FOX really isn't making it easy to keep up with the schedule for "The X Factor." Sunday (October 16) night's episode is the episode that was really supposed to air on Thursday, except that Thursday's episode was really Wednesday's episode due to playoff baseball. But you know how "X Factor" really airs on Wednesdays and Thursdays? Well, this week it'll air on Tuesday, because the World Series is airing on Wednesday and Thursday.
Does that all make sense? Don't worry. Expect oodles of reminders during Sunday's episode, which'll be live-blogged after the break...
8:01 p.m. ET. Ah, Paris. Simon Cowell isn't actually there, but Steve Jones is. I envy him.
8:02 p.m. What percentage of "X Factor" episodes are dedicated to reminding us of things Steve Jones already told us? Do the producers think that America is already conditioned to ignore Steve?
8:04 p.m. In case you've forgotten: Simon = Girls. Nicole = Old People. Paula = Groups. L.A. Reid = A Chance to Stare At Rihanna.
8:05 p.m. We're starting with perpetually nervous Jazzlyn Little, who has to perform for Simon in the lush vineyards (or whatever) of France (or wherever Simon's actually hiding away). Poor Nervous Jazzlyn. Do kids still wear pre-torn acid-washed jeans? Or is Jazzlyn actually a 16-year-old from 1991? "This could be the difference between incredible opportunities or to go back home and sing in my living room," Jazzlyn says. She insists to Simon that she's ready for this. But is she? And is that a moog or a theremin on her backing track? I don't know this arrangement of "I Will Survive." But I do know that Jazzlyn has a very good voice, albeit with predictable nervousness and initial woodeness. And yes, the over-sweetened audio on these outdoor auditions is hideous. What's the point of liveness if the audio sounds like it was recorded in a booth. Savon Kotecha worries that Jazzlyn may be too high school talent show.
8:11 p.m. Up next is singing male model Zoolander. Errr. Brennin Hunt, sorry. Brennin annoys me, because he's just talented enough that you can't entirely resent him. Surely, you can MOSTLY resent him. And I do. Brennin feels like he's had to overcome a lot in his life and that he might appreciate this more than some of his younger fellow contestants. My instinct is to send Brennin home, but also to encourage The CW to cast him as a brooding bartender/singer on "90210" or a singing manwitch on "The Secret Circle." He makes silly faces when he sings and he makes silly gestures with his hands, but he's pretty and competent. "I think he is beautiful and I think his tone is correct at times... but he's a little bit corny," Rihanna says. Awesomely, she says that Brennin's vibe is "'90s Boy Band." Go Rihanna!
8:18 p.m. I have a friend who has tickets for the NLCS Game 7. That requires the Brewers win tonight. So I'm rooting for the Brewers. But not passionately.
8:20 p.m. Oh, Steve Jones. Please stop trying to say "Houston."
8:20 p.m. Our first Group to perform for Paula and Pharrell is the Stereo Hoggz, who are astounded by the trees in Santa Barbara. They're performing the California Raisins' classic, "Heard It Through The Grapevine." Whichever Hog does lead-vocals at the start of the song is fantastic. Can't we just put him into the Boys side of the competition? The other Hogzz are barely contributing anything other than fancy dance moves and a little backing. Paula and Pharrell agree with me on the lead vocalist.
8:24 p.m. It's Burrito Josh time over at the Over-30s camp in Malibu. You know Burrito Josh is old, cuz he's got a 13-year-old daughter. He wants to inspire her. "This is my ticket to the life that I want," Burrito Josh says. Burrito Josh is DAMN good, launching into a beautiful -- albeit over-produced -- rendition of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." There are some low notes that Josh struggles a tiny bit with. Without the weird audio sweetening, I assume it would have been even more noticeable. But when the song is in his range, his voice simply soars. Burrito Josh is one member of the Over-30s contingent who doesn't need to worry about Decision Day. He's most certainly going to be on the live shows. "He's relatable. He's personable. But do you think he's a star?" Nicole asks Enrique, who agrees that he'd be a different type of star.
8:28 p.m. Add "burrito" to the list of words that make me laugh when Steve Jones says them.
8:33 p.m. Another Group? It seems like just 13 minutes ago that we had to deal with a Group. For some reason, Paula has stuck poorly dressed Miami girl group 2 Squar'd with "Bohemian Rhapsody." It's a ludicrous song choice that has absolutely nothing to do with the image 2 Squar'd might otherwise be trying to project. The result is a perplexing cacophony that leaves Pharrell justifiably perplexed and Paula smiling cryptically. What a stupid song choice and what a poorly executed performance. "They definitely can sing," Paula says. "Yeah. For sure," Pharrell adds.
8:36 p.m. Our next Boy is Tim Cifers. "The X Factor" is Tim's only chance to teach his kids how to hunt and fish. Fatherhood is very important to Tim and before he left, his song gave him a stuffed money. This blog is aggressively pro-stuffed money. Tim is exactly the kind of hyper-earnest country crooner FOX knows can get traction in this post-Scotty McCreery era. He's not exciting, but he has fine tone. "He's a real country singer," Rihanna says astutely. Once again, there's no arguing with Rihanna. "I wanted more," L.A. Reid says. How much more "so much more." Uh-oh.
8:41 p.m. The Cardinals don't want my friend to get a Game 7. For FOX purposes, neither of these teams has any particular allure, ratings-wise, but probably the Cardinals are a better bet. Slightly.
8:43 p.m. REPETITION OF PREMISE!
8:43 p.m. Our next Girl is Rachel Crow. It is an illustration of the vagaries of puberty that apparently Rachel Crow is 13, only one year younger than Drew Ryniewicz. Rachel's name is much easier to spell. Rachel's been given a slightly odd version of "I Want It That Way." You can hear her nervousness at the beginning. But she uses that nervousness to make the song weirdly emotional and tremulous in a way that I don't think I've ever heard before. It's hard to believe both that this is a Backstreet Boys song and that Rachel is only 13. I guess Simon wanted to take away Rachel's natural bubbly personality to just see if she could sing. She can. "That was unbelievable," Simon says, but he worries that Rachel is in a category with people who handle the pressure a bit better.
8:47 p.m. You know how I couldn't believe that Leroy Bell was 59? Well, he's not. He's actually 60 now. No matter how much money he wins in this competition, his genetics may be the best gift he's able to give his children and grandchildren. I like Leroy so much. His version of "To Make You Feel My Love" isn't as showy as what the Over-30s divas were doing last week, but it's so marvelously controlled and honest. Nicole feels like Leroy is a bit nervous. Oh, BOO. To heck with you, Nicole. Cheryl Cole would have recognized Leroy's potential.
8:56 p.m. No time for backstory on Illusion Confusion? That's just weird editing.
8:56 p.m. It gets WORSE! The editors *interrupt* the Illusion Confusion performance to have them talk over their song. No other performer thus far has had to deal with that indignity. I think it's a certainty that they're not advancing. Pharrell suspects that their ambition may exceed their talent.
8:57 p.m. Back over to the Over-30s, with Singing Louis C.K. Character Tiger Budbill. Tiger's a professional DJ, but the workload has been light in recent years. Tiger's voice cracks when he talks about what winning would do for his family. "It's meant everything and it means everything," Tiger tells Nicole and Enrique. He wants to make this decision easy for them. Tiger's version of "Don't Give Up Me" is a bit rough in the beginning, but gets stronger. This wasn't a great choice for the bellowing that Tiger does so well. It's based too much on nuance, which isn't his strength. [All this time, I've been thinking Nicole is getting emotional, but I think she's actually just squinting because the sunset is in her eyes.] Finally by the end of the song, Tiger unleashes a wicked falsetto wail. Nicole isn't sure that there's a market for Tiger, but Enrique argues that there shouldn't be any rules to music.
9:07 p.m. PREMISE REPETITION.
9:07 p.m. Oh, Steve Jones. "Maryland."
9:07 p.m. Our next Boys singer is college-dodging Marcus Canty. [Tee-hee. "Merry-land." I know for a fact that I'd be far worse trying to pronounce locations in Wales. That doesn't mean I can't laugh.] "Don't be flirting with me," Rihanna says after Marcus tells her how nice it is to see her. It's a little mean that Marcus' job is being listed as "High School Graduate." Marcus is a little prone to cheesiness, but he has a warm, well-trained voice. There are moments of sharpness, but they aren't damaging, at least not when compared to the rolled up sleeves on Marcus' blazer. Rihanna looks happy. "I cannot contain myself," an excited Rihanna coos. But despite the containment difficulties, Rihanna isn't sure if he's got a star's voice. She's impressed with how Marcus stared at her. Oh, Rihanna... I could stare at you also. Convincingly.
9:13 p.m. Tiah Tolliver is up next for the Girls. She works in a deli now, but she wants to make music instead of sandwiches. Will they fly Nicole Scherzinger over to France to tell Tiah she sucks? Moments before her performance, Tiah is freaking out. Several of the girls feel for Tiah, but Caitlin Koch has no sympathy. Tiah's singing "No Diggity." Between this and the Occupy Blackstreet meme, it's been a good week for Blackstreet. I like Tiah's sassiness, but she's letting the backing track steer her until the very end, when she takes over. Simon claps enthusiastically when she finishes. "There's just something about her, I've just always thought she fits in this show," Simon says.
9:21 p.m. Our next Over-30s singer is Christa Collins, practically the baby of this group. Christa has a background as a child star, having once had a contract with Disney Record, pre-Britney and pre-Christina. She retired when she was 16 and she still regrets it. I'm amused by Radiohead's "No Surprises" as a song choice. Do you really think Nicole came up with that one on her own? It's actually a cheeky success for Christa, whose over-grown baby doll persona is both interesting and appealing. "I like her," says Enrique, who probably wonders why he wasn't asked to mentor the hot teenage girls.
9:25 p.m. Ugh. Now we have InTENsity, a 10-person Frankengroup cobbled together from a group of teenagers who weren't good enough to stick around as solo artists. They've barely practiced together, but they're already a family, or so they say. You don't often get a 10-person group in today's musical landscape, or at least not 10-person groups not affiliated with a creepy cult. They're hilariously energetic and fresh-faced. Am I looking at the cast of the next Disney Channel hit movie? That seems much more likely than the possibility that I'm looking at the next popular musical sensation. They're barely together at all, but they're trying so darned hard. But this is why "American Juniors" failed. Oh, and they're better than Lakoda Rayne. At the end of the performance, all of the members of InTENsity cover over to hug Paula and Pharrell. "That was like a cookie. There were some very good star morsels in there," Pharrell says weirdly.
9:33 p.m. Time for Chris Rene to talk about his triumph over drug addiction. Up next? Rehab for wearing funny hats. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the most exposed singer of the season thus far. Chris is immediately at war with an aggressive arrangement of "Everyday People." I love that we're breakin' off a little Arrested Development here. I don't much care for the falsetto he keeps resorting to, but when he's rap-singing his way through the verses, he's likable and fun. "He has something very special, like I want to know more about him," Rihanna. L.A. Reid thinks that Rihanna might have been intimidating Chris. "I don't think so. No, honey," L.A. Reid politely reassures her.
9:44 p.m. We're saved one best auditioners for last, with Melanie Amaro set to perform for Simon. Melanie wants this, as does her family. Boy. She's good. "Will You Be There" isn't even that showy a song and Melanie makes it into a dominant showcase. She's also got more stage presence than most of the women who have come before her. I know that this has been sweetened and purified and over-produced, but Melanie Amaro would be in the running to win "Idol" or "The Voice" or any other show you'd put her on. She's a star. One of the coaches wonders if Melanie will be able to sing more contemporary songs.
9:49 p.m. Up next, the judges will push around pieces of paper and they'll use lots of pronouns, but nobody will tell us who they're actually talking about. Oh no. Does this mean that Tuesday's episode is going to be just a two-hour recap with the judges meeting each of the 32 contestants as we recall their journeys and await their fates. Ugh.
9:53 p.m. Each judge must choose four of eight acts to advance.
9:54 p.m. Yup. Lots of headshots and portentousness and vagueness. This is the hardest decision Nicole has ever made.
9:54 p.m. Simon asks his colleagues if they see a place for "her" in the Final Four and they swiftly eliminate "her."
9:55 p.m. Of the two new Groups, Pharrell things "that one" did the best.
9:55 p.m. Rihanna thinks "he" is a little green and L.A. Reid agrees. "He" is done.
9:56 p.m. One of the Girls needs a lot of work and Simon fears that "she" lost confidence. Simon is glued to one girl even though he doesn't think "she" is the best singer.
9:56 p.m. Enrique loves "this guy," but Nicole doesn't know if he can win the competition.
9:57 p.m. Paula is very sad to maybe send "this one here" home. She fears that "they" did not raise their game enough.
9:57 p.m. Rihanna and L.A. Reid are down to two.
9:57 p.m. Enrique and Nicole realize that all of the losers in their category are being made into glue, so this is their last chance.
9:58 p.m. Simon wants to take a risk on "this one." But "the one everyone thought was going to get a 'Yes'" gets a no. WOW!
9:59 p.m. Tune in on Tuesday, when all of these pronouns get antecedents.
Who'd you like tonight? Who fell flat?
Everything: The X Factor
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