The motorcade of the X Factor judges rolls up to the auditorium in Providence, RI, and L.A. Reid, Demi Lovato, and Britney Spears each get a moment of adoration from an hysterical crowd. Yes sir, they really do know how to welcome celebrities in Providence.
Then Simon Cowell wheels up on little moped, escorted by Providence motorcycle cops. Seems the city of Providence has a sense of humor, too.
So high hopes for awesome talent to be uncovered in Providence and…hang on – didn’t we see “X Factor” auditions in Providence last week? And the week before?
Did the whole cast and crew circle the country doing auditions and end up back in Providence?
Or is the time-space continuum broken in the alternate universe of “X Factor”?
Or is it just possible that with the ratings “X Factor” has been pulling down, the producers figured, like they used to say at NBC about reruns, “if you haven’t seen it, — it’s new to you!”
With this mystery to ponder, we barely notice that we are already up to the first commercial break and have seen nothing but one horrid audition after another.
It starts with a duo, The OG – Original Greek. They explain to the X-camera that they’ve come up from the basement to showcase their art -- just like Michelangelo, had he hid all his art in the basement.
They then butcher Lionel Richie’s “Helllo” for the crowd in the hall. “I’ve never heard that song so hood,” Demi says diplomatically.
“That was horrible. It can’t get any worse,” LA says to his colleagues when OG leaves.
This being a singing competition series, only one thing can follow a gag like that: Medley of Bad.
And, Britney Spears and her manager sending a backstage assistant off on a mission to buy her a straw hat, just for sport.
When the kid gets her one, she tells him she needs a tiara instead. “Should we be messing with him that much,” Britbrit asks her manager. She also wants a Pepsi. And she wants it cold. Usually when they arrive, they’re not cold, she notes.
Yes sir, right about now we are ready for a 15-year-old girl who lives in a four- bedroom house in Orange County, CA, with 19 relatives, and is looking for her big chance to escape.
Someone exactly like Dinah Jane Hansen, who starts out breathy and out of range on Beyoncé’s “If I Were a Boy” and then suddenly gets great.
This is definitely the best female X-ditioner we’ve seen in Providence or any of the other Providences.
“I got the chills”, says Demi Lovato.
LA Reid says “I predict you will be one of our finalists.”
So Britney has punked the hapless junior assistant into getting her a tiara, which she puts on Simon’s head. Then Simon says “I’m going to give it to the biggest princess of the day based on behavior, and so far I’d like to award it to you, darling.”
Just imagine it all painfully awkward.
Arin Ray, 16, made it through early rounds on last year’s “X-Factor” only to be eliminated after getting stuck in In-TEN-sity -- one of the pickup groups the producers formed to handle the leftovers who washed out of soloist status.
Now, he’s back. Older. Wiser. Shaving.
Brit thinks he’s cute. Demi really thinks he’s cut. He says he’s 16.
“Oops!” says Demi.
He’s a self-possessed performer in a kind of like-dozens-of-guys-imitating-Usher-at-any-given-moment vibe. He’s performing his own composition, which starts “I need everybody up out of their feet” -- always a smart way to start an audition song.
Girls in the audience start shrieking and keep it up.
The judges love him.
Demi: “Your vocal confidence is really, really hot…You have the X Factor.“
Quick montage follows of singers in the 4-yes category, including Nick Perrelli, a 16-year-old Sinatra style crooner, and Beatrice Miller, 13, who’s very cute and very loud.
LA Reid finishes the set with “I can’t believe we found so many great people in this town,” meaning Providence, we think, though there’s no trusting this show’s editors any more to stick to sequence.
But there’s more. A manic hip-hop duo works the stage and the audience and the judge’s table. One of them is wearing contacts that make his eyes look snakelike. Anyway, we hope they’re contacts. They too are found to have the X factor.
Changyi Li, originally from China, is dressed in sailor suit motif, and look like an aging member a Japanese girl group. She speaks with a heavy Chinese accent and they’re playing daffy music behind her --signaling to viewers that Changyi is being set up for a fall.
She’s 52. Simon asks her if she’s married. She says no. Why not? he presses. “I’m picky, “ she says. Simon says so is he.
She’s going to sing “My Hardware Go On,” which sounds like it’s going to be something from Kraftwerk, but turns out to be the hit song from the movie “Titanic.”
Changyi brings out the snarky best in Simon. “The good news if they ever remake the film, you could replace the iceberg. Just sing the song and down it goes,” he says.
We’re back in Greensboro! OK, we get it. “X Factor” is going to return again and again to the audition cities until we get it right. It’s like “Ground Hog Day.”
Austin Corini, 16, from Gilroy, CA, has such star power that girls are asking him to autograph their arms before they even hear him sing.
Corini looks exactly like Tintin. He’s a generic Bieber-era singer, performing “Wanted” by Hunter Hayes, but he’s cute and Tintin-ish, so why shouldn’t he indeed be a star?
Demi and Brit like him but LA says, “I think I’ve seen this kid like 25 times” and Simon thinks he gave 80%. But the shrieking from the teenage girls in the audience is so intense they figure they better send him through.
Here’s a cute couple who not only sing together but can’t stop nuzzling each other in the waiting room and who plan to get married on “X Factor” if they win. “Simon pronounces us man and wife. LA Reid is the best man,“ says the groom to be. If we’ve got this straight, his name is Jaime, her name is Symphony, and they perform as a duo called Jaime.
Anyway, their act is creepy-corny, so forget we ever mentioned them.
Next up, David Corey, a 26 year old musician, who tells us about three times that he was adopted from Brazil and wants to be on “X Factor” in the hopes the exposure reunites him with his birth mother. No money or fame — just mommy.
He repeats the story onstage. “Beautiful,” says LA.
He sings Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are.” So so.
But Britney loves his stage presence and so does the rest of the table.
Now we’re in San Francisco, meeting Tara Simon, 27, a vocal coach from Atlanta, GA, who says “I’ve always been a star, just no one ever knew it.”
But we’re distracted by the arrival of Gene Simmons, the old Kiss front man who is hanging around the waiting line, drawing lots of photography from the waiting auditioners.
Why is Gene Simmons here? Meet Sophie Simmons, 19, who tells us Gene is her dad.
“It’s a big shadow. I really want to step out from being the daughter of the guy from Kiss,” Sophie says without irony — which is ironic because she is literally standing in the shadow of her rather large father on this sunny day.
Tara looks at Sophie incredulously, and mutters about how she, unlike some of the others in the holding area, has paid her dues to get here.
Out on stage, Demi immediately identifies her as “Nick Simmons’ sister,” and Sophie’s face falls, either at being identified at all as related to Gene Simmons, or at NOT being identified as Sophie Simmons, who co-stars with her brother Nick and the rest of the family in the A&E series “Gene Simmons Family Jewels.”
“They didn’t’ know I was doing this till yesterday and they’re pretty upset with me,” Sophie tells the judges, in re her parents.
Anyway, Sophie starts out uneven on Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love” but gains confidence and has an interesting voice. We’re not saying interesting enough to get her through without being Gene Simmons’ daughter – but interesting.
LA Reid votes no, the ladies are enthusiastic and Simon, no suspense here, probably thinks a Simmons would be good for business, so she’s through.
Tara’s turn and she exudes self-confidence on stage.
What does she expect to be doing in 5 years, she’s asked.
Sitting at the judge’s table, she says.
LA Reid is going to take the Simon role on this one and baits her to explain whose seat exactly.
Tara assumes it would be “one of the ladies”.
“Let me give you some advice,” says Simon. “Shut up and start singing.”
Tara’s version of David Guetta’s “Without You” is more like a catalog of vocal effects than a performance. Lower register, middle register, ending with trilling her way through the top of her range. It’s not art, but it definitely shows that she’s got a well-trained voice.
Demi’s critique: “I wasn’t feeling the beginning, but once you did that Mariah Carey stuff I was so blown away.”
Tara is through. Simon predicts she’ll be a “total, utter drama queen” on the show. Goody.
Where has Daryl Black been all these years? There’s a backstory there. but we’re not being told. The 37-year-old, likeable family man gets on stage and sounds like a seasoned pro on Gym Class Heroes’ “Stereo Hearts”.
Britney: “You took over and you commanded the stage…and your voice was very smooth and I loved it.”
Simon invokes the names of Nat King Cole and Michael Buble—reaching, reaching but anyway, Daryl is promising.
Trevor Moran, 13, from Temecula, CA, is a like a junior Mr. Entertainment, mugging for the camera and grabbing some other kid to make a dancing, lip-synch video with a laptop.
Wait a minute, we know this kid. Trevor Moran, who goes into Apple stores and uses the floor model computers to videotape himself lip-synching and dancing to pop hits.
Trevor Moran, who’s had at least as many viewers of his YouTube videos as an episode of “X Factor.” That Trevor Moran!
But comes time for Trevor’s audition and he’s passed out on the floor with his mother stroking his head. He looks unconscious and white as a sheet. The paramedics arrive and try to revive him. His eyelids flicker but…
“To be continued…” flashes on the screen.