It's Night Two of "X Factor" Boot Camp, which absolutely, positively isn't anything at all like Hollywood Week on "American Idol." Nope. Not at all.
We started Group Night last night and tonight we're going to continue for roughly two hours, possibly concluding with the grand reveal of the Top 32...
Let's get down to live-blogging...
8:00 p.m. ET. Next week, apparently the judges will be welcoming the contestants into their homes for battles to decide who gets to advance to the live shows. Wait. This doesn't sound exactly like "American Idol" at all. It sounds exactly like "The Voice."
8:04 p.m. There are five groups left to perform and our first group is star-studded. The performers doing "What's Going On" include Annoyingly Pretty Brennin Hunt, College-Dodging Marcus Canty, Recovering Junkie Chris Rene and Chris Rene's Sister Gina Rene. Chris has been sober for 90 days, while Rene has rapping skills (and tight pants), but lacks confidence. The group also features Ma'at Bingham Shango, who is very young. There's a nice street-corner vibe to this group's presentation. Matthew Johnson, who I don't think we've seen before, is impressive, but he's not as pretty as Brennin. Marcus shines and Chris' voice is really rough, but the judges just keep groving with him. Out of the dozen people performing, I think maybe two of them have any awareness of what this song is about.
8:15 p.m. Uh-oh. Are we out of singers we met previously? Our next group, singing something country, has nobody who received any meaningful audition screentime. Tim Cifers has an OK country voice and they're pretending like we're supposed to know who he is. I do not. Kingston? Hannah Bethel? I'm lost. This group does the anti-New England Patriots approach and they come out as individuals, letting Tim Cifers shine in the early spotlight. Matthew Slovacek isn't as good as Tim and he may be a Will Forte character. Kingston is OK, as white-bread trios go. Hannah's OK. Thomas Wells is a "Chicken Plant Worker" and he doesn't look at all like a star, but he has possibly the group's best voice. Simon Cowell thinks Tim is a star.
5:24 p.m. The Brewer Boys lead the day's last performing group. I've really liked them in the two or three seconds we've seen of them. Christa Collins looks like an 1940s movie star. We've had so much unity in previous groups, but suddenly there's a fight between 16-year-old Emma Henry and 31-year-old Hannah Jackson over who's gonna get to sing the third part. It's resolved quickly and anti-climactically. Boo. Henri Bredouw could play a crazy stalker on a CW show, he's got that sort of intense, well-defined cheekbones look. There's no real cohesion to this group, but there are some very interesting voices, led by the Brewer Boys' astounding harmonies. Ryan Sims has a pretty good rock voice. Christa Collins yells well. And Emma Henry is plenty quirky. The disparate styles resolve in a good ending.
8:27 p.m. We're cutting a third of the field now. I hope they put them in rooms and then the judges go and tell the individual rooms whether they're all safe or all going home. Because that won't be at all like "American Idol." There's a lot of healthy disagreement between the judges, most of it involving people we've seen before.
8:29 p.m. Ah. The contestants are called in three groups. Our first group, which includes a handful of slightly familiar people, is sent home. Farewell to Emma Henry, Henri Bredouw and the person who out-rapped Brian Bradley yesterday.
8:30 p.m. Our second group gets a Nicole fake-out. "I have to be honest and speak from the heart... You've made it through to the next round." This group was full of standouts. The third group gets Simon's "It's not good news..." fake-out. It turns out it's actually great news.
8:31 p.m. I can't list all of the people who are safe, but basically, if we spent any prolonged time with them in auditions or Group Day, they're all advancing.
8:36 p.m. The last 64 singers are going to be given a small selection of songs (35 to be exact0 and they have to pick the song that represents them. And then they're going to have to perform for 3000 people.
8:37 p.m. How many times now has Steve Jones reminded us about the four categories that the singers will eventually be slotted into? I get that this is what makes the show different, but...
8:38 p.m. It's the next day. But the time has finally come. The audience starts to arrive. I start to watch playoff baseball. Let's go, yo...
8:39 p.m. Rachel Crow gets to be first up again. "It means everything and I know that I'm meant to be here," she declares. Cherubic as ever, Rachel says that her song selection is a surprise. She chose Beyonce's "If I Were a Boy," which may not have been completely age-appropriate in its original incarnation, but the way Rachel interprets it, it really works. Nicole is reduced to tears, Simon to a nodding smile and the audience to a standing ovation. Guess what, kids? Rachel Crow's gonna be in the Top 32.
8:43 p.m. Audrey Turner is much too good a story not to be in the Top 32. She's also pretty ridiculously good.
8:43 p.m. I'm less convinced by Paige Ogle, but one guy in the audience is ogling Paige. She's cute. Tiger Budbill has impressive lungs, but I'm still waiting for a bit more nuance, even when he got heavy falsetto as on this version of "Billy Jean."
8:46 p.m. Burrito Josh Krajcik keeps talking about his day job and no matter how much he says that burritos don't define him, it's pretty obvious burritos define him. He wants nothing less than for the audience to remember him forever. He's singing a little Kelly Clarkson and guess what? Burrito Josh is gonna be in the Top 32, also. This performance? It's a bit too Joe Cocker for my tastes. When he does this, Simon has to get a weird "Taylor Hicks" twitch in his eyelids. I think Burrito Josh is better than Taylor Hicks, but it's still too close for comfort. The audience approves and L.A. Reid gives Burrito Josh a thumbs up.
8:52 p.m. Oh right. I remember Simone Battle's red shorts and her USC pedigree. She thinks she's unique and she's managed to combine short-shorts, a beret, shades and stripper heals. Simone loses the words almost immediately and she soldiers through singing what she's thinking. It's... awkward. From the judges to the audience, there's a lot of squirming, but Simone insists that she's still capable of bringing it. From there, suckiness becomes an epidemic.
8:56 p.m. Oh no! Makenna and Brock are a bit of a mess, but Nicole likes them. Nobody's going to like Siameze. Can we put a stop to this joke?
8:57 p.m. Brennin Hunt does "If I Ain't Got You," but Simon's already sick of his cockiness and he basically talks to L.A. Reid through the whole performance. Simon stops Brennin and suggests he just do the song on a piano, but Brennin insists he wanted to do his own [awful] version. Simon is dissatisfied and asks to take a break.
9:03 p.m. Can the Stereo Hogzz save things for Simon? One of the Hogz dedicates the performance to the birthday of his one-year-old daughter. The Stereo Hogzz continue to be just a little over-calculating, but I think with some proper mentorship, they could be terrific. The audience thinks they're terrific already. "They're inconsistent," Simon tells anybody who will listen.
9:06 p.m. Brian Bradley is really too juvenile for this. Phillip Lomax annoys the snot out of me. Chris Rene does a fine version of the stalker classic "I'll Be Watching You." Nick Dean's pretty "High School Musical," but not in a bad way. Nicole really likes Nick Dean, but Simon thinks he was a bit cocky.
9:13 p.m. Time to listen to Stacy Francis wail. I remember her journey. Sometimes Stacy wails well. Sometimes she just wails loudly. "In my heart, I'm holding on for dear life," Stacy says backstage. On stage, she tells the audience that her father died at the start of Boot Camp. She tells us that she feels guilt about skipping her father's funeral. And now people in the audience are crying for her. Her version of "Summertime" is both incredibly emotional and incredibly over-the-top, not that the song can't withstand a certain bushel-load of theatrics. Three of the four judges stand for Stacy, as she executes another four-hour final note. It's hard to read Simon, but it's a safe bet that he knows he isn't allowed to say anything negative. "That's pain," L.A. Reid says, making it clear that nobody's allowed to criticize the performance. Well, OK.
9:22 p.m. This is a very long episode of TV.
9:23 p.m. Time for Tiah Tolliver, who produces utterly irrational hatred in Nicole Scherzinger. She's over-the-top as well, but I think she's better than Stacy Francis. Woops. No criticisms allowed. Cari Fletcher remains solid-yet-generic. Justin Bieber Fan Dawn Ryniewicz is far more interesting, even if I swear I spell her last name differently each time she performs. Dawn is kinda like a younger, differently weird Megan Joy. Simon really, really likes Caitlin Koch (I do also).
9:25 p.m. Nope. Still not buying that Leroy Bell is 59. But he's awesome. There's just a tone to Leroy's voice that he's EARNED. So many of these pick-squeak kids haven't earned anything, but Leroy? He owns this.
9:28 p.m. Oh. That was it for Boot Camp?
9:33 p.m. It's time to start announcing who's going to go to Judges' Homes, as apparently the next stage of the competition is apparently awkwardly called. L.A. Reid predicts that "ordinary singers" are going to go home. Simon is worried that he's going to have to fight for his favorites. As usual, the process begins with a lot of pushing of headshots and coy descriptions without names.
9:36 p.m. STOP IT. If you want to show us the judges at work, let us hear who's being judged. This is just stupid. "Wow, that was hard," Paula says. Yup. That's what she said.
9:36 p.m. Yeah, yeah, yeah. The contestants are split into four categories.
9:37 p.m. The Girls are up first. Caitlin Koch is through. Tora is through. Simon Battle is through. Drew advances. Rachel Crow is through. Nicole's already crying. Jazzlyn Little advances. The seventh girl through is Melanie Amaro, who seems surprised. There's only one slot left... It goes to... Tiah Tolliver. Simon won! We miss Nicole's pissed off expression at Tiah's success. We lost a lot of people who I vaguely remember. So let's all look at crying 12-year-olds. Sigh.
9:41 p.m. The Boys are up. Brennin Hunt. Brian Bradley. Skyelor Anderson. Nick Voss. Tim Cifers. Phillip Lomax. Marcus Canty. And the final place goes to... Chris Rene. Whew.
9:42 p.m. Group time. The Stereo Hogzz. 2Squared. 4Shore. The Brewer Boys. Illusion Confusion. There's only one place left and it goes to... The Anser. Sorry, Brock & Makenna. "We've still got each other," Brock says. Wait. That's not eight. What the heck.
9:43 p.m. The last category? The Over-30s. Elaine Gibbs. Tiger. Leroy Bell. James Kenny. Burrito Josh. [Why is this "One Moment in Time" crap necessary in the background?] Christa Collins. Dexter. [Paula's just bawling by now. "Skid Row to here, Man," Dexter cries.] There's only one more place left. And it goes to... Stacy Frances. That means Ike Turner's ex didn't make it? That's ridiculous. Chris Rene's sister doesn't advance, but there's a great moment where she expresses happiness at her brother advancing.
9:47 p.m. But there's a twist? 14 more people get called back. Sometimes solo performers get transformed into Groups. I guess that explains why there weren't eight groups advancing. It's kinda pathetic that the show wasn't able to recruit eight groups worthy of inclusion and had to arbitrarily fabricate some unions from otherwise mediocre solo singers, but what can you do? Also, sucks to be Brock & Makenna (and the other real Groups who didn't advance), who were so unworthy of advancing that the judges invented groups rather than putting them through.
9:52 p.m. I don't get that last 10-minute programming block at all. The producers knew how much time they had. Why did they decide to speed-read through the Top 32 in 10 breathless minutes of crying and cloying background music? Why not let the decision process have breathing room?
9:53 p.m. But which groups will go with which judges? The producers make the calls, while the judges wait patiently. L.A. Reid is in New York, Paula and Nicole are in Los Angeles and Simon's on vacation on a yacht. All four judges know that the Groups category is going to be difficult.
9:55 p.m. Nicole gets the first call... She's been gifted with the Over-30s. What the heck sense does that make?
9:55 p.m. L.A. Reid is given... The Boys. He cackles maniacally.
9:56 p.m. Paula Abdul lands... The Groups. "I'm excited and I'm feeling a little bit overwhelmed," Paula says.
9:56 p.m. Simon gets... The Girls. "You just made eight girls very, very happy," Simon says.
9:57 p.m. "A group has got multiple-personalities and they've got Paula Abdul as their mentor," Simon says.
9:58 p.m. Next week? Judges' Homes.
What'd you think of this week's results and of the "X Factor" Top 32? Did any of your favorites get cut? And what'd you think of the Groups cop-out?
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