So, who is watching X Factor and who is watching The Voice? And who is, like me, trying to watch them both? It's kind of a tall order, with X Factor airing twice a week on Fox (Wednesday & Thursday, 7 p.m. CT) and The Voice airing twice a week on NBC (Monday and Tuesday, 7 p.m. CT). We haven't been watching much of it live, instead relying on our trusty old DVR to remember for us what is on (and when), and I know we missed an episode or two of each during these early audition rounds.
Naturally with a DVR full of reality singing competitions, we have had a somewhat haphazard approach to getting caught up; I'm pretty sure we watched a few out of order, in addition to missing an early episode of each. Right now we are trying to get our bearings, and while I thought we might drop X Factor it appears that we are going to try to stick each season out. Let's take a quick look at where each show stands--if you aren't watching, it's still early enough to get invested.
I'm partial to this format, and love the added excitement of waiting for a judge to turn around and choose the contestant during the blind auditions. It doesn't hurt that the judges -- Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green, and Adam Levine--have worked out a really great chemistry between them. Aguilera has softened her jabs at Levine, and they seem to get along better than they did during the first run of the show. Blake Shelton is a gem--funny, genuine, and knowledgeable about music outside of his genre.
Going into week two of competition the teams are not yet complete: Christina has six spots remaining, Adam and Cee Lo have five, but Blake needs nine more contestants to round out his team. I suspect -- based on numbers, and past seasons -- that we will see the return of some singers who did not get selected during the earlier audition rounds.
A few standouts: There is a lot of talent, and this list is by no means complete, but a few contestants whose performances have stuck with me are:
• Nicholas David, Team Cee Lo: Dude lost a bunch of weight, got sober, got married, got kids, and sings like you won't believe. We rewound his audition thrice. • Daniel Rosa, Team Cee Lo: He didn't get chosen last season, took the judges' advice, came back, and wowed them. The judges who turned their chairs remembered him -- which made me cry. • J.R. Aquino: A YouTube famous singer from Anchorage, Alaska -- 'm rootin' for the home team! Plus he sounds awesome. http://www.nbc.com/the-voice/artists/jr-aquino/ • Melanie Martinez, Team Adam: This girl has a whole lot more going for her than just her unusual style, and her version of Britney Spears' "Toxic" in the audition was mind blowing. • Gracia Harrison, Team Blake: If there were more country like this on the radio today, I'd be a much bigger fan. Girl is legit. • Nelly's Echo, Team Christina: Originally from Nigeria, he's got a powerful voice and a powerful personal story.
There are a lot of changes on the X Factor this year: Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul are out as judge/mentors, replaced by Britney Spears and Demi Lovato; former host Steve Jones was replaced by no one (and unfortunately for poor Steve, that's an improvement) but Internet rumors promise us that as soon as E! Entertainment signs on the dotted line, Khloe Kardashian Odom will step up as host. I think adding a host after the show starts is going to be kind of weird, but maybe it won't even pan out.
I have to admit, I am mostly still watching this show because I'm fascinated by Britney Spears. She looks pretty good, all things considered, but still shaky. Her extensions are terrible, and often in disarray, she's usually missing one or more gel fingernails (revealing painfully-chewed nails underneath), and while largely coherent she still has a bit of the deer-in-headlights look about her. I also find her weird, scripted "spontaneous" conversations with Demi Lovato uncomfortable to watch. That said, it's not the train wreck some expected before the show premiered.
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Simon is still curt, L.A. Reid still gets a strange, exaggerated slow-jam-head-bob going when he really likes what he's hearing, so all is the same on that front.
A few standouts: No one has been assigned a judge/mentor yet, so these contestants are in, but we don't know who they are working with:
• Panda Ross: This woman can sing, and she's incredibly entertaining. Simon said she has the voice of a legend, and he's right. • Jessica Espinoza: San Antonio, Texas native Jessica blew the judges away with her story (raised by a single mom, no money) and her voice; one to watch. • Jason Brock: Jason's over-the-top personality had the judges looking skeptical, but his rendition of Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind" earned him four yeses. • Carly Rose Sonenclar: You are not going to believe this kid is thirteen. I mean, you just are not going to believe it. It's unbelievable. • Jillian Jensen: Jillian explained that her experiences being bullied have pushed her to succeed, which resonated with judge/mentor Demi Lovato, who went on stage to hug her. I hope the kids who were mean to this girl feel like the moron they are.
Auditions for both shows continue -- check your local listings and set your DVR!