The X Factor Recap: Newark State of Mind

Warning: The following recap of Thursday night’s episode of The X Factor will not contain discussions about Guy With Hula-Hoop, Never Been Kissed, Lady Named “Cashmere,” Inappropriately Sexual Duo, Madonna Fan With Regrettably Short T-Shirt, or Guy Who Single-handedly Destroyed Rent.

Call it an incomplete version of events, if you will, but why wallow in sad, stale footnotes now that the show’s inaugural round of audition episodes are in the books? Especially when we’ve seen and heard these exact same reality-show archetypes so many times in the past 10 years that they feel as fresh and funny as a “Why did the chicken cross the road?” joke.

Nope, as we head toward next week’s Boot Camp round and the promise of a new day, let’s instead keep our eyes on the $5 million prize, and the handful of hopefuls we met on Thursday night — Hour 1 from Newark, NJ, and Hour 2 featuring a “best of” compilation from various cities — who have the potential to win it. In order from most to least promising…

* Jazzlyn Little (“I’m Going Down”): Talk about 16 going on world-weary! This raven-haired teen (pictured, left) took to the X Factor stage with the glum, petrified expression of someone about to face the firing squad, explaining that singing was her only escape from the stress of real life, and admitting her sole attempt at uploading a video to YouTube had only scored 500 hits. “That’s terrible,” replied Simon, adding with a wink that Jazzlyn had a little something to learn about self-promotion. But once the judges dispensed with so much chatter and the track began to play, insecure Jazzlyn exited stage left, replaced by an uncaged beast of a singer ready to stalk the stage and cut straight to the heart of  that classic heartbreak anthem “I’m Going Down.” Jazzlyn’s choice of the Rose Royce/Mary J. Blige classic proved she’s already got better musical taste than 90 percent of her competitors, and her delivery was absolutely sublime. I loved the way she crept through the verses with a slightly sleepy, Erykah Badu-ish cadence, only to hit the gas pedal and unload all her pain and anger and frustration on every word of the chorus. Simon’s been known to be a little ridiculous with his superlatives, but I don’t disagree that Jazzlyn has the potential to be a “world star,” especially since she seems to have an understanding of what exactly it’ll take for her ride this wave till the end of the year. “This just means more work,” she told her family as they exited the amphitheater. Who’s ready for boot camp?

* Tora Woloshin (“I Want You Back”): If you go to Google Reality TV Critique Translator and type in “the competition is about more than just the voice,” you’ll see that it actually means, “Hey, you’re really good-looking, so we’re gonna overlook those intermittent pitch problems and put you through to the next round.” In Tora’s case, however, I can’t help but put my standard operating cynicism on hold. Sure, I noticed a couple issues with breath support on the tattooed auto mechanic’s rendition of the Jackson 5’s rollicking “I Want You Back,” but she displayed such an infectious ebullience working the stage in her turquoise and purple scarf dress, and managed to convey so much joy with her delivery, that any and all technical concerns were pushed to the back of the fridge. Even her interview packages hint that she may have been born for stardom. Or, as Simon said, “I have a very, very good feeling about you.”

* Brennin Hunt (“How We Make It”): I almost dismissed this dude (pictured, right) based entirely on his absurd remark about going into his audition with a strike against him on account of his male-model good looks. (If only the music industry would give super-hot people a chance every once in a while! Insert eye-roll here.) But on the other hand, at least you can’t accuse the guy of false modesty — which, frankly, would be even more annoying on a guy whose hair could book shampoo commercials and whose jaw is so strong it can actually bench-press Paula Abdul’s entire body weight. And what’s more, Brennin actually has a lovely and distinctive instrument (no, that’s not a double-entendre) which he used to fine effect on an original track that reminded me vaguely of Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.”

* Liliana Rose Andreano (“You Are My Sunshine”): Simon said she didn’t look like a star until she began singing, and I concur: There was an almost Patsy Cline-like purity to Liliana’s vocal, and she gets bonus points for bringing along an adorable meemaw in a blue pantsuit.

* The Brewer Boys: We only heard about 10 seconds of music from these Biebery bros — not enough for me to even I.D. what song they were performing — but those 10 seconds were more pleasing to the ear than any of the boy-band acts we’ve heard over the last two weeks.

* Cari Fletcher (“Alone”): L.A. Reid was probably right that Cari has “a star’s name, a star’s face, and a star’s voice,” but I appreciated Simon pointing out that the lithe, camera-ready blonde doesn’t have a particularly distinctive tone. Her Boot Camp mission, should she choose to accept it, will be to learn how to fully inhabit a song — without compromising her penchant for pitch perfection.

None of the remainder of the evening’s Boot Camp invitees struck me as $5 million acts. In fact, I’m not sure I’d invest $500,000, or even $50K, on the lot of ’em combined.

* The best part of 14-year-old rapper Brian Bradley‘s audition package was some genius producer’s decision to open it with a snippet of “Here Comes the Hotstepper.” (Yes, I’m going to iTunes to buy it the moment this recap is finished.) Second best was host Steve Jones’ bewildered reaction after hearing Brian utter one word — “tornado” — in response to his question, “You ready to blow them away?” And running a close third was Simon Cowell’s facial expression during Brian’s original rap track (“Stop Lookin at My Mom”), which looked as if he’d been confronted by a particularly challenging trigonometry problem. “You are arrogant, obnoxious, and argumentative. But you are one of the most talented young people I’ve seen in a long time,” said Simon, who probably considers Il Divo’s cover of Abba’s “The Winner Takes It All” as the closest thing to hip-hop on his iPod. What does he know from rapping? That’d be like me judging the “spring ewe” class at the Delaware County Fair. I guess at the end of the day, Brian’s got some skills, but his whole audition shtick just reminded me that sometimes (oftentimes?) it’s good for teenagers to hear the word “no.”

* Paige Elizabeth Ogle (“You and I”): Hit all her notes in the very brief snippet shown, but I can’t really hear anyone but Haley Reinhart sing that track now — not even Gaga herself.

* Leroy Bell (“Lean on Me”): No idea about his voice. I’m still grappling with the fact that someone who’s 59 looks like he’s 10 years my junior. Didn’t anyone think to ask him for his skin-care regimen?

* Kelly Warner (“Hallelujah”): This young woman who makes a living cutting hair a nursing home — talk about a niche market! — gave off great energy and successfully conveyed emotion on her cover of “Hallelujah.” But all I could think was: “‘Hallelujah’? Really? Isn’t it time to call a moratorium on that song?”

* AusEm (“Jar of Hearts”): Everything they ever learned about song delivery and staging, they got from Glee. And not one of the good episodes, either. How long before the judges pry Austin away from his BFF Emily and roll him into one of the season’s struggling boy bands?

* Stereo Hogzz (“Mr. Right Now”): If this is what’s passing as a top-quality group on Season 1 of The X Factor, then good luck to the judge who gets saddled with that category.

* Nick Dean (“Walk Away”): He lost me at “my first single,” and he didn’t win me back with that creaky little voice of his, either.

* Aaron Surgeon (“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”): I’m so bored writing a sentence about this guy that I could die.

* Steve Jones in a truck: Are they going to show that footage once an episode for the rest of the season or what?

What did you think of the final audition episode of X Factor? Are you excited about Boot Camp, or feeling a little skeptical of the whole thing? (“Tornado.”) Did you find yourself giggling over Simon’s laughing fit on that “When you said that people scream after karaoke, I don’t think that was a compliment.” critique? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Still got it baby says:

    Without question that is the best reference to spring ewe in a network television recap that I’ve read all year!

    So are you committing to a video series or not? Dont make me sic Boring Trucker Host Welshman on you Mr. Slezak!

  2. dan says:

    Darn, I was ready to write off Xfactor, but now I’m wanting to watch it again. Jazzlyn Little was fantastic, and I even liked male model guy. Now I’m going to have to look for youtube clips on the others.

    Please do Xfactoloonies and I’ll be sold. Simon will have to start sending you checks for making people interested in watching.

    • Stephanie says:

      Male Model Guy will win the whole thing–I call it right now. His looks will sell albums, his voice is pretty good too. But when they get to America voting, he’ll get the most because he has a good package. And yes, pun intended.

      Even if Josh and Tora are my personal picks.

  3. NanCeE* says:

    I haven’t been super enthused about the auditions so far…but then Jazzyln Little sang “I’m Going Down.” Oh. My. Gosh. She was fantastic and my new favorite. I don’t hate this show, but I’m finding it hard to find time for it with all the new fall programs. My DVR is so full of new shows I haven’t watched yet!

  4. Mary says:

    I flick X-factor on during commericals. I watch part of the 1st show and I thought this is really bad, It has to get better right?
    I did see Simon’s laughing fit,and I’m bad, but that was the best part of what I witness – except for Jazlynn. I turned it on when she was talking and I thought oh my god, but when she started singing, I took notice. I unfortunately don’t think X-factor is the show for her. I think they want a gimmick singer and she won’t fit the bill.
    She should of tried out for AI or The Voice, where they actually want
    singers and not acts that they can auto tune.

    • erin says:

      Acts they can auto tune? Do yourself a favor and go watch (every single one of) Leona Lewis’ X-Factor performances. This song is as much about voice as any of the others. If Idol was all about the voice, Taylor Hicks, Lee Dewyze, and Scotty McCreery never would have won (and Taylor never would have even made Hollywood week). It’s Idol with a bigger prize and significantly better production, but it’s really not that different.

  5. Davey says:

    Michael, if you go on YouTube there’s a video of Brennin singing with Kendra from last year’s American Idol. Brennin looks much less male-modelish in the video, I wonder if the X-Factor is grooming him.

  6. jazzy says:

    I liked Brennin Hunt a lot. I hope he isn’t as cocky, no pun intended, as the package, no pun intended, made him out to be. That could be his achilles heel, maybe he has not received bad advice as Simon suggested, but maybe he hasn’t followed good advice. Anyway, I think he’s a huge stand out.

  7. john t. says:


    i was JUST gonna mention that! i knew he sorta looked familiar, and less douchey. i am a big fan of kendra and i remember watching that video:

    he’s got a pretty good voice, so i won’t write him off yet. but his first impression left me cold with his attitude.

    • jonas says:

      I liked his voice, but he really came across as a giant douche. I mean seriously, hot guys are a dime a dozen and his personality didn’t do him any favors.

  8. Akdar says:

    I liked X-Factor auditions much better than AI audition rounds, which I generally find too boring and painful to watch. More variety with age limits discarded and groups included, more emphasis on having “it” rather than just perfect pitch, and the addition of the live audience and music tracks all made it more interesting and entertaining (I miss musical instruments, though. Can we have them next year, please?!) The panel of judges also seems better, even though it might be too early to call. After all, I did like J.Lo and Steven Tyler in early rounds, yet by the end of the season I was thoroughly sick of them. But Simon has always been my favorite and L.A. Reid seems to be a big step up compared to Randy when he speaks. I hope the next rounds of X-Factor will also be better than AI, in particular the last season of it.

    I’m glad that you do the recaps, Slezak. Without them it wouldn’t be the same. And I agree with the others. We do need X-loonies videos! :-)))

  9. John K. says:

    I thought that Brennin had a very cool, raspy, distinctive voice that I would love on the radio, but I just can’t stand the arrogance. Still, I might support him because this is a search for a pop star, and sometimes you need a bit of that arrogance to stay thick-skinned.
    I liked Lilianna’s voice too, but they didn’t show enough of her to really get a feel for her personality or style.
    I liked Cari a lot, and her vocal control was phenomenal. I thought Simon was a bit harsh on her, because I thought she was extremely talented.
    The Brewer Boys snippet was decent too, and I wish they would have shown more of Kelly Warner, because I thought she had a really great voice.
    Jazzlyn is clearly going to be pimped by the producers, which is a shame because she is absolutely someone I could get behind, but I immediately find myself disliking the ones the producers try to shove down our throats, and it looks like she could be one. That’s a huge reason why I couldn’t stand the overrated Lauren Alaina last season.
    Brian Bradley wasn’t even a good rapper, and he better not get past boot camp. AusEm were horrible . . . nothing remotely redeeming about them, and I’m shocked that they got through. Paige Ogle was decent, but I agree that Haley’s version of “You and I” is the bomb- I agree that I can’t even get into Gaga’s version because Haley’s was so much better.

  10. Scorpo says:

    I don’t care if they show Steve Jones in a truck, just as long as they show him. You know, it would kill him to take his shirt off now and then to watch an audition from backstage, would it?

    • Jenna says:

      We need a butt shot or a crotch close-up or something- the man is gorgeous, and he wears the perfect pants for these kinds of displays! Would never kick that man out of bed.

  11. Louie says:

    I’m not getting the hype for any of these “group” performances… well, most of them really. Two nights in a row they overly-praised some subpar Boyz2Men-wannabes who couldn’t find a note if it was stapled to their rear ends Jackass-style.

  12. Yup, I'm In says:

    What can I say? Jazzlyn converted me. Loved Tora and that Burrito Guy from the other night, as well. And – judges – like real judges with opinions?! Who knew?! This just might be good :) It’s back on the DVR. Bring it.

    Michael, PUH-LEEZE do XFactorloonies. Nobody reviews sanging show like you ;)

  13. Jason S says:

    What the hell is missing from this show? They have Simon and Paula. THey got rid of Randy and Kara. And yet the show is way more boring then American Idol. IS Seascrest the real star? Are they missing a comedy editor who knows how to make it funny. Is Simon just being too nice!!!! I think it may be Simon being too nice. I think Steven Tyler was underated last year for the fact that the contestants were much hipper then usual. Haley was a jazz/rock girl that covered great songs like Zeppelin. Casey was a hip jazz/rock guy. PAul had a cool Rod Stewart folk rock vibe. Naema had a hip reggae vibe. Even Scotty had kind of a cool throwback country appeal. James Durbin brought metal to the stage. I don’t see any signs of hip current singers on this X Factor yet.

    • me says:

      Seacrest? hahahahaha
      The problem with X-Factor is the over-production. Too much pop mucic played in the background, too much editing, not enough performances. We really don’t need to see the judges backstage getting their hair done or makeup put on. The main focus should be on the contestants, and we should see more of the ones who made it through.

  14. Kiki says:

    Steve Jones pronounced Houston, Texas, HOOSTIN instead of HEWSTIN. That was weird.

    Josh, the Burrito Guy, is the best!!!

  15. darclyte says:

    Jazzlyn is easily one of the front runners. Just awesome.
    Brennin is pretty good and could get LOTS of votes from the female viewers. David Cook redeux?
    I’m surprised that nobody has compared Tora to Lady Gaga. Not only did I see some similarities in her face, but also with the tats, outfit, and hair she exudes “eccentric” like Gaga (or Niki Minaj.) While she didn’t have the greatest voice so far, she certainly had the most “star quality” on the stage yet. Look up “X Factor” and there should be a photo of her.
    I can see Cari maybe making it into the “girls” category on her looks, and Leroy making it because we haven’t seen a ton of “over 30” who were as good.
    The rest probably won’t go too far unless they step it up as we’ve seen better already.
    I’m betting they’ll give the “group” category to Nicole since that’s the weakest and because she was in a group.
    Simon will take the “girls,” and Paula will get the “guys” leaving the “over 30” to LA.
    At least, that’s how I see it shaking out.

    • Volcfom says:

      Thank you for mentioning Tora’s similarities with Gaga. I couldn’t stop thinking that during her entire audition.

    • (!) says:

      Personally I think they’d give groups to Paula, because – you know, she’s a “performer and choreographer.”

  16. Cathy says:

    Michael & tvline team — HELP! Beginning this week, when I try to link to these posts via Twitter on my iPad, it just takes me to an endless ad loop — it resets every ten seconds and even the little bypass link just takes me back to the ad. I’m posting from my desktop PC right now since I can’t get here anymore from the link in my iPad Twitter. Please test this on an IOS device. Thanks!!

  17. Roberto Akira says:

    I don’t know if anyone noticed… But Joshua Blaylock(who appeared for litterally one second!) appeared on American Idol auditions last year. His voice wasn’t that great but he sure was cute… Simon pointed out his lack of confidence and that he needed to be more assertive… And Randy told him to tell Simon to “Shut up!” to show him that he could be… Just adorable… The video for that audition…

  18. Noelbelle says:

    I’m so glad you said that about “You and I” because I can’t hear anyone but Haley Reinhart singing it either. I have both her version and Gaga’s on my i-Pod, but I only ever listen to Haley’s.

  19. Delon says:

    Naima Adedapo should have waited for The X Factor instead of competing on the stupid AI. And i think Haley could’ve easily won TXF. Ditto, Yoü&I is forever Haley’s song.

  20. anon says:

    Why in the world was the boy rapper revered as such a great talent? Did I miss something? And was the whole attitude really a ‘show’? It seemed kind of real. My guess is Simon was so terrified by the boy, he wanted to make sure the boy wasn’t going to blow up on him again.
    Anyway, really, that act was pretty terrible. Who is guessing Simon will try to put the kid in a boy band, just so that it can add some flavor to the dreamy boyband mix?

    Jazzlyn Little is good, but nothing more special than what we’ve seen in other talent shows. We see outstanding voices like hers on AI all the time. I still miss the likes of Kendra from last season. Seriously, I wish these AI contestants would have made it on Xfactor. They’d be treated with such prestige instead of being drowned out by hyped counterparts.

    The only act that I am interested in is (suprisingly) Ausem. There is something about the guys voice that is really special- I’m thinking Simon will pry him away from his partner and put him in a group; though actually, I think he would do just fine alone. The girl was pretty good too, she had a unique tone to her voice.

    • (!) says:

      I preferred the girl over the guy much more to be quite honest. I really like the way she was singing, and I think it was quite rude the way they “judged” them. Their skit thing was incredibly cheesy though, and I’m not a big Glee fan at all :p but her voice was pretty.

  21. marcellabee says:

    Iloved Tora, Jazzlyn, Melanie, Josh, and Brennin. I absolutely loved Tora’s rendition of MJ’s “I Want You Back!” Are any of these songs available to buy/download? Thanks for the help!