Last week, we were introduced to the 4-Chair Challenge on “The X Factor” and unless you’re Ashly Williams or an Ashly Williams fan, the format worked out reasonably well for you.
With the Girls and the Geriatrics out of the way, let’s see which acts we’re putting on the spot tonight…
8:02 p.m. “I’m feeling ready. I’m feeling confident,” Simon Cowell tells Mario Lopez. But he doesn’t really need to be ready, because Paula Rubio and the Boys are up first.
8:03 p.m. “You’re sorta dressed like a little boy today,” Mario tells Paulina, creepily.
8:04 p.m. We start with restaurant birthday singer Al Calderon, who I had pegged for a boy band when he auditioned. Al does a bizarre arrangement of “Call Me Maybe,” designed by somebody who thought a couple random industrial touches would make this poppier. There’s very little singing in this song in the first place and I don’t think Al adds any. He has good control over the stage and I might see keeping him around on the off-chance that you think he has potential well beyond that performance, because that did nothing for me. Kelly Rowland thought the vocals started off shaky, but soared at the end. Soared? Really? Demi thought Al had great energy, but she also thought it was a bit much and a bit pitchy. “You’re not the best singer in the competition, but what you do have [boos shower down] is you have great charisma and fantastic energy and I think we could make you into a much better singer,” Simon says.
8:07 p.m. Paulina’s decision… Of course there’s a seat for Al for now. Heck, there are four of them. “Please take a sit,” she says.
8:08 p.m. We’re on to 15-year-old Isaiah Austin, whose name confusingly makes Mario Lopez want to use a Southern accent even though he’s from New Jersey. Isaiah was so good in his up-tempo performance when he auditioned, tonight’s he’s going slow and way-too-low with “Greatest Love Of All.” He’s really, really nervous and the first half is utterly brutal. Then, at the half-way point, Isaiah stands up and his voice opens up. There are some very nice moments and some moments where I’m not at all sure Isaiah knows the melody to this song. I just don’t like this as a song choice and I think he may just be too inexperienced as a pop performer for this stage. Kelly calls him “adorable.” Demi likes him, but isn’t sure he’s ready for this competition. Simon liked Isaiah’s closing falsetto, but nothing else, calling it “old-fashioned” and “out-of-tune.” Paulina isn’t sure if he’s special enough for this competition. Isaiah explains that God gave him this gift.
8:12 p.m. Paulina’s decision… Despite three available chairs, Paulina sends Isaiah home. He’s gracious. And that was the right decision. Why torture him? He’s very sad.
8:16 p.m. I will never figure out the correct arrangement of vowels in Isaac Tauaefa‘s name. You’ll recall him as the former football player from UTEP. He’s a big, big guy and he worries that Paulina didn’t remember him. And… why is he singing Cobie Caillat? Who helped these people choose their songs? My gracious! We’re 0-3. Anybody who thought “Bubbly” was a good song choice for a mammoth bouncer was a fool. It’s a poor fit for his overall manner and it’s a worse fit for his voice. There are bum notes left and right. I think Isaac is also going to struggle to occupy even an empty seat. That was bad. “I feel like your performance was a bit karaoke,” Kelly says, calling Isaac uncomfortable. “I thought you were going to deliver a lot more,” Simon says. Paulina agrees with her “people.”
8:19 p.m. Paulina’s decision… Isaac is her second straight early rejection. It’s interesting to see Paulina being so cold-hearted (and on-target).
8:21 p.m. Now we’re on to Carlos Guevara, who is memorable both for his raw, passionate voice and his Tourette’s. Carlos gets immediate points for a smarter song choice. There are a few too many nasally grace notes in this rendition of “Ain’t No Sunshine,” but he attacks the song with a good combination of musicality and and personal investment. “You just allow the music to take over you. You nailed it,” Kelly says. Simon worries that there are times when Carlos loses control of his voice, but his story touched the judge. Paula calls him “vocally unique.”
8:24 p.m. Paulina’s decision… “I don’t want to be a sob story. I just want to be an inspiration,” he says. After two straight duds, Carlos grabs a seat next to Al.
8:32 p.m. It still amuses me that “Stone Martin” is a real person’s name and that he’s not a 1940s cowboy or a 1950s movie star. Hilariously, Stone realized he wanted to be a pop star after going to a one direction concert. Stone is, in fact, obsessed with One Direction. Watching this kid combing his hair in the mirror is hilarious. If you ask me, I’d say that Stone’s version of “Torn” proves that he should be coming back in two or three years after some vocal lessons and after some stage experience. However, the minute he cracks a little smile, you see Demi shiver. He sounds uncertain and wobbly to me, but the female judges disagree. “I like your tone,” Kelly says. “That was so much better than your first audition,” Demi says. Simon calls Stone “robotic,” but says there’s a market for him if he can get a bit more swag. “You know it’s old when Simon says it,” Demi says of “swag.”
8:34 p.m. Paulina’s decision… Stone gets a seat. I’m not sure if he’ll be able to hold onto it, but we’ll see. There are still five more guys to go, even if I can’t remember who they are.
8:40 p.m. Oh right, there’s rocking, songwriting ginger Chase Goehring. He took a big risk by singing one of his originals at the auditions, but it paid off. Tonight? He’s doing “Airplanes” and I think he’s got some decent vocal moments, but he’s yet another singer trying to get through on a smile, rather than on polish. He glides right over the melody on this song and it’s a one-note performance. Kelly prefers hearing Chase sing his own songs. Demi felt like it was unnatural for Chase. Simon agrees that they all like Chase, but not this performance.
8:43 p.m. Paulina’s decision… Chase takes a seat, but I don’t believe he’s holding that one for long. I think Chase and Stone are both really vulnerable there.
8:44 p.m. You may remember Tim Olstad‘s near-crippling insecurity, an uncertainty that prevented him from holding the mic steady at his audition. I vaguely remember liking Tim’s audition. Tonight, he’s using a mic stand. Good idea, Tim! With the possible exception, Tim is the night’s first singer who I believe has any idea of how to use his instrument. There are definitely a few off notes in his version of “The Climb,” but there’s also a smooth tone and ample range. The only question is whose seat he’s gonna take. “I can honestly hear your voice already on the radio,” Kelly says. “I cannot see him being let go in this competition,” Demi says. Simon gets confused by Tim’s influences and says he’ll appeal to older people.
8:48 p.m. Paulina’s decision… I like how somebody coached Paulina to do these cryptic half-complimentary, half-damning evaluations. It gives her something to say. Anyway… Suspense! But Tim gets a chair.
8:49 p.m. SWITCH! Tim gets Stone Martin’s seat. Simon is stunned. I’m not.
8:55 p.m. On to Carlito Olivero. We have a ton of representation from this Hispanic community this season. I like that and it’s also smart business for “The X Factor,” to attempt to carve out a niche that “American Idol” has failed so consistently to cater to. Carlito is a little nasally and uncertain on the high notes in “Dreaming of You,” but he’s another of the more polished contestants tonight. I’d happily boot Al or Chase to give him a seat. “I think you’re gonna have these girls in here dreaming later,” Kelly leers, but she says his nerves got the best of him. Simon thought Carlito’s first audition was more relevant, but he likes that he’s embracing his Spanish roots.
8:57 p.m. Paulina’s decision… She’s getting a lot of feedback from the crowd and Carlito makes a bilingual plea. Carlito gets a seat and swings Mario Lopez around wildly.
8:59 p.m. SWITCH! After the break…
9:06 p.m. Whose seat will Carlito get? Chase is sent packing. He and Stone should be put in a group. Now.
9:08 p.m. It’s time for Timmy Thames. He’s only 13 and if he stinks, he can be dropped into that Stone/Chase boy band. Timmy lives in Malibu, but he lives in a trailer park in Malibu. But he lives in Malibu. Timmy comes fully packaged to make the little girls swoon, but might he also benefit from a bit more seasoning? Well, yes. Timmy taps into “Hairspray” for “The New Girl In Town” and it’s catering directly to the music executives who think the world needs a Justin Bieber with ethnicity. And it probably does. He’s not one of the four best singers tonight, but he’s one of the four most sellable properties. “You are so stinkin’ cute,” Kelly says, though she liked his audition better. Maybe Isaiah, Timmy, Stone and Chase in the same group? Demi tells Timmy he’s cute, but she wasn’t blown away. Simon disagrees and says that he’ll remember Timmy and it would be insane if he leaves the competition. Paulina compares Timmy to Michael Jackson, which you’d think would guarantee a seat.
9:11 p.m. Paulina’s decision… Timmy gets a chair.
9:12 p.m. SWITCH! Simon wants Carlito gone, but Demi is displeased. Instead, Paulina opts to send Tim Olstad packing. Kelly is incredulous. Tim’s parents are disapproving. And the audience is angry.
9:16 p.m. We’re back and the booing continues. There’s going to be a collective mutiny if Paulina doesn’t do something. But can Paulina do anything? She says she doesn’t care what the audience is saying, but she cares about what she feels. She’s decided she wants Tim back. Can she do that? “Well, if you want him back, this is your category,” Mario says, making it clear that he has no clue what’s happening either. Demi Lovato fans herself like she’s in a high school production of “Steel Magnolias.” I’m waiting for her to say, “I declare!”
9:18 p.m. “I am a woman of my word. I am a human being and I also make mistakes, so I want you back on my team,” Paulina says.
9:18 p.m. SWITCHBACK! It’s more than a Dennis Quaid movie! Al Calderon is freaking out. And for good reason. He’s going home. Unless Paulina reconsiders her reconsideration. Al is also gracious in the face of this anarchy.
9:20 p.m. The last of the Boys is Josh Levi. He’s another candidate for the boy band that we should be filling out. I don’t like “I Can’t Make You Love Me” as a song choice. Kelly Rowland, however, loves it, flailing her arms like a Muppet. Josh’s voice is often shrill and untrained, but when he does a little semi-dancing, Kelly is having spasms of age-inappropriate pleasure. Kelly thinks Josh is a superstar. Demi is overwhelmed. Simon wouldn’t have chosen the song, but he says that “we’re looking potentially at a future star here.”
9:21 p.m. Paulina’s decision… Josh is in her Final Four. To me, if you have Josh, you don’t need Timmy anymore. What will Paulina do?
9:22 p.m. SWITCH! Timmy is gone. That’s the right move.
9:25 p.m. Paulina’s Boys are… Tim Olstad, Carlos Guevara, Josh Levi and Carlito Olivero. “It’s been such stress. I’ve burned like a thousand calories, Mario,” Paulina says.
9:26 p.m. On to Simon’s Groups. “I expect the same support I gave them back in return,” Simon says.
9:30 p.m. The first Group? That would be Girls United, a rather photogenic trio with a rehearsal space called The Dungeon. I’m not sure where these gals belong in the marketplace and I don’t know if they work well as individuals, but they harmonize relatively well and dance decently in tandem. Darnit, why are there no more reality shows to select new members of the Pussycat Dolls? These three would be perfect. Kelly likes that they committed to harmonies and she sees how bad they want this. Demi thinks it was a little on the young side, but she wants to see them continue to grow. Simon likes that they were well-rehearsed, but he’s heard better vocally.
9:32 p.m. Simon’s decision… Girls United gets a seat, or three. They should all have to share a single chair. Instead, they get a couch.
9:38 p.m. Our next act is Wild Thingz. They want to be like Jay-Z, only for Los Angeles. I’m so confused by these two. I don’t have a clue who they’re trying to be, which might be good or it might be awful. They’re much close to a comedy duo than a musical act. It’s almost like they’re being a two-person parody of Emblem 3, like two kids Emblem 3 picked on decided to get revenge, either on Emblem 3 or on music. They’re energetic and fun and silly, but what would Simon do with them on a weekly basis other than giggle? “You are all-the-way turned up,” Kelly says. “I can admit that I really like that performance,” Paulina says. “I don’t even know which one is the most annoying,” Simon says, calling it “unintentional comedy.” He’s completely wrong. It’s intentional comedy and it’s not for me to decide if this is the right competition for that.
9:41 p.m. Simon’s decision… The crowd is mixed. The insane part of Simon’s brain says to keep them and they take a seat. Girls United is terrified.
9:45 p.m. On to Glamour, the Baby Destiny’s Child. I prefer to think of them as a distaff Another Bad Creation. They sing “You’re Gonna Miss Me” and they have Kelly tranfixed and Girls United psyched out. Glamour is simultaneously amazingly talented and amazingly raw. If this were a Keeper league — Sorry, fantasy sports jargon — I’d want them for the long haul. I just don’t know if you’d get enough points out of them this season to justify the roster spot. Kelly wanted the performance a tiny bit tighter, but she’s proud of them. Demi agrees with me, as does Simon.
9:48 p.m. Simon’s decision… He gives them a seat.
9:53 p.m. We close the show with Restless Road, the first our our three FrankenGroups. They’re “a country man-band” and they’ve bonded over their love of the simple life. When they sing their early solos, they’re a bore, but then they come together it’s fairly impressive. I can imagine Restless Road playing at the Rammer Jammer on “Hart of Dixie,” which means that there’s a marketplace out there for a group like this. There’s an off-chance that the world needs a country-fried One Direction and, if so, it might as well be Simon Cowell to make them. Kelly Rowland, who has become a human .gif tonight, is squealing and spazzing all over the place. All four judges and the other three bands stand. “This was a brilliant idea,” Kelly says. “I completely love you three,” Paulina says. “I am so excited right now,” Demi says, talking about the chills all over her body. Tell us more! Simon’s feeling cocky, thinking he saw both talent and friendship from Restless Road.
9:56 p.m. Simon’s decision… There’s no question here, though Simon jokes, “Play the tension music.” Restless Road has a seat.
9:58 p.m. So with six Groups to go, Simon has all four seats filled.
What’d you think of Paulina’s choices? And how is Simon doing so far?