Tag Archives: Simon Cowell

The X Factor – The Top 12 – Where America’s Rankings Are Revealed

For the first time (that anyone has ever heard of) in the history of live voting competition programs, this week’s X Factor live results show revealed the actual ranking of America’s vote.  Although the producing of this reveal was clumsy at best and unprofessional at worst (poor Mario and Khloe were understandably thrown off by some uncomfortable camera shots), the information is invaluable to the mentors, to future votes, to the contestants, and to the formatting of this column.  What follows is my analysis of the rankings, discussion of Wednesday’s loosely themed “movie” night set of performances (a major comeback for the show from an awful first week of live shows), and some advice to each contestant going forward.  In case you were still reeling from last week and missed out, Britney was still incoherent, although her “amazing” usage was kept in check.

 The Top 12 (as ranked by America)

 1.  Tate Stevens (should be 5)

Is this the right ranking?  Tate deserves to be ranked high, but this high?  His “Dead or Alive” rendition is a clean, clear-lined country performance that does not say much more than confirm that Tate is a cowboy.  I like his story (working with asphalt seems quite oppressive) and I genuinely think his “awshucks/happy to be here” persona is as genuine as they come.  I also think it helps that with Sister C gone, he is the only artist pushing the country palette.  I look forward to seeing whether a more nuanced theme (movie night is not that) will push him to show more artistry.

What needs to happen going forward?  More of the same will do fine for Tate and he may be safest staying in his home country zone.  At some point he is going to have find a little of the “X Factor” (beyond his background, he is severely lacking this quality).

2.  Carly Rose Sonenclar (should be 2)

Is this the right ranking? At worst, Carly Rose should be a finalist in this competition, so America got it right.  Thank goodness Miss Carly Rose knew that last week’s overproduced, “not at all her” performance was a major Britney misstep.  Her stripped down “It Will Rain” not only featured the best voice in the competition (and she is only 13!), but I also thought it gave her an opportunity to express this incredible connection and soul that emanates from her performance.  Simon is right.  She could be a real star.

What needs to happen going forward?  At a minimum, Carly Rose needs to stay clear of her mentor, Britney Spears, who two weeks in to the live shows, seems to be completely out her element.  Carly has been working toward (as displayed in her home video) a date with Simon Cowell since the age of 2 and has enough (this is really remarkable) self and musical knowhow to do what is right.  As long as he continues to display artistry, we should see her have a shot in the finals of this competition.

3.  Vino Alan (should be 8)

Is this the right ranking?  This is a bit of a surprise, considering every moment he is not singing seems utterly confusing (I loved when Simon had to direct him back to centre stage to finish the critique).  “When a Man Loves a Woman” is the right direction to take (kudos to LA for getting it right this week and America seemed to notice), but I think from the standpoint of recording artist viability, Vino has a ways to go (Demi expressed this poorly, but she was not far from the truth).  Beyond classic soul covers, where else can Vino go?  He should be somewhere in the middle of the pack.

What needs to happen going forward?  I think that Vino should find some music in the Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, or Al Green arenas to continue to build some momentum in the coming weeks.  Also, his judge verbal reactions may want to be muted, X Factor production team.  They come across as a little bizarre.

4.  Diamond White (should be 6)

Is this the right ranking?  Possibly.  Diamond White was errantly sent home last week (Britney just doesn’t get it) and thankfully has been given another shot.  She is an incredible talent and vocally, did an outstanding job on Whitney’s “I Have Nothing,” but at 13, she should not be performing such a song against mostly adults or for that matter at all.  It is the song of a WOMAN (capital W) and Diamond is the most 13 of the 13 year-olds.  Again, Britney needs to get out of the way even more here (Diamond’s white outfit also made little to no sense).  Diamond is probably ranked a little too high and certainly should not be above some of the upcoming groups.

What needs to happen going forward?  Diamond must find song content that allows her voice to soar while acknowledging that she is very much a girl, not yet (even close to being) a woman.

5.  Fifth Harmony (should be 3)

Is this the right ranking? In a vacuum without looking at the other acts, a fifth place America vote ranking could be just right.  The artist formally known as 1432 (and before that Lylas) had a beautiful (and harmonized finally) performance of “A Thousand Years” that gave this loyal TV viewer almost chills.  Simon was working his magic this week with these five ladies, crafting a sound and an image that could compete in this competition and has real potential in the industry.

What needs to happen going forward? They need to keep their name (America will not forgive a fourth name change) and continue on this path that Simon so effectively fostered.  More harmony, more Camila, and more rehearsal will keep them around for a long time.

6.  Emblem3 (should be 1)

Is this the right ranking? This is absolutely the wrong ranking.  Emblem3, as Simon pointed out, should have been ranked number 1 and at worst, number 2.  I have largely been a holdout on these three until this week.  I was thoroughly entranced with their brilliant and relevant “My Girl” and “California Girls” mashup (with some One Direction hooks underneath).  They are electric, marketable, and could become huge.  I was genuinely surprised they were so low.  Look for America to get it right next week and beyond.

What needs to happen going forward?  Simon was genius this week and may want to provide a ballad to will the younger teenyboppers even more into the movement next week.

7.  Jennel Garcia (should be 4)

Is this the right ranking? If Demi knew what she were doing with Jennel, no, but based on what Demi has provided her, it is about right.  Simon was correct in pointing out that the entire look that Demi has created is wrong and that Jennel should return to her original audition roots.  This “I’m a rocker chick” direction misses the point entirely.  Jennel, more than anyone left in the competition, may have the “X” in the “X Factor” and this is developed through artistry, the right song selections, and an understanding of what Jennel has to offer.  I am not sure Demi gets it.

What needs to happen going forward? Beyond Simon or LA taking over, Jennel needs to worry less about image and worry more about her own connection to the material.  She is at her best when you can tell that it is Jennel performing, not some fabrication of the hair and makeup room.

8.  Paige Thomas (should be 9)

Is this the right ranking? It is close to it.  I wouldn’t place her above any of the acts ranked higher and I don’t think that many of the acts below are as good.  Her completely over the top theatrics on “Take My Breath Way” continue to conceal the reality that, as LA plainly pointed out, she is “good,” but not “great.”

What needs to happen going forward?  Paige needs to find music that better hits the sweetest spots of her voice and rely less heavily on the theatre.

9. Lyric 145 (should be 7)

Is this the right ranking?  Yes and no.  Lyric 145 is doing great work (although bizarre, their Alice in Wonderland fused “Supercalifragilisticexpiadlidocious” from Mary Poppins was oddly captivating), but I am not sure that they have much to say as a recording artist.  Simon has created a dynamic image that will be interesting to watch.  They could have been ranked above Paige and maybe Vino as well.

What needs to happen going forward? They have to find more truth in their material that connects them to their Queens and Flint, MI upbringings.

10. Beatrice Miller (should be 10)

Is this the right ranking? Yes.  Poor Beatrice has the distinction of now being the third best thirteen-year-old in the competition.  Her “Iris” made no sense for a recording artist (and made little to know sense as a teenager).  Again, Britney’s “mentoring” (it has to be in quotation marks at this point) is subpar and misguided.

What needs to happen going forward?  Beatrice needs to find some upbeat material that better connect with her age and her interests.  Heavy mid-90s rock ballads may need to be shuffled out of the rotation.

11. Arin Ray (should be 11)

Is this the right ranking?  Yes, he is in my bottom two or three.  Arin Ray is a sweet guy and much improved according to LA from last season (I am not sure how you can really remember what is contribution to Intensity was in 2011 X Factor), but I am not sure there is much there beyond a pleasant and eager seventeen year-old voice.

What needs to happen going forward? He needs have a performance that the young ladies and gents swoon over and fast.

12.  CeCe Frey (should be 12)

Is this the right ranking?  Well done America.  Although Demi has made a mess out of CeCe Frey (as in French, Mario Lopez), CeCe may have already been a mess to begin with.  Her “Eye of the Tiger” was a disaster.  If you look at all of Demi’s artist (and Britney’s for that matter, besides this week’s Carly Rose), you wonder if X Factor producers were right after all picking judge/mentors who are so young.

What needs to happen going forward? At this point, she is nothing to lose, so a 180 reinvention that rebrands her as something wholly different would not be a bad thing.

Eliminated – Jason Brock

On the scale of “devastated” to “bu-bye”, how do I feel about his departure?  Satisfied.  Although I will miss “Mr. Entertainment” and his silky smooth voice, he may have warn out his live TV welcome (“For the Gays and Japan!”).

My rankings:

  1. Emblem 3
  2. Carly Rose Sonenclar
  3. Fifth Harmony
  4. Jennel Garcia
  5. Tate Stevens
  6. Diamond White
  7. Lyric 145
  8. Vino Alan
  9. Paige Thomas
  10. Beatrice Miller
  11. Arin Ray
  12. CeCe Frey

What do you think?  Do you like the new transparent rankings?  Was Emblem3 America’s biggest mistake?  Will Demi continue to ruin her acts?  Is Britney studying more phrases to add to her judging repertoire?

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  His weekly THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASON Power Rankings appears weekly on Derrick Kosinski’s ultimatechallengeradio.com.

 

 

 

Britney is not amazing as The X Factor stumbles into live shows

NIGHT 1 – Wednesday

There is really no way around this: Wednesday night’s first X Factor live show of the season was an unmitigated disaster.  The sixteen final acts (four from each mentor’s category) performed a hodgepodge of nondescript, throwaway songs mostly overblown with unnecessary and painfully distracting dancers and stage production that would lead a first time viewer (“Auditions aren’t for me, but let me check out the first live show!”) to question the overall talent and struggle to find more than a few favorite performers to root for.  Many acts (especially the mentees of Demi and Britney) were given hideous and peculiar makeovers that looked like they were either put through a 1985 VMA Awards time capsule (in Demi’s case), Britney Spears’ 1999 closet (what she did to “Hit Me Baby One More Time-ify” Carly Rose was unconscionable), or “Yo MTV Raps” wardrobe room (Lyric 145, who LA reasonably questioned for selling out).  Loyal viewers from the beginning of this season wanted to know what had happened to their favorite acts (What was Jason Brock doing?  Why is Demi pigeonholing Jennel as a rocker chick?) and were further confused by others (the constructed rivalry between CeCe and Paige became a competition of who could look the least human).  This was just a mess.

In fairness to the X Factor brass (and furthering the theme of last week’s column), the abrupt Giants sweep of the Tiger in the World Series moved the X Factor airing up one day, so maybe they weren’t ready.  Maybe the format of this week (no public vote, judges select the final twelve) led Simon and friends to make the first live show an audition for next week and thereby wanted to hold back any semblance of quality.  Who knows?  What is clear is that the final twelve (and the mentors in their song selection and overall guidance) have their work cut out for them next week to reattempt to engage the American public in these aspiring to stardom musical acts.

Since this was the first live show, I must note how both the live debuts of new hosts Mario “having a strong career second act” Lopez and Khloe “daughter of Attorney Robert” Kardashian Odom and first-time judge/mentor Britney “tightly handled” Spears faired (Yes, this is Demi’s first live show as well, but she is honest, natural, not always affective, but refreshingly unrehearsed).

THE NEW HOSTS

Mario Lopez, channeling Idol season 3 Ryan Seacrest, is a hosting/entertainment show professional.  He reads the teleprompter with the best of them, knows how to handle producer instruction in his ears, and is not easily rattled when live problems arise.  He will never take Steve Jones-like risks (most of the time a great thing, although I do miss the limitless unintentional comedy of a Steve Jones hosting experience), yielding a smooth execution that will never excessively standout or dramatically underperform.

Khloe Kardashian Odom, who is really diving into the hosting deep end here without knowing how to swim, had a respectable debut and will only grow into the role (wardrobe body part accentuation notwithstanding).  When teleprompter reading, she is a work in progress, often struggling with word emphasis, cadences, and timing.  This will improve and it will certainly help to have Super Mario by her side.  Khloe is at her best when she is let loose to improvise (multiple times referring to “sexy Simon”) and hold judge comments accountable.  In this exchange with Demi (maybe the most real moment of the episode) after 1432’s (what is up with this name?) performance, Khloe channeled her late father’s courtroom skills:

Khloe: “Demi, who was the one that clicked for you, Demi?”

Demi: (not hearing or ignoring the question) “Next up, we have my final contestant from my group…”

Khloe: “Demi, Demi, who was the one that clicked for you?”

Demi: “Oh, I am…they should figure it out on their own?  I am not going to say it right here…”

Khloe: “I want to know and I think they should know so they know how to work better together.”

Demi: “I think that they should all just…you (with a point)”

Mario: (chiming in) “Ok, it took a little interrogation.”

Khloe: (not backing down) “Which one?  Carmella?”

Demi: “Yes, I think you all should learn something from her.”

This is a refreshing live TV exchange and more of this from Khloe is only a good thing.

BRITNEY SPEARS LIVE

Here is a complete breakdown of the sixteen comments made by Britney after the sixteen acts with some of my brief observations to follow (I sometimes struggled capturing punctuation and grammar of Britney speak):

“I felt, I just feel like you’re outrageous, you’re outrageous, I love everything about it, the costumes are beautiful, your performance was great, and I think you are a true star.” – after Paige Thomas (Does she even know what “outrageous” means?)

“I am so proud of you, I can’t believe.  You were a little genius up there and I love the performance the way you gave it.  And, it was on, I loved it.” – after Arin Ray (As opposed to the way you didn’t give it?  Little genius?  Really?)

“You were amazing.  You completely surprised me.  I was not expecting that and I felt you.  It was amazing.” – after David Correy (Note: The word “amazing” was used two times.  Oh, there will be more.)

“I thought it was very interesting.  I thought you guys – I wasn’t expecting that, and I felt like you really delivered.  You had a great performance and I think you were stunning.” – after Sister C

“I felt like you rocked it out.  You completely rocked it out.  I love your hairstyle.  I love the way you dressed.  I loved everything about.  It was really amazing.” – after Jennel Garcia (Note: The use of “Amazing” for a third time.)

“You impressed me so much.  I am so incredibly proud of you and I’m, you were amazing.” after Diamond White (Of course, above all else, “amazing” (number 4).)

“I really feel like you were really good and I feel your effort and but I was a little bored.” after Vino Alan (At least this appears to be a break from the “amazing” script.)

“I was genuinely entertained.” – after Jason Brock (Her emphasis on “genuinely” is classic.)

“I agree with LA. I felt like overall it was a really great performance.  I loved your outfit.  I love your performance.  It was really great, but your vocals were a little weak sometimes.” after CeCe Frey (Read this back one more time.  She really struggles with sentence structure variation.)

“I feel like you wow me every time you perform.  Every time I see you I’m just like “I know you get the girls, you get me” and I think you’re amazing.” – after Tate Stevens (What is she talking about?  “I know you get the girls”?  What does this even mean?  Note: “Amazing” number 5.)

“I disagree.  I think you are a true star.  You are amazing.  You are the best and I loved it.  It was great.” – after Beatrice Miller (“Amazing” number 6.  Beatrice’s response to Mario’s question about what Britney is like: “Britney is the best.  She totally gets what it is like to be a kid.”  I fear this is all too true.)

“I really feel like you could have chose a better song but overall it was really interesting and entertaining.” – after Lyric 145 (You know “interesting” can often be used as a euphemism for “I don’t like it” or “I don’t get it.”  I think for Britney, “interesting” means interesting.)

“I felt like your energy just drew us in and you were very, very honest.  I was pleasantly surprised.” – after 1432

“I feel like you are a true star.  You have what it takes.  I was definitely entertained and you are amazing.” – after Willie Jones (“Amazing” number 7.)

“I felt your vocals were amazing and you did a great, great job.” – after Carly Rose Sonneclar (“Amazing number 8.)

“Your trio is amazing.  You are absolutely adorable…(the audience it too loud to hear)…you guys were amazing.” – after Emblem3 (And, finally, “amazing” 9 and 10).

The transcript does not even come close to encapsulating the struggle that is Britney’s live verbal expression.  She is a mess and seems to using a word bank of eight words (amazing, interesting, love, great, entertaining, I, definitely, felt).  I know this was her first night, but I am concerned going forward that we are in store for more of this inconsequential babble.  It begs the question (especially considering her disastrous mentor artistic choices this week) if she will be able to support her very talented teens.  Can you imagine if Khloe had interrogated her?  What would she have said?  (“You are amazing.”)  My take: I think like all parts of her 2012 life, Britney is carefully controlled by her handlers.  Everything she says, does, and eats is predetermined or meticulously edited (including concert performances).  This is her first sojourn into live expression in some time and the philosophy of her handlers this week was to give her some token phrases to work from and to keep it all brief.  I hope that she is allowed a little more leverage going forward so we at least get a sense of what (and dare I say if) she thinks on her own.

MOMENT OF THE NIGHT

After Jason Brock’s horrendous (Simon’s word) performance he asks, “Mario Lopez, can I pinch your butt?”  Mario responds, “Oh, we have to keep it PG-13 up here buddy, live show.”  Classic.

NIGHT 2 – Thursday

This week, the public sits back and (mostly) does not enjoy, while the mentors choose two of their acts to immediately go forward to the final twelve and two of their acts to perform a “save me song.”  Post “save me song,” Simon, Britney, LA, and Demi must keep one of their acts and send their other act home.  Briefly, here is what went down.

YOUNG ADULTS

Demi immediately sends Jennel Garcia and Paige Thomas to the safe place.  Jennel is her biggest no-brainer, who, despite some misguided rock angst fabrication on Wednesday night, is the only Demi contestant that has any shot in this competition.  Paige Thomas’ Rhianna-lite performance Wednesday night (“outrageous” according to Ms. Spears) was weird enough for Demi to lead her through.  CeCe (despite some pitch problems and an overall creepy affect) clearly differentiated herself (in a good way) from the one trick Southern gentleman, Willie Jones, ending his X Factor life.

Moving on to the top 12: Jennel Garcia, Paige Thomas, CeCe Frey

Who has a chance to win this competition: Jennel Garcia

OVER 25s

Now that LA portends to be more on board with his Over 25s group, I have gone in an opposite direction and left Wednesday’s live show unsure of what to do with any of these men.  LA selected Tate Stevens (the conservative choice, a good singer, not much more) and Vino Alan (visibly vindictive for Britney’s “boring” comment) to move on.  David Correy’s “way too much” rendition of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone” (Demi and Simon were so on point with their comments) and Jason Brock’s “One Moment in Time” (a great song selection, the too high key yielded some unreachable high notes) were aptly like judging, according to Simon, “two horses at the pack of the pack.”  LA made the right choice by keeping Jason who could use better mentoring and less “Mr. Entertainment!” from Mr. Reid in future weeks.

Moving on to the top 12: Vino Alan, Tate Stevens, Jason Brock

Who has a chance to win this competition: At this point, no one

TEENS

Britney made a mess of her group this week, so we all felt relief when she correctly put Carly Rose Sonneclar through to the top 12.  Her selection of Beatrice Miller was a bit of a surprise (especially to the emotional, Beatrice).  Arin and Diamond both strutted their vocal stuff leaving Britney with “like the hardest decision ever.”  She chose the perhaps more ready for primetime Arin (I am not sure I really get it) over Diamond White (such a sweetheart).  Is it too late to assign Simon to both the groups and the teens and have Britney sit back and sip Pepsi?  I don’t think she would mind!

Moving on to the top 12: Beatrice Miller, Carly Rose Sonenclar, Arin Ray

Who has a chance to win this competition: Carly Rose Sonenclar

GROUPS

Simon’s category had the best showing on Wednesday night (although I was kind of with LA on the hip-hop-less Lyric 145 performance) and all his groups have something to add to this competition.  However, his selections of Emblem3 (the frontrunner at this point) and Lyric 145 to the top 12 were the right decisions.  Sister C was Simon’s group casualty and as little C sister pointed out, maybe they should stick to country and stay away from pop.  1432 is saved for another week, although their second name (they used to be Lylas) is not.  Simon wants an on-line competition to make a better name.  It is not a good sign that this five girl construction is still in search of a viable name at this point.

Moving on to the top 12: Emblem3, Lyric 145, the artist formally known as 1432/Lylas

Who has a chance to win this competition: Emblem3.  I finally understood why they are the frontrunners this week.  Although never going to be my jam (this bad behavior will not help), they are going to be very attractive to young music consumers who want to watch three young, good looking dudes have so much fun onstage.  I think their talent is in this charisma (certainly not musically) and like always on The X Factor, in Simon we trust.

What do you think?  Is season 2 of The X Factor Emblem3‘s to lose? Is Britney going to add more words to her vocabulary?

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  His weekly THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASON Power Rankings appears every Monday on Derrick Kosinski’s ultimatechallengeradio.com.

The X Factor Top 16 and Why Simon Hates Baseball

ImageCredit must be given where credit is due.  In a stretch of time in which X Factor was supposed to hibernate for a few weeks while no one watches the 2012 World Series, Simon Cowell’s crown jewel has managed to stay very much in the pulse of the pop culture nation (although at first for a major mistake).

When the “Judge’s House No. 2” episode of The X Factor aired on Thursday, October 11, there was to be one more airing (originally scheduled for Wednesday, October 17) followed by a fifteen day hiatus (an eternity in a momentum reliant reality program like The X Factor) to make room for America’s former pastime (do not get me started on why Major League Baseball is near irrelevant) in its annual October Fox primetime takeover.  The buzz and drive that the reformatted and reinvigorated (I am looking at you Demi Lovato) reality competition talent program had accrued thus far was in danger of being lost to this unnecessary scheduling conflict.

Baseball couldn’t wait another week to be a nuisance when a rain delay during an NLCS game last Wednesday forced Fox scheduling executives to ere on the side of awful.  The East coast X Factor was supposed to air a two hour episode from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM.  While waiting (a theme of the baseball viewing experience) for the Cardinals/Giants game to begin again, Fox’s (less than) finest decided to show a Ben and Kate rerun, go back go the game for a hot second break from the rain, inexplicably begin The X Factor at exactly 8:40 PM (I checked my dvr to be official) and then even more inexplicably, cut away a little more than half way through the planned two hours (with no warning) for a The Mindy Project rerun (another show undeservedly negatively affected by baseball).  The viewer was left confused and Simon was not pleased, giving this take on twitter: “Have no idea what is happening to the schedule tonight. Have heard the whole episode will be shown next Tuesday. Sorry. It what’s known as a total F-up.”  Fast forward to Tuesday, October 24.  Fox graciously adds a half hour to regular primetime programming (thanks so much) and re-airs only the second hour of last week’s episode.  If you usually do X Factor live, this disjointed viewing process could be a major turnoff. (This was not the first time that something like this has happened)

ImageDespite these higher-up hiccups, this is still X Factor news during a time when the show is supposed to be mostly off the radar.  In addition, two major announcements hit the airwaves.  X Factor was picked up for a third US season and even more relevant to season 2, Khloe Kardashian and Mario Lopez were officially named hosts for the live shows beginning on November 1 (I have decided to hold my opinions until I have seen them in action…in Simon we trust).

So, what happened in these unfortunately scheduled two hours of programming over the past two weeks?  Judges (it feels like finally) made their selections for the top 16 acts for the live shows.  Let’s do a brief breakdown of the top 16.

TEAM BRITNEY SPEARS – TEENS – “They just have no idea what’s coming their way.” 

CARLY ROSE SONENCLAR

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Britney’s take: “Carly Rose Sonenclar is like an angel.  Her voice is completely flawless.  She’s a true star.”

My take: I concur.  Carly Rose has a unique talent and is already, at thirteen, a seasoned veteran in the performing arts business.  I think she is the one to beat in this category and maybe in this competition.

BEATRICE MILLER

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Britney’s take: “Beatrice Miller has the look, she has the personality, and she has the voice which I think is going to be very intimidating to the other teens.”

My take: I am not sure if she will be intimidating anyone, although I think she may have the most game in the teens category.  She will find a way to differentiate herself musically from the other teens through song selection and/or style choices.

ARIN RAY

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Britney’s take: “Arin Ray is the whole package.  I feel like his voice has so much personality into it and when he performs, it shines through.”

My take: I am not sure what this means.  I have yet to see the spark, the “X” if you will, from Mr. Ray, although I have a feeling that the tween and teen audiences will make a strong connection.

DIAMOND WHITE

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Britney’s take: “Diamond White is a spitfire.  I think she is really funky and spunky and I think she is going to really surprise us.”

My take: I won’t be surprised if Diamond does very well in this competition.  Her voice is incredible and I think she has a lot of the Rachel Crow charisma from last season.

How did my predictions go?  Britney chose 4 of 4 shoulds and 3 of 4 woulds.

TEAM DEMI LOVATO – YOUNG ADULTS – “The battle is officially on.” 

WILLIE JONES

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Demi’s take: “Willie Jones is so original and incredibly unique.  There is absolutely nothing like him in this competition.”

My take: There may not be anything like him in this competition and for that, America may connect.  As a singer, I think he may be more gimmick than substance.

PAIGE THOMAS

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Demi’s take: “Paige Thomas – no doubt – she’s a superstar.  You can tell when she walks in a room; everything about her is a star.  She has what it takes to win.”

My take: I have doubts, Demi, and do not think she should be here (at least over Jillian).  If anything, Paige may lack “what it takes to win” and has shown this emotional volatility since her first audition.

JENNEL GARCIA

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Demi’s take: “Jennel – she’s got the attitude and she’s got one of the best voices in this entire competition.  I’m so excited that she’s in my group.”

My take: I am so excited too.  Considering what we have seen so far, Jennel has a whole lot of “X” in her factor.  I am thrilled she has made it this far and look for her to be an easy sell to American audiences.

CECE FRY

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Demi’s take: “CeCe has the stage presence.  She may not be the most likable person in the competition, but I believe that I can get America to fall in love with her.”

My take: This backhanded compliment (if you can even call it that), says it all.  I love Demi, but as an inexperienced, first time judge, I just don’t see us making the CeCe connection early enough in the live shows to keep her around.

How did my predictions go?  Demi chose 3 of 4 shoulds and 2 of 4 woulds.

TEAM L.A. REID – OVER 25s – “This is where it gets competitive.”

DAVID CORREY

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L.A.’s take: “David Correy is a great voice, and talent, and charm so I expect big things from David Correy.”

My take: I like David Correy, but he may have already had his moment on this show.  The Vino comparison is inevitable (the tattoos will do that), but Vino more easily differentiates himself vocally.

JASON BROCK

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L.A.’s take: “Jason Brock’s voice is angelic.  This is a very tough category, but this is flamboyance at its finest.”

My take: L.A. is not sure what to do with Jason Brock at this point.  I do think that Jason Brock knows what to do with Jason Brock.  If he can come out strong in the first few live shows and survive, L.A. will get on board.

TATE STEVENS

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L.A.’s take: “Tate Stevens is someone that you have to take seriously.  He’s the real deal.  He is an American classic.”

My take: An American classic like baseball?  (Too soon?)  I like Tate’s story and his drive, but I feel like a middle-aged country singer is a bit cliché.

VINO ALAN

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L.A.’s take: “Vino Alan may have the strongest voice in the entire competition.  He’s the greatest example of don’t judge a book by its cover.”

My take: Yes and yes.  Vino has a gifted voice and I think with some correct marketing, could win over America’s hearts.  He has L.A.’s full support.

How did my predictions go?  L.A. chose 3 of 4 shoulds and 3 of 4 woulds.

TEAM SIMON COWELL – GROUPS – “Now it gets serious.” 

LYLAS

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Simon’s take: “I love this group of girls.  I see massive, massive potential here.”

My take: As do I.  I was very impressed with their audition at Simon’s “house.”  They are relatable and their “have your pick” diversity (vocally and in terms of looks) will connect with various musical tastes.

SISTER C

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Simon’s take: “They look great.  They have great voices.  I think they’re professional.  I think they sound great and you just don’t ignore talent.”

My take: Yep, they are great, Simon.  It will be interesting to see how America responds.

LYRIC 145

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Simon’s take: “I like this combination.  The two guys needed her and she needed the two guys.  They’re different.”

My take: They really worked in Miami.  I am not sure they have a particularly high ceiling, but as the only rap artist remaining, they will likely find a loyal audience.

EMBLEM3

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Simon’s take: “I think they could be the surprise in this competition.  I think they’re funny, difficult, trouble, but everything I like in a boy band.”

My take: I am not a fan and don’t get why they are at all innovative or interesting musically.

How did my predictions go?  Simon chose 3 of 4 shoulds and 3 of 4 woulds.

What did you all think?  Who are your favorite contestants?  Is baseball really this annoying?

Next week: the first X Factor power rankings leading into the live shows, November 1.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  His weekly THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS Power Rankings appears every Monday on Derrick Kosinski’s ultimatechallengeradio.com.

THE X FACTOR – Season 2 Introduction and a Closer Look at the Top 24

The UK version of The X Factor debuted in September of 2004 and has run every fall since.   Created by Simon Cowell, an original Pop Idol judge and burgeoning (and often notoriously mean honest) music producer icon, X Factor gave Simon complete control (something he did not have on Pop Idol) to steer the ever popular reality performance competition juggernaut.  His offseason side job was a little program called American Idol, a more successful version of the UK counterpart that only lasted two seasons (or series, as they call them in Britain), and Simon became an even bigger star in the States and internationally than the talent he was trying to cultivate.

The UK X Factor has spawned the careers of some major acts (Leona Lewis, One Direction) and some acts that have only seemed to make an audible dent in Europe (No, I have never heard of Matt Cardle or Alexandra Burke either).  With the Idol brand on a downward trend (beyond an Olympic miracle, last season’s winner, Philip Phillipps, was going to go down as the least memorable Idol champion since Taylor Hicks), Simon knew that it was time to make a change and bring the X Factor to the United States.

Last season’s American version debut had some successful components (music mogul LA Reid as a judge, live prelim auditions), but failed to reach Simon’s lofty preseason ratings predictions and failed to find its own, dare I say, “x factor” as a television program.  You could see the kernels of something great, but there was something wrong in the overall mix.  Changes had to be made.  Simon said “thank you, but don’t come again” to judges Nicole Scherzinger (a little bit out of her league and ostracized for her terrible decision to send the incredible Rachel Crow home) and Simon old-faithful Paula Abdul (whose career second act may have peaked in 2003).  The unintentionally comedic host Steve Jones (who spent the season as a befuddled, awkward, and hilarious Welsh import) was also given his metaphoric pink slip (I do miss his tomfoolery).

With Simon and LA Reid remaining on the judges panel, Simon wanted to find two new woman judges who could provide more of the buzz and vitality that the program strives to achieve.  In Britney Spears (not a girl, not yet a thirty-one year old woman), The X Factor has a megastar judge (she received top billing even over Mr. Cowell) who is still relevant (although I think her singing abilities have always been a little more “oops” than “hit me baby one more time”) and deserves credit for her longevity in the industry amidst some career-defining tough moments.  Demi Lovato, the twenty-year-old Disney factory pop/actor starlet, is a more unconventional choice as the second judge, but she brings with her a connection to younger fans who have been reared on her tween focused performance projects.  No stranger to some personal (and sadly public) problems, Demi has lived her twenty years, but has risen above these struggles.  Both Britney and Demi are at a pivotal point in their careers as they embark on the X Factor judge/mentor circuit this fall and both seem hungry for a career win.

In a stroke of unexpected genius, Simon removed the host from the audition/boot camp portion of the show allowing for more contestant intimacy and access throughout the many nights of audition coverage.  It is rumored that the always professional Mario Lopez and potentially underrated Khloe Kardashian will be stepping in for the live shows, but so far it has been a pleasure to be freed from the clumsiness of Steve Jones during these early stages.

This week, X Factor finished the emotional roller coaster known as boot camp (to the delight of tissue companies everywhere who are sure to capitalize on the sudden rise of tear shedding) and chose the top twenty-four acts in four major categories.  Last season, the categories were Girls, Boys, Groups, and Over 30s.  Complacent he is not in season 2 and Simon’s desire to make positive changes shook up this expected format.

This year, the four categories are Teens (under 17), Young Adults (17-24), Over 25s, and Groups.  The older group last season felt like it never had a shot, there was too broad an age, stylistic, and maturity (remember poor Astro’s attitude about being in the bottom two) difference between the older “girls” and “boys” and the youngest competitors, and the whole group idea felt forced (and straight up struggled under the leadership of Ms. Abdul).  These redefined categories and mentor assignments (Simon attached to the groups is brilliant, Britney is adorable with the little ones) should provide a more palatable formula for season two success.

Let us breakdown the final 24 acts and how they did at the mentor’s houses:

THE YOUNG ADULTS (17-24)

Mentored by Demi Lovato and assisted by Nick “I like your new clean cut look” Jonas brother.

Location: Demi’s noveau chic LA pad

Jennel Garcia, 18, student, Rochester, MA – She is a sweetheart in life, but has this tremendous sexy fire when she performs.  Her “I Kissed a Girl” was not her best work and may have been overly affected by Demi’s pre-performance chat.  Jennel: “I thought we would kind of chat before I started singing, but we didn’t and I thought they would say something after I sang, but they didn’t.  It was really nerve-wracking – I lost so much confidence, but I did everything I could possibly do.”  Demi was “bummed” that her “light was a little dimmed” after giving Jennel advice.  Jennel has the it, but with a very talented group, is not a lock for one of the four spots for the live shows.

Willie Jones, 17, student, Shreveport, LA – Willie, the unexpected country crooner, took a risk singing “Nobody Knows” again after a self-professed “bombed” performance at boot camp.  Although a much improved rendition here (especially in the eyes of Demi and Nick), Nick is correct to point out that he needs to define his particular genre.

Jillian Jensen, 19, part-time piano teacher, Rochester, MA – Known for her emotional first audition that highlighted her unfortunate shared history of bulling with Demi, producers have not shown us a ton of Jillian singing since.  Her “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles was “kind of sexy” Nick Jonas and was a pleasant surprise.  Like Jennel, her confidence and emotions may be a future consideration further in this competition.

Nick Youngerman, 21, janitor, Tipp City, OH – The exuberant (“I love this song”) young MC “sang” “Tick-Tock” by Keshia.  Although not able to sing (the “oh oh oh” choruses were monotoned), he has definite stage charisma, but I am not sure his performance ceiling is that high.  Demi: “I couldn’t tell if I was like loving it or super annoyed by it.”  Yep.

Paige Thomas, 21, nursing student, San Antonio, TX – The mom of a lovely little three-year old has been an emotional theme park ride since going head to head with CeCe Fry at boot camp.  Bizarre outfit aside, I didn’t get her “Turn up the music” by Chris Brown.  Demi may be right that her best moment may have been in her first audition.  As she exposes more insecurities, Nick is right to ask if Demi can get her “back to that girl” that the judges fell in love with.

CeCe Fry, 21, mail clerk, Decatur, IL – CeCe is a bit of a head case (what’s up with the leopard spots that she paints all over her face and leg?) and must fight what Demi described to her as being sometimes “unlikeable.”  Her “I’m Sexy and I Know It” did take Demi’s direction and she certainly wants this thing badly.  Will America like her?  She will certainly fight to the limit to find out.

The four who should go on to the live shows: Jennel, Jillian, Willie, CeCe

The four who will (Demi’s selections) go on to the live shows: Jennel, Jillian, Nick, Cece

THE GROUPS

Mentored by Simon Cowell and assisted by Marc “smart to end up with Simon on X Factor, sorry Jennifer” Anthony.

Location: Simon’s Miami palace (although apparently it isn’t even his pad)

Playback, teens – This charming group of five young (and super happy to be here after all being eliminated as individuals at boot camp) lads turned on Simon (“there is a something naive and kind of likable about them”), but Marc did not get it (“I was looking at an airplane”).  Lead lad Owen’s intense long-distance relationship with Tori (“this is all for you, Tori”) is…something.

Emblem3, 16-19, Huntington Beach, CA – Sorry, boys.  I don’t get it.  Their awkward “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” reggae pop rendition stumbled when the dude who never wears a shirt got lost looking at the beautiful sky.  Simon says that “they lost their way” and I am just not sure they ever found it.

Sister C, 17-21, Mount Belvieu, TX – These three sisters from a small Texas town have a killer blend and tight harmonies.  Their performance sizzled and each solo would compete in the young adults category.  They could be the one to beat in this category if America can get them (as Britney at their boot camp performance did not).

Lyric 145, 19-23 – The combination of two brothers plus effortless rapper Lyric (another post boot camp creation) made “Party in the USA” come alive in ways I did not think were possible.  Marc and Simon agree that Lyric is a “superstar.” (Although, what is up with covering her eye like a pirate?)

Dope Crisis, 25 & 30, Philadelphia, PA – This duo has been together seven years and both Simon and Marc think they had a good audition, but aren’t sure there is any further they can go.

Lylas, 15-19 – This boot camp reject combination of five girls are all really good singers as individuals and kind of worked together singing Shontelle’s “Impossible.”  Simon thought they were “unbelievable” and I definitely could feel something when they sang together.  They could be one to watch in this category.

The four who should go on to the live shows: Playback, Lyric 145, Lylas, Sister C

The four who will (Simon’s selections) go on to the live shows: Playback, Lyric 145, Lylas, Sister C

THE OVER 25s

Mentored by LA “I am not happy about this category, but I want to win” Reid and assisted by Justin Bieber and his manager, Scooter Braun (still not sure why he plays such a key role)

Location: at LA’s actual home in Beverly Hills, an absolutely gorgeous view

Jason Brock, 34, computer tech, San Francisco, CA  – After a vocally impressive first audition, Mr. Brock belted a clean and clear performance of “I hope you know” by Fergie.  The judge/mentor response says it all: LA: “That was a strong…(pause)vocal.”  Justin asked, “Is that the one?” and Scooter reminded us that the winner wins “a big contract” (thanks Scooter).  I am not sure they are high on Jason.

David Correy, 26, musician, Riva, MD – The tattooed, vocally strong guy told us at his first auditions that he is different because he is adopted and hoping to reconnect with his birth mother.  His slow, California skyline adoring version of “Domino” by Jesse J. gave LA “chill pumps,” but he believes that “viability in the marketplace is the question.”  He can definitely sing.

Daryl Black, 37, musician, Elk Grove, CA – Daryl felt his performance of “She’s Gone” and put his heart and soul out there.  Although Scooter believed “he’s got a special voice, and with a band behind him…” (what could possibly happen, Scooter?), LA just thought it was “singing.”  I think he was more successful in his first audition.

Tate Stevens, 37, road worker, Belton, MO – This “only dude in the hat” (what about Vino’s beanie?) does not want to go back to asphalt work (who does?).  His countrified “Back at One” by Brian McKnight was well-received by LA as a song choice.  Scooter thinks “there is something about him that makes you want to root for him,” but Justin is “not sure about giving him the 5 million.”  Agreed.

Vino Alan, 40, musician, Waynesville, MO – Adorned with tattoos covering his head, Vino admirably wants to provide for his son.  His rendition of “Sober” by Pink hits some of the same emotional peaks and makes some of the emotional connections as the original (high praise from me).  Scooter’s take, “The dude is petrified, he’s nervous, he’s scuffing up your shoes, but he stepped up.”  LA “likes the soul but is worried about the package…the package.” (whatever that means)

Tara Simon, 27, vocal coach, Atlanta, GA – She feels like she is going to win the whole thing (and actually believes it) and is super lucky with the new format (she would be destroyed by the girls if this were last year).  It seems like the men in her category are not enthralled to spend time with this vocal coach who may want to think about a new profession.  Tara thanked Jesus and thinks she gave “a near perfect performance” of “The Reason” by Hoobastank.  Justin thinks “she should make sure to have more sweet moments with her voice” and in life (I added the second part).

The four who should go on to the live shows: David, Vino, Jason, Daryl

The four who will (LA’s selections) go on to the live shows: David, Vino, Daryl, Tara

TEENS (13-17)

 Mentored by Britney Spears and assisted by will.i.am who, according to Britney, “knows what kids are listening to.”

Location: at Britney’s LA home which apparently is not her actual home

Diamond White, 13, student, Los Angeles, CA – Diamond White is a star.  Her performance of “I’m With You” by Avril Lavigne was a definitive better vocal than the original.  She may be in a different league than most other performers.  Will.i.am thought she was “amazing,” but that she “cares about her moves too much.”  I am unimpressed with will.i.am’s overall appearance.

Reed Deming, 13, student, San Antonio, TX – This Justin Bieber-lite believes that his “entire life has been in preparation for this moment.”  Reed’s almost undistinguishable slow version of “Hey There Delilah” by the Plain White T’s (in retrospect, all of the teen performances were super slow.  Did Britney ask for this?) left Britney thinking “he was nervous” and “can deliver better than he did, “  Will.i.am compares Reed to “a little emperor, like a little emperor kid.” (Joffrey from Game of Thrones? Oh boy.)

James Tanner, 15, student, Groveport, OH – As the only teen rapper in the competition, Mr. Tanner has his work cut out for him against some great singers.  Britney and will.i.am seemed to agree.

Arin Ray, 17, student, Cincinnati, OH – Mr. Ray competed last year as member of the group Intensity (one of the many groups that Paula mentored and America never seemed to figure out last season).  His version of Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” was a competent, if safe performance.  However, both Britney and will.i.am saw something special.

Beatrice Miller, 13, student, Maplewood, NJ – After showing some nerves before her performance, she rocked a plodding version of “Titanium.”  Will.i.am considered her performance “fresh.”  I think she has a little fire inside of her and may be able to compete in close to the league of some of her best teen competition.

Carly Rose Sonenclar, 13, student, Westchester, NY – After her incredible first audition, it was clear that this girl has a killer voice.  Her “Broken Hearted” by Karmin was a soulful work of art.  In the understatement of the year, Britney said, “she is a very talented young girl.”  She could very well be the winner of this season’s The X Factor.

The four who should go on to the live shows: Carly Rose, Beatrice, Diamond,  Arin

The four who will (Britney’s selections) go on to the live shows: Carly Rose, Reed, Diamond, Arin

What did you all think?  Which contestants will go to the live shows?  How long before Scooter Braun has his own reality show?

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  His weekly X Factor column appears on the Afterblog at Afterbuzztv.com.