Gospel Soundcheck

Before we get started on tonight’s episode of “The X Factor”, I think I need to apologize to readers. I guess I dropped the ball when I said last night’s episode was so great, since it included one segment where a contestant dropped his pants, sending Paula to the ladies room to barf.

OK, that part of last night’s show was bad. Totally distasteful, not appropriate for a family show, trashy, tacky, and out of line.

But other than that … I’m sorry, I love “The X Factor.”

I love having Paula Abdul back at the judge’s table. I LOVE L.A. Reid. And we all know, I love Simon Cowell. Nicole Scherzinger? I don’t know much about her, but the fact that she’s not Kara is a bonus.

OK, so on to night two of the auditions. No one drops their pants. I promise.

The first hour has the show in Miami, where the temperatures might be hot but the talent is just weird. The first contestant Ashley Sansone is so bad L.A. Reid takes a page from the Simon Cowell book of insults when he says, “You were getting on my  nerves when you were talking. But when you startd singing I wanted to slit my wrists.”

After a steady stream of weirdos, 16-year-old Caitlyn Curtis is the first contestant of the season to get the Paul Abdul hug. She’s got a nice voice, but the judges think she needs to mature more. When she breaks down (she says she grew up watching Simon Cowell; good grief, has he been on U.S. TV that long?), Paula gets up , goes onstage, turns Caitlyn from the audience and consoles her, hugging her until Caitlyn composes herself. It’s the reason why Paula Abdul is such a benefit to a show like this. And L.A. Reid gives the high school student some sage advice: “Moments like these create champions and winners.”

The judges are commiserating over the utter lack of talent when 21-year-old Nick Voss from Haileah, FL sings, “Trouble”, channeling Elvis and making him the first contestant to go through this round. While the judges weren’t blown away by his vocals, they all agreed he was talented and entertaining. Nicole said he was “Jim Carey meets Jerry Lee Lewis with a sprinkle of Elvis.”

Ashley Deckerd, a 14-year-old student, upped the weird factor when she announced she’s a ghost hunter. After a discussion about ghosts and a lackluster audition that sends Ashley packing, the judges are spooked when the lights keep going off. Again and again. And the crew can’t explain why.


The weird, creepy vibe continues, and includes contestant Marivana Viscus, a music teacher whose performance Paula called “possessed, but I loved it.” She got through to the next round. Hopefully she’ll leave the creepy spirits at home.

Clips of some contestants that made it through included Kendra Williams, a 32-year-old teacher originally from Mississippi; Brendan O’Hara, a 30-year-old music instructor (he’s single; Nicole asked); Jeremiah Pagan, a 22-year-old male soprano whose incredible voice yielded this comment from L.A.: “Voices like yours are the reason great songs are written.”

Melanie Amaro, an 18-year-old college freshman, is another one to watch. She’s so sweet and so innocent and natural, and man, can the girl sing! Forget the weirdos and the characters just looking to get on T.V. These are the moments that make shows like this. She was amazing.

The next round of auditions were in Dallas, TX, and Nicole got into the spirit by adopting a Southern accent and adding “y’all” to her vocabulary.

The first contestant was 17-year-old Jonny Rogers, who was more concerned about his Bieber-like hair than his audition. He was a mess, singing an original song and dancing. Imagine I’m a factory in China, Simon said, and I’ve just gotten an order for 10,000 Justin Bieber dolls but something went wrong in production.

Ah, these are the moments that make me love Simon Cowell even more.

There’s another string of weirdos, ending with an audition from Dexter Haygood, a 49-year-old singer who once played in a band that toured with Hall and Oates in the 80s. His audition came off like a tribute to James Brown, but Simon was watching the audience and saw that they were taken with Haygood. So he offered the singer another chance to sing, and they moved him through to the next round.

That’s one of the great things about this show vs. American Idol. With no age limit, we get to see young, inexperienced singers alongside seasoned musicians looking for a second chance. I can’t wait to see how those ends of the spectrum work together as the season progresses.

Another contestant going through to the next round is Caitlyn Koch, from Buffalo, NY. (Yay, Western NY!) She’s a rugby coach and player – but man, can she sing. She performed “Stop In The Name of Love” with a slow, gospel vibe. Fantastic.

The final contestant was Xander Alexander, a singer with a bad attitude, a smart mouth, a chip on his shoulder, and, ironically, not a bad voice. By the time he actually opened his mouth to sing, he’s alienated the audience, and while Simon said, “I actually quite like you. You’re lippy, gobby, but interesting.” But he adds that he blew it because he made the audience hate him. And it was clear Xander realized he’d blew it.

So ends the second night of auditions. Ups, downs, broken dreams, bright horizons, but no flashing or barfing. Hopefully that was a fluke that won’t be repeated.


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