Viewers who missed the first few minutes of Fox’s “The X Factor” may have thought they were watching “American Idol” reruns were it not for the addition of a fourth judge, pre-teen and group contestants, and an emphasis on inspirational backstories over humiliating fake auditions. The show also comes with a $5 million recording contract for one talented winner.
Judge and creator
The first failed performance of the evening went to the charming pair of Dan (70) and Venita (83). They were a sweet couple, but their singing was not up to par, and all the judges voted no. Rather than being his usual biting self, Simon just said, “You know what’s terrifying — I can imagine me and Paula being you in ten years’ time,” and wished them well.
Video: Dan and Venita’s “X Factor” audition, Sept. 21
Simon was uncharacteristically gentle for the duration of the auditions, only good for a few jarring one-liners. Harsh in his place was L.A. Reid, who disagreed with Simon on dozens of acts, even inspiring the producers to create a Reid-versus-Cowell montage, set to “Eye Of The Tiger.”
The judges all agreed on 42-year-old Stacy Francis, a single mother of two who brought the judges to their feet for the first time all night after a powerful rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman,” an audition that Simon said was one of the best he’d heard in his entire life.
Video: Stacy Francis auditions on “X Factor”
After the show left Los Angeles, Nicole Scherzinger joined the panel for the remainder of the two-hour episode. At the start of the Seattle auditions, contestant Geo Godley shocked everyone by taking the stage in a tie-dye T-shirt and blue velvet track suit, the pants of which he quickly dropped, sending Nicole into fits of laughter and Paula to the bathroom in disgust. “Uh oh, I’m in trouble,” said Godley, stopping his song as Paula left the judges’ table. Audience members fled, but TV viewers were saved by a strategically-placed “X Factor” logo.
Video: Geo Godley sings and strips on “X Factor”
Once Paula recovered, the judges said “yes” to Marcus, whom Simon compared to Usher and L.A. Reid said was the next Bobby Brown, and The Anser, a trio of 20-something males who put their own spin on Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep.” There were a few failures interwoven between the successes, but overall the show was devoid of the outrageous performances and overreactions that usually make for entertaining television.
The day finished with 28-year-old Chris Rene, a father and former addict who told the judges he was “70 days clean.” He sang an original song, “Young Homie,” and stunned the panel with both his songwriting and singing talents. L.A. Reid acted as if he wanted to sign Rene immediately and Simon called him a star, declaring: “Maybe you need the show, maybe we need you.”
Video: Chris Rene sings “Young Homie” on “X Factor,” Sept. 21
The first episode of X Factor ended on that positive note, to be continued with day two of auditions tonight at 8 p.m.