it was really good. Simon absolutely loves her, as she starts crying. There’s something about her the minute she walked out, and that’s why it’s called the X-Factor. There’s something else. He thinks she could be special and has a good feeling about her. Nicole noticed something unique in Tora’s voice, and calls her different, funky, and cool. Paula noticed her sweetness and tonal quality of her voice. She likes the way she looks, and that she knows who she is. She gets four yeses.
Jore-El Garcia, 22, a personal assistant, thinks he has the X factor, because he can perform his butt off while onstage. HIs inspiration are the pop goddesses, mostly Madonna, and that’s why he sings Lucky Star. He snaps from offstage, then makes his entrance. His theatrics fail, and his voice isn’t much better. He swivels his hips, which Nicole begs for more of. Simon cuts it short and tells Jore-El the singing was terrible and the dancing was probably worse. L.A. calls it fun, but the big X behind him represents a $5 million prize, so he votes no, as does Nicole.
If John Duff, 21, a college graduate, looks on the charts today, the people who he sees his career following include a male Katy Perry, combined with some Nicki Minaj and some Ke$ha. He takes off his flannel and sings, dance, bumps, and grinds his way through the audition that Simon again cuts short. Paula calls it a little strange, and he’s quickly dismissed. If Darlene & Sherone, 22, sales associates, were on tour with someone today, it would be with Nicole, of course. Neither one of them has much talent, and to top if off, they do moves together that make the judges uncomfortable. They get four noes.
Ric White, 45, an artistic director, sings Land of 1000 Dances, and of course dances as well. Paula does her own 1000 dances while he sings. Simon calls it their own version of When Harry Met Sally. It was good for her, so asks how it was for Ric. We don’t hear if he gets in.
The Stereo Hogzz, ages 23-25, feel music is their way to stay out of trouble. One of them just had a baby that morning. he just wants to do it now for his child. The judges congratulate him. Their lead voice seems a little on the weak side. He’s a guy who seems like he wants to emulate Usher. They harmonize well, though. Simon feels they have the air of being over-rehearsed. Nicole loves the energy and effort. L.A. votes yes, Nicole yes, Paula yes, and Simon yes as well.
Brennin Hunt, 26, a graphic designer, plays music, and has been doing modeling on the side. He wishes he was 25. He knows he already has a strike against him for looking the way he does. Image is important, and if another guy had on what he does, people would think he was someone important. He definitely believes he has the X factor. His ultimate goal is to rule the world. He prepared for this by playing arenas and small venues. Simon wonders why he doesn’t have a deal since he has so much going for him. He sings an original tune, and is much better than I was ready for. I wanted to hate him, but can’t. He’s totally hot and sings really smooth as well. He could really be big.
Simon tells Brennin he has a brilliant voice and a great charisma. It’s about decisions and song choices. He can understand why he hasn’t had a deal yet, as he’s been getting bad advice, but he knows he could work with him and make him into a great artist. Paula notes the tone of Brennin’s voice struck a chord in her heart, and she thinks he’s primed to be on this show. L.A. asks the ladies in the audience if he’s hot. Paula tells him real men can say another man is hot. Simon can do that as he says, “I’m hot.” Back to Brennin, as he gets through with four yeses.
Paige Elizabeth Ogle, 18, a secretary, is willing to take out Justin Bieber so she can have her own place. She sings You and I and has a very unique voice and a look similar to Jewel. Simon tells her it’s the easiest yes for him so far. She gets three more yeses to add to that. Leroy Bell, 59, a songwriter, definitely does not look his age. He sings Lean on Me a cappella and gets the crowd into it. He gets four yeses. The Brewer Boys, ages 13 and 17, students, sing My Heart Beats Like a Drum and get through. Nick Dean, 14, a student, sings what he calls his first single, Walk Away. The male judges nod along with him. Simon found it absolutely terrific, and Nick gets four “big fat yeses.”
Devon Talley, 21, a sales associate, sings Seasons of Love, and not only doesn’t sound good, but doesn’t have the timing down either. He won’t stop as he just keeps singing the chorus over and over again. He announces he has a second song, but Simon quickly gets him away from the idea of singing it. Simon jokes he did like the song, but it was kind of catchy at the end. He asks for the time again of 525,600 minutes, and this just starts Devon singing again. Nicole likes that he brought them all together, but isn’t convinced his version of the song is the best one. Paula likes his spirit, but notes he’s not there yet. It’s a no.
Jazzlyn Little, 16, a student, admits she’s freaking out. She feels like someone just opened up a humongous cage of butterflies into her stomach. She’s afraid of letting her family down. She usually has more stress in the rest of her life, and this is usually an escape from reality for her. She admits she posted one song on YouTube, but Simon tells her it’s terrible she only has 500 hits. He asks if it’s her or the song, and she says her, which brings him to say she’s not selling herself very well. She sings I’m Goin’ Down, and is quite good, surprisingly so. She has no reason to doubt herself so much. I’m guessing the number of hits on that YouTube video just multiplied into six digits tonight.
Jazzlyn gets herself a standing ovation, this girl who doubted herself so much. She says they have no idea what it means to her. L.A. tells Jazzlyn she has a superstar name with a superstar voice. She came out with this shy thing, but is the real thing. Nicole started crying and was feeling it, like she was going down with her. Paula calls Jazzlyn a little gem and a star. Simon wonders what she’d be like with confidence. What he likes about her is that she loves music, takes it seriously and wants to get better, and that’s why they made this show, to give people like her a platform. He believes she can be a star. Simon tells her at the end, “You’ve got four yeses, Kid.” Afterwards, she can only say to her mom, “Simon clapped for me.”
What a great way to wind up these auditions. We left on a real high note, the hope that someone who lacks such confidence could make something of herself. She moves onto Boot Camp, with the rest of the hopefuls. In the previews, we see who I recognize to be choreographer Brian Friedman from So You Think You Can Dance working with them. Only thirty-two acts will survive. Each judge will be assigned a category at that point, and mentor the acts from that group. After watching the auditions these past two weeks, I’m excited.