Have you ever been an avid viewer of a show, missed an episode and suddenly realized how insubstantial it was to you? That’s what happened between myself, The Voice and X Factor. The feats pulled by the producers and judges to exploit the contestants for ratings had stepped on my last nerve. Additionally, my attention was already drifting, thanks to better-scripted TV like Scandal and Once Upon A Time and my anticipation for American Idol. However, I don’t like leaving anything incomplete, so I feel slightly obligated to review the remainder of the season.
Is there room in Nashville for a “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”-inspired, 17-year-old black guy? Willie Jones, 17, may have carved himself a place in country music with his take of Josh Turner’s “Your Man.”
Julia Bullock, 18, put her drama-filled band on the backburner to pursue a solo career. The entire segment seemed stage, but you never know with these contestants. Julia gave a decent rendition of Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks.”
Jeffrey Gutt, a 36-year-old single dad, rocked his way into the judges’ hearts with his cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” His impressive cover mixed with the audience’s sympathy was a good move by the producers.
Dinah Jane Hansen is a 15-year-old high school student who looks well beyond her years. She lives in a house with 20 of her family members. You read correctly–20! She gave a stunning rendition of Beyoncé’s “If I Were A Boy.” Both her lower and upper registers were quite impressive.
Arin Ray, 16, was a previous contestant of X Factor. He made it through as a soloist, but they put him in a group called inTENsity. He returned as a solo artist and performed an original song titled “Count On Me.” It was a risky move, but it impressively showed off his versatility as a singer, songwriter and producer.
Britney Spears may be Natalie Martin’s biggest inspiration, but she resembles a 16-year-old Carrie Underwood. Though we didn’t see her full cover of Sugarland’s “Stay,” she’ll need to step up vocally to compete with the other contestants.
Nick Perreli, 16, used his boyish charm to sell his rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon.” Simon crowned him “one to watch,” probably because of his resemblance to the boys dominating pop music right now.
Beatrice Miller is a 13-year-old ray of sunshine. Did I just say that? Although her cover of Dixie Chicks’ “Cowboy Take Me Away” was reduced to a few seconds, but her potential was still displayed.
Personally, I don’t think rappers have a place on X Factor, but rap duo One4Five really showed off their talent. Do I think they’ll get far in the singing competition? No. But maybe they’ll garner a fan base and excel post-Factor (see: Astro).
Austin Corini is a 16-year-old teen with platinum-bond hair. Before hitting the stage and covering Hunter Hayes’ “Wanted,” the Justin Bieber/One Direction clone had a poorly scripted segment with two girls that were smitten by him. He has the look and confidence of a pop idol, so of course they disregarded his lack of vocal ability.
Somehow toilet cleaner Nick Youngerman survived after performing Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby.” He even made Britney get up and start dancing awkwardly. Though Demi said yes, she didn’t seem moved by his audition.
David Correy, 26, traveled 13 hours to cover Bruno Mars’ “Just The Way You Are” for the judges. Not only does the crooner want to become a successful pop star, but also he wants to reconnect with his birth mother. Filled with personality, David gave a decent cover of Bruno’s smash. The reception from the judges left him in tears. “Love and do what you love to do,” he said before Simon gave him his fourth “yes.” Why does Britney always look like she’s in pain?
Sophie Tweed-Simmons is Gene Simmons’ 19-year-old daughter. She arrived in style, as expected, but wanted to step out of her father’s shadow. Surprisingly, they stood in line with everyone else (at least that’s what the producers showed). She gave a shaky rendition of Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love,” but the judges let her through. It pays to have influential parents.
“Shut up and start singing,” Simon told Tara Simon, a 27-year-old self-proclaimed vocal coach. Before hitting the stage, the producers paid the Atlanta native to do push-ups and come across like a b*tch. Well, maybe that last part was all her because her responses to LA Reid’s questions were snarky. She freaked me out with her cover of David Guetta and Usher’s “Without You.” For whatever reason, they sent her through. Did the judges’ distaste for Christina Aguilera have anyting to do wit hit? I doubt it, but who knows.
Daryl Black is a 37-year-old, charismatic father of five. His soulfully mellow version of Gym Class Heroes “Stereo Hearts” impressed listeners and most importantly, the judges. This was definitely one of the better auditions. The judges say he’s like a modern Nat King Cole, but he remind me of Brian McKnight meets R. Kelly.
Trevor Moran is a 13-year-old cheerful sprite that has been trying to make it for quite a while despite his young age. Before hitting the stage, he fell ill and needed medical attention. His excitement caused him to become dehydrated and the producers used his illness as a cliffhanger. He saved his energy and hit the stage to cover LMFAO’s “Sexy And I Know It.” A little inappropriate for his age if you ask me. Trevor’s take on the song was sassy and rather entertaining. Of course he sailed through.
Like Justin Bieber, Owen Stuart, 16, came across like an asshole during his backstory segment. His off-putting attitude was due to separation anxiety from his girlfriend, Tori. He dedicated his mediocre rendition of B.o.B and Hayley Williams’ “Airplanes” to the unlucky girl. Like me, he did not move Britney, but the other judges sent him through. Another Chris Rene.
Freddie Combs is a 40-year-old minister who suffers from obesity. In 2009, he was 920 pounds and was greeted by death. With exercise and dieting, Freddie lost nearly 400 pounds. He was assisted by his wife of 16 years. The well-groomed “fat boy” who just wanted “a chance” gave a heavenly rendition of “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!” echoed the judges after his soulful cover.
Lauren Jauregui bravely covered Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You.” The 16-year-old powerhouse gave a “perfect audition,” according to L.A. Reid. Considering the high number of contestants that have butchered the song, I’ll have to agree with LA. Her arm-sway-inducing cover captivated the judges, who all gave her yeses.
Where do they breed these precocious preteens? Jordyn Foley is a 12-year-old extremely cheerful girl who loves pink and glitter. As expected, the bright-eyed youngster covered Annie’s “Tomorrow.” Honestly, her happy demeanor spooked me out, but like the judges, I would have let her through, too. How can you say no to her?
Diamond White kicked off boot camp week with a respectful cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” She has a great voice for such a young girl, but this particular song was a tad bit too big for her.
Austin Corini, David Correy, Dina Jane Hansen, Lyric Da Queen, Jason Brock, and Carly Rose Sonenclar’s performances were reduced to a 3-minute segment. Dinah stood out the most with her cover of Mariah Carey’s “Hero.”
Jessica Espinoza failed to impress the judges with her take on Whitney and Mariah’s “When You Believe.” Although it was worse than her stellar audition, it was still a decent cover.
Jennel Garcia let her hair down to spice up her performance of Gavin Degraw’s “Sweeter.” Yet again, she showcased that she has what it takes to be a pop star.
Vino Alan is a 40-year-old creep, but his natural gift for singing can’t be denied. He frightened the contestants and impressed some of the judges with his pure rendition of “Bad Company.”
Johnny Maxwell has the look and attitude of a young pop star, but bouncing around the stage isn’t enough to woo the judges once you’ve forgotten the lyrics.
Jordyn Foley, Manny Acosta, Trevor Moran, Nick Perrelli, and Jake Garza all gave dreadful performances of random song choices. Manny’s interpretation of Mariah’s “My All” was by far the worst, and Jake’s breakdown was the best melodramatic X Factor moment since Rachel Crow’s iconic reaction to being eliminated.
Again, Emblem3 fails to impress me with their… whatever it is that they do. I doubt if the Goo Goo Dolls would have been impressed by their “not a boy band” cover of “Iris.” For some reason, the producers are editing them to be villains. Maybe one of them had se… never mind.
Tara Simon is the most off-putting contestant in the competition and her stagey rendition of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” isn’t bringing me any closer to liking her. How dare Britney Spears judge harshly critique someone’s singing voice.
Willie Jones, the most memorable contestant for obvious reasons, failed to impress all judges during boot camp. The black boy with a tan covered Kenny Chesney’s “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.”
Paige Thomas is another contestant that stuck out amongst her competition. She bravely covered Whitney’s “I Will Always Love You” and did pretty well. CeCe Frey followed, and she performed the same thing. The producers edited a catty competition between CeCe and Paige. As much as I hate to admit it, CeCe’s rendition was better than Paige. Likeability is strong component when molding pop stars, and frankly, CeCe isn’t likeable. Her voice may be better, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she will do well with a recording contract (see: Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera’s popularity).
Episode 7 (Boot Camp 1)
Jennel Garcia was obviously intimidated by Tara Simon, and she succumbed to her wrath. The ying and yang duo performed “Landslide” and disappointed the judges. Like Simon, I felt really bad for Jennel. However, with $5 million on the line, she should have spoken up.
The judges did the inevitable when pairing Carly Rose Sonenclar and Beatrice Miller, both 13, for Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks.” Both of them did very well, but Carly’s effortless runs at the end of the performance smothered Beatrice’s sultry delivery.
David Correy annoyed me beyond belief with his unnecessary introduction. He performed Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” with Vino Alan, who is an over-emotional wall-punching brute. Although the judges thought he did well, he thought he did badly and acted like a 40-year-old brat following his performance.
Diamond White overwhelmed Dinah Jane Hansen during their cover of Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger.” This was partially due to Dinah’s stumbling of the words and mostly due to Diamond’s grandness. The arrangement was horrendous, but they both made the best of it.
Both Britney and Demi said what everyone was thinking about Sister C–they’re annoying and not likeable. But maybe it was editing? Frontrunner Lauren Jauregui excelled, though.
Tween heartthrobs Brandon Hassan and Reed Deming are not only destined for greatness due to their boyish charm, but also for their talent. L.A. appreciated their passion, seriousness, and competitiveness, and so do I.
Ally Brooke soared and Julia Bullock tanked during their rendition of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” Like Simon suggested, Ally is in a different league than Julia.
Willie Jones allowed Tate Stevens to choose as song that he wasn’t familiar with, and it showed during their performance. He forgot the lyrics to “Nobody Knows” and broke down soon after. Regardless, Willie’s voice is better than Tate, and I’m hoping the judges noticed. Before exiting the stage, Jones gave a commendable recount on how the song was chosen, and Demi and LA immediately realized that he had been hustled by his elder.
Arin Ray and Normani Hamilton did a fantastic cover of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful.” Their chemistry was something one would expect from a male/female group, but Arin doesn’t have the greatest history with those, so that opportunity is off the table. They should have performed Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown’s “No Air”!
Latasha Lee Robinson quickly intimidated Jillian Jensen, but her familiarity with Sugarland’s “Stay” and her raspy, pain-filled voice made her stick out during their duet. “That little 19-year-old just stood there and out-shined ME!” said a tearful Latasha after butchering the words. What happened to all of that confidence? LOL
Both Freddie Combs and Jessie Bryant forgot the lyrics to what I’m assuming was Adele’s “Set Fire To The Rain.” Jessie was so disappointed that he missed out on the eggs.
Unbeknownst to everyone, the producers have paired Paige Thomas and CeCe Frey against each other. Their duel, though entertaining, was extremely tense. CeCe played Paige and selected a song she knew Paige was unfamiliar with. As expected, she was more prominent during their duel. Like Tate, CeCe is an evil little witch.
Episode 8 (Boot Camp 2)
The groups were revealed during Episode 9. I don’t have time to recount the dramatics, so I will just reveal the lists.
Teens/Britney: Beatrice Miller, Carly Rose Sonenclar, Reed Deming, James Tanner, Arin Ray, and Diamond White.
Young Adults/Demi: Nick Youngerman, CeCe Frey, Paige Thomas, Jillian Jensen, Jennel Garcia, and Willie Jones.
Groups/Simon: Emblem3, Dope Crisis, and Sister C. Formed by judges: LYRIC 145, Playback, and LYLAS
Over 25s/L.A.: Vino Alan, Daryl Black, Jason Brock, David Correy, Tara Simon, and Tate Stevens.
Jennel Garcia kicked off the Top 24 performances with a subdued cover of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl.” I grew accustomed to her retro-soul flare, so her take on a more current pop song was slightly awkward. Demi wasn’t a fan of her hair-flip, and she relayed the message to Jennel. Her confidence dimmed due to this.
Unlike his dual at boot camp, Willie Jones tackled Kevin Sharp’s “Nobody Knows” and soared. Nick Jonas, Demi’s little helper, felt he needed to define his sound a bit because he sounds like an R&B and Country singer. Personally, I think it gives him an edge and could work well in his favor. Taylor, Kelly and Carrie all intertwine pop and country quite effectively.
Jillian Jensen, one of my favorites, passionately covered Sara Bareilles’ “Gravity.” Nick, whose leg cross seems uncomfortable, found her sexy, which is something she needs to spice up her sugary demeanor.
Nick Youngerman is probably one of he lamest contestants of any show. He covered Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok.” Though filled with spunk and confidence, the performance was beyond annoying. Maybe he should take a swig of Jack next time.
Paige Thomas is an eccentric mother that stays in her feelings. Her past performances, though good, were never stellar. That all changed during her performance for Demi and Nick. She gave a Rihanna-esque rendition of Chris Brown’s “Turn Up The Music.” I enjoyed it, but Demi wasn’t moved.
CeCe Frey is a lying, unlikeable drama queen, and Demi enlightened her prior to her cover of LMFAO’s “Sexy & I Know It.” As much as I hate to admit it, the girl is talented, and her Gotye-tinged version of the song was better than the original. Her and Nick would make an awesome couple, considering they both come across obnoxiously.
Simon hopes Playback will steal the hearts of millions of teen girls with their boyish charm. Marc Anthony wasn’t impressed by their corniness, and neither was I. I just didn’t get it.
Emblem3 is relishing in the comforts of the competition. They’re honesty is annoying and their lack of talent is apparent, but it’s something relatable about them. Well, I wouldn’t walk bare-footed around anyone’s home, but to each his own. Unfortunately, their take on the Police’s ”Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” was all over the place.
Sister C’s high-pitched voices are quite annoying when used in harmony. After hearing their cover of Shelby Lynn’s “Leavin’,” I was enlightened that their voices separately are equally annoying. Simon and Marc are convinced they can make it.
Lyric 145, a newly formed group comprised of Lyric Da Queen and ONE4FIVE, put a rap spin on Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The USA.” If Lyric styles the other two, they can really be a force. Lyric’s presence is insane, and the group’s chemistry is undeniable.
Dope Crisis’ take on Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” was confined to one minute, and it should have been. It was a crisis indeed.
LYLAS is Little Mix (US). They took Shontelle’s “Impossible” and made it their own. Dinah Jane Hansen, Lauren Jauregui, Ally Brooke, Normani Hamilton, and Camila Cabello were originally solo contestants, but the brilliant architects at X Factor grouped the five ladies together and made magic. They introduced themselves to the world with Shontelle’s “Impossible,” and an incredible introduction it was. They young-stars smothered the other groups and will hopefully improve as the season progresses. Danity Kane left a void and LYLAS can surely fill it. With time and proper guidance of course.
Episode 9 (Boot Camp 3 – Judges’ Homes 1)
Jason Brock is a talented guy, but his performance of Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” was beyond awkward. David Correy followed with an equally awkward rendition of Jessie J’s “Domino.”
Vino Alan is a frightening individual, so his decision to cover Pink’s “Sober” wasn’t that surprising. Actually, I think the two could make an incredible song together.
Daryl Black is a seasoned singer, so his heartfelt rendition of Hall & Oates’ “She’s Gone” was a winner. Tate Stevens swindled his way through the competition, but Justin Bieber isn’t sure if he’d give him a $5 million contract after his rendition of Brian McKnight’s “Back At One.”
CeCe is obnoxious, but Tara Simon is excruciatingly loathsome. She hopes to be America’s darling, but I doubt America wants her to be their darling. Hopefully after her airy take on Hoobastank’s “The Reason,” LA sent her back to ATL.
Diamond White’s smile makes you smile. If it doesn’t, you’re a very wicked person. She impressed Britney, Will.i.am and competitor Beatrice Miller, who said her rendition of Avril Lavigne’s “I’m With You” was “flawless to the point where it’s not fair.”
Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah” was a brave song choice for Reed Deming, but his lack of confidence was apparent and a lucid Britney noticed. James Tanner followed with an atrocious cover of Shop Boyz’s “Party Like a Rock Star.”
Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” is by far one of the worst songs ever recorded…ever. When I read the description that Arin Ray, one of my favorites in the competition, would be covering it, I was a bit disappointed. Somehow, the young talent transformed the song into a mellow ballad. If they are indeed searching for the “X” factor, Arin has it.
Beatrice Miller was obviously shaken by Diamond and Arin’s performances. Despite her insecurities, she pulled it together and gave a striking cover of David Guetta and Sia’s “Titanium.”
Carly Rose Sonenclar went from a caterpillar to a dragon according to guest mentor Will.i.am. The compliment was warranted because her cover of Karmin’s “Brokenhearted” was superb. Dare I say that her version was better than the original? Wow!
Episode 10 (Judges’ Home 2)
The top 16 contestants that will advance to the live shows were revealed during episode 11.
Teens/Britney: Diamond White, Carly Rose Sonenclar, Arin Ray, Beatrice Miller
Young Adults/Demi: Jennel Garcia, Willie Jones, Paige Thomas, CeCe Frey
Groups/Simon: Lyric 145, Emblem3, Sister C, LYLAS
Over 25s/LA: David Correy, Jason Brock, Tate Stevens, Vino Alan
Episode 11 (Judges’ Home 3)