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Posted at 05:30 AM ET, 10/17/2011

‘X Factor’: Home visits continue


Paula Abdul with guest judge Pharrell on “X Factor.” (Ray Mickshaw )

Thanks to baseball rain delays, what was to have been last Thursday’s episode of “X Factor” is airing Sunday instead.

Simon Cowell is still somewhere in France with eight girls and Three Yes Men. No good can come of that.

LA Reid is still somewhere in the Hamptons with eight cute guys and Rihanna. See “No Good Can Come of That,” above.

Nicole Scherzinger is still somewhere in Malibu with Enrique Iglesias, wondering what terrible thing she did in her childhood to have gotten stuck with The Over Age 30 X-Testants when she knows that “over 30” and “commercial” cannot co-exist.

And Paula Abdul is still somewhere in Santa Barbara with six groups, two Insta-Groups and Pharrell.

Show host Steve Jones will be on hand to give comfort to frazzled X-Testants and to make a hash of American place names – didn’t anyone think to give this Brit the phonetic spellings? It’s not “Merry-Land,” Steve.

First up: Simon at Chateau Les Girls, judging Jazzlyn Little, the stage-frightened 16-year-old who blew the judges away at her audition. Update on Jazzlyn: Still nervous. “I can already feel my throat going like this,” she says, making a “closing up” gesture with her hands. She perform an interesting slow version of the disco classic “I Will Survive,” but this time nerves are not her friend—seems like late in the song until she warms up. But with a very loud backing track, it’s a little hard to judge what’s her. Simon nods slightly when she’s done. His Three Yes Men come out from the bushes to sit at his feet. “Maybe she just put herself back into the frame,” Simon says. One of the Three Yes Men suggests she might be a little “high school talent show.” Simon stares at the guy incredulously.

Off to Boys Camp, where LA and Rihanna will hear Brennin Hunt, 26, the guy with the model good looks sing Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Like A Star.” Looks, good tone, smooth delivery. What’s not to like? Rihanna finds something: “I think he is beautiful and I thin his tone is correct at times,” Rihanna says – which is weird, because that’s exactly how I describe Rihanna – “but he’s a little bit corny… like a 90s boy band,” she concludes. LA thanks her and says this kind of input is exactly why he needed her help. Hope there’s modeling work out there for Brennin because we’re not liking his chances after this.

We’re not sure, but it appears Paula has bought one of the Old Spanish Missions from the State of California. Her first group of the night is The Stereo Hogzz, who are impressed with her trees, and particularly the grass. “Feel the grass, that’s nice grass,” says one. Some day, they’ll be able to afford nice grass, but first they have to make it through the Marvin Gaye standard “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” Paula has selected for them. They perform it very old school, with Temptations dance moves, which Pharrell pronounces “Motown mixed with genuine ‘today’.” “That’s what they ARE!” Paula screeches and pounces on Pharrell. They agree the lead singer is the big attraction and, Pharrell notes, “There can’t be just one star. It has to be a constellation.” Not looking good for Stereo Hogzz.

At Nicole’s Malibu home (360 ocean/jetliner views, with a lanai and a pool!), she and co-judge Enrique Iglesias will hear the very likeable X-Testant Josh Krajcik, 30, the burrito chef with the Joe Cocker vibe, who’s been stuck with Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” Nonetheless he shows the interesting, raspy side to his voice — a real accomplishment given the overpowering recorded backing track and the reverb they’ve hung on his performance. One of the new experiences “X Factor” is bringing to American reality television programming is reality-style outdoor performances that sound utterly studio mixed. And strangely enough, really badly mixed. Nicole and Enrique seem moved by the performance but, Nicole asks him, “Is he a star?” By which she of course means, “He’s 30 and overweight and styles his hair with Crisco.”

“Not your typical star,” Enrique responds, by which he means, “Don’t be a twit.”

The group 2Squar’d, aka four lively young women, will perform Paula’s choice, “Bohemian Rhapsody” — the Queen novelty tune that takes an incredible range to sing. Paula must really not like this group. Paula must not really like any of the groups. What will she stick the next group with, Gilbert and Sullivan? 2Squar’d give a bad Queen imitation, and we figure they will spend the rest of their lives trash-talking Paula.

Thirty-year-old Tim Cifers tells us he’s a country boy and winning “X Factor” is his only chance of ever being able to teach his kids huntin’ and fishin’. While we try to make sense of that logic, he performs Luther Vandross’s “Dance With My Father Again.” He does a decent job and impresses Rihanna, who shrewdly observes, “He’s a real country singer.” Not so, says LA: “He was good but I wanted more.” We’re thinking country has died right here in East Hampton, as far as “X Factor” goes.

Thirteen-year-old Rachel Crow is cheek-pinchingly cute, has a big voice and is one of the few memorable X-Faces out of the 32. We love her cocky Shirley Temple optimism: “Whatever happens, it’s going to be epic!” she says pre-performance. She sings The Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” a bit pitch-ily at times but, let’s face it, she’s got a good voice and a too-cute serious face, and she really sells it. “That was unbelievable,” Simon says after, adding, “I like the fact that she takes risks, and I like that deep tone.” So she’s going to go through, though Simon adds some bit about questioning whether she can take the pressure, just to keep us in suspense.

Leroy Bell has just turned 60, though “I’ve been pretending I’m 40-something for 10 years.” And, he does look 40-something. While he blah, blah, blahs a while about how “so many artists in their 60s are making great music,” we can’t stop thinking, “you’re 60, you look 40 and you think music is the right career choice? Might we suggest you bottle something and book some infomercial time?” Leroy sings Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” in his pleasant, soft tone. Enrique applauds, Nicole doesn’t; she thinks he’s “holding back from giving me everything.”

Back at Mission Santa Paula, where the trio Illusion Confusion — three 26-year-old guys from Miami — are, the taped bit pre-performance assures us, best friends. They start to perform; then, as they sing and dance, the show cuts away to a taped bit in which the trio says again that they’re best friends. Back to a few seconds of performance, and now voiceover of Paula and Pharrell talking. Come to think of it, we’re not sure what they performed (“Best Friend” by Brandy? “You’ve Got a Friend” by Carole King? “Friendly Fire” by Toad the Wet Sprocket?) – but we couldn’t have been given more of a message that they are so over.

Another likeable member of The Overs is chubby 42-year-old Tiger Budbill, a DJ who’s hit hard times, with work scarce and his house near foreclosure. Nicole is cracking under the pressure of listening to one geezer after another. Tiger puts a lot into his rendition of Joe Cocker’s “Don’t Give Up On Me,” though he too gets drowned out by backing tracks. Nicole finds his performance “effortless” but wonders if there is “a market for him” – a.k.a. “he’s old.” Enrique says something about how he doesn’t think there should be any rules. He’s a polite guest, we’ll say that for Enrique.

Marcus Canty from Bowie, Md., has been given a deadline by his mom to make it in the music business or “find another career.” He’s performing K-Ci and JoJo’s wedding standard “All My Life,” and he has a pleasant voice and really sells it, including some serious eye contact with Rihanna. When he’s finished singing, Rihanna tells LA, “I’m freaking. I cannot contain myself.” LA asks her if he seems like a star. “I’m not convinced. … He looked dead in my eyes — I could not look at him any more.” Not looking good for Marcus.

Simon now has the opportunity to savor his “big save,” Tiah Tolliver, 20. Paula and Nicole really disliked Tiah when she auditioned — maybe it’s because she tried out four different keys in one song. Simon, naturally, took one look at Tiah and pronounced her a star, telling the chick judges, “If you can’t see this you’re deaf.” More heavy backing track as Tiah performs a Dr. Dre number. Simon’s right – Tiah’s got a face made for music videos and CD covers, and a sexy delivery. After her number, Simon tells the Three Yes Men, “I just always thought she fits in this show,” then adds, faux ominously, that she was “good but slightly out of kilter there.”

Christa Collins, 32, was a child star at Disney records and, she assures us, “the prototype” for Britney and Christina. But in her teens she became “difficult” and got dropped, or quit, or something. Anyway, she assures us, it was the biggest mistake of her life. Christa is wearing a plastic teething ring trimmed with feathers on the side of her head, which maybe knocked ‘em dead at Disney back in the day. She performs Radiohead’s “No Surprises,” with loads of emotion, including face clawing, though her voice is kind of thin. After the song, she makes a teary speech about how this is her big second chance. Nicole says she would have “liked to see a little bit more of the pain, the emotion” in Christa’s singing. “I like her,” says Enrique, who appears to have given up on Nicole.

Because the groups that auditioned were so lame, the X-Producers put together a couple Insta-Groups to fill out the needed eight — one of which is really a chorus of 10 very young soloists who washed out of the auditions but now are back to perform for Paula and Pharrell after just a few days of rehearsals. InTENsity – get it? – is doing the Ting Ting’s infectious “That’s Not My Name,” apparently mashed up with Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams Come True,” with a lot of solo turns though not everybody gets to solo. It’s like a scene from “High School Musical,” and Paula tells them that “all of you gelled so well.” One of the 10 asks to hug Paula and Pharrell and soon they are all streaming over to hug her and then hug poor Pharrell, who surely has never been brushed with so much bubble-gum flavored lip gloss in his life. “Like a cookie,” he pronounces them, “some really good star morsels in there.” Ick?

Another one of the few memorable among the 32: Chris Rene, the 28-year-old trash collector fresh out of rehab. “It’s insane, this is ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ and we get to be part of it,” Chris says pre-performance. Finally — an X-Testant with the proper perspective! High hopes for this performance, but his rapping version of Sly Stone’s “Everyday People” is so heavily overpowered by the backing track that he is very difficult to hear. Couldn’t they fix this production mess for broadcast? This is just mystifying. Anyway, we know Chris is going through, although LA says to Rihanna, “I’ve never seen him so nervous,” adding, coyly, “Maybe it was you.” She counters that maybe it was LA and his big house and his expensive designer shoes.

Melanie Amaro, 19, is one of the heavy favorites in this competition. “Hi, Mel,” Simon says familiarly when she arrives, so this is cozy. She’s been given a real singer’s showcase song, Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There” and she sounds terrific though again with the overwhelming backing track. As she leaves, Simon falls back on the couch like he was just knocked out by the performance, then makes gestures like he’s ripping paper up and says, “Rip! Rip! Rip!” meaning — what? We’ve never seen Simon so relaxed — does he rip paper when he’s happy? Simon deepens they mystery by telling the Three Yes Men, “She gave me a look as to say you wrote me off — now write me off.”

Apparently there was off-screen off-writing that we didn’t see.

Sensing Simon’s displeasure, one of the Yes Men scoffs about Melanie having stuck to her comfort zone and wonders why she isn’t singing something more contemporary. We can answer that, Yes Man No. 3! Because Simon assigned her an old Michael Jackson number, silly!

Well, all of this is heading toward cutting down the field from 32 to 16, and we now segue into a gut-wrenching montage of the judges judging and expressing their anxiety about making these difficult choices, intercut with interviews with X-Testants saying how much winning means to them. The judges keep on judging, which strangely attracts hundreds of tea lights to Simon’s place somewhere in France and Nicole’s place in Malibu. Paula and Pharrell have moved to a Greek temple so Zeus can come down and help.

Man, this is a tough decision for the judges as they move cards with pictures around on a table! Man, it’s tough waiting for the contestants as they keep talking, talking, talking to keep their spirits up! And the judges keep judging, judging, judging. And we realize the 3-minute timer went off on the oatmeal we were microwaving, what, 5 minutes ago. Finally, finally at the 10-minute mark the sequence ends with a promise that all of this tension will be resolved and we will finally get the results in the next X-pisode, though something tells us the next X-pisode will open with a five-minute recap of judging, judging, judging, and waiting, waiting, waiting, because apparently X-producers either think that’s great television, or that they can show us the same thing over and over and we won’t notice.

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GALLERY: View more photos from "X-Factor."

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By  |  05:30 AM ET, 10/17/2011

 
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