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2 YEARS

'X Factor' Recap: Lightning Strikes -- Literally -- as the Superstar Search Continues

Britney Spears found herself right at home in the South, while Simon Cowell's distaste for Adele covers continues.

Willie Brown X-Factor - P 2012
FOX

Southern hospitality reigned supreme on Thursday’s episode of The X Factor, kicking off with auditions in Greensboro, N.C.

Britney Spears, a Louisiana native, finds it “refreshing and amazing” to be in the South, while Simon Cowell uses the opportunity to taste grits for the first time (“Where could I get a grit?” he asks his driver). As for Demi Lovato, well, she’s in the middle of her own tour and frankly, barely has any idea where she even is.

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Driving through the quiet streets of Greensboro, the judges can practically hear crickets. Where is everybody? Surprise! The entire city (thousands!) was in line to audition. (Fun Fact: Greensboro’s actual population is reported to be near 273,425. )

Kicking things off is a fellow Louisiana native, Willie Jones, 17, whose family drove 14 hours for the audition. Donning an acid-washed denim vest, Lovato proclaims that she loves his style -- “It’s very Fresh Prince.”

His voice, however, couldn’t be further from Big Willie’s Style (Will Smith, that is).

As someone who looks like Kid from Kid N Play, Jones shocks the crowd with a country performance on par with Idol champ Scotty McCreery’s deep, low voice, if not quite as jaw dropping.

Dancing around the topic of exactly why Jones is so “original” and “surprising,” the judges still give him a resounding four yeses.

PHOTOS: An 'American Idol' to 'X Factor' Timeline

But where would the southern charm be without the toothless old creeps? X Factor delved right into that stereotype with 47-year-old Kalvin McManigle, a lawn mower factory worker with a black cowboy hat and an indistinguishable accent. Needless to say, his 15 minutes were cut very short.

Julia Bullock, 18, leaves her band and her (pathetic) ex-boyfriend behind with a fresh take on Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks.” LA Reid gushes, “You’re exactly what I’ve been looking for.”

Krysten Colon, 21, must have missed Cowell’s “please don’t cover Adele” memo, attempting to tackle the Brit’s “Don’t You Remember” with her audition. A ballsy move, yes, but it’s still Adele. End of story. To top her original is a daunting, if not impossible, task.

Luckily for Colon, the judges see potential in her vocals despite the poor song choice, asking her to return later with a classic song (and an original twist).

Perhaps in an attempt to have lightning strike twice, season two finds its Chris Rene in tattooed, 36-year-old single dad, Jeffrey.  “I just really want him to grow up and be proud of his father,” he says of 4-year-old Talon.

Performing the ever-present “Hallelujah,” a reality competition staple, Jeffrey brings the house down with his hard-rock edge and gritty voice. The rendition earned him kudos from all judges, with Lovato comparing him to the “Josh Grobin of rock ‘n’ roll” (“Better,” snaps Cowell).

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Later, coinciding with a slew of forgettable performances, a severe thunderstorm rages on outside, knocking power out of the venue multiple times. But it was nothing compared to the storm producers were about to face (or stage, depending how you see it).

Colon returns to the stage to close out the show on an off-pitch note. The songstress chooses “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston for her second effort, trading one iconic singer for another and receiving an unfortunate four nos from the judges. While the thunderstorm wages on outside, a temper tantrum ensues inside, with Colon’s mother ultimately apologizing to those behind the cameras for her daughter’s uncouth behavior.

All-in-all, it was another day of auditions and honestly, we can’t wait to just move on to the next round. Though in a promising teaser that will undoubtedly be milked long into next week, KISS frontman Gene Simmons is spotted in the crowd. As The Hollywood Reporter previously reported, Simmons’ daughter Sophie reportedly stepped in front of the judges on Father’s Day in San Francisco. Are those pipes genetic? Will Sophie get bonus points as the offspring of a rock god? Looks like we’ll find out next week.

Email: Sophie.Schillaci@thr.com; Twitter: @SophieSchillaci