Depending on how your brain works, night one of The X Factor‘s “Boot Camp” round might’ve reminded you of the horrifying 1971 movie A Clockwork Orange or Dolly Parton’s tearjerking 1971 ballad “Coat of Many Colors.”
On one hand, the 90-minute telecast featured a relentless assault on the senses, with what felt like each and every one of the show’s 162 remaining musical acts flashing past our propped-open eyes in rapid succession, their voices melding into an indistinguishable din of noise. And yet, thanks to a dozen or so truly promising voices (all of ’em featured in brief but intriguing bursts), there was undeniable beauty to be found in the patchwork structure of the episode. Plus, there was a brilliantly/freakishly feathered jacket on display — but more on that in a minute.
Steve Jones (not in an 18-wheeler!) introduced opening day of Boot Camp with the news that 162 different acts had made it past the auditions only to face “the toughest week of their lives.” (Obviously, Tall Dark and British wasn’t referring to the contestants who’d endured real-life hardships like stints in rehab, emotionally abusive boyfriends, and overcrowded bathrooms.)
Much like Hollywood Week on American Idol, the contestants were asked to line up in groups of 10 and belt out a ditty of their choosing for the judges, only there was a random choreography session thrown in beforehand (the better to garner footage of a female contestant in a state of physical and emotional collapse) and the use of backing tracks during performances. Bam! That got us down to 100 acts, who were divvied up into groups (or “ensembles,” as Dapper L.A. Reid put it) and performed again, only (unlike Idol) there wasn’t three hours of footage featuring emotionally unstable droolies shouting abuse at one another, bursting into tears, and threatening to quit the show. We wrapped up not knowing which of the “ensembles” were in, and which were auf’d.
Now, as Kara DioGuardi liked to say, here’s the thing: I could attempt to give you a play-by-play of the proceedings, but does anyone really want to read an unfeasibly long list of items that reads: Some blonde chick with okay voice; that rapper kid making a face again; another awful boy band; hot bearded guy forgetting his lyrics. (SPOILER ALERT: You do not!) So let’s instead break it on down with a list of honorary prizes, titles, and categories for the episode’s most memorable contestants:
Random Yet Surprisingly Exciting Factoid
“Young Homie” Chris Rene has a sister…and she’s made it to Boot Camp, too!
Candidate for Early Acceptance into the Milford School (Where Children Should Be Neither Seen Nor Heard)
Annoying child/rapper Brian Bradley, sulkily refusing to participate in the choreography session. “I don’t wanna dance. That’s not what I’m here for,” he whined, and I suddenly had a fantasy of Simon Cowell dismissing him from the competition, but not before making him finish his Brussels sprouts!
Random Waking Daydream
Please tell me I’m not the only one who thought Simon’s comment — “If Beyoncé was here right now, she’d be pushing her way to the front.” — was going to be a setup for Beyoncé pushing her way to the front and giving the X Factor wannabes a demonstration on how to do the “uh-oh uh-oh uh-oh oh-no-no.”
Where Was This Kind of Honesty When Jacob Lusk Needed It?
Simon, reacting to Stacy Francis’ excruciatingly long note: “That was way over the top, babe.”
He Whose Name Shall Not Be Typed
That philosophy major guy getting cut from Day 1, then trying to attract the attention of a TV camera by screaming “I don’t have a life!”
Part Where I Shouldn’t Have Felt Anything But Inadvertently Teared Up
The judges reuniting Groups 1 and 3 to the tune of O-Town’s dreadful “Nothing at All”
Weirdest Editing Decision
How come producers showed the very best ensemble — Caitlin Koch, Elaine Gibbs, Audrey Turner, and Drew Ryniewicz singing “Creep” — first, instead of building toward it at episode’s end?
Something Nobody Probably Expected to See on Reality TV
An audition by the late Ike Turner’s widow!
Kind of Thing That Gets Said When You Let Your Kid Watch Too Much Oprah (or Maybe Dr. Phil)
“I’ve always wanted to sing ever since I’ve been the age of having a goal.” –Drew Ryniewicz
I Spy Artistry!
Melanie Amaro envisioning an artful pause in her group’s rendition of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”
What Did I Miss?
Simon saying “Paige. Paige. Paige.” after Paige Ogle’s group sang “Desperado.” I dunno, girlfriend kinda sounded like a Cher impersonator to me!
She Had Me at Brian Bradley’s Death Stare
Tatiana ‘Reina’ Williams (and her wayward dreads)
Candidate for a Full Scholarship to the Milford School (Where Children Should Be Neither Seen Nor Heard)
Brian Bradley yammering about his dream of being “treated like a star.” Isn’t it just darling when a contestant makes it all about his love of music?
Sometimes It Helps to Have Wingmen
Was Josh Krajcik’s rendition of “Superman” really stellar, or was it just that all of his cohorts sounded like they were gargling with Ty-D-Bol?
Insecure Simon Just as Appealing as Cocky Simon?
Who else loved Simon getting all jittery before Tiah Tolliver, the contestant for whom he’d fought so vehemently against Paula and Nicole’s ‘No’ votes, took the stage? “I’ve never felt so much anxiety over someone,” he said. Anyone wonder if Mr. Cowell’s gonna end up mentoring the gal with the wacky bangs?
Where J.Hud At? (And While We’re at It, Let’s Page Adam Lambert)
Someone needed to play the American Idol alum’s Weight Watchers ad — and La Lambert’s Season 8 Idol performance — for those foolios doing damage to “Feeling Good.” Especially Nick Voss.
Excellent Use of an Instrumental
Some awesome editor playing the intro to Amerie’s legendary “Gotta Work” prior to Rachel Crow’s group taking the stage for “I Have Nothing.”
At 14 Years Old, She’d Better
Ellona Santiago pleading to the camera, “I still have more to give!
Most Likely to Be Eliminated
4Shore. Sorry, guys, but when it’s never a good sign when a professional vocal coach tells a boy band to just stop harmonizing.
Best Group Name
Song Preservation Society
This Is Not The Hills
Makenna and Brock painfully pretending to ramp up their showmance for the cameras
How Many Guinea Fowl Were Harmed in the Making of That Frock, Sir?
Brian Friedman’s preposterous feathered jacket
And finally, in random-ish order…
The 12 X Factor Vocalists I’m Most Excited About at This Particular Moment
Jennifay Joy Nichols (who tried a lot harder to rap than Brian Bradley did to dance)
Lauren Ashley (tiny pretty vocals!)
Jeremiah Pagan and Emily Michalak (for turning Snow Patrol’s “Run” into something I didn’t totally despise)
Elaine Gibbs, Drew Ryniewicz, Caitlyn Koch, and Audrey Turner (“Creep” was a true X Factor “moment,” no?)
Tiah Tolliver (Yeah, she still has some pitch issues but she brought a ferocious new energy to “Feeling Good.”)
What did you think of the first half of X Factor‘s Boot Camp? Which singers are exciting you? Which are working your last nerve? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!