Alright friends, the time has come to talk about The X Factor!
I’ll admit upfront that I’ve taken a tepid liking to this show, and this next stage that we’re heading into is where it absolutely lost me last season, so I can’t guarantee I’ll see it through to the end. That having been said, this season has already been a vast improvement over the last, so I’m actually feeling pretty optimistic heading into the live shows.
Why didn’t I start recapping at the beginning of the season you ask? The thing is, I find the X-Factor audition rounds to be BY FAR the most grating of any show in this genre. The bad auditions are extra cringe-y (see: arrested guy, unintelligible old hick guy, Britney’s former duet partner) and the good auditions are SO overly hyped I can’t even enjoy them. Setting aside the fact that heaping hyperbole on every half-decent audition renders any and all praise completely meaningless, those of us who have been watching American Idol for over a decade presumably have something of a discerning ear for talent by now, and even if we don’t, we know that Simon Cowell does. Dude used to be the Chuck Norris of dream-crushing, and now all the sudden his heart’s grown three sizes and he’s riding around town in a sleigh hailing every Bob, Dick, and Cindy Lou Who with a modicum of talent as the next Kelly Clarkson? Sorry, but I don’t buy it; the vast majority of these folkses wouldn’t make it past the blinds on The Voice. I wish they’d temper the faux-enthusiasm a little in the early rounds and trust the audience at home to make up their own mind – if an act is really that good, their talent will speak for itself.
All that having been said though, this year’s auditions were a marked improvement over last year’s, and I think we all know why:
Now, I adore Paula Abdul with every fiber of my being (REALLY not being sarcastic or ironic. She’s the tits.), but I’m really happy with both of the new additions to the judging panel. You just knew Britney was either going to be a massive train-wreck or The Best Thing Ever, and given how crucial this season’s success was for Cowell and Co, I was pretty confident it was going to be the later, but I had NO IDEA how entertaining she could be. I started watching the first episode and I was like kind of half-watching, not super engaged, and then BAM there was Britney, and the wonder that is her beautiful, beautiful face.
Now as for Demi, I must admit that prior to this, I literally knew nothing about her except that the entire population of lesbians under the age of 21 has a crush on her. But I mean, swap “under the age of 21” with “in the whole of the United Kingdom” and that was the only thing I knew about Cheryl Cole last year… *sigh* And ya know what? I mean, I’m not going to sit here and pretend she’s the Best Judge I’ve Ever Seen, but damn if that girl isn’t just the most charming little thing! I think she’s really held her own thus far, and I have high hopes for her as a mentor.
Of course the initiated among us know that video editing is the Photoshop of reality TV judging (see: Steven Tyler – Idol seasons 10 and 11, Nicole Scherzinger – The Sing-Off seasons 1 and 2) so we’ll have to wait for the live shows to see what the ladies really have to offer, but thus far, I think the judging panel is kind of kicking ass!
Aside from the judges, the main reason I think this season is going to be better than the last is the sheer depth of the talent pool. Once they finished trimming the fat, they came out with a pretty incredible top 16. Already with the performances at the judges’ homes there were very few weak links to be found – several folks I expected to be clear fodder came out fighting and genuinely took me by surprise – and with one notable exception (Jilliaaaaan!) I thought all of the judges picked the exact right contestants to continue on.
SO, without any further ado, here are the nine female (or female-fronted) acts we’ll have to vote on in the live rounds, ranked in order of my own purely subjective personal preference:
9: Paige Thomas
Oy… I have to be honest and say that a big part of my problem with Paige at the moment is that I just can’t help but feel that she’s taking up the spot that rightfully belongs to Jillian Jensen. That having been said, I like Paige a lot; her voice is so powerful, and she has such a gorgeous, rich tone. I just don’t think she has the control or the stage presence to stack up against the rest of this year’s steep competition.
8: Diamond White
Diamond is an adorable, RIDICULOUSLY TALENTED pint-sized powerhouse who could easily take down any of last season’s teen contestants. Unfortunately for Diamond, this year she is one of three pint-sized powerhouses, all adorable and all ridiculously talented. She’s certainly got her work cut out for her from here on in, but I’m pulling for her!
LYLAS is a group that the judges threw together out of 5 really terrific teenage ladies who didn’t quite make the cut to judges’ houses as solo artists. This first ever performance of theirs had Simon and Marc Antony kvelling, but I was not so impressed. For me, it showed off how impressive they are as individuals (which we already knew, they’re all awesome), but as a group performance I found it pretty weak. The chemistry was disjointed and the harmonies were seriously lacking. Granted they did JUST come together as a group, so maybe with a little quality time and a lot of practice we’ll see it come together. The question is, can they stick around long enough?
6: CeCe Frey
This girl is so obnoxious I want to vomit everywhere just thinking about her, and as such it is a true testament to her talent that she’s this high on my list. Since her auditions she’s been just this awful, bitchy soundbite machine, and that made it so hard to ever take her seriously. When she made it to Demi’s house I thought she was fodder for sure – there purely for dramatic soundbite purposes – and then she said she was doing this song and I laughed out loud, and then out of nowhere she… kind of won me over? Oh god, vomit.
5: Sister C
Oh man, so I’ve been prepared to be mad about these guys getting cut prematurely since day 1. In the audition rounds they showed, like, a hot second of their performance sandwiched between a million mediocre performances and I was so drawn in by that half-second they showed I was all stomping my feet like “WHY didn’t you show the whole thing? Stupid! F-ing! Show!!” And then they showed the clip of Britney calling them annoying and I was like “WHY are you trying to invent a reason to kick out the best group you’ve ever had? Stupid! F-ing! Show!!” So when they actually made it through I was kind of shocked and so relieved! I’m a sucker for beautiful harmonies and they’ve got that in spades, plus their blend is just so delicious… I’m already such a fan, can’t wait to see what they do next!
4: Carly Rose
So I’m really not into child prodigy singers in general, and especially in the context of these kinds of shows – it’s not like I’m unimpressed by their talent, it’s just really not my thing. But this girl, man. Jeeeesus. And every time she comes out she brings her game up even more; her audition was crazy, all her boot camp stuff was nuts, and then she came out to do her judge’s house performance and I’m still thinking “Damn, I didn’t know you had ALL that!” I MEAN. When she slides in and out of that gorgeous buttery falsetto at the top of her range, and those flawless instinctual runs… She’s pulling back and showing vulnerability in all the right places, she’s belting out in all the right places… the girl is crazy. Crazy.
3: Beatrice Miller
It feels vaguely blasphemous to put any teenager above Carly Rose, because let’s be honest, in a pure sing-off, Carly is going to put everyone else in this entire competition to shame. But the thing is, this show is called The X Factor, because it’s about more than just having a sick voice – it’s about the whole package. It’s about having something extra, something special, and I think that’s where Beatrice comes out on top of the teen pack for me. There’s something so deliciously dark and twisty about her that makes her absolutely compelling to watch, and so lovable in that sad/adorable (sadorable?) Angela Chase kind of way. You just know she’s got notebooks full of super-angsty original songs, and I want to hear them. She’s just so COOL. I want more Beatrice. MOAR!!
2: Lyric 145
Thank GOD Lyric Da Queen didn’t get sent home after boot camp. I was about to be SO MAD. How in good conscience do you deny America the chance to vote for a baller female MC with mad swagger and a bedazzled eye patch? YOU FUCKIN’ DON’T is how! I really don’t get why they needed to stick her in a group, but she seems to fit well with One4Five, and if being in this group is a necessary stepping stone for her before she inevitably goes on to tear the motherfucking world apart, so be it. It worked for Fergie and Gwen Stefani, right? Oh man, I was obsessed with Lyric before she ever opened her mouth and now I’m obsessed with her flow and her backstory and the way she describes growing up in Flint and her dancing and her style and EVERYTHING ABOUT HER! LYYYYYRIIIIIIC!!!!
1: Jennel Garcia
Okay, so this is a funny one, because Jennel’s was far and away the most intriguing audition of the season for me, but I’m not quite sold yet. And still I’m putting her at the top of my list because I’m so excited about the POTENTIAL with this girl – everything she hasn’t shown yet but I really want to believe she’s capable of. At this point, she’s very rough around the edges; she’s got a lot of kinks to work out and a lot of very bad habits to break (and FAST) if she’s going to make any sort of impression in this competition, but IF she can get past all that, I think she has some crazy Alison Iraheta/Haley Reinhart shit going on. All the pieces are there, and the notes Demi is already giving her are spot-on, so if the two of them can just work together to put it all together, I’m telling you this girl has everything it takes to win (my heart… and also) this whole damn thing.
So there ya have it folks – til next time!