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TV Column
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 09/21/2012

‘The X Factor’: Lightning strikes


“The X Factor” judges: L.A. Reid, Demi Lovato, Britney Spears and Simon Cowell. (Ray Mickshaw - Fox)

We had a feeling this would happen: “The X Factor” has brought on the apocalypse. The judges’ motorcade drives through Greensboro, NC, and not a soul is in sight. Scraps of paper meander across empty streets.

No matter, Simon is hungry for some Southern cooking. “Where can I get a grit?” he asks.

They eventually find the population of Greensboro, entirely camped out at the stadium where the auditions are happening.

Willie Jones, a 17-year-old student from Shreveport, LA, is pegged by Youth Demographic Judge Demi Lovato as “very Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”

Willie starts to roll into country classic “Your Man” by Josh Turner. Old Demographic Judges LA Reid and Simon Cowell exchange astonished looks because, in the alternate X-Universe, Charlie Pride never broke the color barrier in country music, back in the ‘70s.

Anyway, Willie has a very pleasant, mellow country voice.

“An absolute original!” LA enthuses.

Adds Britney Spears, who’s X-talent is shaping up as Re-Stating the Obvious, “I was very surprised. I wasn’t expecting that and, like LA says, it was very original of you to do what you just did.”

Simon foams over. “I prayed we were going to find somebody like you…a sensational recording voice….This is a day to remember.”

Just as we settle in for more mellow country, instead we get X-Hee Haw. Kalvin McManigle, 47, of the missing teeth and heavy Southern accent, is nearly incomprehensible, but it appears he has a job putting the handles on lawn mowers in a factory.

His song may be “This Land is Your Land,” but it’s impossible to say with certainty.

“I love you, honey,” he tells Britney.

“I’m scared I’m related to you, “ she responds.

The judges all put on fake Southern accents to vote against Kalvin.

Right here in the X-parking lot, we are witnessing a break up. Julia Bullock, 18, has brought her fellow band members to the audition, though she’s auditioning as a solo, meaning her success will be the end of their band. Julia is apparently the kind of gal who likes to pile on the drama. And just for extra tension, one of the band mates is a ex-boyfriend. They pretty much tell her she’s killing them.

But, on stage, she assures the judges her fellow band mates “have a big enough passion to continue in music.” Cut to the ex, backstage, shaking his head.

Julia turns out to be a strong rocker on “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People. She sails through to the next stage of competition.

“Yes, it’s goodbye to the band -- hello solo career”, Simon says, turning the knife and segueing to the backstage shots of the instant has-beens.

Krysten Colon, 21, is a self-confident hairdresser, but we get a bad feeling as soon as she hits the stage and announces she’s going to sing an Adele song,” Don’t You Remember.” That’s because we remember, though Krysten cannot know, that in last night’s episode Simon ranted that he couldn’t take any more Adele auditions.

He lets her sing a bit; she’s good but also not horrible. He calls a halt.

“Not the real you,” he pronounces. And then, strangely for a show that’s supposed to be about discovering talent for today’s music scene, he tells her “you need a classic song and do your interpretation of it.”

Krysten doesn’t seem like a classic kind of performer, but okay -- we’ll be seeing her again later.

Jeffrey Gutt is 36, has brought his cute 4-year-old son along, because it’s a smart move to bring your adorable backstory to a reality show audition or because he couldn’t get a sitter, or because he’s just a doting dad, or all of the above.

Anyway, everybody is well cued to like this slender, mild mannered guy. He sings Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” – and we’re pretty sure we’re seeing a contestant who’s going to go far this season

Britney calls his voice “really soothing and unique.”

A clap of thunder is heard. “God’s even rocking out now,” says judge Demi Lovato.

“One of the most brilliant auditions I’ve heard, “ says Simon.

Jeffrey’s little boy gets released, to run out on stage. Panning the audience as girls wipe tears from their eyes.

“He’s like the Josh Groban of rock and roll,” says Demi, who is beginning to sound like she has cogent things to say.

“Better,” says Simon, who’s beginning to sound desperate for a star.

Demi’s hairstyle tonight brings back happy memories of friends sharing chocolate vanilla frozen yogurt swirl at FroZenYo!

Thunder and lightning! A major storm hits Greensboro. Water drips on Simon from somewhere in the auditorium. Britney expresses terror by letting her chin drop even farther than we’ve seen it go to date.

The power blinks on and off, ending some bad performances. “That is a sign from someone above,” Simon tells one. “Leave.”

We haven’t forgotten about Krysten Colon, who is backstage trying to hurriedly classic-up her image. Now she’s back on stage to do Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.”

Now serious Simonologists, who have watched him for years, both on “X Factor” and The Show Who’s Name Shall Not Be Mentioned or Even Alluded To On X Factor, know that if there’s one singer who Simon thinks no one should attempt to cover, that one singer would be Whitney Houston.

So we have a pretty good idea Krysten is going down, unless, well lightning strikes Simon, rearranging his brain cells to make him more like – who was that nice substitute judge last night? Louie!

As it turns out she’s way too nervous anyway, and blows it utterly.

The judges stop her.

“I was about to blow it!” she pouts.

“You already blew it,” says LA Reid.

Krysten stalks offstage. She splashes a water bottle at a camera operator, swings a chair around menacingly, and is last seen running out the stage door into the rain where, we assume union rules about working in electrical storms forbid the camera operator from chasing her down the street.

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 09/21/2012

 
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