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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The X Factor: “Auditions #2”

Illustration for article titled The X Factor: “Auditions #2”
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It’s barely been 24 hours since Britney made her grand debut on The X Factor and the Internet has embraced her wholly by already generating an endless supply of GIFs that capture the pop star’s array of facial expressions and polite rejections. Yes, it’s certainly been so far, so good with Britney on board and tonight’s follow-up to yesterday’s première has her in full effect, even spreading her wings a bit more as a judge.

It’s probably time to disclose some pertinent information related to me covering this show week-to-week: See, I’m a Britney fan. That might’ve been evident from last night’s recap, but maybe I pulled the wool over your eyes just enough to make it sound like my interest in the show was only mildly related to the fact Ms. Spears is a judge. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s the reason I’m watching and have been looking forward to watching for months. Since it was announced she’d be taking over one of the two judge’s seats left vacant after Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger were given the boot, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the show’s debut and planning for a Brit-filled fall. While I’m not the kind of fan who might, say, call her “my sister” and bring an enormous vase of roses out on stage as one contestant does during tonight’s episode, I’ve followed her career with rapt attention over the years. It’s even possible I saw her 2009 Circus tour at the Staples Center. Who knows?

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, I’d love to move on and continue getting my head around the format of this show. It occurred to me after last night’s review that I might be missing the whole damn point of the show in that the singing voice of the performer is actually not the most weighty factor when determining whether or not they get to move on to boot camp. As the name of the show suggests, it seems the judges are attempting to find the ol’ indescribable je ne sais quoi that makes a performer riveting. That might mean an unusual style, stage presence, or something else that can’t quite be accounted for, but it mostly implies that the voice isn’t the end all be all. Otherwise, you’d just head over to The Voice, right?

That knowledge made tonight’s viewing a bit more enlightening as contestants took to the stage and performed for Simon, L.A., Demi, and Britney. In the second installment of San Francisco auditions, the talent is scarce. There are some bright spots, like when the adorable teen Johnny Maxwell makes his sweet-seeming mom proud by performing an original song titled “All These People.” The mix of trembly singing and confident rapping wasn’t mind-blowing, but little Maxwell’s frenetic stage presence scrubbed that away and allowed for the audience to be charmed. Creepy L.A. Reid declared from behind his yellow-tinted glasses that “You are exactly what we need,” while Demi reminded the other judges that she’s younger than each of them by at least a decade by telling him “You have swag.” And Britney becomes psychic during her judgment when pronouncing “I think you’re adorably cute. I can see a whole record and album and everything.” You guys! Britney can foresee our futures! Best news ever.

One of the best portions of the night comes when we meet a delicious diva named Lexa Berman, whom I will call “Svetlana.” Although she doesn’t have a Russian accent, her spandex jumpsuit and jet-black hair would make a perfect “Sexy Spy” costume come Halloween. Even Simon notes that her overpowering look is “Jersey Shore meets The Kardashians.” Much like last night’s villain, Texan stinker Kaci, it’s clear we’re being set up to watch Svetlana nosedive on stage. Her rendition of Alex Clare’s “Too Close” doesn’t grate on the ears, but Britney is right on the money when she describes it as “just really boring.” Demi also checks the attitude sitch by noting that “the problem is that you came off as really over-confident and it wasn’t likeable.” The best part has to be the mid-rejection, lusty head roll that Svetlana sneaks in for no apparent reason before stomping offstage in her stilettos.

From there, the bar gets lowered even further while we’re treated to a montage of disastrous auditions and exasperated rejections from the judges. Oh, but then comes a glorious ball of light known as Tech Support Jason. The glammed-up Adam Lambert clone sashays his way onto the stage with all the confidence of a seasoned pro, managing to ignore Simon’s wildly unwarranted eye rolls. Even still, when he tears into Billy Joel’s “New York State Of Mind,” the voice that comes out is a preposterously rich and soulful stunner. He nails the hardest part of the audition: having fun. It’s almost a bummer when he finishes, which is a feeling I’d yet to know during one of these shows. L.A. puts it best when he tells him “You are completely flawless. Your voice is a song’s best friend. Every songwriter wants a guy like you to sing their song.” More importantly, Jason confidently waves his diva finger around while singing and anyone willing (and, more importantly, able) to get all Mariah up there on stage is fine by me.


Just as we’re riding the high afforded by Jason’s shimmering audition, things take a turn. It’s yet another freaky, Britney-obsessed nutcase allowed on stage to terrify her and us for a few, brief minutes. This time, a young cashier named Patrick scream-sings “Circus” for a few seconds before getting cut off by Simon. That’s after bringing the aforementioned vase of roses on stage. He’s a unanimous “no,” yet poor Brit gets his pointed wrath as he creepily sneers “That’s all you’ve got for me, Britney? Just a ‘no’?” While it’s likely an unfair trick of editing, it also looks like he refuses to get off stage and stands glaring at fair Brit until finally shuffling off. If this is going to be a theme of the audition episodes, it’s going to become incredibly wearing. I get that Britney has some bananas fans out there, but watching them bomb and her squirm simultaneously is little fun.

None of that matters, though! Because we’ve got to talk about Carly! Rose! Sonenclar! The fresh-faced 13-year-old nabs the coveted Sing-y Person Of The Night award (an award I’ve just made up) with a jaw-dropping spin on Nina Simone’s version of “Feeling Good.” Her peppy tween look and wide smile don’t even hint at the magnificent and entirely more mature voice that bursts out the moment she opens her mouth.


Maybe it shows that I’m green to this whole thing, but I was disappointed to learn what an established performer Sonenclar is. A quick Google search shows she’s made a name for herself as a lil’ Broadway starlet in musicals like Les Misérables as well as acting in movies and TV. She even has a meaty Wikipedia page all her own. But all that only slightly dampens the excitement of hearing Carly Rose unleash that voice on an unsuspecting crowd. Even her own dad looks absolutely shocked as she rips apart the high notes and brings the crowd to their feet everywhere in the arena. The judge’s rightfully fall all over themselves to let Carly know she’s a goddamned star. Britney leads things off, calling her “Miss Thing” and “a little diva” while Demi gushes “I wanna buy your music right now.”

So far, that wish looks not too far off, but only a naïve newcomer to a lengthy season of The X Factor would say that, right? Ah! There’s every chance in the world I’ll be saying “Carly who?” by the time December rolls its blustery 60-degree chill into Los Angeles! But as far as a debut week goes, Lil’ Carly and Queen Britney make a convincing case for coming back for more on the blindingly bright X Factor stage.

Stray observations

  • There wasn’t much rhyme or reason to that small cake vignette, yeah? Just an excuse to show Simon throwing cake at Demi in an effort to make the judges look like chummy ol’ pals?
  • Brit’s best rejection involved telling Tommy Paterson “You can’t destroy that song, sweetie” as he began to slaughter Whitney’s classic “I Have Nothing.” TOO SOON PATERSON.
  • The sexual chemistry between Simon and Svetlana was palpable and totally icky.
  • I’m still loving the fact that the X Factor “X” flies through outer space and over America in the show’s intro. Go, little X! See those sights!
  • Still not over Britney's sometimes-vacant eyes but slowly getting used to them. At least we have “tank it, bro” from last night to ease the pain.