'The X Factor' Season 2, Episode 1 Recap - 'Auditions #1' and Mean Britney
The episode kicks off with a bit of a resume for "The X Factor," noting how many amazing superstars the show has created, like Leona Lewis and... uh, Cher Lloyd I guess. And there's One Direction, who the show boasts is the "first U.K. band to have a U.S. #1 debut album." Shame, America!
Simon notes how you "just don't know" whether each contestant is going to be a disaster or a spectacular star. Here's a hint: if they're dressed in some ridiculous costume, they're probably going to be a disaster.
And then there's the intro for our new judges: Demi Lovato gets a short segment, and Britney gets a big dramatic intro. Gues who's the big star and who's the girl that barely anyone has heard of?
The rest of the intro promises plenty of breakdowns and a dude getting arrested. Should be a good day.
First day of auditions is in Austin, Texas. We still get those shots of the semi trucks driving across the desert, but sadly (or luckily) Steve Jones is not stuck riding in one of them. Wherever you are, Steve, may you be free of crappy transportation and sobbing 13-year-old girls.
Demi says she's nervous because she's "embarking on a whole new journey." I would keep a count of how many horrible cliches she speaks in from here on out, but I know I'll lose count. She does give a pretty good zinger to Simon, though, saying how everybody will be excited to see his new outfit, which is of course the same jeans and white t-shirt as always. Sure, she was probably fed that line, but whatever.
Things will kick off with 21-year-old nursing student Paige Thomas, who has an adorable daughter. Paige is old enough to idolize Britney instead of Demi, which I appreciate and will proabably not often be the case. Actually, looks like things are going to be much more produced and dramatic in the lobby, as the producers create drama between Paige and incredibly blonde southern sisters Kaci and Kaylee. Serious good guy/bad guy stuff going on here. Gee, I wonder who's going to sing great and who's going to suck.
Paige Thomas hits the stage, with a very Rihanna-esque look and her daughter waving backstage and generally being adorable. Paige starts crying before she even sings, which probably isn't good for the vocal chords, but she does (predictably) very well with "I'm Goin' Down." It's not the kind of voice that will win the whole competition, but it's good.
Britney calls her "flawless" but mostly only comments on her appearance. L.A. Reid compares her to Rihanna (called it) and Demi talks about the glimmer in her eye (cliché count: 2). Simon says it was one of his "favorite ever auditions." That's generous. Four yeses, of course.
Backstage, Kaci and Kylee continue to be horrible. Are these two hired actresses? Or did the producers seriously pick these two blondies out of the crowd and say "okay, we're going to follow you around with a camera, be mean to everyone?" I'm confused, but I do have to say that this heavy narrative thing is unique to the show. A bit forced, but unique.
Shawn Armenta is 52 and says he has practiced "six hours a night from 6PM to 10PM after work." Math is clearly not his strong suit, so let's hope music is. Given the Nicki Minaj music that is introducing him, my guess is he won't be. He keeps talking about dancing. Oh, and he's going to sing an original song called "Candy Girl." Great.
It's predictably horrible. Shawn gets some harsh comments, and comes back way too quickly with his insults to the judges. Could this be any more scripted? No. Simon's "See, that's honesty" comment is terribly ironic.
That starts a montage of Britney being mean, which is delightful except that maybe 75% of her comments are scripted. Argh. I am already eagerly awaiting the live shows, when they can't get away with as much editing and pre-producing.
Reed Deming is 13 and totally looks like Justin Bieber. He's kind of a ham. I'm annoyed already. But obviously he's going to be good, because of the montage of awfulness before him. Reed starts with "It Will Rain," and Simon stops him, requesting another track with less production behind it. Yeah, I'd like less production on this show too.
Honestly there's not a huge difference between the first song and his second, "Grenade." They're both pretty strong for a 13 year old. This isn't Rachel Crow level, but he's good. He also wins me over by saying "I don't want to fall into that Bieber stereotype."
Despite Simon demanding stronger vocals from Reed down the road, he still gets four yeses. Mean Britney is gone, but she still has her arms crossed. Reed feigns relief.
Finally, time for Kaci Newton. We can get rid of this ridiculous fabricated narrative. Sure enough, she's terrible. Well, that was worth the build-up, wasn't it? We now get to watch the person that was hired to be annoying and mean get really mean comments from the judges, much to the appreciation of the crowd. Was it all a setup to make Simon a hero?
The answer will be left in Austin, as the judges now move to San Francisco. One city, only two notable auditioners who weren't even that amazing? Not a great showing, Austin.
San Francisco doesn't start off well either, but that's because of the ridiculous train of posers that are trotted out on stage to be purposefully terrible. It's the old "oh no, we'll never find anyone good in this city" narrative. Quantrelle, who is dressed in drag and a wedding veil, doesn't really do much to turn around the trend, but thanks to Simon's generosity, gets three yeses.
Emblem3 is a boy band consisting of three obnoxious skaters from California. I already hope they fail. "Should I wear this shirt or should I just tank it?" is a sentence that they actually speak. Vincent Thomas is an actor who was formerly in a boy band, and is giving unwanted advice to Emblem3, who claim they are not a boy band. If only this exchange could go on forever.
Vincent sings "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" and has a few decent moments but mostly a lot of bad ones. Simon is quite mean. Following directly after is Emblem3, who choose to sing an original called "Sunset Boulevard." Original name, guys.
The song has a very Chris Rene vibe to it, part Long Beach dub style in the vein of Sublime, part white guys rapping. It gets the crowd on their feet, and the judges seem to really enjoy it as well, as all four give a yes. Could these guys fix last year's catastrophe with the groups?
Don Philip is a vocal coach, who apparently did a duet with Britney Spears but then failed in his music career. Don seems almost in tears the whole time, and then totally breaks down when he gets out on stage and starts talking to the judges. Unfortunately, he pretty much butchers "Halo."
Here I think we have the rare occurrence where Don was really sure that he was good, and not trotted out to be ridiculed. However, he gets a no from Simon, L.A. and Demi, so Britney wouldn't even have to vote, but they make her anyway for drama's sake. Was this a legit moment, or another manufactured conflict?
Jennel Garcia is just out of high school, and is giving Demi a run for her money in terms of clichés and pontificating to her family. Jennel says she's into "old rock, Pat Benatar," but then does Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Apparently the catalogue of audition songs for this show doesn't go back to "old rock."
Anyway, she's good, and it's refreshing to see one of the younger contestants doing something that isn't fluffy pop music. Demi wrote "hot" in her notes. Simon thinks there's a big market for her. Four yeses, of course.
Jillian Jensen is a 19-year-old piano teacher who has a sob story about being bullied in middle school, and thus identifies with Demi's music. Last year's stories were about getting out of rehab, raising kids as a single mother and being homeless. This girl got prank called. Listen, I know bullying can be serious, but come on.
Anyway, she's the last one up, so of course she's she's good. She has an interesting, smoky tone, and gets very emotional in the performance. She might have been a bit too emotional, as she loses the pitch a lot toward the end. Still, she has Demi crying. Simon seems unimpressed.
Demi gives her a big hug and a pep talk when she starts crying after the performance, and Britney puts on her best "awww" face. L.A. applauds the emotional connection she put into the song, Britney loves her "raspy, sexy" tone, Simon takes a calculated bite of his raisins or whatever, and says that the performance was "incredible." So, obviously, four yeses.
So that wraps up the first audition episode, and basically we only have five good auditioners that we saw get their yeses and go through. Let's hope things pick up... if we're going at a rate of five per episode, it's going to take all season just to show us the ones who will be making the finals.
The X Factor