The X Factor: "Stop Messin' With My Mom"

I admit that I am amazed the ratings for The X Factor started off low and have continued to drop. While the show has its share of product placement, campy/terrible auditions, and judges' table drama, they stick mostly to talented singers and have limited the audition rounds to a very do-able, very watchable four episodes. Apparently America likes being dragged through hours and weeks of fake, cringe-worthy auditions. Frankly, I would rather watch talented singers get a shot at their dream than joker after joker looking for their 15 minutes.

The final audition episode brings viewers to Newark, N.J. and San Francisco. Nicole Scherzinger continues to puzzle me as a judge. She lacks chemistry with all of the other judges (not just Paula) and her most personable moments are spent flirting with the handsome male contestants.

That said, we got more talent and less filler in Newark and San Francisco than in the three previous episodes. Contestants move on to "boot camp" next week, where the field will be whittled down to 32. Oh yeah, and a group from Houston auditions!

Brian Bradley, 14, walks in and kicks off his audition by being rude to Simon. Citing Jay-Z as one of his inspirations, the kid proceeds to rap something called "Stop Lookin' at My Mom." Brian is cute, he has a lot of attitude, and he can perform, but he seems like a complete brat. The previews for next week hint at a temper tantrum. Color me shocked.

Cari Fletcher, 17, might be more face than talent. She sings "Alone" by Heart - impressive, as the song starts in a really low register and requires quite a lot of range to sing solo. Simon thinks she is a bit boring, but she gets four yesses.

Ausem, a group consisting of Austin and Emily. Their name is too cute; gotta go. The perform "Jar of Hearts," and it's clear from the first note Austin's vocals are way, way stronger. The judges then discuss the fact that Emily is not as talented as Austin while the two teenagers stand on the stage and sweat through their pancake makeup. They get through to boot-camp, but I wonder if Emily can improve her vocals enough to keep them in the running.

Brennin Hunt, 26, starts his pre-audition interview with a wish ... that he was 25. Um, okay. Brennin is from Nashville, has seven years of music and touring experience, and is completely aware of how totally and amazingly handsome he is. Seriously, he mentions it like four times. Brennin backs up his swagger with a huge voice, performing an original song. Paula and Nicole swoon ... and so do L.A. and Simon, to be honest.

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Tara Woloshin, 21, is an aspiring singer and an aspiring auto technician. Her look is distinctive--bleached blonde hair, tattoos, crazy eye makeup, and a hot body dressed in a flowy mini-dress and knee-high, hot pink boots. This girl likes attention. She is confident but not cocky, and her rendition of "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5 gets the crowd going, and four yesses from the judges.

The Stereo Hoggz, a group from Houston. Five handsome guys with good vocals and well-rehearsed choreography that Simon criticizes as "over rehearsed." Isn't that what boy bands do? In spite of that ridiculous comment, Simon - and the rest of the judges - put The Stereo Hoggz through to boot camp.

Jazzlin Little, 16, is the last contestant of the episode so we know she is either awesome or spectacularly bad. The show plays up her nerves and lack of confidence - at one point zeroing in on her shaking hands - but are they really going to save the worst for last? Jazzlin's version of Mary J. Blige's "I'm Going Down" is as strong a vocal as we've heard throughout the competition, prompting all the judges (except Simon) to stand and applaud.

The X Factor continues next Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Fox. Watch video excerpts from last night's episode online.

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