"The X Factor" U.S. episode that Fox televised on Sept. 18, 2013, offered more of the same predictable mix of good auditions and bad auditions.
The judges (Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio) continued to over-praise some of the contestants, but only a few of the contestants were talented enough to earn the praise.
One of the few standouts was 16-year-old Carlos Guevara, who wowed the judges and audience with his soulful version of John Mayer's "Gravity." Guevera mentioned in a pre-audition interview that he has Tourette Syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), but these medical conditions didn't stop him from giving a stellar audition. Rowland said of his performance, "It was just so magical, and I'm so grateful that I'm here to witness this." Cowell added, "Carlos, you know what I like about you? You're not a victim ... You've got a great voice."
The episode also featured the return of Jeffrey Adam Gutt, 37, the rock singer who was controversially eliminated from "The X Factor" U.S. boot camp in 2012. In 2013, Gutt's audition wasn't as impressive as it was in 2012, when he did a stunning version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." This time around, Gutt wailed a somewhat off-key version of Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing."
Cowell interrupted Gutt and said, "It sounded to me like you were trying to impersonate Steven Tyler. And that's not a good thing. I'm really disappointed." Then there was a commercial break as Gutt's "X Factor" fate seemingly hung in the balance.
In an October 2012 conference call with journalists, Cowell said that Gutt's elimination was the "biggest mistake" that the judges made that year. So if you knew that already or if you know spoiler information about the Top 12 contestant acts that were selected for the show's live episodes in 2013, then the fake cliffhanger before the commercial break was just a red herring. You probably could guess what was coming next.
Cowell then asked Gutt to choose another song. So Gutt sang Radiohead's "Creep" and did a much better job, but he seemed very nervous compared to his audition in 2012. Cowell pointed out that Gutt has "picked up some bad habits," such as "mispronouncing the words ... That was the only part I didn't like about the audition."
Still, Gutt's performance was good enough for him to get the judges' approval to go to the next round. Cowell praised Gutt: "When you hit the high part of the song at the end, it was sensational ... I am honored to have you back on the show."
Thankfully, "The X Factor" U.S. has done away with staging fake backstage catfights/drama (such as contestant trash-talking about other contestants) that the show had during the auditions and boot camp episodes in 2012. But that doesn't mean that the show doesn't throw in some cheesy dialogue for people to say in the backstage segments.
At the beginning of this episode, Cowell's former fiancée Mezhgan Hussainy, who still works for him as a makeup artist, was shown in the beginning of the episode doing some very bad acting when she told Cowell while he was in the makeup chair, "Come on, Simon. They're ready for you. You're running late."
Cowell then smirked as he vainly looked in the mirror and replied, "It takes a while to look this good, darling, as you can see."
Ugh. Does anyone remember when Cowell used to be consistently hilarious as a TV talent show judge? Now, he's just become an embarrassing caricature of himself. And as an executive producer of "The X Factor," he isn't forced to say these terrible, unfunny lines on camera. It's just all so pathetic and one of the reasons why ratings for "The X Factor" U.S. are on a downward spiral. "The Voice" would never have the stars of the show say these dumb lines.
Even though these auditions episodes are prerecorded and heavily edited, it's still pretty obvious that the chemistry that Cowell had with his fellow judges on "American Idol" from 2002 to 2008 and on "The X Factor" U.K. from 2004 to 2010 is sorely lacking on "The X Factor" U.S. in 2012.
Rowland does her best to be a balance of nurturing and sassy in her feedback, but her personality is often overshadowed by Cowell's egotistical comments. Lovato saves her wittiest moments for when she's sparring with Cowell. Otherwise, Lovato tends to blather on about how "cute" or "amazing" contestants are if she likes them. As for Rubio, she is just a vapid shell who almost never says anything interesting or original. Her shortcomings as a judge will be more obvious to viewers during the live episodes this year, which begin on a date to be announced.
Paula Abdul was ditzy too, but she had real chemistry with Cowell, who barely talks to Rubio on the panel unless he asks her what her vote is. In other words, the chemistry between Cowell and Rubio is practically non-existent. And since Cowell is the biggest star on the show, and Rubio barely interacts with him, she might as well not even be there. If Rubio does say something to Cowell, it's usually because she's following/copying what Rowland and Lovato have said.
As for the auditions, the worst performances weren't even as as amusing as they used to be in previous years. Even the "crazy" contestants are just plain boring this year.
Here's a summary of the best and worst auditions in the episode that was televised on Sept. 18, 2013. (The judges gave unanimous votes for these auditions.)
Best Auditions (contestants who advanced to the next round)
In addition to the above-mentioned auditions from Guevara and Gutt, there were ...
Josh Levi, 14, sang a fairly good acoustic version of Selena Gomez's "Come and Get It." It was by no means a spectacular performance and did not deserve this kind of praise from the judges: Lovato gushed, "That was amazing! That was adorable! That was a really great audition!" Rowland said to Levi, "You are a star!" Cowell raved, "I agree with Kelly. I think we could be looking at a future little star."
AKNU (pronounced "ah-new"), a trio of brothers ages 24 to 28, performed the Zutons' "Valerie" and had some slick dance moves that could have used better-coordinated choreography, but the crowd went wild for the audition. Most of the audience was probably too young to remember the Jackson 5, which AKNU blatantly copies. Lovato commented, "There's something really special about you guys. I had the chills." Cowell, who said of the beginning of the audition that he hated the song, was still impressed with the performance. He praised AKNU by saying, "It's like watching Motown all over again. I think you might be at the forefront of something new here." Well, if Cowell were being honest, he would have said that AKNU's act was good but not that new. It was really recycled Jackson 5 without AKNU playing musical instruments.
Brandie Love, 21, identified herself as a country singer and fulfilled the token "girl next door" quota for this episode. She sang Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain." Rubio foolishly asked Love why she was singing a song that isn't country music if she is a country singer. Someone should tell Rubio that it's called "showing versatility," a concept that Rubio fails to understand. It was a good performance from Love, but if you think about how "American Idol" alumni Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson would have triumphed with this song in an audition, Love's performance looked and sounded like a typical choir singer who gets to sing solos. Cowell quipped, "Brandie, you took us to church! I predict great things for Brandie Love!" Actually, Love is the kind of singer who would be a star in her church choir. But a star in America or all over the world? Very unlikely.
Millie Thrasher, 14, did a performance of Katy Perry's "Wide Awake" that was only shown for about 10 seconds, but from what was shown, it was another over-praised performance from the judges. File her under "another generic, forgettable singer who might end up singing on a cruise ship."
Timmy Thames, 13, did a nasally version of Ed Sheeran's "Lego House" that needed a lot of improvement in the vocals. It seems like the judges bend over backwards for singers under age 25 because this audition was barely above average and certainly not "fantastic," as Rubio said. And Cowell once again over-praised a contestant, by telling Thames: "I always know when I might be in front of someone who could be a star. I have this feeling about you right now." How many times has Cowell said this tired, over-used line to contestants whom he ends up eliminating and who go nowhere with their careers? Too many times to count. It's like a pathetic old playboy who says the same insincere cheesy pickup lines to someone to get an excited reaction and then ends up quickly using and dumping the person. Timmy Thames will find out soon enough when he's cast aside like "X Factor" garbage how "sincere" Cowell really is, because it's highly unlikely that Thames will make it to the Top 12.
Yellow House Canyon, a female country duo ages 16 and 17, shrieked Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman." Granted, only about 10 seconds of the audition was shown, but once again the judges over-praised this performance and gave Yellow House Canyon enthusiastic "yes" votes.
Malie Delgado, 18, performed kind of a bland version Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You." Again, only about 10 seconds of her performance was shown, but some of it was a little off-key and nowhere near as good as Clarkson's original version.
Colton Pack, 18, sang Jason Aldean's "Hicktown" and showed charisma and potential during his performance. He's clearly a wannabe country heartthrob, and Rubio made no attempt to hide her lust for him as she playfully made a cougar growling noise at Pack when she gave him positive feedback: "I like you, baby! And I love your presence." Rowland said, "I think you have a very unique voice. I dig you. I think you're really talented." Lovato said his performance was "pitchy at times" but he has a "natural stage presence." However, Cowell was more impressed with Pack than Lovato was. "I really, really, really like you," Cowell said to Pack. "There's a market for somebody like you."
Danielle "Danie" Geimer, 15, fulfilled the "socially awkward, quirky girl" quota for the episode. She performed a passionate, slower version of the Animals' "House of the Rising Sun." Predictably, Geimer sang it like she was in a coffeehouse. Geimer is in the Girls category, which Lovato is mentoring, so expect Lovato to give one of her polarizing "X Factor" makeovers to this contestant. Lovato (who was already in a makeover mindset when she asked Geimer to take off her hat) said to Geimer, "You did really great. I'm totally impressed." Rowland commented to Geimer, "Miss Thing, you are it!" Rubio exclaimed, "See you really soon, mama!" (Cowell was not at this audition because the show said he was late. Cowell's tardiness was something that frequently happened at "X Factor" U.S. auditions this year.)
There were also several short clips shown of contestants who advanced to the next round, but their names were not shown.
Worst Auditions (contestants who were rejected)
Shirley & Cynthia, a sister duo ages 24 and 16, wailed a terribly tone-deaf version of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back." Cowell quipped to the sisters, "It was like a competition to see who could sing the worst. And you both win. This is one of the worst groups we've ever had on the show." However, Rowland thought that younger sister Cynthia was a better singer who should work on improving her singing and come back to "The X Factor" in another year without Shirley. That's assuming "The X Factor" U.S. will be around in 2014 and beyond. Ratings for the show have been bad enough that "The X Factor" U.S. might be cancelled by then.
Vincent Crisostomo, 29, started out by saying that he was a hip-hop artist and then proceeded to wheeze out a horrible version of LeAnn Rimes' "How Do I Live." Cowell commented, "I've done this a long time. That was the one of the worst I've ever heard." Lovato said to Crisostomo, "I'm just concerned with the people you're surrounding yourself with that are telling you this is good." Cowell added, "Yeah, you need new friends."
Chloe J and CJ, a weird male/female duo, ages 21 and 23, shouted an atrocious version of Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep Mountain High." Chloe J occasionally attempted to sing and hit the high notes, but CJ was basically just talking/shouting through the song. Cowell predictably called the audition "awful," as he and the other judges all voted "no." Chloe J then fulfilled the "crazy" quota for this episode, since she walked down to the judges' table and began to kiss Cowell all over his face and neck. Cowell then joked, "I'm going to say yes."
Here are links to audition highlights in the episode that aired on Sept. 18, 2013:
Millie Thrasher performs Katy Perry's "Wide Awake," Timmy Thames performs Ed Sheeran's "Lego House," Yellow House Canyon performs Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman" and Malie Delgado performs Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You."
Sept. 19, 2013 update: The ratings for this episode were about the same as the previous episode, which isn't great news, since the ratings still put "The X Factor" in danger of being cancelled. In addition, about half of the prime-time network shows were reruns on Sept. 18, 2013, so "The X Factor" didn't have much competition and still had disappointing ratings.
According to the Nielsen Company, "The X Factor" episode that aired on Sept. 18, 2013, got 6.6 million U.S. viewers. "The X Factor" was in third place in its time slot and in fourth place overall for the night, behind NBC's "America Got Talent" (11.2 million U.S. viewers), CBS's "Survivor" (9.7 million U.S. viewers) and CBS's "Big Brother" (6.71 million U.S. viewers).
As previously reported, "The X Factor" U.S.'s ratings will face even stiffer competition when it goes up new episodes of ABC's "Modern Family" and CBS's "Criminal Minds" on Wednesdays, and CBS's "The Big Bang Theory" and CBS's "Two and a Half Men" on Thursdays. Those new episodes will begin airing in late September 2013.