“The X Factor” came to Chicago on Thursday, May 19 and Friday, May 20 for auditions with a live audience; as previously reported, Simon Cowell along with former “American Idol” colleague Paula Abdul, “X Factor” UK castmate Cheryl Cole, and music producer LA Reid are the “X Factor” USA judges.
My first thought upon seeing the foursome was they are tiny. They are tiny in stature and physique but had a huge presence in the arena, as evidenced by the long standing ovation given by the audience as they entered and exited the arena. Based on the number of times her names was shouted, Paula Abdul was the most popular judge at the Sears Centre, followed by Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, and LA Reid. The seating arrangement from the stage's left was LA Reid, Cheryl Cole, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell.
Paula and Simon’s love-hate chemistry was always a prominent fixture on “American Idol,” and the same playful banter exists on “The X Factor.” They often whispered together, playfully hit each other another, and teased one another. There was chemistry among all the judges. Paula and Cheryl appear to get along with each as girlfriends, and the judges were very attentive and receptive to LA Reid whenever he spoke.
Did the contestants create the right chemistry for the judges and audience? Yes — several contestants definitely had the “X” factor. There was a skunk-haired teen from Colorado named Emma who sang “House of the Rising Sun” almost as well as Haley Reinhart did on “American Idol.” There was a performance artist named Mark who “sang” Radiohead’s “Creep” in a performance you had to see to believe. It created an out-of-this-world Paula Abdul response: “You’re definitely from a different [planet]. I feel like I’ve been there once or twice.” Perhaps the biggest moment of the night was a performance from a “burrito slinger” from Ohio named Josh. He slayed Etta James’ “At Last” and elicited thunderous applause from the audience and Simon Cowell’s surprise and respect.
All in all, the performances were genuinely good or at least adequate. The only truly “bad” performance I recall was Katy Perry’s “Firework” sung by a woman from Milwaukee. The performance’s weirdness was exacerbated by the audience’s previous interaction with the contestant. We had been asked as a crowd to part when this contestant walked through us, with no reason given. Then she sang on stage, significantly worse than the other contestants. Was she a producer plant? I know on “Idol” the bad singers usually film some kind of funny scene in addition to their audition, so I don’t really know what to think about her authenticity. However, all the other performances of the evening seemed genuine.
To the audience members who attended in Chicago, what did you think of “The X Factor?” Were you impressed by the judges? Do you think “X Factor” competes with “Idol” and “The Voice”? What does "The X Factor" need to do to stand apart from the other singing shows?