The X Factor is Finally Here. Was it Worth the Wait?

The wait is over.  It’s finally here.  It seems like we’ve been waiting for The X Factor for years.  Actually, Fox has been feeding us a fairly steady diet of X Factor since its first Super Bowl ad this past February 7th.  That’s a pretty long promo for any show.  Now, here’s the question:  Was it worth the wait?

In all fairness, it’s going to be compared to American Idol.  You just can’t help it.  First of all, it’s a singing competition.  And there are enormous crowds waiting to audition.  And there are four judges.  And there is a host (Steve Jones, although he was quite invisible in this first show).  All very Idol-like.  And look! There was Simon and Paula at one end of the table, and a black dude in glasses at the other end with some pretty chick in the middle, for cripes sake.  How can you not compare it???

Simon and Paula were, well, Simon and Paula.  Actually, that’s not totally true.  Paula somehow was more lucid and point-on then she ever was on Idol, and Simon was far less acerbic than we’ve ever seen him.  I hope this is a trend that continues for both of them.

LA Reid, for those of you who don’t know, is a certified musical production genius.  Just listen to him for 2 minutes he will certainly tell you that.  We found out very quickly that he is responsible for the careers of Usher, Pink, and Justin Bieber, among others.  He may be the name-dropping king of all time.  I think Saturday Night Live is going to have a field day parodying him.  He is a gold mine of material.   But, he does seem to be taking this competition pretty seriously.

Cheryl Cole lasted all of one city before she was unceremoniously dropped without any explanation.  Word on the street is that she was too difficult to understand.  She did have a very strong accent that may have been British, but sounded like something else to me.  I thought she was pretty good.  Certainly better than her annoying replacement, Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, who for some unknown reason decided to speak in a baby voice on her birthday because it was her birthday and she could.  So far, she’s about as obnoxious as any of the Kardashian girls and would fit in as a lost 4th sister with no problem at all (I think she kind of looks like one too). I hope she can bring more to the table.  If not, I say bring back Cheryl with her odd, strong accent.  At least she seemed to know what she was doing there.

X Factor doesn’t seem to do any better of a job with the audition round than any other show out there, despite my high hopes for it.  In fact, the disjointed montages were worse than others we’ve seen in the past.  It was not un-like ABC’s just-ended Karaoke Battle USA where we saw very quick clips of most contestants, then boring back stories of others with full auditions.  I can do without the back stories.  It’s not that I don’t care.  It’s just that, well, OK.  It is that I don’t care.  I just want to hear them sing.

And last night, through all the ten-second clips and back stories and other crap, we actually heard some pretty decent voices.  We heard some pretty awful ones too.  But the good ones were really, really good.  It’s a shame that in a two-hour block there were so few of them.  I hope that ratio improves.

First up was 13-year old Rachel Crowe.  She wowed the judges and audience with Duffy’s Mercy.  She brought all the swagger and confidence of a seasoned performer.  She should go pretty far in this competition.  Simon told her that people like her are the right reason that they made the competition age so low.

We also saw 42-year old Stacy Francis, who was convinced that this was her last chance.  She sang Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin and received a standing ovation by all four judges and the entire audience.  While I thought there was some screaming in her later runs, overall, there was so much emotion in her song it was easy to dismiss.  Simon told her that it was one of the best auditions he has ever heard.

20-year old Marcus Canty also thinks that he’s almost out of time, despite his young age, and he is, for now.  When he graduated high school at 18, his mother told him that he had two years to succeed at a musical career, then it was time to find something else.  He auditioned with Stevie Wonder’s I Wish.  There is very little doubt that this is exactly what this kid is meant to do with his life.  For those 90 seconds, he owned the heart and soul of every person in that room.  I don’t think he’s going to be looking for another career anytime soon.

One back story that I did care about: 28-year old Chris Rene, a recovering addict who is fresh out of rehab only 70 days.  He’s also the father of a two and a half year old for whom he is doing this.  Chris performed a song that he wrote the music and lyrics to.  I’m not crazy about hip-hop, but Young Homie was actually very good, and touching because you knew where he was coming from with it.   I was equally as touched by LA’s sentiments that he has worked with a lot of hip-hop stars (more name dropping here) and any of them would be proud to know that he was calling him the truth.  While Simon was somewhat more subdued, after making an agreement with Chris that he would stay clean if he put him through, telling him that maybe he needs the show, and maybe the show needs him.

Unfortunately, the show also had some dogs.  Like the 70-year old guy and his 83-year old wife who drove to LA from Reno.  They sang (and I use the term loosely) The Righteous Brother’s Unchained Melody, and utterly destroyed it.  I actually had to change the channel it was so bad.

And the freak show who wrote his own song, I’m a Stud, and proceeded to fully expose himself during the song.  Paula left the table and got sick, returning a short time later with a bottle that may have been water, but after that horror show, if it was something else no one would have blamed her.  My question is, why did they let that weirdo stay on stage? Why didn’t anyone call security?  If there were children in the audience, why wasn’t he arrested?  So many questions, so few answers.

There was also another guy who got quite a bit of air time.  He goes by the name Siameze.  At first, I wasn’t sure if he was a dude or a chick.  I really don’t remember what he sang, and really don’t care.  What I do remember is that he did about 25 splits on stage while he was singing, in very tight jeans.   Pretty weird.  The judges thought he was weird enough to put through.  I thought they were going for talent, but I guess I was confused.  They were comparing him to Prince, but I really missed that one.   Prince is different, for sure, but he is also extremely talented.  I’m not sure this guy is remotely like Prince.  More like some strange, androgynous James Brown/Brittany Spears smashup.  Wait, that’s Prince!!  Just add about 25 instruments that he can play perfectly.

Overall, an OK start.  I am looking forward to the live shows, once they weed out the crap and the real competition begins.  By then, they should have the real talent remaining and the show should have the kinks worked out.  We might even get to see more of this invisible Steve Jones guy by then.