'The X Factor' recap: Final auditions find a few gems
Thank goodness "The X Factor" auditions are over. Though they were less grueling and tedious than audition rounds on many other shows (well-paced, they seemed to give somewhat gentler treatment to the seriously delusional), by Wednesday night's final audition double-header all the "X Factor" hopefuls were starting to blend together in my mind's eye to form one massive, melted, multiheaded monster of a singer.
Here's a flash of platinum blond hair. There is a ripped-jean-clad knee. And over there is a be-ringed hand holding the mic. (Perhaps I need to get more sleep?)
The final audition episode took us to Newark, N.J., and some unspecified West Coast city indicated by a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. (Why did host Steve Jones never explicitly say the auditions were in San Francisco? Was the second half of Wednesday night's episode an amalgam of towns? Or was it that Jones couldn't pronounce San Fran? He did struggle with the pronunciation of Houston, which he amusingly called Hoo-ston!) And if you focus your eyes and look a little closer, a few auditions did stand out.
Brian Bradley –- A brash 14-year-old from the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., he said he wanted to be bigger than Jay-Z and Kanye. (He's apparently already a big hit on YouTube.) Then he picked a faux fight with Simon Cowell, getting Cowell's full attention for a resounding original rap: "Stop looking at my mom." Bradley threw down some rhymes -- "That's my mother. That's my mother. She looks so young he thought I was her brother" – and nabbed four yeses (and high praise from L.A. Reid, in particular).
Cari Fletcher -– This 17-year-old New Jersey native had, as Reid put it, "a star's name … a star's face … and a star's voice." She sang Heart's "Alone," prompting Cowell to gripe that he found her a bit "boring" and Paula Abdul to encourage her to pick songs that are "relevant" in future. Nevertheless, she got four yeses.
AusEm -– Dueting 15-year-olds Austin and Emily came with their own cheering section and put the judges in a tough spot. He had talent; she seemed only average. Would the judges split them up? Ultimately, Autin's talent carried them both through; AusEm collected four yeses. But along the way, we saw a brief return of the uncomfortable dynamic between Cowell and Nicole Scherzinger.
Tora Woloshin -– My favorite audition of the night. This 21-year-old not only had an arresting look (Marilyn Monroe hair, tattoos, purple boots and a glowing smile), she was also pursuing an unexpected career: She's learning to be a race-car mechanic. Then she strutted through the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" like she owned the place, which she quickly did. I loved her, and so did the judges. Four yeses.
Brennin Hunt –- The producers led us to expect that this male model -– who had a very inflated sense of self -– would crash and burn onstage. But he didn't, triumphing on a (not bad) song he himself had written. Cowell was particularly impressed, saying he believed Hunt had not yet been successful in his music career because he thought he was getting bad advice, but that he thought he could help change that. Four yeses.
Jazzlyn Little -– Another surprise. This 16-year-old was seriously shaky when she walked out on that stage before thousands. She could barely hold a conversation with the judges, and her answers seemed to set her up as a nobody who'd go no place. But then she sang –- coming alive and working her way fiercely through Mary J. Blige's "I'm Going Down." The judges called her a "tiger," a "brilliant little gem" and "one to watch" and a possible future "world star." She got four yeses, but wasn't one to dwell on her success, noting, not unhappily, "That just means more work."
So on to "Boot Camp," from which only 32 contestants will emerge. These remaining contestants will then be divided into four groups – Boys, Girls, Over 30 and Groups – with one of the judges assigned to mentor to each group.
What did you think of the final audition episode?
-- Amy Reiter
Photo: Jazzlyn Little, 16, performs on "The X Factor" on Thursday on FOX. Credit: Screen grab from the Fox show.