‘The X-Factor’ This Week: Ellona Santiago & Jeff Gutt Get Second Chances
Auditions for The X-Factor continued during the third season’s second week, with judges Simon Cowell, Paulina Rubio, Kelly Rowland and Demi Lovato keeping a watchful eye over the proceedings. Last week saw standout acts knocking out the judges with their potential and the occasional deranged wackadoos. And the occasional woman trying to cover Simon’s body with hickeys, which comes with the territory.
Last week, we laughed, we cried and we begged for more. This week, we start in Los Angeles with host Mario Lopez reminding us that contestants are competing in four categories: boys, girls, over 25 and groups, for a recording contract.
Shirley and Cynthia are a pair of pretty sisters who sing “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5 in two completely different keys. It’s super uncomfortable when they finish. Simon tells them, “Well, we don’t want you back.” He continues with, “It was like a competition as to who could sing the worst. And you both win.” He is harsh, but it’s so true. Kelly rightly points out that the younger sister needs to go solo. Simon is brutal and hilarious as he unofficially disbands the group.
Josh Levi is only 14-years-old and cute as a button. But can he sing? Originally from Houston, he recently moved to L.A. because I’m guessing his parents are terrible. I mean, does no one see what’s going on with Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus right now? Despite that, I hope he does well. Josh sings and effortlessly radiates teen idol charm. His version of “Come & Get It,” as made famous by Selena Gomez, gets all yeses from the panel and he’s well on his way to completely ruining the rest of his childhood. Hooray!
Girl group Drama Drama is a collection of what looks like wavy-haired models for Forever 21. They cite the Spice Girls as their primary influence. Their a cappella version of “Party in the U.S.A.” is so bad Kelly cuts them off. Simon shuts them down ASAP. Another boy group, Forever Young, is just as underwhelming. We get a whole montage of bad groups.
Then, a set of three handsome young brothers called Ak Nu sing “Valerie” in honor of their mom of the same name. Right before they start, Simon tells them he hates the song. Despite that, they give a great performance. Energetic and on-key, they even have cute dance moves and good harmonies. Simon actually cracks a smile while they sing. They’re totally moving on to the next round. Big reaction from Kelly and the entire crowd. Unsurprisingly, they make it through.
In Charleston, Brandie Love is a small-town Southern girl with an Army boyfriend and a passion for country music. Her song is “Up to the Mountain.” She’s giggly, sweet and has what Simon calls a “pop star name.” She opens her mouth to sing and it’s like watching Kelly Clarkson being discovered all over again.
Paulina says, “Wow. You’ve got The X-Factor, honey.” And she’s right. Simon says, “I predict great things for Brandie Love.” Kelly compliments her ability to get lost in the song. Everybody give her a big yes. That soldier boyfriend better lock that down and fast. That kicks off a series of singers who get yeses from the panel. “We’ve had some very good people,” Simon muses at the end of it all.
In Long Island, Simon destroys some dreams as only he can. Odd bird Vinnie, 29, loves pasta, works in a bagel store and admires Biggie and Tupac. His inexplicable version of LeAnne Rimes’ “Without You” is predictably un-listenable, and I’m not clear if this is a joke. My new happy place will be imagining him singing this to the bagels in his store. All nos, of course.
Next is a guy named Carlos who is unnecessarily wearing a wool cap and has Tourette’s syndrome. The 16-year-old is sweet and it’s heartbreaking to watch him fight his tics. He sings “Gravity” by John Mayer. The judges are won over. I don’t predict him lasting too long, but it’s nice he’s getting his moment.
In New Orleans, Demi teases Simon with an old photo of him with Farrah Fawcett hair she posted on Twitter. Ha!
Chloe J. and C.J. take to the stage and they will definitely be a hot mess. An entertaining hot mess, but a mess nonetheless. They take on “River Deep, Mountain High” by Tina Turner. Simon dubs them “both absolutely awful.” Despite their bubbly personalities, it’s a no-go. Chloe makes a last-ditch effort to seduce Simon by mauling him with kisses. I told you someone would get pregnant. She get a yes from him for effort.
Guys, I don’t know if you know this, but there are a lot of people in this country who love to sing.
Colton Pack is 18-years-old and from West Virginia. His entire small hometown has come with him to the audition. This would be a perfect time to rob the local 7-11. Colton’s song is “Hicktown” by Jason Aldean. Everybody seems to like him. Paulina loved it but Demi calls it sometimes “pitchy.” Kelly likes him and says yes. Simon is a fan and says yes. They all like it, they love it, they want some more of it with four yeses.
Danie Geimer is 15, super-awkward and a self-confessed bookworm. Her choice is the ambitious and potentially terrible “The House Of The Rising Sun.” She surprises me with a great voice and stage presence. Everyone loves her, including Paulina, who is rocking some Karl Lagerfeld black leather finger gloves.
A male contestant takes to the stage, whom Demi and Simon recognize from last season. Jeff Gutt is a rocker dad who didn’t make it past boot camp last season. “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith is his selection. Neither Simon nor I are blown away. Simon cuts it short , but Jeff gets a reprieve when he gets to sing “Creep” by Radiohead and he makes it to the next round. Everybody’s happy for Jeff and his son comes running from backstage to hug him, as if on cue. It’s a happy ending to the episode.
Auditions continued Thursday night starting with handsome, 18-year-old Southern gentleman, Andrew Scholz, in Charleston. He gets the “nice little cornfed country boy” compliment from Kelly. I concur. Andrew’s selection is “Too Close.” Demi, Kelly and Paulina, while agreeing that Andrew is easy on the eyes, think he might not have the chops.
Simon disagrees with the ladies, saying Andrew has a good voice and charisma and gives him a chance to sing something else. Mr. Scholz selects “A Little More You,” which convinces the ladies to vote yes.
Blake Schankle has floppy hair and a lot of confidence. Again, we are robbing the cradle with this comely 19-year-old. Pretty boy Blake opens his mouth and it’s a not great version of “Jar Of Hearts.” All nos for the little Robin Thicke knockoff. More bad singers, including a woman who pops out of a box and promptly is returned to sender. Brandy sings in pig latin, no lie. It’s errible-tay. The parade of losers continues.
In Los Angeles, Ellona Santiago is 16-years-old and tears up “Wings” by Little Mix, complete with a perfect diva strut. The judges are blown away. As it turns out, Ellona was in Season 1 in a group, but didn’t take home the big prize. The girl in the red jacket is going through for the second time, but this time as a solo act.
We enjoy more Simonisms when more bad singers take to the stage. Simon tells a guy, “When someone I hate gets married, I’m going to ask you to perform at their wedding.” I need this as a bumper sticker immediately.
Fourtee-year-old Stone Martin is a baby Justin Bieber and already has the hair-shake down. He sings “Little Things” from One Direction. The little girls in the audience lose their minds. Kelly tells him, “I love you.” Demi says, “I think there’s something special about you.” Paulina agrees and Simon seals the deal by saying the kid “has a star glow.” All yeses.
Back in Los Angeles, Ashly Williams takes to the stage in a quirky ensemble. She takes on the legendary “I Will Always Love You.” It’s remarkably good and my girl, Kelly, is captivated. Paulina and her sparkly headband agree. Simon actually smiles as Ashly hits every single note of the song, despite tears streaming down her cheeks. She deservedly gets a standing ovation from all the judges. Pauling best sums it up by saying, “That was an amazing performance.” All yeses.
Let’s hope we get treated to another Ashly Williams and Brandie Love next week!