"The X Factor" U.S. episode that Fox televised on Sept. 19, 2013 should have been titled "Teen Takeover" because almost all of contestants who were showcased were teenage singers.
In what has become a predictable pattern this year, all four judges (Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio) ultimately voted the same way for the contestants in this episode. This is one of the reasons why many people think this show has become very boring this year.
There are some very talented contestants, as there are every year. However, "The X Factor" U.S. has failed to discover any major international stars the way "American Idol" did with Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Adam Lambert. The "X Factor" U.S. alumni who have deals with Sony Music have mostly been flopping on the charts, so it's hard to get too excited about any contestant on this show when you know they're going to fade back into obscurity, even if some of them get major record deals. Even on "The X Factor" U.K., which has produced the biggest international stars for "The X Factor" franchise, winning isn't all it's cracked up to be, as most of the "X Factor" U.K. winners have been dropped by Sony Music.
But back to this episode. The standout contestant was Ashly Williams, 24, who had the crowd and the judges on their feet with her powerhouse version of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You." It's a tough and over-performed song to sing under any circumstance, but Williams' performance was so riveting that she got a standing ovation from the judges and audience.
Williams' vocals aren't as great as Houston's vocals, but Williams was the best singer showcased in this episode. In a pre-audition interview, she talked about being inspired and motivated by her mother, who was murdered when Williams was 14. Williams wisely chose not to tell the judges this sob story, because then it would look like she was fishing for sympathy votes from them.
Rowland told Williams: "You're saying 'thank you' to everybody, which is beautiful and humbling, but thank you, baby girl, for spilling your heart out with that vocal." Rubio added: "I was just captivated [by] your talent. That was an amazing performance." Lovato raved, "I'm speechless. I had chills all over my arms and legs ... There's a place in the market for you." Cowell smiled and said, "This is why we brought the show to America: to find somebody like you. I think we've just scratched the surface with you. I think you're seriously, seriously good."
Andrew Scholz, 18, sang Alex Clare's "Too Close." Scholz is the type of popular, good-looking guy who was probably a star athlete in high school and may have been one of the best singers in his school. But on "The X Factor" stage, there are much more talented contestants. His performance was slightly above average, but nothing special.
Lovato, Rowland and Rubio have been saying in a lot of interviews that they have all this "girl power" against Cowell, but this audition showed everyone that Cowell is really in charge. After all, he is the creator of "The X Factor" and one of the show's executive producers. Here is what happened:
Rowland commented to Scholz, "I felt like you were a little glued to the microphone, which made it feel a little karaoke." Lovato added, "Yes, you have the appeal to the female audience. Your voice isn't bad, necessarily, but I didn't feel like you were comfortable on stage, and actually it was a little bit awkward." Rubio added, "I think you're really, really cute, but the song that you [chose], I didn't quite get it."
Cowell (who clearly wants to find the next Justin Bieber or the next Hunter Hayes) was visibly annoyed that the other judges were going to say no to Scholz, so Cowell said, "I disagree with all three of these girls. I'm not saying it was perfect. You've got charisma, which is part of 'The X Factor.' You're very charming. With the right training, you could be good. He is someone we would be crazy to let go at this point." At least half of the audience seemed to be shrieking pre-teen and teenage girls, so naturally they cheered in agreement with Cowell.
When Lovato said her vote was "no" (and she got massive booing from the audience), Cowell showed his manipulation skills by not letting Rowland and Rubio vote, and giving Scholz another chance by asking him to do another song. Scholz performed Little Big Town's "A Little More You," as Cowell smirked and looked at the rest of the judges, knowing that the other judges would cave in and change their minds.
Lovato said of Scholz's second song choice: "That totally changed everything. That made more sense than the first song." You can see where this is going. Rowland and Rubio changed their minds too and gave Scholz "yes" votes. Meanwhile, Cowell suggested to Scholz that he go in a more country-music direction for his singing.
Cowell then said of the female judges who almost outvoted him: "It was like being mauled by three cats." So that would make Cowell the sexist zookeeper.
Cowell is so condescending when he calls his adult female colleagues "girls." He seems to have a problem with treating the women in his life as his equals when he puts them down subtly by implying that they aren't as smart or mature as he thinks he is. In fact, he tends to call almost all women "girls," and it makes him look like an insecure blowhard. The female judges on this show are almost as bad as he is when they just sit there and allow him to be so blatantly sexist. Cowell's condescending attitude toward women is yet another reason why many people are turned off by "The X Factor." Christina Aguilera and Shakira don't have to deal with this crap on "The Voice."
Here's a summary of the best and worst auditions in the episode that was televised on Sept. 19, 2013.
Best Auditions (contestants who advanced to the next round)
Besides Williams and Scholz, the other contestants who got unanimous "yes" votes from the judges were:
Ellona Santiago, 16, performed Little Mix's "Wings." She is going to get a lot of comparisons to Jessica Sanchez, who came in second place on "American Idol" in 2012. Santiago auditioned for "The X Factor" U.S. in 2011, and was one of 10 underage contestants who were rejected but then put into an "X Factor"-created kiddie group that was called InTENsity, which came in 12th place and has since disbanded. When Santiago asked Cowell if he remembered her, he said he didn't remember her until she reminded him that she was a member of the group InTENsity. It didn't matter, because Cowell had already made up his mind to say yes to her. He told Santiago: "You are the girl I think I want to work with most now in this competition."
Stone Martin, 14, sang One Direction's "Little Things." Despite having corny stage moves (like hair flips and finger pointing to the audience) and not being old enough to really bring sincere emotional depth to a love song like "Little Things," Martin won over the crowd, which clearly had a lot of teenybopper fans of One Direction and Justin Bieber in the audience. Rowland commented to Martin: "I love you. I think since you're 14, you're only starting to get to know your voice. We've only scratched the surface." Lovato chirped, "I think you're so cute! You're so charming ... I think there's something very special about you." Rubio added, "I think your life is about to change forever." Cowell said, "You've got incredible likability about you, but I think you've also kind of got this star glow about you."
Worst Auditions (contestants who were rejected)
Blake Shankle, 19, came across as a shallow pretty boy with very little substance and is the type of person who probably skates by in life based on his good looks instead of hard work and talent. His flat vocals during his version of Christina Perri's "Jar of Hearts" did not impress the judges. Before the audition, Shankle was shown in an interview saying that he is often told that he looks like Robin Thicke, Justin Bieber, David Beckham and Adam Levine. He also said his goal is to be the most famous person in the world. Lovato thought that Shankle was a little too "theatrical." Rubio told Shankle, "I felt you pose a lot." Shankle is clearly not used to rejection, so he was shocked that the judges didn't say yes to him.
A young woman whose named sounded like Nechrissia Harris (her name and age weren't shown) wailed a terrible version of Rihanna's "Diamonds." Cowell said the performance was "painful." Before her audition, this is how Harris described herself as a singer: "If Beyoncé and Rihanna had a baby." More like a baby from hell. And with a busted-looking hair weave.
There were also several short clips of bad auditions with unidentified contestants, including a female contestant who sang in pig Latin. Cowell quipped to a male contestant who sang badly, "When someone I hate gets married, I'm going to ask you to perform at their wedding."
Very few of Cowell's put-downs in this episode were actually amusing. If you've watched him on "American Idol," "The X Factor" U.K." or "Britain's Got Talent" over the years, then you already know that he's used many of the same lines/insults before with other contestants, so his act is getting old and wearing very thin.
And the proof is in the fact that millions of viewers have stopped watching "The X Factor" U.S., which now has about half of the U.S. audience that it did when the show started in 2011. According to the Nielsen Company, "The X Factor" U.S. averaged 12 million U.S. viewers in 2011. In 2013, the show's audience has plummeted to an average of 6.5 million U.S. viewers. It's pretty obvious that "The X Factor" is doing a lot of things wrong to lose this many viewers.
Here are links to audition highlights in the episode that aired on Sept. 19, 2013: