The X-Factor returned stateside for the third season with Wednesday night’s premiere. Simon Cowell has dusted off his trusty V-neck tee collection and invited his old pal, Demi Lovato, to join him back on the judges panel. Newbies, Paulina Rubio and Kelly Rowland are joining them this season, and from the first episode, it’s clear we have a lot of great hair to look forward to from all the judges.
Going solo this season, host Mario Lopez reminds us of the lasting legacy of pop music left by The X-Factor winners in a quickie montage that culminates with the super adorbs One Direction boys telling us how how beautiful we don’t know we are. Then we see Simon alternating between declaring his undying love for some contestants and looking super annoyed with others. Oh, how I’ve missed his prickly flat top hairdo and equally prickly disposition.
Mario reminds us that the show’s contestants will fall into four categories: boys, girls, over 25 and groups. After auditions, each judge will be assigned a category to coach. And everybody’s here to compete for a recording contract. Let the auditions begin!
The first batch of auditions we see are in Los Angeles. We meet 23-year-old Carlito Rivero, a Chicago native who works in a coffee shop. He is hyper and sings to customers at work. If I encountered this before drinking my morning coffee, I might get arrested for what violence would occur.
Carlito declares himself the future Latino Chris Brown. Let’s hope he means without the whole pesky abuse business. He starts off by chatting up Paulina in Spanish. Demi tries to sneak in a coffee order before he starts to sing “Stay” by Rihanna. Kelly is feeling it. Carlito’s peeps get excited watching him backstage. He starts to play to the audience. I can’t tell if that is a good idea or not. His voice seems solid and he’s cute. The crowd goes wild.
Simon says, stone-faced, “I actually like everything about you.” He makes Carlito’s life when he says, “This kid looks like a real star.” Demi is also complimentary. Everybody says yes. Carlito is already planning his coffee order for his future personal assistant. Calm down there, buddy.
OK, I know I’m only recapping the show, but this Hunger Games CoverGirl makeup commercial is bonkers. Yellow eyeshadow? I say no.
Now, we’re in Charleston, South Carolina. Sally Hessnice is this older blond lady. The nice but sort of unremarkable-looking Sally is 55 and Simon tells her she looks like Demi. Low blow, Cowell. She says that when she sings for people, it makes them happy.
Sally looks bananas right before she starts to sing. She takes forever to get started, staring off into the distance like she spontaneously went blind and Simon asks, “Are you actually going to sing?” She laments how long the intro is but to wait for it. She then massacres “The Greatest Love of All” with a huge smile on her face. Oh, sweet Sally. She’s experienced a little too much of the greatest love of all because there is no other way she would have thought this a good idea.
The judges start to snicker. Do they not have the power to cut her off? This is insane. Kelly starts off diplomatically, “I wasn’t crazy about the vocal.” Demi says, “I just don’t think it’s The X-Factor.” Simon compares her singing to dogs howling. She gets all nos. It’s OK, though, because Sally is happily married and goes home with her loving hubby.
Valeria, a karaoke worker, says she’s got big fans at work. She’s also indescribably terrible, if not totally cheerful. After she walks off, Simon asks, “What the hell was that?” K-Nected, a family girl group, then arrives to slaughter TLC‘s “Waterfalls.” Simon is confident they’ve never heard themselves sing before and asks if they live near an airport. He really is the best.
A bunch of “pitchy” contestants get laughs from the judges and Paulina gets teased for her accent. A cute 18-year-old John Tanner Davis is adorable and then proceeds to give the worst rendition ever of “My Heart Will Go On.” Simon says, “I think you did a better job than the iceberg.” Ha! Love him.
Now, we’re in Long Island, where we meet Lillie McCloud, a stunning lady with an afro wearing a black catsuit. She’s 54 years old and looks more like a 30-something. She has three children and seven grandchildren. This is nuts. She is gorgeous and sings, “Alabaster Box” by gospel singer Cece Winans.
Almost immediately, she brings tears to Demi’s eyes. She’s sublime, but I can’t help thinking how funny it is to see a lady dressed in skintight leather and glitter singing so beautifully about Jesus finding her. The entire panel is clearly taken with lovely Lillie.
Paulina calls it “unbelievable.” Kelly loved her song selection and vocal stylings. Simon calls her voice “incredible.” Demi says, “I feel like I’m listening to Whitney.” In Spanish, Paulina tells her yes while everyone else says yes in English. Simon messes with her briefly with a fake no. Oh, Simon. You cad.
Mario Lopez keeps reminding us that there are no age limits, and that there are opportunities for groups to compete. We get a montage of really crappy series of groups. A comely male and female duo from Florida, Alex and Sierra, make cute before stepping out onto the stage. I hope this process doesn’t destroy their romantic relationship, but then secretly I hope it does. Their selection is “Toxic” by Britney Spears. They perform a stripped-down version with a simple acoustic guitar backing and it kills because this song is just that good, guys.
Simon cuts them of when it’s clear they’re going to get all yeses. They start to cry from excitement and Demi gushes over the now weepy couple, as does Kelly. Paulina declares herself “a believer.” Simon said it was “cool” and “quirky.” Everyone says yes. These two sound great but the puppy dog love thing might get old. Then again I’m also a bitter old lady. Have to watch and see what develops, y’all!
Charleston, South Carolina sees a very bouncy, curly-haired Rion Paige who tells the judges that she has arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, which makes her wrists bend backwards and causes blindness in one eye. Despite this, she is very upbeat and excited to perform. She then takes on Carrie Underwood‘s “Blown Away.” Rion’s definitely feisty and brings all the judges to their feet by the end of her performance. Demi praises her voice and positivity. Paulina tells her, “Music heals everything.” Kelly loves her passion. Simon says, “I think you’re literally extraordinary.” He then compares her to Carrie Underwood. Aww, Simon. Everyone says yes. She skips off the stage to her mom, who can’t hold back the tears.
Tomorrow is more auditions, a marriage proposal and Kelly Rowland calling one group a “baby Destiny’s Child.” Lots of tears, running mascara and Simon being forced to sing.