Once again, thanks to FOX for coming through with a screener for tonight’s “X Factor” auditions.
And also thanks to FOX for any “X Factor” episode that isn’t two hours long.
Remembering that the time code for this recap will be based on screener time and not on episode time, click through for my full breakdown on Thursday’s (September 19) hour.
[The screener begins with a solid minute of copyright warnings, followed by a lengthy title sequence, so you can do the required math if you’re watching along with the live-blog. Or you can just look for the bolded names for each competitor.]
02:20 After a Ragtime-style opening, we begin in Charleston. There’s a party going on right there. Mario Lopez helpfully reminds us that the categories are Boys, Girls, Geriatrics and Accumulated Dust Bunnies.
03:20 Our first contestant is Andrew Scholtz, an 18-year-old high school student who drives a monster truck and plays football. “When people look at me, they probably see an athletic type, but dream is to sing some songs, man,” Andrew says, flashing a million dollar smile. Andrew is about to graduate from high school and Kelly Rowland has a crush on him, with his corn-fed good luck. Is anybody else noticing that Kelly has a taste for the younger men? Simon Cowell has to keep cautioning her. Andrew starts singing and doesn’t even get to the chorus before Demi stops him. That wasn’t enough time for me to be able to tell if he can sing or not. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because he chose a slow-building song, but it’s not a good thing either, since it’s often easy to identify skill immediately. Kelly felt like it was “a little glued to the microphone.” “Yes, you have the appeal to the female audience, but unfortunately I feel like you’ll need more than that,” Demi says, calling Andrew “awkward.” Paulina didn’t understand the song he chose. Simon disagrees with the ladies and praises Andrew’s charisma and suggests with the right training he could be good. “Sometimes I have to disagree with you, Mr. Cowell,” Demi maintains. The women in the audience are very disappointed and Simon tries to give Andrew another shot, asking for something more old school. Back against the wall, Andrew launches into “A Little More You.” The women on the judging panel are suddenly nodding along, while I’m actually less convinced. Andrew’s voice is entirely bland and his range is negligible. If he advances it’s for a cute smile and nothing more. “That totally changed everything,” Demi says. That’s absurd, Demi. Suddenly, Andrew gets four “Yes” votes and Simon is vindicated. “It was like being mauled by three cats,” Simon gloats. Shrug.
11:13 We’re heading over to New Orleans right now, where we’re meeting another teenage pretty-boy. Blake Shankle is 19 and he looks like an extra from a CW show, which may be why people are already asking him for autographs. He runs through a list of people that people claim he looks like. His dream is to be the most famous guy in the entire world. And I hate him. “You are so hot,” Kelly says, praising his hair and teeth. Again, Simon has to caution her. Based on his actual singing, I’d say that Blake has a better chance of being the most famous guy in a junior college theater department. His voice is nasally and wobbly and weak and, ultimately, unpleasant. “What the hell?” somebody from the audience yells. Collectively, everybody has that look like when you bite into a beautiful, shiny red apple and see half a worm. “It was very, very theatrical,” Demi says. Paulina accuses him of posing too much. Simon agrees with the accusation of theatricality. It’s four “No” votes for a stunned Blake, who protests that he can rap, too. Kelly praises for somebody good.
16:50 Salvation will not come from Na’Christia Harris, who says she’s like if Rihanna and Beyonce had a baby. I’m not sure if she’s wrong. After all, good genetics aren’t a guarantee of talent. Rihanna and Beyonce could very plausibly have a child who just happens to be a hideously poor singer. “I don’t know if you could hear yourself. You probably won’t want to,” Demi says. It’s four “No” votes. Salvation also come from the girl who pops out of a gift box, nor from Brandy Chivers, who sings in Pig Latin. Actually, Brandy is awesome. Why didn’t we get more time on her Pig Latin rapping? Come back, Brandy Chivers!
18:42 Our whip-around takes us to Los Angeles. Paulina missed this audition, as we already knew. Will anybody here be able to sing? Let’s try 16-year-old Ellona Santiago, who gives off an extremely strong Jessica Sanchez vibe initially, before proving to be surprisingly confident on the stage, parading back and forth like a true professional, or at least a caged tiger. She’s got some breath control problems that grow worse as she progresses, but she isn’t lacking anything that can’t be taught with some more experience. Kelly praises Ellona for coming out and meaning business. “Ellona, you are the girl I think I want to work with most now in this competition,” Simon raves. He vows to remember Ellona, which then becomes ironic, because it turns out that Ellona was in a group in the first season, Intensity, and that Simon praised her at the time. I vaguely remember her as well, now that she’s been put in context. It’s three “Yes” votes for Ellona. This time, Ellona is determined to stick around as a solo artist.
24:40 We return to Charleston. Things aren’t going well. “When someone I hate gets married, I’m going to ask you to perform at their wedding,” Simon tells one singer. “I’d hate to be your parents,” he tells another. We meet an instantly Bieber-esque 14-year-old named Stone Martin. He’s very nervous, which comes from having never sung in front of more than six people. I don’t believe that for a second, incidentally, because within two seconds, Stone is pointing at different girls in the audience and they’re squealing obediently. Even Kelly has a look that screams, “If only you were four years older.” Demi is loving the swooning going on around her and the shrieking gets only louder as Stone gets all eyes-closed-and-sincere at the end of his performance. “I love you,” Kelly coos. “I think that you’re so cute,” Demi says. “Stone Martin, I think that your life is about to change forever,” Paulina says. Simon praises his “star glow” and his likability. It’s four “Yes” votes for Stone. Somebody get that boy a monkey and a Selena Gomez.
31:20 One more performer left? Or more? We’re back in Los Angeles, where everybody is chasing their dreams. The dreamers include Ashly Williams. She’s 24 and her dream is to sing. “What is interesting about you?” Simon inquires, setting up a clip reel flashback. Ashly, it turns out, is doing this for her mother, who was murdered when Ashly was only 14. [Side note: I don’t think there’s been a single contestant this season whose name I’ve initially spelled correctly. I really felt good about “Ashley Williams,” but then Ashley had to go and drop an “e.”] Ashly sings Whitney and does “I Will Always Love You” some justice. Emotions run high. Definitely have to give it up for Ashly and how well she closes the difficult song. She even tosses in a non-Whitney run at the very end. The judges all stand for her and, in case we don’t get it, “Halleluyah” pops up on the soundtrack. “Thank you, baby girl, for spilling your heart out,” Kelly says. “I was just captivated by your talent,” Paulina says. “Ashley, I’m like speechless. I had chills all over my arms and legs,” Demi says, promising Ashly that there’s a place for her in the market. “This is why we brought the show to America,” Simon says, as if this were the first “X Factor” season in the USA. “I think you’re seriously, seriously good,” Simon says. Four “Yes” votes for Ashly, of course. “I want to mentor you,” Demi tells Ashly, whose family swarms onto the stage and starts jumping around her.
42:00 And that’s all, folks.
Who’d you like tonight?