Audition round two of The X Factor is held in Miami and Dallas, and they tell a different story than Los Angeles. In my first recap, I was impressed with the consistently great talent The X Factor delivered, keeping the freak show acts to a minimum. When the judges hit Miami, the dearth of talent makes for a boring first hour of television. The theme of the first hour is, "We thought there would be more talent in Miami," but, unfortunately for the judges, and for us, the talent is thin. To hit home the judges' boredom and frustration, we are subjected to the same boredom and frustration, as singer after singer falls short.
In the second hour things pick up and several good singers are sent through to boot camp with yeses from the judges: Nick Voss, 21, who does a passable enough version of Elvis's "Trouble" to move on, and a few more solo and group acts get through. At the end of the second hour, along comes 18-year-old Melanie Amaro.
When Melanie takes the stage and announces she will be performing Beyonce's "Listen," I do. This will be epic, in one way or another. Melanie delivers a mind blower, and its goose bumps from the first note. LA Reid is mugging like a symphony conductor, Nicole and Paula are standing (Nicole is crying), and Simon is looking at her like she's a big ol' piece of steak. When she is done, LA says, "Everything I walked away from to do X Factor, you made it worth it." I'm not sure she made the entire first hour worth it, but things are looking up at any rate.
And then - we hit Dallas
Nicole Scherzinger starts in with lots of y'alls and apes a southern accent--I've lived here two years and still haven't broken out a spontaneous "y'all." We meet Dylan, 18, from Kentucky who sold his truck to get to fly to the Dallas audition. (Why not drive? I don't know.) Dylan brings the house down when he answers the judges' question, "What's the first thing you would buy" with "A truck!" Too bad this kid can't sing at all and he curses and screams and screeches and generally acts like an idiot as he thrashes around the stage doing "Swag Surf" by Lil' Wayne, complete with a lot of bleeping.
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Along comes 49-year-old Dexter Haygood, a self-described "rock and roll soul man" who sees himself as a mix of Elvis, Mick and James Brown. He used to be with the band Xavion in the '80s, which The Googles tells me is an "all-black hard rock band from Memphis, TN"; they toured w/ Hall & Oates according to Haygood. His version of "Sexy Machine" by James Brown--which is remarkably similar to James Brown's version--doesn't impress the judges. Simon asks Dexter for 15 seconds a cappella. We get a brief flashback of Dexter back in Memphis, and we learn he is basically homeless, and has nothing. Back on stage, Dexter busts out a few bars of "This is a Man's World" and it sounds great. It is going to be tough for him to drop all the Brown/Jagger/Presley-esque affectations, but if he can manage it he will be hard to beat.
The next standout is from Buffalo, NY! Upstate, represent. 21-year-old rugby coach Katilin Cook, is a pretty sexy blonde who plays rugby--she is immediately interesting to every judge. Her performance of "Stop in the Name of Love" by the Supremes might not be for everyone, but it's original. The slow arrangement highlights the beautiful tone of her voice, and more importantly her crazy vocal control. She gets four yeses.
The show ends on an odd low note, when we finally "meet" the 27-year-old Xander Alexander, the kid from the X Factor commercials who barbs Simon about the color of his t-shirts. He cites his musical idols: "Whitney Houston, before she lost it; Mariah Carey, before she lost it." He tells us his goals: "I want to be the next Donald Trump meets Martha Stewart, without the jail time, meets Britney Spears meets Beyonce, without the ugly husband." He describes his performance aesthetic: "My concert would be like Britney Spears meets Lady Gaga on crack." The kid doesn't have an original thought in his head; his entire world is made up of pop culture references, and he can't describe himself outside of their existence. The judges don't love his singing, but Simon thinks he is "interesting." Then the bomb drops, and the judges are handing out no votes. Finally Simon drops the last no, telling Xander he blew it for himself by making the audience hate him.
Episode over? A decidedly anti-climactic way to end week one.