The X-Factor Challenge

Oh, X-Factor premiere, I have waited so long for you. And you were truly, truly fantastic…

Do you know what The X-Factor is decidedly not? American Idol. I’d understand if that point might have been a tad unclear given that two of the judges are Paula and Simon, one is a black guy people don’t even really pretend to care about and one is so irrelevant that she changed her face and accent halfway through and no one thought it warranted a real explanation. However, Simon Cowell seemed dead set on distancing the show from the inferior Idol and did so with one of the most outrageous, bold, and risky decisions ever made. Yeah, that’s right. These judges? They don’t have Coca-Cola cups in front of them, they have Pepsi cups. Game. Changed.

The Voice decided to take the core of Idol and focus on, well, voices and took on contestants who had the stage presence of traumatized door mice or the appearance of a shaggy-haired version of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. X-Factor takes the opposite side of the Idol formula and focuses on everything else. Those without one of the following need not apply: a heart-wrenching back story, extreme conceit, model-esque looks, or a loud personality. Conspicuously absent from this list is any mention of musical talent. Because wow, is there ever a dearth of musical talent. Every contestant on the show was some form of musically horrifying, be it from overwrought runs, awful songs, or, most often, an inability to find the proper note. But let’s be clear: that’s now what this show is about. X-Factor is trying to find some intangible, ethereal quality they’ve deemed the “X factor”. You know, the factor that explains the Black Eyed Peas’ general existence. As such, this’ll be my last mention of how horrified my ears were during the two hour show. Just assume I thought whichever contestant I’m talking about sounded like some mix of dying cats and Creed.

If there is one lesson you should have learned about reality TV singing competitions in the past year or so, it’s that the show revolves solely around the judges. Everything else is secondary. Any talent they manage to find? Incidental. (Likely, accidental as well.) So it makes sense that the judges got introduced twice in the two hour premiere and then we got separate segments devoted to Simon and L.A. Reid (he’s the black guy people don’t even pretend to care about, for the uninitiated) having a pissing contest, Paula being sick to her stomach, and Cheryl Cole Nicole Scherzinger celebrating her own birthday. Truly riveting and compelling television. These are the types of things that make me wonder why they even bother with the contestants.

But they did, on occasion, sneak in some contestants. The first of whom was precocious Disney-Channel-star to-be, Rachel Crow. She is only thirteen years old! She’s so so so excited to be there! Everything about her makes me want to bludgeon my head with a sharp object! Exclamation points! Simon saw Evil Uncle Nigel gloat about Lauren Alaina being the reason Idol lowered its age requirement to 15, so Simon had to one-up him and proclaim Rachel Crow the reason Factor‘s age requirement is whateverwilloneupthatotherdamnshow. But sorry Simon, you lose this one because there is no way Rachel’s mom is half as awesome as Kristy Alaina.

Next up was actor/model/singer (or more aptly bartender/waiter/unemployed) Terrel Carter. He might have sung something, I don’t think the judging panel could really tell you. Though, I’m sure they could tell you all about his upper body. And Cheryl Cole might be able to tell you something about his package, too.

There were a couple other people up next, I didn’t catch their names. One sort of had a Bieber-lite quality to him. (I don’t know how you get “lite”-er than Bieber, but it’s possible.)

Up until this point, the show had been a mildly-entertaining, mildly-tedious variety show. Thank heavens Siameze showed up to brighten the day. Let’s begin by saying Siameze’s energy drink is called Siaminenergy. Or something. I’m not sure on the exact spelling. The point is he’s clearly thought this all out and is prepared to brand himself appropriately. Let’s be real, he’s mad talented and the girls love him. He said so himself. What I’m really trying to say is that he pranced, side-stepped, head-banged, air-guitared, and scooted all over the stage like the best, most earnestly invested faux-rockstar ever to grace television. His commitment to the part of an unhinged Prince imitator having a seizure was just as flawless as the teal fishnet shirt he was wearing. His performance was pretty much the definition of entertainment. And the best part of it all was that he got through! Unanimously! It’s like, for that one moment, the judges wanted nothing more than for my life to be complete. Thank you, reality TV gods. Thank you so much.

We were then treated to a string of “bad auditions” who we were supposed to laugh at because they were so tuneless. (If someone figures out how exactly this separated them from the “good auditions”, give me a call.) I am only grouping them together out of sheer laziness because they were pretty stellar. I mean, feisty old people? Random screaming teens? Anyone ever singing “I Touch Myself”? They all deserve their own special place in the X-Factor Hall of Fame for continued excellence and achievement.

Simone Battle popped up and I immediately liked her. And then she said she went to USC and I immediately wanted to trample her while wearing a big blue-and-yellow bear suit. Simone wants to be Beyonce even more desperately than Michelle Williams does. Her self-described musical genre is, and I am going to quote her on this one, “a mix of cheerleader, hipster, and drag queen.” I wish that was satire because then I’d be brilliant. But my brain can only hope to one day be as ludicrous as Simone’s. She let her short shorts take the lead while covering the Pussycat Dolls and then thought it’d be best to prove her singing talent with the vocally challenging, heartfelt, emotional, unprocessed “Bulletproof.” Yet still after all that, L.A. Reid just didn’t get it. Shame on you, Mr. Reid. You signed Rihanna! You should know all about the power of short shorts and mediocre singing ability.

Finishing off the Los Angeles auditions was the back story of Stacy Francis. (Stacy Francis showed up occasionally, as well. But her back story was the real winner.) Yes, Stacy is a single mother of two (three? honestly, after one isn’t it all the same?) who has believed for the last twelve years that she is too old to make it. Her ex-boyfriend made her believe that she wasn’t talented! (And her kids apparently agree with the ex [baby daddy?] because they also tell mommy to quit with the racket.) It was all very horrible and sad and tragic for Ms. Francis. So when she declared that she didn’t want to die with the music in her, she had already won. Anyone who can manufacture an inspirational quotation like that clearly has the X-factor. She even mastered the art of applying non-waterproof mascara so when she burst into tears of joy it was clearly visible on her face. The girl mastered the art of the TV movie in just a few minutes. You’d have to be blind not to see the raw talent involved in that.

Sparkly pajamas man dropped his pants and freaked Paula out. Part of me knows that this was television gold, but most of me was too busy being horrified-beyond-belief to enjoy it. Intellectually I know this is the kind of thing I live for. In practice, I just couldn’t deal. I feel like a massive failure to myself.

The X-Factor producers know how to create drama. After introducing deadbeat waste of space young aspiring artist Marcus Canty with all of his hopes and dreams, the show went to a quick clip of Marcus lying on the stage floor, overwhelmed and then promptly went to commercial break. There were so many possibilities! Did Marcus just suffer crippling defeat at the hands of Overlord Cowell and Dutchess Abdul? Did he trip on that flat spot on the floor and break his ego? Is he just obsessed with the scent of a nice hardwood floor?!? It turns out that he was just happy or something. I don’t know. He hop-skip-jump-Ushered his way through the performance and then got compared to Bobby Brown and then collapsed. (Although, I guess that’s probably the appropriate response to getting compared to Bobby Brown, now that I think about it.) It was sort of a let down. No one suffered any serious trauma, so I tuned it out a bit.

The first group to get the green light was The Anser, a 3-person boy band consisting of token black fodder guy in a hat, spectacular red douchebag spectacle-clad guy and beanie dude with no particularly entertaining distinguishable features. Spectacular red douchebag spectacle-clad guy informed us that “the song is called ‘Rolling in the Deep.'” Which, thanks for that red douchebag spectacle-clad guy! I’ve never heard of this so-called “Rolling in the Deep” song before. The trio needs to work big time on their stage formations, though. They were all haphazard and had no sense of spacing or uniformity! I suggest studying by watching ‘N Sync music videos and The Mighty Ducks.

Next up was another string of “bad auditions” bookended by Nici Collins’s delusions. She yelled at people, her voice laced with malice. Then she stopped singing and yelled at Simon some. She’s fabulous, you see. She’s going to be on to Youtube right this instant to prove everyone wrong. (I went to Youtube immediately after she made this statement and searched for “Nici Collins” and came up with this video which is some German video with pictures of some random couple! So congratulations Nici Collins, you’re still less famous than this random German girl and her boyfriend!

Finally, the show closed with Chris Rene, purchased straight from Sob Stories ‘R’ Us. He’s a garbageman with a two year old kid and he wants this so he can support his kid. But wait! That’s not all, he got into alcohol and drugs when he was thirteen and it spiraled out of control and he was a crazy methhead with the teeth to show for it. But it’s all good now because he’s been sober for a long time now! Oh, wait, no, he’s only been sober for two months. I hear nowadays that fame and the life of a rock star are super conducive to leading a clean, drama-free life. I had a hard time getting passed his hat. Or his weird goatee/beard thing. Or his brother (?) who pretty much seemed like the dullest thing on the planet. But whatever, because today was his THIRD BEST DAY EVER!!!!!! (Maybe it’s just me, but for some reason “third best day ever” doesn’t sound all that exciting.)

So there you go. X-Factor. Thoroughly entertaining. Absolutely ridiculous. Apparently on two nights a week and I will be doing my best to watch it all. If it stays this insane, I should have no problem keeping up. There is too much TV. Too. Much. TV.

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