"The X Factor" U.S. episode that Fox televised on Sept. 25, 2013 got off to a loathsome start with a series of bad auditions that made contestants over the age of 25 look crazy and untalented. And the episode got even worse, as there was a staged marriage proposal between two contestants and an awful "music video" from the judges.
It's no secret that "The X Factor" U.S. is youth-obsessed and seems to only care about appealing to teenage girls. (For example, the previous episode featured mostly teenage contestants who got "yes" votes from all the judges.)
With few exceptions, "The X Factor" doesn't really take seriously the contestants who are over the age of 25. This show is all about giving the best promotion to the contestants under age 25, which basically makes "The X Factor" not that much different from "American Idol," which has an age limit of 16 to 28 for contestants.
The main thing that sets "The X Factor" apart from "American Idol" is that it allows groups on the show. It's laughable how "The X Factor" tries to pretend that it is appealing to a wide variety of age demographics, when this show clearly acts like only contestants and viewers in their teens and early 20s are the ones who matter the most. It's a big mistake that has resulted in "The X Factor" U.S.'s pathetic, rapidly declining ratings in its third season. And it's why "The Voice" U.S. is kicking "The X Factor" U.S. all over the place in the ratings.
And the show's judges (Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio) aren't helping with their dull, predictable unanimous votes. Former "X Factor" U.S. judge Antonio "L.A." Reid had his share of critics, but at least he had a backbone and wasn't afraid to stand up to Cowell and disagree with Cowell in his votes. The so-called "girl power" among the female judges is a farce because it seems like these women are afraid to disagree with Cowell in their votes for contestants. And Lovato and Rowland (especially Lovato) keep undermining whatever credibility they have by frequently calling (usually male) contestants "cute."
In fact, the word "cute" has to be the most over-used, annoying word used by the judges in 2013, just like Britney Spears constantly used the word "amazing" on "The X Factor" U.S. in 2012 and became a parody of herself.
Many of the auditions featured in the episode were from "The X Factor" auditions that took place in Uniondale, N.Y., on June 19, June 20, and June 21, 2013. I attended all of the auditions in Uniondale, so I already had detailed reviews of these auditions. At the time I wrote those reviews, I didn't put the names of the contestants in the articles, since "The X Factor" requested that the media not reveal the names of contestants until after the audition episodes were televised.
Of course, these auditions are heavily edited for television, but what's weird is that of the five episodes televised so far in "The X Factor" U.S.'s third season, not once have we seen the judges disagree in their final votes. At the auditions I attended, not all of the votes were unanimous.
Even the judges seem to be losing interest in the show. As previously reported, Cowell was frequently late and missed several audition performances this year. In one segment, Lovato and Rubio weren't even there (no reason was given to the viewers), so Cowell and Rowland had to judge the contestants on their own. Rubio wasn't missed all that much since she's the most useless, inarticulate, unoriginal judge on "The X Factor" U.S. panel this year.
Here's a summary of the best and worst auditions in the episode that was televised on Sept. 25, 2013. (And "best" doesn't necessarily mean "great," but they were the best auditions in this episode, because they resulted in the contestants getting put through to the next round.)
Best Auditions (contestants who advanced to the next round)
Emery Kelly, 15, a Bruno Mars wannabe, sang Jason Mraz's "I Won't Give Up," one of the most over-performed songs at "X Factor" auditions. Lovato predictably chirped what she seems to say to at least 40 percent of the contestants: "I think you're so cute! And you have a great voice!" Rubio said, "I love your charisma, your voice, your appearance." Cowell added, "I didn't like the song, but I think you're a little unpolished diamond. I think you're somebody who can grow. You're like a real pop star."
Yawn. Cowell been saying these puffed-up compliments to so many contestants this year that it's become a joke. The reality is that most of these contestants never become stars. It's just so dumb how Cowell keeps trying to desperately fool these contestants into thinking this show is a big star-making platform, when the truth is "The X Factor" U.S. has been been failing in this area in almost every respect. Not one of the contestants from this show has gone gold or platinum in America.
Khaya Cohen, 15, started off by singing Jennifer Hudson's "Love You I Do." Cowell stopped her and said, "The song is not working." Rowland asked Cohen to perform a second song. So Cohen sang Nina Simone's "I Put a Spell on You," which got a much better reaction from the judges. Lovato, "I am so excited to hear a voice like yours." Rubio added, "Wow, that little tiny body and tiny voice and that presence? Superflua!" Cowell raved, "I love the tone of your voice. It reminds me a little bit of Amy Winehouse, Adele."
Really? This what "The X Factor" has sunk to in its laughably bad content: over-praising a 15-year-old who sings like a 15-year-old by saying her voice sounds like the adult, soulful voices of Adele and Winehouse. It's just all so desperate and pathetic. Even worse, it just sets contestants like Cohen up for failure on this show when they are over-praised in their auditions. In the real world of music professionals, Cohen would not be compared to Adele and Winehouse. Cohen is a pretty good singer, but the point is that she sounds like what she is: a teenager. It would be an embarrassment for her if she tried to sing a song like Winehouse's "Rehab" or a mature breakup song like Adele's "Rolling in the Deep."
James Kenney, 35, made it to "The X Factor" U.S. judges' houses in 2011 when he was eliminated. In his return to "The X Factor," he sang a good-but not-great soulful version George Gershwin's "Summertime." Lovato remarked that it was a "sexy song," while Cowell added that the "song choice was brilliant." Before the audition, Kenney got a "back story" segment showing that he works as an apartment manager to support his wife and two daughters. Based on "The X Factor" U.S.'s dismal failure at finding a "superstar," Kenney shouldn't quit his day job.
Chase Goehring, 17, a mediocre singer with flaming red hair did an original song he wrote that sounds like he wants to be the next Ed Sheeran. It was a forgettable song, but because he's a reasonably attractive teenager, naturally the show's judges were biased in his favor.
Allison Davis (26), Isabel Requena (24) and Isaiah Alston (15) were solo singers whose auditions were edited together to show that they all sang Mary J. Blige's "I'm Going to Down." Alston was the best singer of the three. Lovato told Alston, "I think you have a potential to be a little Michael Jackson." Hold on, Lovato. He was good, but he wasn't that good to be compared to a superstar like Michael Jackson. That's one of the problems with this show's judges. They're too quick to over-praise contestants after seeing just one audition.
Isaac Tauaefa, 25, a former college football player, said he wanted to prove he could play more than football (he was probably sick of people telling him he looks like Manti Te'o) by being a singer. So he did an OK version of James Morrison's "Better Man." Lovato commented to Tauaefa: "Maybe football wasn't your calling. Maybe music is." And maybe he'll be just another "X Factor" contestant who gets eliminated at boot camp.
Tim Olstad, 23, sang Christina Perri's "A Thousand Years." Cowell was absent from this audition, so viewers got to see three unanimous votes from three gushing judges who sounded like they were on a dating show. Rowland exclaimed to Olstad, "I feel like your voice just came over me like a blanket of love! It was so beautiful! I'm in love!" Lovato raved, "First of all, I had the chills when you sang, and I don't get that often here." (Not true. She has said that "I get chills" line to so many times to other contestants.) Lovato continued, "You're so lovable and you're so cute the way that you are!" Rubio practically drooled as she raised her hands like a cougar about to pounce: "You're like a teddy bear that I want to hug you forever!" (Ladies, he's not that "cute.")
Wesley Mountain, 18, performed Hunter Hayes' "Wanted." Before his audition, he was practically hyperventilating when he confessed that he has a massive crush on Rowland. During his audition, he went up to the judges' table and kissed the hand of a visibly embarrassed Rowland. Cowell told Mountain: "That was actually very good ... Just take a very long cold shower when you sing." Lovato added, "At first, I thought you were so creepy. But you have good voice. You went from creepy to cute!" Rubio said to Mountain, "If you really want this, you have to keep your feelings separate." (This is coming from Rubio, who doesn't hide her lust for male contestants who are young enough to be her sons.) Rowland commented, "I was watching the ladies in the audience, and we're attracted to passion. So I'm going to say yes." Cowell then lectured to Rowland: "Leave that alone!"
Celine Polenghi, 16, sang Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston's "When You Believe." Cowell said, "Was it perfect? No. Do you have massive potential? Yes. I see a future pop star standing in front of me."
Bree Randall, 20, sang Bruno Mars' "Treasure," and it was so average that it looked like something you'd see at a high-school talent contest. But that didn't stop Lovato from over-praising Randall by saying, "There's something about you that I think is going to go far in this competition." We'll see how much of a lie that really is.
Primrose Martin, 20, did a mediocre version of Jessie J's "Nobody's Perfect." Still, Rowland raved to Martin: "I think you're phenomenal!"
Summer Reign, 17, did an unremarkable, pitchy version of Shontelle's "Impossible." Cowell gushed, "You're a little pop star!"
Lorie Moore, 34, a professional women's football player who slightly resembles Missy Elliott, came out in a gimmicky football jersey and sang Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing." The performance was pretty good, but at this point, many people who watch these TV talent shows are so tired of hearing contestants sing Whitney Houston songs that it diminishes the impact of a good performance. Cowell said somewhat condescendingly to Moore, "This is why we have no age limit on the show. You were very, very good."
Worst Auditions (contestants who were rejected)
Melanie Wright, 48, butchered David Guetta's "Titanium." Poor, delusional Wright thought she did a great performance because people in the audience were standing up and cheering. She didn't realize that she was being mocked. Cowell said to Wright about her audition: "It's like finding out that Cinderella worked at the Playboy Mansion ... It didn't work." After getting "no" votes from all the judges, Wright was shown humming "Titanium" in the hallway like a nutjob.
Oksana Mamchur, 36, wailed a horrific version of Celine Dion's "The Power of Love" and was promptly eliminated.
Rob Zarro, 55, wheezed Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" in a performance that was a complete flop and more wimpy than wild. Zarro was also wearing at toupee that looked almost as bad as his singing was. Cowell said to Zarro about the performance: "It was like something out of an 'Austin Powers' movie."
Maya Lehmann, 60, mangled Europe's "The Final Countdown" in a voice that was about as pleasant as listening to nails on a chalkboard.
Ruben Gloria, 26, looked and sounded like an idiot wearing hooded tiger coat with ears when he croaked out Madonna's "Like a Virgin."
Joseph Tolve, 19, is an androgynous, skinny wisp of a singer who looked like Anne Hathaway after her hair gets cut off in "Les Misérables," and he sounded like Minnie Mouse when he warbled a shaky version of Lovato's "Skyscraper." The judges suggested that Tolve do voiceover work or be on a "Sesame Street" type of show. Rowland quipped to Tolve in mock encouragement, "You know how much Dora the Explorer makes?"
David Gray, 31, who looks like a male model and talks like a Southern cowboy, did a very staged audition by proposing to his girlfriend Lauren Waguespack (who also auditioned) after he performed Usher's "Nice and Slow." Before the audition, he was seen asking his girlfriend's father for his blessing in the marriage proposal. It was all so contrived. His voice was terrible, and of course he only went on "The X Factor" to get the extra attention of proposing to his girlfriend, which increased his chances of his audition being shown on TV so he and his girlfriend can get their 15 minutes of fame.
Lauren Waguespack, 25, performed Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" until she was interrupted by Gray, who walked out on stage to propose to her in one of the phoniest, most staged reality TV proposals ever. Predictably, Waguespack said yes to the proposal with lots of histrionic bad acting. She was probably as surprised as Cowell must look when he has to choose between wearing one of his endless array of black, white or grey T-shirts that are too tight for him.
Rickey Clark Jr., 19, sang an off-key version of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" with some awkward dance moves. Cowell took the lead by saying, "I like you. I don't like your voice. It sounded flat ... It sounded too low and sounded out of tune." Clark broke down and cried as he got "no" votes from all the judges. As I previously reported, Rowland ran up on stage to comfort Clark and gave him words of encouragement. It was one of the few sincere moments from a judge on this show.
Second Hand High, a male/female duo ages 22 and 26, did an original hip-hop song whose chorus was "You Better Ask Me to Dance." The sweaty-faced vocalists, who said they used to be engaged to each other, must have been on a "first-hand high" to think they were any good. Still, Rowland enjoyed the song so such that she began dancing around the judges' table and even did a few twerking moves. It wasn't enough for her to vote yes, but Rowland said she liked the song more than Second Hand High's vocals.
The episode ended with a bizarre music video showing the four judges mouthing the words to Second Hand High's song backstage. Rowland was seen twirling in the hallway. Lovato was sitting in a makeup chair, surrounded by makeup artists, and she looked about as excited as being in a dentist's chair. Rubio just looked like her usual ditsy self, while pointing her fingers and trying to look sexy. Cowell did an embarrassingly terrible rap while seated between his longtime makeup artists Julia Carta and Mezhgan Hussainy, as he tried to look like some kind of pimp rapper. (Hussainy used to be Cowell's fiancée, while Carta is rumored to have dated Cowell in the past.) It was supposed to be a funny music video, but it just came across as painfully desperate and not funny at all.
There are not enough words to describe how badly "The X Factor" U.S. has sunk to new lows. Many TV viewers have said that "The X Factor" U.S. is well past its expiration date. It's only a matter of time before Fox puts this show out its misery.
Sept. 26, 2013 update: Ratings for this episode of "The X Factor" increased to 7.7 million U.S. viewers, according to the Nielsen Company. That's the biggest U.S. audience that "The X Factor" U.S. has gotten for a single episode this season. ("The X Factor" has been averaging 6.5 million U.S. viewers per episode.) The ratings increase is the good news.
The bad news is that "The X Factor" still lagged far behind most competing prime-time network shows that night. "The X Factor" finished in seventh place in its time slot (8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET/PT) and eighth place overall for the night.
Here are the rankings of the U.S. prime-time network shows on Sept. 25, 2013:
- "Modern Family" (ABC) — 11.7 million U.S. viewers
- "Criminal Minds" (CBS) — 11.2 million U.S. viewers
- "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC) — 9.6 million U.S. viewers
- "Survivor: Blood vs. Water" (CBS) — 9.5 million U.S. viewers
- "CSI" (CBS) — 9.1 million U.S. viewers
- "The Middle" (ABC) — 8.9 million U.S. viewers
- "Back in the Game" (ABC) — 8 million U.S. viewers
- "The X Factor" (Fox) — 7.7 million U.S. viewers
- "Revolution" (NBC) — 6.8 million U.S. viewers
- "Nashville" (ABC) — 6.5 million U.S. viewers
- "Arrow"- repeat (CW) — 1.5 million U.S. viewers
- "Capture" (CW) — 580,000 U.S. viewers