12:27am PT by Jethro Nededog
'The X Factor' Redux: Chicago and Seattle Land on Planet Paula (Video)
Whatever shade I threw at Fox’s The X Factor last week, Wednesday’s auditions were a game changer for me. I felt it was really appropriate that Simon Cowell said that the auditions reminded him of Planet Paula, which refers to Paula Abdul's knack for being in her own world. I took it as a good theme for the evening as Chicago and Seattle presented lots of originality – more good than bad.
Chicago began with an unrequited love story. Makenna and Brock, a guy and girl who met while doing musical theatre, began the show with a heartwarming rendition of the Zac Brown Band’s “Colder Weather.” What was most touching about the duo was that Brock, an awkwardly tall boy whose voice cracks when he speaks, is in love with Makenna. She doesn’t feel the same way. Thankfully for them, the judges didn’t play hard to get and voted them through.
The good times ended when we got the necessary duds, including a woman named Kim who sounded like she was singing Katy Perry’s “Firework” underwater. But then we met Skyelor Anderson. He and his mother drove “nine hours and 30 minutes” to get to the auditions. Raised with manners by his single mother, he referred to L.A. Reid as “sir.” At 16, he sang “You Must Be Doing Something Right” and bounced back like an old pro after his track cut out unexpectedly. The judges respected him for not losing it and carrying on.
After that, we met J. Mark Inman, a scientist with confidence to spare. He mixed a trippy backup track and choreography only a scientist could love on Radiohead’s “Creep,” which seemed to mesmerize the judges. While I thought his voice was just OK, I'm coming to terms that with the fact that the “X Factor” doesn’t always take shape in the way I’d expect it to.
For example, there’s mama’s boy, 30-year-old Josh Krajik. His mother drove him to the audition and I’m sure her car was powered by the sheer power of her enthusiasm for her son’s talent. I was prepared for a stinker and so was Simon. Instead, he actually lived up to his mother’s raves, singing a powerful rendition of “At Last” by Etta James.
And then it was on to Seattle and more performers who gave their own spin on some well-known favorites. After a strange mother-daughter team sang what Nicole Scherzinger called a lifeless version of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” I wanted to ask them exactly that. What a hot mess. But, they didn’t seem to care what others thought of their singing – paging Planet Paula.
We then met uber Justin Bieber fan, Drew Ryniewicz. She announced she would be singing the pop singer’s “Baby.” And in case you didn’t hear the first 100 times it was said on the show, L.A. Reid discovered Bieber. So, he warned her he might be harsh about the performance. She then did something that knocked their socks off. She sang the song as a ballad, which Nicole said she actually liked better than the original.
The next performer won my heart. Peet Montzingo is the only average height member of his little person family. At 21, he declared numerous times that he still wants to be a teen heartthrob. I was rooting for him while he sang Bruno Mars’ “Billionaire,” though he replaced the word with “famous” because that’s what he truly wants to be. He wasn’t bad, but the judges told him that while there was something about him that shined, it wasn’t his singing.
Like Drew, the quartet, 4Shore, also invited L.A. Reid’s criticism when it decided to do a song he wrote and that was made famous by Boys II Men, “End Of The Road.” I thought they were all over the place, but the audience went crazy for them and the judges unanimously sent them through.
We then got some short peeks at other performers who advanced before reaching Philip Lomax, a self-professed hipster with an infectious smile. And, surprise, he sang a believable rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon.” Despite some weakness in his voice, the judges felt his charisma and confidence earned him a spot in the next round.
The show ended with Tiah Toliver whose a capella performance of Shontelle’s “Impossible” far from impressed Nicole and Paula while the men were absolutely won over. She was given a second chance to prove herself and I don’t think her song choice was very good. It was met with mean girl stares from the women. But after Simon basically begged them to change their vote, Nicole gave in and sent her through with the warning that her vocals needed some work.
If we continue to see this kind of originality going forward, The X Factor may have won me back. Otherwise, it was nice visiting Planet Paula for a couple hours.