September 19, 2013 12:21am PT by Cortney Wills
'X Factor' Recap: Talented Teens and Crushed Dreams
Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland and Simon Cowell tackled the first part of X Factor's Charleston audition stop sans Paulina Rubio, who was away at a concert. South Carolina brought out plenty of groups, most of whom Cowell called "old-fashioned" and "corny." It was slim pickings dominated by Backstreet Boys wannabes, and Cowell seemed very annoyed by it.
Even the consistently composed Ms. Rowland couldn't help but cringe at some of the painfully bad notes struck by a sister duo singing the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back."
Said Cowell, "It was like a competition as to who could sing the worst and you both win! I think this is one of the worst groups we've ever had."
Luckily, one trio grabbed the judges' attention for the right reasons. AKNU, made up of three brothers from South Central, was old-fashioned in a good way. The trio even kicked off with a quirky dance routine that could've come straight out of a Bruno Mars concert. It scored them some serious cool points.
"It's like watching Motown all over again. Normally, that's the part I hate, but I think you may be on the forefront of something new here," said Cowell. "I actually could watch this whole audition all over again. I love it that much."
It was then that a cavalcade of talented teens took the stage and wowed the panel.
Josh Levi, 14, showed some serious swagger that had the ladies sitting front and center bumping and grinding all through his performance of Selena Gomez's "Come and Get It."
"That was amazing," exclaimed Lovato. Rowland was ecstatic too."You are a star, hands down," she said. "There's nobody like you. You are…yes!"
Danie Geimer, a 15-year-old California girl who claims to spend most of her time reading alone in her bedroom, brought the house down with her version of "The House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals. Nobody expected such a big and unique voice to come from the seemingly shy girl, but once the bespectacled hopeful lost the hat and shook out her hair, it became evident that this wallflower was a knockout in disguise.
The most compelling contender of the night was 16-year-old Carlos Guevara. His story went from heartbreaking to heartwarming in a snap thanks to his amazing voice and a huge group of true friends. The teen recently had to leave school because of the debilitating tics caused by Tourette's syndrome and OCD. "I have motor and vocal tics which make me move a little weird sometimes," he said. "They tried every medicine in the book, and all that could help me was music."
His soulful rendition of John Mayer's "Gravity" reduced the audience to tears. The girls gave him a standing ovation and Cowell praised his strength. "You've actually got a great voice," he said. Rowland was equally in awe of the musical miracle. "I'm just so grateful that I'm here to witness this and witness you," she said.
Brandie Love, 21, seemed mild-mannered when she hit the stage, but morphed into a powerhouse the moment she started singing "Up to the Mountain."
"You have The X Factor!" declared an excited Rubio.
Jeff Gutt, 37, returned after being ejected from boot camp last season. The single father is back with his adorable little boy and hoping to make it further this time -- perhaps right into the final 10. Cowell didn't like his take on Aerosmith's hit "Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" and was "really disappointed" with the audition. He got a second shot and chose a much better song, Radiohead's "Creep," which could catapult him to the winner's circle.
The night's most exciting moment, however, came courtesy of two sassy hairdressers who weren't going for Cowell's guff. "Don't look at me like that," said the female contender, after her horrendous audition prompted Cowell's glare. "Not a note in tune," he quipped. That's when she took matters into her own hands, marching down to the judges' table and smooching Cowell's neck and face in hopes of swaying his vote. The red-faced Brit wasn't going for it, but it sure was entertaining to watch him squirm.
It's still early on in the competition, but who do you think has the goods? Have your say in the comments.