Press was invited to see a preview of select auditions from the upcoming 3rd season of X Factor last week. Lucky for me, the FOX network online room has the preview available for folks like me who couldn’t make the party!
The best and worst talent were on display in the 40 minute video. Here’s the rundown
Simone – This 19 year old singer is one to watch. She sang an AMAZING old-soul version of “Mustang Sally.” She reminded me of Amy Winehouse, with her atypical looks and rich, deep, knowing vocals. I seriously found my favorite already. Her family was backstage–dad cried all the way through the judges decision. I have a feeling there’s a backstory there we won’t see until the actual episode. (2:04 in the preview)
Lily – Holy moly. This statuasque beauty, with the retro vibe (she came strolling out on stage with a Pam Grier afro and leather onsie) had the audience gasping when she told them she was 54. She’s spent most of her adult life raising her 3 kids (and 7 grandkids!) Now, she’s ready to get into the game. And boy does she ever, with an absolutely thrilling performance of the gospel classic “Alabaster Box”. This woman inflected every syllable with so much passion, she had the room on their feet. Demi and Kelly cried. I’ll be stunned if she doesn’t make the Overs group. (1:47 in the preview)
Carlito – 23 year old coffee shop worker from Chicago. In his spare time, he writes songs and works on his music. He’s handsome, personable and totally sang the snot out of “Stay” by Rihanna. His voice isn’t perfect, his unusual tenor is full of feeling. The judges LOVED HIM. (1:57 in the preview)
Solid or just…eh
Alex and Cierra – I expected this couple, Florida college students who took the stage hand in hand, to be awful, just by virtue of the “lovebirds” shtick they came in with. But actually, they weren’t terrible. They sang a slow version of “Toxic” that I KNOW I’ve heard before. On The Voice maybe? The thing is, the judges freaked out, giving them a standing ovation. She’s better than him, but the performance was coffee shop average. (1:43 in the preview)
Riley – This 15 year old girl warbled her way through “Clarity” by Zedd. She’s got promise but not ready for primetime. Nevertheless, the judges enthusiastically advanced her to the next round. I hate when the green kids are put through. Really hate it. (2:07 in the preview)
Celine – 16 year old sang a karaoke version of Mariah’s “Believe.” See Riley, above. (1:39 and 2:13 in the preview)
Ashley – Another karaoke version of “I Will Always Love You.” Blargh. Will the competition be full of big-voiced bots aping their heroes? I hope not.
Sally – “When I sing, people have told me it makes them so incredibly happy,” said the 55 year old housewife from North Carolina. “I could win this thing!” She was either high on goofballs, or forgot to take her ADHD meds. Although her off-key warbling through “Greatest Love of All” was truly excruciating, I couldn’t help admiring her relentless optimism. “I’ve just been told that 8,000 dogs just tried to get into the venue,” deadpanned Simon. Sally laughs. (:56 in the preview)
Keith – Goofed his way through “Baby Got Back.” But the point was to get the judges panel up dancing. Kelly tries to get Simon up to join them. Paulina joined in, yanking his hand. They get him up, but he doesn’t dance. He sat down in time to get a lap dance of sorts from Demi. (1:06 in the preview)
The Sob Story
Ryan – The preview closes out with a long piece on a barely 13 year old girl afflicted with a rare birth defect that has left her arms malformed and her hands permanently curled under. Plus, she’s blind in one eye. The challenges she has faced in her short life have seemingly forced her to grow up fast. Even the tone and delivery of her speaking voice sound eerily adult. But she’s not cloying–just a kid forced into maturity by her circumstances. While her delivery of Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away” isn’t perfect, it’s full of purpose and passion. I can’t imagine this kid not making it to the live shows.
There were only 3 guys featured in this preview, and one of them was attached to a significant other (who totally outsang him). If the advance screening is any indication, X Factor 3 is shaping up to be a girls year. But that would fit Simon’s narrative. His explanation for surrounding himself with women on the judges is that he believes pop music is a girls game at the moment, what with your Demi Lovatos, Ariana Grandes and Selena Gomezes topping the charts these days. Is Simon looking for the next pop princess? I wonder.
X Factor 3 premiers on September 11.
Check out a gallery of photos from last week’s X Factor 3 premiere: