Britney meets her "biggest fan"
Season 2 of the drastically changed-for-the-better "X Factor" got off to a fantastic start on Wednesday night, but the premiere's only problem--if this can even be considered a problem--was that it focused almost completely on the show's judging panel, namely new judges Britney Spears and Demi Lovato. In fact, during Wednesday's first 30 minutes, literally only one contestant's audition aired in its entirety. But now, with the judges' chemistry and Britney and Demi's basic competence established, on episode two it was time to shift the focus to all those San Francisco and Providence hopefuls trying out to be the next, um, Melanie Amaro.
Not all auditions went so well...During Thursday's one-hour episode, still only five full auditions were shown, but two among them were genuinely awesome, by cabaret showboater Jason Brock and preteen wunderkind Carly Rose Sonenclar. And two out of five is a pretty good ratio, you know. And for those of you tuning to see some trainwrecks, well, there wasn't any scary drag queen in a wedding dress this time, but there was a stalker who seemed to already be planning his wedding to Britney, and that was actually a lot scarier--at least to Britney herself.
Here's who auditioned Thursday...
Patrick Ford - This Britney fan/stan once tried out for "American Idol" Season 9 with "Womanizer," at which time Randy Jackson advised him to "stop singing forever," one of the few times Randy ever doled out any actual sage advice on "Idol." But apparently Patrick didn't listen, especially once he found out that he now had the chance to sing right in front of Britney on another Fox talent show. Patrick described the chance to audition for his actual idol on "The X Factor" as "like meeting God," gushing eerily: "I love everything about Britney Spears. I don't think many people respect her on the level I do. I would do anything just to get a glimpse of her in person." He also said he thought she was his long-lost sister, then moments later said if he won "The X Factor's" $5 million prize, he'd buy a mansion for him and his "girlfriend Britney Spears." So wait--did he think Britney was his sibling, or his significant other? Either way, it was clear that everyone in the holding room thought he was freakin' creepy. Britney obviously felt the same way, when Patrick came onstage bearing flowers and proclaiming his undying love. And it certainly was ironic that someone who claimed to love her so much would do what he did to one of her songs, "Circus," which was basically destroy it. This latest audition practically made Patrick's aforementioned "Idol" audition look like something by Kelly Clarkson. "It was like you had an argument with Britney, got drunk, and decided to scream the song at her," said Simon Cowell. "But I would never, ever argue with Britney! I love her," Patrick countered. Britney looked like she wanted to crawl under the judging table--but she managed to stay in her seat and give Patrick a quick, stern "NO," to which Patrick replied, "That's all you got for me Britney? Just a no?" Then he just stood there with his wilting flowers, for what felt like 10 minutes, before he finally gave up and left the stage. "That defines the word 'uncomfortable,'" Simon declared.
Lexa Berman - It was pretty obvious that this girl was being set up by Fox editors to be this episode's token villainess, but Lexa was a very willing participant in this setup. Whether she was talking cattily to a random good-girl contestant named Paige Stroobach (who, bizarrely, we never saw nor heard again, aside from a cutaway shot of Paige snickering while watching Lexa's awful audition); flirting with the bad-boy contestants in the holding room; or confessing that her plan B, if show business doesn't work out for her, is to "marry rich"...well, let's just say Simon got it right when he described Lexa as "'Jersey Shore' meets the Kardashians." (Simon meant this as a compliment, of course, but I sure don't.) Lexa's cover of Alex Clare's "Too Close" was just too dull; Britney looked more glazed and checked-out than ever, telling Lexa, "There was just one tone the entire time, and it was really boring." Said Demi, astutely: "The problem is you came off as really overconfident, and it was unlikable." Simon actually liked Lexa, but admitted, "The problem is most people won't like you." I guess Lexa better call up Patti Stanger and try out for "Millionaire Matchmaker" instead, because she should probably go with her plan B at this point.
Johnny Maxwell - The way this 16-year-old bragged about his skillz was nothing compared to the spiel his mom delivered ("He's got it," "This is a performance of a lifetime"), so I figured this was going to go one of two ways. Either Johnny was going to be amazing, or he'd be one of those deluded, entitled kids who's been coddled since birth by an even more deluded stage parent. It turned out neither were true. Johnny's performance of his original song, "All These People," was high-energy and entertaining--the dude was a great performer, and he really got the crowd all riled up--but his rapping was MUCH better than his shaky vocals, which needed serious work. Still, there was something there--maybe that elusive "X factor"?--and his song was undeniably catchy. The judges were impressed and intrigued. "You took a great risk doing an original song, but you are exactly what we need," said L.A. Reid. "You're so passionate and fun to watch. I can see a whole record and album and everything!" gushed Britney. "You have swag," said Demi. Said Simon: "When the track first started, I was a little bit suspect about your vocals, and there's no question or doubt that you are a better rapper than a singer. But [cue Simon's new catchphrase] you've got that steel in your eyes. I think you're here at the right time. I think this is your time. I get you." Eh, I don't totally get Johnny, but I'll see how he does in Bootcamp. He has potential.
Jason Brock - This flamboyant, 34-year-old tech support operator--who shared his wild showbiz dream of performing on a stadium stage of "smoky white light" while dancers descend around him in a "big glitter explosion!"--was edited early on to seem like one of the show's token crazies. I suppose not much editing was needed to make that happen, really. But when Simon visibly grimaced as Jason flounced out onstage looking and acting like the lovechild of Liberace and Liza-With-A-Z Minnelli, I should've realized that this was all a setup and that Jason would of course be spectacular. And he was. His cover of "New York State Of Mind" was absolutely fabulous. Yes, it was campy and over-the-top, but the vocals were dazzling and on point. A much-deserved standing ovation ensued. "I love you! You sparkle, and you ooze joy when you're singing," raved Demi. "I thought it was magnificent! I was thoroughly entertained," said Britney. "You are completely flawless. Your voice is a song's best friend," said L.A. And even the once-skeptical Simon said, "Suddenly, it was like we were at your concert. You love music, and it shows. I loved your audition." And so, the first "over-30s" contestant of the season made it through to Bootcamp. And somehow I know this guy will be more fun than most of the kids on this show who are half his age.
Carly Rose Sonenclar - Here's one kid, however, who managed to steal the spotlight even from someone as ostentatious as Jason Brock. Thirteen-year-old Carly looked 8, but sounded like she was 30. I mean this in a good way; to quote L.A. Reid, she "may be 13, but her soul is old." When little Carly--her adorable, supportive, and refreshingly normal parents watching from the wings--announced she was going to sing the cursed Nina Simone song "Feeling Good," L.A. gave her a side-eye, even asking her if she'd picked the song herself. But when Carly belted out the standard, it was clear that she knew exactly what she was doing. Suddenly I had déjà vu back to the time when tiny opera singer Jackie Evancho first performed on "America's Got Talent" and no one could believe that someone so young was capable of singing with such maturity--that's how incredible Carly was. "That's not you singing. Someone is behind the screen singing that song. I'm going to need proof," joked Simon. "It's so effortless for you, which blows my mind, because you're only 13," marveled Demi. "Miss Thing! You are a lit-tle diva!" exclaimed Britney, the glazed look in her eyes temporarily vanishing as she showed signs of actual excitement and elation. Carly is going to go VERY far on this show. I'm feeling good about her prospects.
So, will anyone try out next week that can outshine Carly in the under-16 category or Jason in the over-30s? Will Britney file a restraining order against Patrick Ford? We shall soon find out, so tune in next Wednesday.