The X Factor auditions came to a close September 29 as Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and the gang hit Newark and then San Francisco in search of more hopefuls with that special something. Though there were hiccups along the way, a group of talented performers including show-ender (and show-stopper) Jazzlyn Little, Nashville's Brennan Hunt and the Gaga-esque Tora Woloshin all found themselves headed to boot camp. Here's a recap of the action.
Before things began to swing, the judges had high hopes for Newark and the confident folks they expected to meet. Record executive L.A. Reid asserted, "You're going to find a star in New York," while ex-Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger expected to see "a lot of character and personality." But did the city across from the Big Apple deliver?
Brooklyn's Brian Bradley, 14, who came with his mom and step-dad, was up first to try to wow the judges and the huge arena of gawkers. The uber-confident teeny teen said he viewed Jay-Z and Kanye West as his competition. He replied, "It's politics, man," when Simon asked why he didn't have a record deal yet. Then he sassed him and launched into a "stop lookin' at my mom" rap routine. It was cute and amused Paula, and he certainly knew how to work the crowd. Nicole promised not to look at his mom. Simon called him "arrogant, obnoxious, argumentative" but "you are one of the most talented young people I've heard in a long, long time." Paula called him "very, very unique." L.A. said that all the years he ran Def Jam, he was looking for him and he never walked in, and promised "you can do it if you set your mind to it." The little guy earned four yeses and took the news philosophically, waxing "this means life, this means accomplishment, this means greatness, this means achievement."
And Brian was just the first bead on a string of good performers. Kelly Warner, 22, a nursing home hairstylist, sang Hallelujah and scored 4 yeses. Afterward she claimed, "I can't stop smiling. My face hurts right now."
Also successful was Aaron Surgeon, a 27-year-old store manager who sang Don't Want to Miss a Thing. Simon said no, but the other three overruled him and sent him to X Factor Boot Camp. Aaron was pleased with the outcome: "I'm on my way to my dream."
Liliana Rose Andreano, who when asked what she does for a living replied "make photocopies all day and sing in my cubicle," also found herself headed to the next round. Simon declared, "You surprised me and I like you a lot," while Paula called her "magical."
But that's where the auditions good luck remote hit pause for a few minutes. Up next was the never-married 43-year-old Andy Silikovitz, who aspired to appear on an episode of MTV Cribs and find a girlfriend. Or two. He sang a painfully off-key version of Mariah Carey's Hero. To his credit, Andy really went for it, William Hung-style. And the audience showed some appreciation. L.A. "applauded" him for having "a great time." Simon reassured him, "I think you're going to find it much easier with the chicks now," and called him down to get Paula's number. She obliged by giving him a hug. What could've been a disaster actually wound up being something of a sweet (albeit odd) moment.
Things also didn't go so well for Clarissa "Cashmere" Cheatham, a 27-year-old Philly office worker who daydreams about being on stage and having people scream her name. Simon and Paula looked oddly cozy as Cashmere tried to kill a Mariah Carey song. Simon couldn't contain his laughter when he quipped, "When you said that people scream after you do karaoke I don't think that was a compliment," then apologized, saying, "Sorry, it's just one of those days."
And then, a slew of cringeworthy auditions followed to torment eardrums everywhere.
Fortunately, there were more promising acts to come. Seventeen-year-old high school junior Cari Fletcher called her audition "a once in a lifetime chance" and hit the stage with Heart's super hit Alone. Nicole really liked her "focus" and thought she had "great potential." Paul called her "very talented." L.A. declared, "You have a star's name, a star's face and a star's voice." Simon said there was "nothing distinctive" about her voice and told her that she needed to be memorable. Paula told her to "pick songs that will knock it out of the ballpark." Simon said yes "because I think you're smart and you'll listen."
Then there were more successes, including Joshua Blaylock, 12-year-old Emily Machalak and Dorit Yehudai.
Austin and Emily, AusEm, 15-year old BFFs who met in sixth grade and brought along a crowd of shirt-wearing supporters, were up next. Emily said they "feel the passion" when they sing together. They had a nice little interactive bit with each other on the stage, but Austin seemed the stronger vocalist of the two. Simon declared, "I think the audience you're aiming at will understand you," before voting yes. L.A. addressed Austin, telling him "I think you're a star" and adding he wasn't so sure about the duo. Nicole said no to AusEm, but gave a yes to Austin. When pressed to make a final decision, she spluttered for a long time before saying yes to the group. And with that AusEm earned a two-person ticket to boot camp.
With the Newark X Factor auditions in the books, the final day of tryouts aired from San Francisco.
Tora Woloshin, the 21-year-old tattooed racecar-lover who declared "everything is right when I'm singing," belted out a Jackson 5 hit to start the day's action. She worked the stage while decked out in a flowy dress and pink stiletto boots and ended her time in the spotlight with a standing O. She's definitely infused with a helping of Lady Gaga. Paula called her "a little firecracker" and L.A. praised her as "really, really good." Simon told her, "I absolutely love you. I think you could be special." Nicole said, "I really dig you." She, of course, earned four yeses and a trip to boot camp.
Not faring so well was Jor-El Garcia, who cited "all the pop goddesses" as his inspiration before hacking Madonna's Lucky Star to bits. And he was just the first in a long, long line of less-than-great performers.
But another potential diamond surfaced from the rough in the Stereo Hogzz, who called music their way of staying out of trouble. The group of five earned four yeses, even though Simon accused them of being "overrehearsed."
"My ultimate goal is to rule the world" and "I'm the total package" made Brennan Hunt, the next auditioner, seem just a tad bit overconfident and destined to fail. But surprise, surprise, he made the audience scream and Paula blush on his way to earning four yeses. Oh, and he's hot, too. And he writes his own songs. And the one he sang for his audition didn't suck.
Paige Elizabeth Ogle, an 18-year-old secretary, powered her way to four yeses, as did 59-year-old apparent fountain of youth drinker Leroy Bell, the teenage duo The Brewer Boys, and blonde cutie Nick Dean.
But then things took a turn in the other direction, with the guy who sang 525,600 minutes of the song from Rent, much to the judges' chagrin.
The very last of the X Factor auditions belonged to the very nervous and self-deprecating 16-year-old Jazzlyn Little. Nervous Nelly turned into Suzy Superstar when she opened her mouth, though, and she rocked Mary J. Blige and worked the crowd. L.A. called her "the real thing" and Paula said she was a "little brilliant gem" and "a star." Simon? "I'd love to see what you're like when you've got confidence" and proclaimed her "you're the one to watch." And of course, four yeses were sent her way.
Watch FOX next Wednesday evening as the inaugural season of The X Factor moves into the boot camp round. Which 32 acts will survive the big cut? That's the $5 million question.