“This is Boot Camp,” (Night Two). That’s what Steve Jones was supposed to say. I had DVRed ‘The X Factor’ because of a dinner date and when I finally got around to watching it, I discovered that I missed nothing but a recap of the first night of Boot Camp. So, a massive crisis was averted.
Following the brief recap, the groups from the night before picked up where things left off. The ninth group was handed a folder containing Marvin Gaye’s huge hit “What’s Goin’ On.” After seeing the contestants in the group, I was excited to see how they would “make the song their own.” (There’s a standard Paula Abdul line from her ‘American Idol’ days.) The performance got off to a shaky start with 12-year-old Ma’at Bingham Shango. I’m impressed she made it as far as she did, considering her age, but she was pretty much the weak link in the group. I’m guessing she was nervous having to go first, but this is ‘The X Factor,’ not the search for America’s Next Barney Superstar, so I think I can be a little more critical about performances. It is a $5 million prize.
Gina Rene, the sister of ‘X Factor’ favorite Chris Rene, sang next and showed musical ability runs in her family. The best of the group, though were Brennin Hunt (the one Nicole Scherzinger crushes on) and Marcus Canty, who sang Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” in his first audition. These two definitely carried the group. Also in the group was Gina’s brother, Chris, who infused his rapping and singing combination pretty well into the song. Overall, the group did a good job. They weren’t the best, but certainly weren’t the worst.
Up next, we took an ever so brief look at two groups. One performed Kim Wilde’s “Kids In America” and the other took on Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman.” Judging by the length of time we were given to check out these two groups (mere seconds), I can only assume no one in the group was given the chance to go through. Now would be a good time to look up the ‘Price is Right’ loser horn to best represent how the people in these groups must feel. You know, the sound people get after the Cliffhanger falls off the mountain. If only you were sitting next to me now; I’d totally make the sound for you.
The 12th group was made up of country crooners. Therefore the song they had was extremely fitting: “I Won’t let Go” by Rascal Flatts. In contrast to group nine, I think the 12th group opened the song with the strongest singer. I thought Tim Cifers was very Garth Brooks-esque in his song delivery, which is a good thing. Mathew Slovacek took the reigns from Tim, but I found his singing to be too country. Is there such a thing? Yes. Especially when you do nothing but scoop into every note you sing. Country group Kingston was next. While they had good harmonies, I wasn’t too impressed with what I saw and heard. Hannah Bethel tried her best to keep up with the boys, but I thought she was way too fake with her delivery. Last up was chicken farmer Thomas Wells, from Idabel, Oklahoma. My immediate thought when I saw where he was from was that he knew country music. And he did. He was pretty good.
The final group took on the song “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol. As soon as I saw all the people in the group, I wondered if show producers pulled out everyone with weird hair and grouped them all together. This group was a mass of weird hairdos and hair don’ts. Henri Bredouw kicked things off for the performance in front of the judges. I had never seen Henri before, but I think I can stand never seeing him again. I’m not sure he could carry a tune in a bucket. Others followed, including The Brewer Boys, who still need haircuts, and Christa Collins who had about eight different hairstyles in the course of her two minutes on TV. I guess she is a hairstylist, but come on Christa. I thought this group was pretty awful. They didn’t mesh well vocally and seemed to just be trying to one up each other. It wasn’t a team effort, to say the least. In the judges critiques, LA Reid had the best line when he said one of the girls in the group had energy, “but boy, she can’t sing.”
So, 13 were groups out of the way, which means another 36 acts needed to be cut before the final round of boot camp. Some people took their cuts harder than others. The one who took it the hardest seemed to be rapper Reina, who said, “Maybe I’m just too talented.” Perhaps Reina is correct. She’s so talented that she won’t ever get a record deal. Now that’s talent! Ah. Some of the egos and attitudes on this show are pretty incredible. The cattiness makes me happy.
So much had already happened on Thursday night’s ‘X Factor,’ but there was still a round left before the final 32 were revealed. What could the judges possibly have in store for the remaining acts? Everyone received a list of 25 songs and had to select a song from the list they felt best represented them as an artist. Then each group had 15 hours to prepare for their final boot camp audition in front of the judges...and an audience of 3,000 people. INTENSE!
The first act to take the stage was 13-year-old Rachel Crow. She always seems to draw the short straw and has to go first. But it rarely seems to make a difference. She’s pretty much amazing. What song did she feel best represented her? Beyonce’s “If I Were A Boy.” Rachel has the growl, the sass...she has the X factor as far as I’m concerned. This girl is one of my favorites for sure. Hearing her sing, it’s really hard to believe she’s only 13. She made my BFF Nicole cry. I almost cried, too, but didn’t want to seem like a wuss in front of my ‘X Factor’ watching partner.
Three other auditions happened between Rachel and another ‘X Factor’ favorite, Burrito Guy, Josh Krajicek. It’s kind of sad he will forever be known as The Burrito Guy, but that’s just the way the tortilla rolls. Ah. So witty, even though I’m operating on five hours of sleep. Josh selected Kelly Clarkson’s “Up To The Mountain.” I had never heard the song before, so had nothing to compare it to, but I thought he did a really good job, regardless. I wish he would have talked less before he started singing. It was a little uncomfortable. But that didn’t change the fact that Josh has an incredibly soulful voice and is one of the best in the competition at expressing shade in his voice. So much lightness and darkness when he sings. It’s a fantastic thing.
Immediately following Josh was one of my least favorite contestants through the whole show so far: the self-declared “fierce” Simone Battle. I just can’t like this girl. She’s too cocky, is a mess (not a hot mess, mind you) and appears to be a wannabe Pussycat Doll. I don’t think the Pussycat Dolls would even take her, yet she still keeps getting chances on ‘The X Factor.’ It’s kind of a turn-off to the show for me, to be honest. Simone’s fierceness is too much for me. Anyway, she chose Elton John’s “Your Song” to perform. It appeared as if Simone didn’t know any of the words to the song. She messed it up. Badly. Simone even knew it and tried to tell the judges she was trying to do something different. She said, “Despite what just happened, I can bring it.” Not fierce, Simone. Not fierce at all. Andrew’s take on it: “That was awkward.” I knew there was a reason I watched the show with him. He said what needed to be said after each audition.
Simone was followed by even more far-from-fierce auditions. 4Shore, who had a very promising first audition, get worse every time I see them. They were ROUGH this time around. Little Ladiez, who I’d never seen before, were horrible. They are another act I could go the rest of my life without ever seeing again. Sadly, Missouri’s Brock and Makenna didn’t bring their A-game to their final boot camp audition. They were off key and didn’t have good harmonies. I think they pretty much flunked out of ‘The X Factor’ with their song. Then there was Siameze Floyd, who was horrible, too. Enough with Siameze already. Move on.
The next audition came from one of Nicole’s favorites, Brennin Hunt. He selected Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You.” When he started singing, it was a different arrangement of the song from what I was used to hearing. I was king of getting into it. However, Simon Cowell disagreed completely and stopped the audition mere seconds into the song. Simon said he wanted a version of the song with strictly vocals and piano. Simon then continued saying, “Why are they making these weirdo versions?” I constantly question that, too, Simon. Brennin was not allowed to continue his audition, leaving it up in the air as to if he would continue. Dun dun dun....
The Stereo Hogzz were next with a rather interesting arrangement of Michael Buble’s “Cry Me A River.” The singing was great and so was the choreography. I was impressed. They were followed by the 14-year-old rapper, Brian Bradley. I am OVER him. Ugh. Enough, enough, enough. Speaking of enough already – Philip Lomax is still around, impersonating Frank Sinatra badly. However, he still has jackets I want. I need to call him up and see where he shops. Chris Rene and Nick Dean were next. Both were far better than they were during the group rounds. Chris doesn’t have a very full voice, but has an endearing story that makes me want to hear more from him. Nick didn’t forget the words to his song this time, which was a big improvement.
After Nick, producers trotted 42-year-old single mom Stacy Francis back on stage. During Stacy’s pre-performance interview, she talked about how her Dad died the first day of Boot Camp, but she didn’t tell anyone about it. She decided to continue on with the competition because she thought that’s what he would have wanted her to do. She even had to pick ‘The X Factor’ over her Dad’s funeral. While I feel for Stacy and think her story and what she’s been through is awful, I think she milked the pity card a little much. However, her version of “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess was pretty awesome. It was no Leona Lewis, but awesome nonetheless. I think Stacy may be a dark horse to win the whole show.
Stacy was followed by a contestant I kind of despise having to talk about: Tiah Tolliver. I don’t think she is anywhere near as great as others do. I don’t know what Simon sees or hears in her. Other than the fact I’d want her on my side in an alley fight, I don’t really have any use for Tiah. Eh. Enough of her, too. She needs to get the boot. Cari Fletcher and Drew Ryniewicz also got a little air time. Both girls seemed to grow with each audition, which is certainly something I like to see happen.
By the time the 21st audition was shown, Andrew had fallen asleep. I wanted to wake him up for Caitlin Koch, just because I like her. A lot. Maybe it’s because she reminds me of my friend, Laura, but I could buy Caitlin’s debut album now and be perfectly happy listening to it for the next few months. However, I chose to let Andrew sleep and I tried to contain my audible support noises for Caitlin when she started to sing. Caitlin also chose to perform Buble’s “Cry Me A River.” And OMG. Her voice does it for me like none other. It’s just so soulful and the right tones to my ears. I was mad that the show didn’t show more of her singing. I only got a few seconds, but that just means I will have to hold out for more. Now I can squeal about Caitlin like a 12-year-old at a Justin Bieber concert without the concern of waking anyone up. Sure, I’m sitting at work, but who cares. Cailin is my Bieber. What an odd comparison.
The final audition of Boot Camp came from alleged 59-year-old Leroy Bell. I say alleged because he is aging well. Leroy did an Adele-like version of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love.” It was incredible and the perfect way to wrap up the Boot Camp rounds.
So...everyone was done singing, but there were still 20 minutes left of show, according to the DVR. What could possibly be happening in that time? Well, we still had 32 acts to eliminate, we had to put the rest into categories and we had to decide which category each judge would mentor.
Here’s who made each category:
Caitlin Koch, Tora Woloshin, Simone Battle, Drew Ryniewicz, Rachel Crow, Jazzlyn Little, Melanie Amaro, Tiah Tolliver
Brennin Hunt, Brian Bradley, Skyelor Anderson, Nick Voss, Tim Cifers, Philip Lomax, Marcus Canty, Chris Rene
Elaine Gibbs, Tiger Budbill, Leroy Bell, James Kenney, Josh Krajicek, Christa Collina, Dexter Williams, Stacy Francis
Stereo Hogzz, 2 Squared, 4 Shore, The Brewer Boys, Delusion Confusion, The Anser
In addition to the six groups mentioned above, the judges also decided to make their own groups out of the leftover boys and girls they liked but didn’t feel were strong enough to advance on their own. Hmm. I think that’s going to be very High School Musical. The only thing missing will be an awkward romance between Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens.
After the categories were announced, the judges had to find out which category they would mentor. LA gets the boys, Nicole gets Over 30’s, Paula gets groups and Simon gets the girls. While I don’t agree with all of the acts the judges put through, I think Simon will have the hardest decision in picking which four girls he wants to take to the live shows. The girls are the strongest overall, and I have a feeling a girl or over 30 will win the first season of ‘The X Factor.’
Next week, the remaining acts head off to their mentor’s home to be put through the ringer before a final decision is made.
What are your thoughts? Did they judges leave anyone behind who should have advanced? Were you like me in thinking some people were given chances who really shouldn’t have gotten them? It’s always drama on ‘The X Factor.’ We’ll see what happens at the Judges’ Homes next Wednesday and Thursday at 8ET/7CT on Fox.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times