The first live show with Demi Lovato and Britney Spears! My DVR actually didn’t tape it so I missed the intros. I caught the last 50 minutes once I figured out what had happened and watched the first 70 via MJ’s videos.
As for the new judges, Demi’s critiques were combative and more colorful than the mellow Britney, whose commentary was short and not terribly interesting. (She tended to use the word “amazing” a wee too much. Calling Steven Tyler?) L.A. and Simon did their usual schtick. I liked that Demi usually looked serious during the performances and didn’t do the Paula Abdul “let’s get up and dance!” routine.
The productions were often over produced, which is an “X Factor” signature. Heavy back up singing. Smoke. Scantily clad dancers. Plus, the judges for better or worse picked the songs. And they will do the cut down, not the viewers. Eight of the 16 will get through immediately and the rest will sing for the final four spots.
Who are in the biggest trouble, based on the judges’ feelings? On Britney’s team, I’d say Beatrice will get cut before Arin. Simon’s team: it’s either Sister C or Lyric 145. L.A.: he pretty much sealed Jason’s fate. Demi’s team: I’d say either Willie or Cece, close call there.
My favorite of the night: David Correy pulling off a Whitney song. I was also charmed by Emblem 3. And I’m not even a 13 year old girl!
And how about the hosts? Khloe Kardashian (or as some folks might call her, “Pokey-woman,”) was better than last year’s robotic Steve Jones. Then again, she was better than a lamp-post as well. Mario Lopez, a pro at this (see Randy Jackson’s “America’s Best Dance Crew”), should be doing this by himself. Then again, you could say the same thing about Tom Bergeron on “Dancing With the Stars.”
Paige Thomas (”What is Love’ Haddaway Demi’s team) – A big hot mess. The costume stood out but she looked uncomfortable, sounded mediocre. Blech. The judges liked it a lot more than I did. “You are a star,” L.A. said. “You’re outrageous,” Britney said. Grade: C-plus
Arin Ray (”Keep Me Hanging On” Supremes/ Britney’s team) – The hissing sound of the “fire” lights were distracting to say the least. He is trying to be fashioned as an Usher type but I didn’t feel he’s quite there yet either vocally or dancing wise. He needs some work but he could get better. “You nailed it,” L.A. Reid. “Your vocal wasn’t quite on par with the genius of that track.” Grade: B
Beatrice Miller (”I Won’t Give Up” Jason Mraz/ Britney’s team) – She’s cute but she’s very raw. She has a little bit of Miley Cyrus in her. Her vocals aren’t bad but as Simon said, she needs some work and nerves may have hurt her at times. And she wasn’t sold on the song. Grade: B-minus
David Correy (”My Love is Your Love” Whitney Houston/ L.A.’s team) – A curious song pick but David really brought it home as a stage presence and as a signer. He has star potential. Impressive. “Manic, verging on times, as desperate,” Simon said. “As if you were begging the audience to like you…. Felt like a random song choice.” Grade: A
Sister C (”Hell on Heels’ Pistol Annies/ Simon’s team) – Yes, they sang this song before. Clearly, Simon’s country knowledge is nil so he probably just recycled for that reason and position the sisters the best they could. They really do have impressive harmonies and a sultriness about them to boot. “You seemed really stiff,” Demi said. Grade: A/A-minus
Janell Garcia (”Home Sweet Home” Motley Crue/ Demi’s team) – She has almost too pretty a voice to pull off a hard rock song. She’s not exactly Chrissie Hynde or Pat Benatar. But she did a good job for what she was given. “I did not expect that. It was a 10,” L.A. said. “You just convinced me you could win.” Grade: B-plus
Diamond White (”Hey Soul Sister” Train/ Britney’s team) – Instead of giving her an R&B vibe, Britney opted to position her as pure pop with this song. The whole set up felt very 1990s. She is deeply talented and pulled it off. Is this her true self? She’s too young for me to judge that. “You came through as a relevant pop star,” Simon said. Grade: B-plus/A-minus
Vino Allan (”Gotta Be” Nickelback /L.A.’s team) – It felt like he started almost too low in the beginning. And overall, it felt cheesy and inorganic. Then again, it’s Nickelback. L.A.’s song choice stunk up the joint and it did not do Vino any favors. “I was a little bored,” Britney said. “I see that passion behind your eyes. I have a hard time seeing you as a pop star,” Demi said. Simon said he likes him and has an incredible voice but the song and arrangement “was completely and utterly wrong for you. It made you into some horrible cover singer.” Grade: B-minus
“Lyric 145″ (”Gangnum Style”/”Boom Shake the Room”/ Simon’s team) – What’s with all this 1980s/90s-era graffiti and dress up? And I’m sorry but Lisa Lopes already did the eye patch thing.. in 1993. This was not modern in any sense. It was like some weird time capsule bit from “In Living Color.” The crowd did eat it up. “It sounded like someone put you in the washer, jumped in bleach and took the soul out of you,” L.A. said. “That’s not hip hop.” Grade: B
Cece Frey (”Because the Night” Patti Smith/ Demi’s team) – I have to give Demi credit by going a bit crazy with the song choice, turning a classic rock song into pop/dance. Cece is the most divisive character left on the show and I almost didn’t recognize her with the blond hair, fishnet stockings and face tattoo make-up-ed away. I almost felt like they were trying to turn her into Lady Gaga. Who is she? Vocally, she’s no Lady Gaga, unfortunately. Very unsteady as she moved around. She did put in a good effort, if anything. “Your vocals were a little weak,” Britney said. “You’re fearless,” Simon said. Grade: B/B-minus
Tate Stevens (”Tough” Craig Morgan/ L.A.’s team) – I haven’t been a big fan of this guy but he held up well on the big stage. I’m glad they kept it simple for him on stage. No smoke. No dancers. He isn’t really the “X Factor” in terms of personality while performing. It really is his vocals, which are solid. “I know exactly what kind of artist you ought to be… a good honest man,” Simon said. Grade: B-plus/A-minus
Jason Brock (”Dance Again” Jennifer Lopez/ LA’s plus-25 team) – He looks like a younger version of Eric Stonestreet of “Modern Family.” I didn’t particularly like this. Bad look. Bad looking dancers. Ridiculous jacket. He sounded like he was yelling more than singing at time. Was L.A. Reid trying to screw this guy over? “Wasn’t the right song choice,” says Demi Lovato. “He should have gone with something with more sass.” Simon added, “Utterly horrendous… For me, it couldn’t get worse than that.” Grade: C-minus
“1432″ (”We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” Taylor Swift/Simon’s group team) – This is one of the Frankenstein groups, formerly called Lylas but were forced to change. I like this song and the groups have solid individual skills but I’m not sure they are a group. The girl with the “love” shirt stood out. “Very karaoke,” L.A. Reid said. “Your mentor really failed you.” Simon, the mentor, said, “You are fantastic. Yes, it was more of a pop song. If you survive and the weeks go on, you’ll prove what great vocalists you are… L.A. the public will love this group.” Khloe tried to assert herself by forcing Demi Lovato to name the one singer she liked. A little awkward but not a bad question to ask. Grade: B
Willie Jones (”Here For the Party” Gretchen Wilson/ Demi’s 17-23 team) – This was an okay performance but didn’t click with me. I don’t think he felt comfortable up there and I don’t think the song worked. “I can’t say I got goosebumps but it was an adequate performance,” L.A. said. “I thought it was silly,” Simon said. “Felt a bit cheap.” Grade: B-minus
Carly Rose (“Good Feeling” Flo-Rida mashed up with “Something’s Got a Hold On Me” Etta James/ Britney’s 13-16 team) – She has a classically pretty voice with impressive texture and nuance for someone her age. The dancers were distracting. “You have one of the best voices in the competition,” Demi said. “Seeing you with other kids up there is not believable. I don’t believe you’re having a fun.” Simon sort of agreed “My issue was. You felt uncomfortable with the song… like you weren’t connecting with the song. But it would be criminal if you were to go home.” Grade: B-plus
Emblem 3 (”One Day” Matisyahu Simon’s team) – The ladies love these guys and they know it. Fortunately, they are decent harmonizers on a pretty anthemic “peace” song. Clearly, this is Simon’s effort to create another One Direction. I understand why “X Factor” producers gave them the pimp spot. L.A. even liekd it. “That was unbelievable. We are witnessing America’s next pop sensation.” Britney: “You’re absolutely adorable.” Demi: “You boys make me swoon.” Simon: “Remember this night. We are seeing a future superstar.” Grade: A-minus