Cheryl Cole makes a triumphant return in Chicago. Nothing else matters.
It's Erev Rosh Hashanah tonight and I'm live-blogging Wednesday's (September 28) night "The X Factor
" for two reasons:
1) I want to be able to get dressed and head off to temple immediately after the episode ends... and...
2) If I give 100 percent of my attention to the Red Sox-Orioles game, I'm going to end up pulling my hair out. I need distractions...
8:02 p.m. ET The trucks are on the move and our auditions begin in Chicago.
8:03 p.m. It's rainy and gloomy in Chicago. The auditioners are keeping warm with hopes of a $5 million prize. Before we get going, Steve Jones offers another helpful reminder of our eligibility requires. Thanks, Steve!
8:04 p.m. Our judges tonight are Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, L.A. Reid and... CHERYL COLE! "Returning to the judging panel for one last city," Jones' voiceover says with utter fraudulence. Why bother lying?
8:05 p.m. Our first act tonight is Brock & Makenna, who wholesome looking kids who have been best friends and singing partners for four years. "Let's just say she wears the pants," Brock says. Everybody asks Brock and Mackenna if they're a couple or if they're siblings, but no... They're just friends, Makenna likes to tell people. But it's more than that. Brock loves her, but she doesn't know it. "She'll learn. She'll learn," Brock tells the camera. Well, now Makenna and 11-ish million people all know.
8:08 p.m. Simon asks if they're dating, if they're boyfriend and girlfriend. Brock's squirming is exquisite. The whole audience knows Brock is in love. How can Makenna not know? Wait. This *is* a soap opera, right? The crowd likes the way they sing. I'd describe them as "OK musically and cute together." Reid says, "You just made my day." "The harmonies were spot-on, your vocals so controlled," says the easy-to-understand Cheryl Cole. "I think your vocal blend is really lovely," Paula says. Simon praises Makenna's voice in particular. They get four "Yes" votes. "There's nobody else I'd rather share it with," Makenna says. But does she also want to share KISSING?
8:16 p.m. Kim Terek has 10 years of training. Sigh. "I didn't hear myself very well," she says. "You were lucky," Simon agress.
8:16 p.m. In contrast to all of Kim's experience, Tim Quinn has never auditioned for anything before. The result is the same.
8:17 p.m. Robin Royal looks like a 44-year-old nerdy belly dancer. She's also horrible. "What the bloody hell was that," Simon inquires.
8:18 p.m. "I came to judge," says the next woman on the stage. "I'm brutally honest, like you," she says. Her name is Charlesia and she's not really all that good at judging either.
8:19 p.m. How about bringing out somebody good now? Meet 16-year-old Mississippi native Skyelor Anderson, who thinks he stands out because you don't see many teenage African-American country singers. He wants to buy his mom a house. He's never auditioned for anything before, but he drove nine-and-a-half hours to get here, so let's hope it's worth it. He's only a few words into the song when the music goes out. Skyelor pauses for maybe a second, but he continues and sounds much better and looks much more confident without the backing track. It's a good moment for him. "I came too far to stop," Skyelor says. "You sound really good," Reid says. "I really enjoyed the audition. I think you look great," Cheryl says. Paula tells him that he needs to work on his vocals, but she believes in him. Simon was impressed with how quickly he bounced back. That's four "Yes" votes for the kid from Mississippi.
8:27 p.m. Oh, SOOOOO glad to have a distraction from this Red Sox game... 2-2...
Our next contestant is Mark. He claims some people call him J-Mark. [His actual name is J. Mark Inman
, so I guess J-Mark makes sense.] He's a philosophy graduate student and he boasts that he's both left-brained and right-brained. "I sing because I have things to say," J-Mark says. "I don't want to be another cookie-cutter artist who was formed in a factory," says a man who probably shouldn't be auditioning for a reality TV
show. This is going to be freaking depressing. "What brings you for this audition?" Paula asks. "Money," J-Mark replies. He's performing "Creep," complete with his own very weird carnival backing track. I'd go out on a limb and say that his dancing is probably superior to his singing. Is that more of a left-brain or right-brain discipline? But wait. The performance is saved. Why? Because it makes Cheryl Cole smile. DIMPLES! [It also makes L.A. Reid and Paula smile.] In fact, by the end, J-Mark gets a standing ovation from the audience. "You don't belong here. You are other-worldly," Paula says. "I think I visited there once or twice in my life," Paula says of J-Mark's world. Good line, Paula. "It sounded so bad, but felt so good," Reid says. "I want to visit this place. I need to know where it is," Cheryl says. "This is what you've spawned," Simon says to Paula. L.A., Cheryl and Paula all vote "Yes." So he's through. To something.
8:34 p.m. We have many auditioners from Paula's World. She doesn't know whether to feel complimented or insulted. One person who's less pleased by this turn of events? Simon. I'm perplexed by both the Crystal Child and and the art-rock performer.
8:36 p.m. OK. That's better. 3-2 Sox.
8:41 p.m. We didn't see much of him, but Arin Ray looked pretty good.
8:41 p.m. Joining 30-year-old Josh Krajcik is his mother Lisa, who did all of the driving to get here. Josh works in a burrito shop and his mother swears that he's special. Josh appears to be a Dan Fogler character brought to life. Josh is determined to sing "At Last," which Simon thinks is an awful idea. Ha. Simon is completely and totally wrong. Josh has a bluesy raspy voice and his version of "At Last" has Simon utterly stunned. You know, I missed that about Simon, that "This is not at all what I was expecting" Simon smile. I mean, it's no "I Have Cheryl Cole's Dimples" smile, but it's the best Simon has to offer. Paula stands happily for Josh. "He killed it," Josh's mom gushes. Simon was blown away. "You're honest," Simon says. "You're not fooling me for a second... This is your 'Before,'" L.A. says. "The room's electric right now. You just killed it," says Cheryl, enunciating every word perfectly. "What a treat," Paula says. That'd be four "Yes" votes for Josh, who's one of the best we've seen in three episodes. "I've never had so much fun," Josh gushes, doing a happy dance. He wanders off asking for the location of the bar. Yes, Dan Fogler. Very clever. Way to use that Tony win.
8:52 p.m. Farewell, Cheryl Cole. Sigh.
8:53 p.m. We're back to Seattle, which also means a return for Nicole Scherzinger. "Rejoining the Seattle auditions," Steve Jones lies.
8:54 p.m. Seattle is starting with a duo, a mother and daughter team. The daughter is scary and silent and overly made-up. I think she may be a serial killer. A serial killer who speaks a little Chinese. They call themselves The Good Girls. Paula "remembers" these two? From what? The mother used to be a professional singer and she's an impressively robust 70. The daughter is a significantly less impressive 30. Their version of "What's Going On" is a cruel thing to do to the memory of Marvin Gaye. "Was that serious?" Simon asks, calling it "the worst group I've heard in my life." Nicole says the performance was "lifeless." They get four "No" votes and wasted four minutes of screen time.
9:02 p.m. Oh no. Time for giggly 14-year-old Justin Bieber fan Drew Ryniewicz. "Justin Bieber is so cute because of his hair," she proudly tells the camera. We're spending a lot of time at home with Drew and we're really humiliating her if she turns out not to be talented. Drew admires L.A. Reid because he's the biggest part of Justin Bieber's career. Wow, she's even singing "Baby." She vows, "I changed it and made it my own." Whew. She's actually pretty good. And, in fact, she sounds nothing like I ever would have predicted, much older and wiser than her Bieber-love set the tables for. And her version of "Baby" is, indeed, completely different than the Bieber version and it gets L.A. Reid singing along. Not-Cheryl describes herself as a real Justin Bieber fan... and then she raves that she prefers Drew's version to his. "So do I," Simon says. Paula calls it "daring and bold." Simon says, "This is exactly what I wanted a 14-year-old to do in this competition." Reid tells Drew that she's special, which is NEARLY as cool as being called special by Justin Bieber himself. It's like how you think it'd be cool to have Miss Piggy tell you that you're awesome, but then you realize it'd be even cooler to have Frank Oz tell you the same. I'd feel a bit better about Drew if you couldn't see her parents counting the dollar signs in the wings.
9:14 p.m. Spectacular double-play for the Red Sox.
9:14 p.m. Four girls called "Jada" are trashy and unimpressive and Reid tells them that Seattle deserves better.
9:15 p.m. Up next is Peet Montzingo, who dreams of being a teen heartthrob. He's got a great name and a kinda odd story. He's 6'1" and his father is the second tallest dwarf in the world and his mother is only 4'0". Their family is like an awesome TLC show brought to life. Go Peet! He's extremely likable. "I grew up in a family of all dwarves," he says, which produces first nervous laughter and then genuine interest. "You're very charming," Paula says. He's singing "Billionaire," only he's replaced "billionaire" with "famous." He's in that weird in-between ground where he's not completely being made fun of by the producers, but he's also not good enough to advance based on singing. Not-Cheryl loves that Peet has big dreams. "The singing was terrible," Simon says, but he adds that it was "horribly honest." L.A. Reid says that Peet might be famous one day. "You fascinate me," Simon says, contemplating his vote. No-Cheryl says "No," but says she can imagine him in TV and films. The other judges agree. "My son sparkles," Peet's mom says. Seriously, TLC. Give the Montzingos a show!
9:25 p.m. We've got a group all the way from Virginia Beach. They're 4Shore and they only dream of becoming the biggest boy band ever. They're singing an L.A. Reid song and they think they're winners. Did I know that L.A. Reid wrote "End of the Road"? Hmmm... He probably made a lot of money from that. They've rearranged the harmonies on the hit song, a wise move, because I'm not just comparing them to Boyz II Men. I'm not sure they're that great on the solos, but when they sing together, they're solid. Very. "It was just incredible," Reid says. Not-Cheryl thanks them for making it a concert for them. "You're a blessing," Paula says. Simon thinks that Americans could feel proud of 4Shore. They get four "Yes" votes.
9:30 p.m. Time for a quick montage of talented people. Elaine Gibbs is a grandmother and she gets four "Yes" votes. Not a grandmother is 17-year-old Francesca Duncan, who had a good voice and could be on "Glee" (or magazine covers) tomorrow.
9:33 p.m. Looking destined to end the hot streak is Tiger Budbill, who comes out like a stand-up comic. He looks like if Larry the Cable Guy and Louis C.K. had a baby. He sings a bit better than that sounds. Not-Cheryl likes Tiger's name, so she votes "Yes," as does Paula. But L.A. Reid votes "No," forcing Simon to give Tiger his third "Yes."
9:34 p.m. Ugh. Phillip Lomax describes himself as a hipster and predicts that hats are coming back into style. Oh God. Even worse, he does a lounge act version of "Fly Me To The Moon." He's a dime-a-dozen Rat Pack tribute artist, with an unnatural amount of self-confidence. Will the judges respond to his posing and preening? Simon says that Phillip has charisma and self-belief. L.A. Reid thinks Phillip has the x-factor and is a star. Paula says Phillip has "that magical thing." It's four "Yes" votes. Phillip ignores Simon's warnings about his vocal weakness and skips off like a happy tool.
9:41 p.m. Grumble. Stupid rain delay. I'm not gonna come close to seeing the end of this game... At least the Rays are doing their part.
9:42 p.m. Who was that blue-haired bouncing person?
9:43 p.m. Paula and Not-Cheryl hate female contestants. Because how can you ever live up to the vocal standards set by Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger? Simon and L.A. Reid have started calling hot women "DOAs." HA! One awful girl hits the stage and and Simon says that's what Nicole probably sounded like at 20. And Nicole is all "What.Ever." And she reminds everybody that she was on "Pop Stars." Zing. Then she launches into "I Will Always Love You," proving she's every bit as mature as Kara Dioguardi.
9:43 p.m. We had a burrito-roller advance earlier. Well, Tiah Tolliver is a deli clerk and says she was "born to sing." She says that she's getting a lot of compliments for her lipstick. This is not a good sign, now is it? "I am full of energy. I love to be in front of people," says Tia, who Simon says looks like a killer. She's a bit shout-y and hyper-intense, but she's definitely got lungs. I'd love to hear her actually SING something. Simon announces that "this girl has got something in her," bickering with L.A. Reid. Not-Cheryl doesn't know why Tiah changes key so much and Paula agrees. "If you can't see this, you're deaf," Simon says. Simon has decided to go to war for Tiah. Nicole, who I'm beginning to hate, votes "No." Simon goes "Yes." L.A. Reid votes "Yes." That means it's up to Paula, who goes with her gut and votes "No." Simon calls this "seriously insane," as Tiah stands on-stage doing her best to stay out of this fracas. At Reid's urging, Tiah gets a second shot and... COMMERCIAL!
9:55 p.m. Weird timing on this episode. They've edited it so that Tiah's second performance will be the episode closer? That means she's getting a full 15 minutes all to herself. Tiah's reprise is also shout-y, albeit with a little bit more music. But Not-Cheryl is still just sitting and pouting like an infant. The audience likes Tiah and Paula looks to Not-Cheryl for permission to change her vote. Not-Cheryl breaks first and tells Tiah to practice her vocals and votes "Yes." "This just means my like freakin' dream come freakin' true," Tiah says, admitting as she leaves that she needs more work. That's hopeful. But did we really need to spend 15 minutes on this one shout-y singer?
9:58 p.m. That's it for tonight's "X Factor." A couple good singers. A lot of filter.
10:00 p.m. And now? Off to synagogue. My "Survivor" recap won't post until tomorrow afternoon due to the Jewish Holiday.
What did you think of Wednesday's "X Factor"? Did it reopen your Cheryl Cole wounds?
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