Wednesday, September 11, besides being the anniversary of 9/11, marked the premier of the third season of the X Factor (Fox). The inimitable Simon Cowell returns, along with Demi Lovato. Mario Lopez is the host of the show, and this season sees the introduction of two new judges: Paulina Rubio and Kelly Rowland.
The episode started bragging that the show has produced more stars than other, similar, series like The Voice and American Idol. Perhaps, if you count more minor “stars,” and take into account that the show brought One Direction to the world’s collective attention.
Tonight’s episode, we got to see several potential contestants trying out, much like what happens on series like American Idol, another Simon Cowell enterprise.
Mario Lopez is already proving to be a great narrator, even this early into the season, as his voice and narrative skills helped to give the episode more cohesion and structure than there was in the second season.
Even with the introduction about the two new judges, where we got to learn some background info on Paulina Rubio, she is still not that well-known of a celebrity. It’s kind of a surprise that the XFactor didn’t get a celebrity with greater name recognition to serve as a judge; though, who knows? She could turn out to do a good job.
The first contestant to audition is the 23-year-old, Carlito Olivero. We learn that he’s a coffee shop barista, who yearns to gain recognition for his singing abilities, and to thought of as “the Latino Chris Brown.”
Carlito really didn’t suck as badly as you might expect he would have, wanting to be the Latino version of Chris Brown; but, it didn’t go very well for him. He sang Rihanna’s hit song, “Stay,” but it seemed to be badly-edited and was a bit choppy.
What was really a surprise to me was that Simon Cowell, ever unpredictable, said that he loved the performance! He said that there was “no one out there right now like him.” I guess that even includes Chris Brown….
Lovato, as well, declares she liked Carlito’s performance; though, unlike Cowell, she manages to come up with two performers she thinks that Carlito is like, one of them being someone called Frankie J. — I never heard of him, but that is no indication the guy isn’t famous.
Each of the judges like Carlito enough to send him on to the next round.
After a commercial break, the judges are shown, each trying to come up with a definition of what the phrase the “X Factor,” means to them.
It was silly filler stuff — Paulina compared it to “kissing someone for the first time.”
The next person to audition was 55-year-old Sally Ressnice, an eccentric-acting grandma.
Simon wonders whether anyone has ever told Sally that she “looks like Demi.”
The music starts playing for Sally to sing, but she doesn’t. Simon then has the music stopped, and he asks Ressnice if she plans on singing anything.
Sally says that the song just has a very long intro, so it starts up again.
“The Greatest Love of All,” is the song she’s attempting to sing. She does a terrible job of it, and sings parts of it in a shrilly voice. Simon is about to bust out laughing at how ridiculous it seems to him. She gets a “no” from all of the judges.
What follows is a montage of some of the lousiest, but sometimes humorous, audition attempts. Valerie Columbo is one of them, and we also get to watch a family group of performers that call themselves “K-Nected.” The sing a monotone version of “Waterfalls.”
Simon sees s little bit of hope for their prospects, but he says that that the two daughters int he family group should try to become famous on their own, without the third member, their mom.
After another commercial break, Mario talks about all of the old, original performance categories are back, unlike last season. The idea of having “age brackets” has been done away with. Now, as before, the only categories are Boys, Girls, Overs and Groups.
Another older contestant, 54-year-old Lillie McCloud, gives it a try.
The judges keep complimenting her about how great she looks for her age. She actually does look far younger than her would would seem to suggest that she should.
In the video she made to send to the show’s producers, she stated that she’s always been interested in a musical career, but she gave it up “to focus on family.” Lillie thinks that this opportunity might be her “last chance” at having success in the music business.
Lillie gives a kick-ass performance of the CeCeWinans song, “Alabaster Box.”
The other new judge, Kelly Rowland, appears to know this song and love it. She starts to lip-synch along with it. Lillie McCloud doesn’t just sing the song; she really gets into it, and makes it her own. All four judges, and the entire audience, gives her a standing ovation when she’s finished singing. Her performance so far has easily been the best of the night.
Lillie can hardly believe the reaction she’s gotten. She covers her mouth with her hands and tries to fight back her tears.
Kelly, also, is close to tears. She asks Lillie where she’s been hiding all of this time. Demi doesn’t even try to contain the tears of emotion she feels, and she tells Lillie that she reminds her of Whitney Houston.
Three of the four judges say “yes,” except for Simon; but, he’s just messing with her, and says: “Just kidding!” So, Lilie easily advances to the next round.
More commercials, then Mario says that the “auditions are open to anyone 12 or over.” There’s yet another montage of performances, this time of the group category. Let’s just say that…not all of the groups are that great.
In the group category, next up, we get to see the singing duo, Alex and Sierra, who are, respectively, 21 and 22. Simon asks them if they’re siste and brother, but Alex tells him “No, we kiss,” causing the audience to laugh.
In response to a follow-up question from Simon, they tell him they’ve been dating for two years. Simon says that shows they must be really in love, as two years, for him, would be like an eternity. Long enough time to father a baby by your friend’s wife, though….oh, snap!
They sing the Britney Spears hit, “Toxic” and do an extremely awesome performance of it, IMHO. For some odd reason, Simon doesn’t seem to like it, and he stops the performance. The audience goes nuts over how well they did, though.
Demi tells them that she “had chills up and down,” as she listened to them sing, and that she’s” rooting” for them. She calls their performance together “magic.”
Kelly describes what the two have together as they sing “special.” Paulina tells the duo that she’s “a believer” in them. Despite having stopped them, and saying that, initially, he thought their performance would be “corny,” Simon says that they were “actually cool.” He added that their version of the song was “amazing.”
The four judges give Alex and Sierra “yeses.” Demi adds: “I’m in love with your love!” Simon throws in the title of the Beatles hit, and says: “All you need is love.”
The final performer of the night is 13-year-old Rion Paige. She suffers from some sort of disease that has made her hands look kind of curved. She’s also nearly blind in her right eye. Rion, despite the obstacles that were in her way, continued to sing no matter what.
We see Rion’s mother saying that she has always supported her and that she’ll always be there to “catch” her daughter, if she needs it.
Rion tells Demi that she’s always been a fan of hers, and that she stayed up late to see Demi in “Camp Rock”.
The 13-year-old sings Carrie Underwood’s song “Blown Away,” and she’s really pretty remarkable, and has a huge vocal range for someone as young as she is. The four judges give her a standing ovation.
Demi tells her that she’s inspirational, and that people can learn a lot from her strength. Paulina says rather hokily, though perhaps it was meant to be heart-felt, “music heals everything.”
Paulina adds that she feels “honored to go on this journey” with her. Kelly agrees with Demi’s assessment.
Simon tells Rion that she is “literally extraordinary.” He adds that he remembered the first time he met Carrie Underwood and how he predicted that she would “do big things.” He says that he feels the same way about Rion. Simon tells her that,in every way, she is “a beautiful person.”
The judges are unanimous in voting “yes,” and Simon adds that this is “the easiest yes he’s ever given in his life.” Rion advances to the next round, and she will likely be hard to beat, and difficult for any other judges to vote her off in the later stages of the season.
After Rion walks off the stage and says: “That did not just happen!” Simon talks about how much he would love to work with her.
After a last break, we see a video of the upcoming auditions. Tomorrow night, we’ll see more group performances, and an angry Demi, and more standing ovations and pissed-off contestants. Oh, and we’ll see Simon wearing glasses, and also singing.
After a somewhat slow start, the season premiere of X Factor turned out to be a great episode. I can hardly wait to see more of the new season tomorrow!
Written by: Douglas Cobb