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The X Factor‘s second night of premiere week continued its search in Denver, Colo. and Long Island, N.Y., and it discovered talent in a very unlikely place: the judges’ table.
Yes, after three seasons of X Factor and nine seasons of American Idol, viewers finally got to hear the vocals of Simon Cowell, the man who has made fully-grown adults cry on camera. And it wasn’t pretty.
Of course, it was a joke and all in good fun, but when 56-year-old Elvis Presley-hopeful Russ Pouliot, who quivered like a dying sheep on The King’s “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You,” stepped up to the microphone, Cowell fired off one of his classic insults. “It sounded like you were drowning,” he quipped.
The feisty Demi Lovato couldn’t help but give Cowell a taste of his own medicine, saying that if Pouliot had a British accent he would sound like the judge. Cowell did sing a few bars of “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You,” and let’s just say imitation wasn’t the sincerest form of flattery in this case. Lovato continued to make jokes at Cowell’s expense.
Back to the contestants: Among the most ridiculous? 21-year old Yosselin Marquez, who (no lie) auditioned in Colorado by using her smartphone and what looked like The Voice app to remember the lyrics to Rihanna‘s “Only Girl in the World.” To make matters worse, she didn’t even know who Cowell was.
“I don’t care about the judges…I don’t even know the guy. Never seen him before,” she said.
Then there was Pittsburgh’s Jocelyn Hinton, who single handedly massacred Katy Perry‘s “Firework,” as well as Whitney Houston‘s “Saving All My Love,” prompting the normally jovial Lovato to plead, “Okay, stop. Just stop.”
After a montage of the truly awful (including a Scotty McCreery knockoff with an excruciatingly stiff version of “Your Man”), Cowell was in fine form, dishing out the insults. Among his best moments: “That was trying to chop down a tree with a banana,” and “that was like a goldfish trying to be a shark,” along with the truly odd critique addressed to duo K+B: “that sounded like two three-year-olds who got flu trying to sing.”
But there was good news in the two-hour search for singers to round out the four categories: Girls, Boys, Over-25s, and Groups.
Among the best? Twenty-nine-year old Rachel Potter, a Nashville bartender who once had the role of Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family on Broadway. She admitted that she needs X Factor because “I’m 29.” Fair enough. She’s a talent that deserves the shot, much like Lillie McCloud from Wednesday’s premiere. She handled Queen’s “Somebody to Love” with a wonderful country arrangement and, in one song, won over all four judges.
Fifteen-year old Rylie Brown at first had a moment worthy of American Idol Season 12 alum Lazaro Arbos, briefly forgetting the words to Zedd‘s “Clarity,” the only song she had been practicing for an entire month. But once she rebounded, Brown showed maturity in her vocals that won over Cowell, who said, “you messed up, but who cares when you have voice like that?”
Is 36-year-old Jeffrey Brinkman the second coming of season one vet Josh Krajcik? It certainly seemed that way when the raspy-voiced Colorado-native crooned Joe Cocker‘s “You Are So Beautiful” to the arena.
“I love how sincere you are and you mean every word,” gushed Kelly Rowland, while Lovato noted that Brinkman has a “voice that can sell records.”
Long Island had a questionable moment with 22-year-old ice cream man Jorge Pena, who immediately insulted Lovato by calling her “woman” and acting like the Latino version of Jersey Shore star, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino. However, when he crooned a song in Spanish, he impressed the judges, but he was warned in English and Spanish (by a very stern Paulina Rubio) to tone down his attitude.
“Come down from the stars, because you are not a star yet,” chastised Rubio en espanol. She should do this every week.
Simone Torres, 19, is a speed rapper, and at first it appeared that the perky Long Islander Cowell described as a “funny little thing” was going to be a joke. But after she tore into a sultry and cool version of “Mustang Sally,” the Brit, called her audition one of the best he’s heard so far in the competition.
That is, until the group Roxxy Montana took the stage. At first, the sisters did not gel on “One Night Only” from Dreamgirls. But the girls raised their game with an a cappella church number, singing in (dare we say it?) harmony. Cowell believed the group to be the show’s best non-manufactured act ever, with the most potential, and began openly lobbying for the Groups category.
Nineteen-year-old Al Calderon is what he calls the “happy birthday” singer at a restaurant, but after his audition with Hall and Oates’ “Sara Smile,” his waiter days may soon be over. Even though Cowell noted that there were some moments that were flat, he chalked it up to “nerves and inexperience.” Astute viewers could see Cowell’s wheels turning. He is likely considering Calderon for a future manufactured group, not a solo act. We shall see.
Finally, 41-year-old subway singer Denise Weeks took on the inspirational classic, “The Greatest Love of All,” but Cowell stopped her cold with advice that she was singing too quickly ahead of the music. In a surprise move, the judge had her sing the song without the track — and she knocked it out of the park.
“X Factor was waiting for you,” said Cowell.
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